November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Lightweight Food and Nutrition (LEGACY POSTS FROM OLD FORUMS)
Contrary to popular belief, ultralight backpackers don't (only) subsist on nuts, berries, obscure roots, and the inner bark of the white pine. Some of us actually go light - and go gourmet. Others prefer a simpler approach requiring minimal fuel, minimal fuss, and minimal mess. Share your ideas for backpacking food and nutrition in this discussion.
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
New Article on 10/20/2004 13:18:41 MDT Print View

To open commentary on this topic, please refer to the following article by Editor-in-Chief, Carol Crooker:

Backpacking Food List: Protein-Powered Food for Sustained Energy

Edited by ryan on 12/07/2004 16:00:26 MST.

David Robinson
(RobinsonHome) - F
Breakfast recipe on 10/20/2004 16:59:28 MDT Print View


This little gem caught my eye:
"a dozen eggs, two pounds of ground beef, lots of diced onions and minced garlic, and other spices. After I've dried the heck out of this mix, I pound it into small chunks inside a gallon zipper lock bag with a rolling pin, then divide it into three-egg portions."

Sounds delicious! I just wanted to clarify the portions. By "three-egg portions" are you stating that you divide the whole thing by four?

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Myths about protein and energy on 10/21/2004 05:46:20 MDT Print View

A number of nutritionists and researchers say that it is a myth that protein supplies allot of energy to the athlete, and there is such a thing as too much, i.e., there are very important negatives if one eats too much protein. Not being a researcher or nutritionist, all I remember is something to do with effect on kidneys, energy required to break down protein, negative effects on acclimization, etc. Any light on this topic is appreciated!

I found one of the authors I was trying to remember, her name is Brenda L. Braaten, Ph.D.,R.D. and her public contact address is

Basically she states that "Proteins contribute a little, not a lot, but a little to your energy needs--10% at most. More in males than in females. Protein will not make a perceptible difference on your performance level, so it's not the fuel needs you're concerned about, but the building of tissue--especially muscle tissue, that is taking place. For the muscle-building/restructuring that is going on, an adequate supply of protein is necessary. The general recommendation for athletes is 1 g protein/kg body weight or 12-15% of your diet, only slightly higher than that recommended for the general population. Most Americans regularly consume twice that much protein, so your trail diet may have considerably less protein than you normally eat at home and still supply more than ample protein for the muscle building and energy needs of your body."

She does talk about the need to get adequate Lysine into your body to help rebuild muscles. Hope this adds to the general constructive consciousness!

Edited by on 10/21/2004 06:01:18 MDT.

Andy Ledbetter
(dronfield) - F
home dried cheese on 10/21/2004 06:24:39 MDT Print View

Some thought provoking material here. Thanks Carol.
My question is how do you make home dried cheese? Standard dehydration processes will not work with cheese due to the cheese having a high fat content. Freeze drying at home?


Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Egg concoction and dried cheese on 10/21/2004 07:12:34 MDT Print View

Yes, I divide the whole batch into 4 portions.

I used an American Harvest SnackMaster to dry the cheese. My favorite method is to take a tray of already sliced cheese (I used a variety tray from Costco), slap it on the dehydrator and go. I periodically mop up the fat that is released with paper towels. I store the cheese (as I do all my home dried food) in the freezer until I pack my food for a trip. This dried cheese is great to munch on or add to hot dishes. I haven't tried taking the cheese on a long trip, just 4 days, so I don't know how it would keep for a longer period.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Too much protein? on 10/21/2004 07:24:41 MDT Print View

HI, I wanted to respond to your comments especially since someone else e-mailed me off-line with a similar comment.

Basically, all I know is what works for my body. Fast burning foods like cakes, cookies, "regular" energy bars, even snacks made of sugar and fruit, leave me hungry, irritable, low energy, and sleepy. For me, it's especially important that breakfast be mostly protein. I have more staying power after a protein breakfast. If you'll notice in my food list, I'm getting lots of carbs too. I just choose more slower burning carbs that many other people would.

Bottom line, you've got to find out what works best for your body. And, in line with that, we'll be publishing food lists for other people who take an entirely different approach!

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Why might this be? on 10/21/2004 08:14:01 MDT Print View


I am all for the basic principle of what works for each of us, for questioning everything, and not being a sheep, i.e., going along with popular ideas. I am all for you finding your own path and encouraging others to do so as well.

All I am intrigued by, is why your approach may be better for you and others. Not being an expert but intrigued by the research, I am just wondering if the reason for increased energy we might feel may NOT be from eating protein, but perhaps somehow you are finding a way towards steadier glycemic response from your body, and so feel less lethargy for that reason, etc.

Please view this and any response from me as along the lines of scientific interest and not any criticism of the topic or your posting. In fact, the very basis of that drew me here is your all ability to shed more light than heat on topics, something I find sorely missing on most if not all other ourdoor forums.

Food for thought, pun intended,

Edited by on 10/21/2004 09:13:24 MDT.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
High Protein, Low Carbohydrate on 10/21/2004 09:01:30 MDT Print View

The body has systems for storing excess fat and carbohydrate and another system for getting rid of excess protein. You can get too much.

Since the Seventies, wholefood diet adherents have been telling me of a link between high protein diets, uric acid and arthritis. These people have been characterised as nutters but they proved right about sugar and salt. I also heard of a study which linked high protein intake with kidney, prostate and cervical cancers so I hope that you recommend a standard balanced diet for consumption at home.

Personally, I find lentils energise me the day after I eat them. For day walks, I like Stilton sandwiches (with salad and pears). Although not classic lightweight fare, Stilton sandwiches enable me to walk strongly over rough ground, for example 43 kilometres in 8 hours in the Pennines. I reckon the fat works well as fuel at walking pace and the protein is useful for repair of soft tissues even while the walk progresses. The bread's starch doesn't hurt, either.

Finally, on a trip to Stewart Island I got the nut to dried fruit ratio wrong. As a result I became stupendously sulphurous. Luckily, this was a solo hike.

Best wishes, John N Davis

Edited by JNDavis on 10/21/2004 09:07:28 MDT.

Jim McEver
(jmcever) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
High protien, low carb on 10/21/2004 22:58:57 MDT Print View

First, a disclaimer - I'm no expert on nutrition or blood chemistry, so a grain of salt (or sugar, if you find that more appropriate) may be in order.

Prehaps the perceived benefit you are seeing from the diet proposed is due to the complex carbs more so than the protien. Refined (read simple) carbs, sugar in particular, are notorious for a quick up followed by a crash as insulin/gloucose levels in the bloodstream whipsaw. Complex carbs, esp in conjunction with with a good dose of fat give me (and I won't generalize beyond that) a good, sustained burn. Simple carbs just don't satisfy - I'm in total agreement with that.

A question - I didn't see any data regarding calories in the recipes listed, or better, an indication of caloric density (Kcal/oz or Kcal/gm) - do you have this data available? This would be helpful, as bang for the buck is a cruicial concern.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Protein Myths on 10/21/2004 23:13:39 MDT Print View

There are probably more myths about protein than about fats. That's saying a lot, given the hoopla about fats this society has been facing the past several decades.

I don't claim that the below excerpts are "right" or "wrong", I only provide them here to stimulate discussion.

The following is a paraphrase from Mark Twight's Extreme Alpinism, cf. p. 66:

The current recommendation (by USDA) is 0.8 g protein / kg body weight / day. Twight claims that this is inadequate for a hard working athlete, who might require 2.5X that amount (typical endurance athlete participating in hiking/backpacking, maybe 1.5 to 2.0X that amount). Why? Prevent the body from dipping into protein stores (muscle mass) to access caloric reserves when running at a metabolic deficit. The term: protein cannibalism. The result: not a smart strategy for an endurance activity, such as an adventure race, expedition alpine climb, or thru-hike.

Here's the kicker: eating excess protein won't improve performance, because the of the metabolic max for conversion of protein to muscle, and the excess is converted to carbs, fats, or excreted. The demand for protein: directly related to your muscle mass. Big muscles you got, big protein you can use, and vice versa.

Another nugget found in Twight's book, that's not a secret among endurance athletes, is the ability for protein to kickstart glucose metabolism and increase its effiency.

Endurance athletes know well the 'bonk' that occurs several hours into a race, climb, hike, etc. Especially acute is this bonk among those that focus their caloric intake on carbo gels and drinks. When you hit that wall, you think, "oh, I need more gel" and, well, guess what, it doesn't work, at least, not quickly.

So, the savvy endurance runner pulls out his Slim Jim pepperoni stick and within a few minutes, is rockin' and rollin' again. Why? (Theory follows) The rapid metabolism of the protein releases chemical signals to the rest of the body that tells it "hang in there buddy, more is on the way", and the next carbo gel that goes in the body is rapidly metabolized, and zoom, you've blown through the wall like it was nothing.

There's been a bit of research on this phenomenon, and the last time I looked into it about a year ago, no consensus regarding the mechanism could really be reached, although virtually everyone agreed that the phenomenon existed, suggesting that protein plays a huge role in metabolic stabilization, which has a net effect on increasing metabolic efficiency and regulating the engine, so to speak.

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Simmerlite stove on 10/21/2004 23:42:16 MDT Print View


I read your bio andI was born and raised in upstate NY, was in the Navy and stationed at Treasure Island, although before you were there. Small world.

Anyway, in your article you mention that you use a Simmerlite in the winter. I just purchased a Simmerlite at REI's fall sale and I am having two problems with it. I can't get it to prime without it looking like an F-14 on afterburner and it seems to me it doesn't simmer very well. Normally I use alcohol and canister stoves, so perhaps we are dealing with some operator error here. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

John Coyle

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Too much protein on 10/22/2004 01:46:41 MDT Print View


A weightlifter who helped me get started with gym work hit health problems on a diet of 2g protein per kilogram, admittedly from the cholesterol in his high protein foods.

For someone who is getting back into backpacking with a series of weekend hikes, 0.8 x 2.5 could be right. For anyone on a long through-hike food intake should surely be based on increased quantities of a balanced diet.

While backpacking, I have experienced leg pains and strains as a result of eating too little protein. These were solved instantly by a good pub dinner. The recovery speed was surprising.

Best wishes, John N Davis

Edited by JNDavis on 10/22/2004 01:53:20 MDT.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Understanding of where energy comes from is important on 10/22/2004 06:45:29 MDT Print View

One way to understand why we get the bonk, get sluggish, etc, is from not understanding where the energy comes from. Suprisingly it does not come from protein. It is great to learn of any kickstart phenomenoms, and great to also know where the energy comes from and maximize it. It appears it is also possible to have this be congruent with carrying lighter food and consuming less water! Again, I have quoted public work of Brenda L. Braaten, Ph.D., R.D.

For Long Distance hikers, where does the energy come from? It is less than a good idea to think that one can have maximum energy by believing that a high protein diet low in carbs and
low in fat is best for energy production. Available data show that protein supplies at best 10% of our energy. Optimizing fat and complex carbsappears to be the best bet and is the lightest to carry as well.

Half the fat that you burn is from storage, half is supplied by the food you eat. To minimize pack weight, choose a higher fat menu. A 50-35-15 Diet on the trail is reasonable:

A higher fat diet not only provides the fuel your muscles are using, it weighs less (about 20% less) than a high carbohydrate diet (70-15-15).

What about the 30:40:30 diet? Protein supplies only 10% energy
Proteins contribute a little, not a lot, but a little to your energy needs--10% at most. Protein will not make a perceptible difference on your performance level, so it's not the fuel needs you're concerned about, but the building of tissue--especially muscle tissue, that is taking place. For the muscle-building/restructuring that is going on, an adequate supply of protein is necessary.

The general recommendation for athletes is 1 g protein/kg body weight or 12-15% of your diet, only slightly higher than that recommended for the general population. Most Americans regularly consume twice that much protein, so your trail diet may have considerably less protein than you normally eat at home and still supply more than ample protein for the muscle building and energy needs of your body. Our body will just remove the extra nitrogen and treat it like a carbohydrate. But you have to drink extra water to get rid of the nitrogen waste. Double whammy, considering you are treating and carrying every mouthful of liquid.

Eat fat, burn fat. Eat sugar, burn sugar.
If you want to burn fat, avoid sugar. Instead, eat fat mixed with protein and complex carbohydrates.

Depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, the ideal fuel mixture changes. Muscles engaged in long duration moderate intensity exercise burn about
• 25% Fat within the muscle (triglycerides),
• 25% Fat from diet or released from storage in adipose tissue (Free Fatty Acids),
• 25% Carbohydrate within the muscle (glycogen), and
• 25% Glucose, (carbohydrate) delivered from the liver. This glucose may come from recycled products or may be from the diet.

When exercise intensity increases, you still burn about the same absolute amount of fat, but the increased energy demand will be met by burning more carbohydrate, so the ratio of carbohydrate to fat increases. That's why a marathon runner is more likely to deplete his/her glycogen in 2 hours of running than a long distance hiker is to deplete his/her glycogen in 6 hours of hiking. And that's why a high carbohydrate diet makes terrific sense for a runner, but may be less than ideal for a hiker. Both run the risk of depleting glycogen stores; the strategy for prevention depends on training and snacking.

Edited by on 10/22/2004 06:46:40 MDT.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Dried Cheese on 10/22/2004 17:45:31 MDT Print View

I agree that cheese is not easy to dry at home. About a year ago I discovered "Powdered Cheese" and got some to add to my homemade backpacking meals. I really love it for adding flavor, fat, and protein to my meals. Its a great ingredient to add flavor to my no-cook dinners I take on light and fast trips in the summertime.

You can do a Google search for Powdered Cheese and it will come up with lots of places to buy it. Its important to get real powdered cheese which is 100% cheese and not "cheese product" or "cheese blend", which is imitation cheese, the stuff they put in with packaged macaroni and cheese.

Adventure foods has it ( but they are a little expensive. By shopping around I found it for about $7 a pound, but I can't readily come up with info on where I bought it. You can also find it on e-bay.

Happy hiking!

James Schipper
(monospot) - MLife
Protien, carbs, fat on 10/22/2004 22:51:18 MDT Print View

Well, I'm probably rehashing a lot of what's been said already, but I'm going to throw my two cents in anyway.

First, the only way protiens can be used as energy is if they are converted to glucose first through a process known as gluconeogenesis. Only certain amino acids can be used in this process. Therefore protien is a relatively ineffiecient way to get energy since there is an extra step (which uses some energy itself) and only a portion of it can actually be used for energy.

Protien needs are extremely variable depending on atheletic goals. Since protien makes up the most of the structural parts of our body (collagen I-VII, elastin, all the various protiens in striated and smooth muscle etc) that is not bone, people that are trying to build "structure" ie muscle need more protien. For body builders increased gains have been demonstrated up to 3-4g/kg/day. Admittedly people who can utilize this much protien in muscle formation do little but lift wieghts, sleep, eat and probably take steroids. The endurance athelete is near the other end of the spectrum and for the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph probably should not have a large proprtion of protien in there diet. Muscle/tendon/ligament repair do require protien, however, so their requirement is probably higher than an average persons. As an aside the FDA doesn't really have and RDA for protien like they do total or staurated fat (you'll notice there is not % in the nutrtional info after protien).

As far a health goes, there is little evidence that a high protien diet increases the incidence of kidney failure. However people with chronic kidney disease can slow its progression with a low protien diet (0.6g/kg/day). As you are probably aware, the Atkins diet has been show to lower cholesterol, probably due to decreased circulating insulin levels (low carbs) rather than the protien content.

One thing people tend to forget is that an insulin response isn't necessarily evil. Insulin promotes the uptake of sugar into the liver and muscles (which causes most of the blood sugar drop). But that's where the sugar is needed espcially when you are exercising to replace glycogen burned by the liver and muscles. Insulin also increased protien uptake by muscles prmoting growth.

Finally, studies using measurement of exhaled CO2 and know respiratory coeffiecients for fat,carbs, and protien have shown that endurance training increased the protortion of fat used and decreases the time from onset of exercise to fat utilization. Since fat is the most calorie dense food and we are trying to cut carried wieght it makes sense to boost the percentage of calories from fat especially if you are in resonably goo shape. I would suggest that up to 50% or higher is probably reasonable for shoter backpacking trips. Through hikers should probably adhere to recommendations regarding at least saturated fat intake.

Hope that wasn't to long and boring


(sanderson) - F
Low Carb - High Protein Deit on 10/25/2004 22:15:09 MDT Print View

Carol, thanks for the article. I also feel better, have more energy and also, sleep better on a low carb - high protein diet. It is difficult to find information on converting such a diet to the light weight world. Can you post more specific information on your recipies? Particularly, your dinners? Thanks a ton! sa

Terry Dussault
Pop science on 10/26/2004 12:57:48 MDT Print View

Subscribing to Backpacking Light was a great decision for me. I have really enjoyed the well thought out advice. This article is an exception. When Backpacking Light was a free site, they included a series of Articles by Dr. Brenda Braaten titled “Pack Light, Eat Right”. Dr. Braaten’s articles deal in facts not current “pop nutrition”. In her article on Protein she states, “Proteins contribute a little, not a lot, but a little to your energy needs . . . Protein will not make a perceptible difference on your performance level, so it's not the fuel needs you're concerned about, but the building of tissue--especially muscle tissue, that is taking place.” This makes the article title seem very misleading.

I agree wholeheartedly with Carol Crooker’s advice to “stay away from excessive quantities of white flour, sugar . . . “. This is sound nutritional advice that has been around for decades. She also disparages “other high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates.” Dr. Dondald D. Henrud of the Mayo Clinic staff is one of many scientists warning people that it is not the glycemic index, but the glycemic load that is important. Glycemic load is a measure of how much a typical serving size of a particular food raises blood sugar. For example, the glycemic index for carrots is pretty high. But the amount of carbohydrates in a serving size of carrots — about a 1/2 cup — is low. So carrots have a high glycemic index but a low glycemic load.

Interestingly enough some of the items that Carol Crooker recommend have a relatively high glycemic index and load numbers. Specifically, I am talking about sweetened cranberries, fructose, and rice crackers.

I would also be very cautious of buying anything simply because it is labeled “low carb”. In most low-carb labeling, “net carbs” refers to the total grams of carbohydrates per serving minus grams of fiber and sugar alcohols.Sugar alcohols do contain carbohydrates. The term has no legal standing. Food manufacturers not the FDA have coined these terms.

If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the author either is or was on a low carb diet. I don't think people should be encourage to diet on the trail unless they are informed explicitly that they will be dieting.

William Siemens
(alaskaman) - F
Carbs and protein on 10/26/2004 22:51:26 MDT Print View

I agree with Carol's approach to reducing refined sugars and high gi carbs - however I wonder why she chooses to replace them with protein? It is very true that we only need so much of it, that it contributes only the same 4 calories per gram that carbohydrate does - so what's left? Fat. All I can say is what works for me - I am a non-insulin dependent diabetic, carbs do not give me "quick energy" and in fact shoot my blood glucose levels up to the point where all I want to do is sleep, not hike. But I have found, after a couple of years of a VERY low carbohydrate diet, that my glucose levels are now completely normal (unless I eat carbohydrate) and I can do day-long hikes on adequate protein and lots of fat. Fitday's calculator says I get 80% of my calories from fat, 15% from protein, 5% from carbs. It works for me. I now pass the same spots where I used to stop for the hourly hit of dried fruit. I have none of the issues that supposedly accompany lowcarb diets. Unless you are diabetic, you may not want to try this, but remember, it worked for the eskimos. I don't worry about the "fat will give you a heart attack" idea, I don't care, just so I don't go blind and lose my feet, which is what will happen if I don't keep the blood glucose normal. Cheers

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
More protein, less high GI carbs on 10/26/2004 23:09:38 MDT Print View

Hi everyone,
I've enjoyed reading your comments. My, food is certainly an emotional topic for many people! But of course, it always has been. We'll be publishing more food lists. My goal is to have a variety of food approaches represented so that readers can browse through the different ideas presented and perhaps find new foods to experiment with as they search for what works best for them. The one thing I've learned for sure in my own experiments and observations is that the same approach does not work for everyone.

Some specific answers to postings follow:
Bernard and others,
Yes, I think the reason my particular food list works for me is that it results in a steadier glycemic response. I often add protein to dishes to help balance out the carbs. I've noticed that I can avoid some of the carbohydrate crash - from eating desert at home for example - if I eat it after a protein rich dinner. So, cake on an empty stomach sends me spinning, while I can handle cheesecake after a steak.

My diet at home is also low in high GI foods with an emphasis on protein, fruit, and veggies.

I don't have caloric info for my home dried food. However, we'll be including calorie counts in future food lists.

John Coyle,
Where in upstate NY?
I'm also new to WG stoves. I started lw backpacking pretty much from the start so don't have a lot of experience with things like tents, heavy packs and WG stoves. However, I have picked up two tips that may be of help to you.
1. To simmer properly, listen. Simmering, for me, takes attention and some adjusting duirng the process. If the stove sounds like it's sputtering, turn it up. If it sounds too loud, turn it down.

2. This tip came from Don "Photon" Johnston after he watched me fire up my simmerlite. He suggested that I turn up the control valve during the priming process later in the process. I was concerned the stove would go out and I'd have to wait for it to cool before trying again, so I was turning up the valve too soon. I started letting waiting till the priming flames looked like they were out or almost so, and then quickly turning up the valve and my blow torches were more controlled.

You wanted more info on my homemade dinners:
2 cups brown rice (which I start first since it takes about 45 minutes to cook). Sometimes I'll cook the rice separtely from everything else and mix it together before drying.
2 lbs lean ground beef (it's best to cook the beef and drain fat before adding to rice)
1 bag frozen veggies
fresh chard if I have it, diced
large onion diced
garlic diced
spices (usually some cayenne pepper)
sometimes a can of diced or whole tomatoes
Get everything cooked, mixed, then dry.

Yes, I tried a low carb diet. It was incredible what I learned about my body responses to high GI carbs. Very educational. I've adopted a lot of what I learned into my day to day eating.

Bon Appetite!

Edited by cmcrooker on 10/26/2004 23:13:19 MDT.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Carol please clarify role you attribute to protein? on 10/27/2004 20:36:23 MDT Print View

Carol would you please clarify what role you attribute to protein in the diet. Tell me if not accurate that you are saying "protein rich" diet means most energy is coming from protein. What % of complex carbs are you leaving in the "low carb" mix? Are you reducing the fat to low levels as well?

If so, I like the other poster wonder if you are encouraging a diet with very little energy in it, a true diet. Most of the science is saying that depending on fitness level, we need quite allot of fat and complex carbs to have a high energy diet, and regular proteing in regular foods way way enough to do all that is needed. In addition, researchers are finding that even those who want to be on a diet and do not need to have extra energy and do the Atkins type thing, have adverse effects over time because our bodies do actually need carbohydrates, so perhaps for some for a limited time this high protein low carb regime can be helpful. But, if (and only if) you are promoting it as a backpacker style of eating please show us the science for how this is heathy, promotes the energy you say it does, etc.

Seems to me if you simply leave in enough fat, and complex carbs, you get all the positives you are looking for and do not have to make your body discard the extra protein. Especially at altitude this is important as increased energy and acclimization are decreased by too much protein and not enough complex carbs research show.

Am I missing something here?

Edited by on 10/27/2004 20:40:55 MDT.