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How far can REAL food travel?
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 21:06:07 MDT Print View

I'm talking fresh food: not dehydrated, salty, processed, 10 year shelf-life science food...

This was my lunch on day 2 of a recent Joshua Tree trip; stuffed grape leaves, falafel, valbreso cheese, tomato, lettuce, pita bread...brought some pickles on the side. I was king of the desert that day....

I've been trying to make the shift to carrying fresh, real (unprocessed) food when backpacking. I've been successful up to two night/three day trips, weather permitting. I'm finding that most stuff does OK if left in the cool dark of a pack. If there's water around, I'll chill my food until I go to bed and put it back in the water when I wake up for as long as I can before heading out. Whole foods I've found that work great: avocado, zucchini, potatoes (I love reds), tomatoes, fruit, onions, most non-leafy veggies...the list goes on.

I know this is a break from anything remotely "UL", but it's what I've started to do and I like it. Weight is irrelevant. I can go a long time on bars and nuts (yeah, I know bars are pretty processed), but I'm pretty turned off by eating dried food day in and day out. Now there are obvious limitations to the length of trips I can do without my fresh food spoiling (I suppose "fresh" starts to lose its meaning quickly here...).

Any tips anyone would like to share on fresh foods that carry well or tips for keeping them from spoiling faster?

I'm planning some longer trips soon and would like to see how far I can take the fresh food approach.

...I'm currently vegan so animal-based foods are out.


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 21:29:07 MDT Print View

Have you tried home fermented foods? Not very light as they are wet by design but they pack a lot of nutrition and you only need to eat a small amount. When the weather warms up Ill try some home made sauerkraut and dill pickles in a zip lock. I have jars all over the place full of fermented veggies and dairy. Of coarse they are sides to my meat dishes.
look here for more info:

can't recommend the book enough!

As a vegan I would recommend coconut oil and lots of it! I bring a screw top plastic jar of it and eat it straight when energy is low, last forever.
You might try kale chips- kale pieces coated with Olive oil, baked and salted to taste. Also fried sweet potato or parsnip chips.
As someone more on the carnivore side of things, I use eggs, fish/meat jerkys, sardines, smoked bacon, and often grab a roast beef sub on the way to the trail head for dinner that first night.
never again will I eat another cliff/power/trail/granola bar. unless its free in a hiker box and Im starving.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 21:39:23 MDT Print View

Sandorkraut sounds like quite an interesting character, thanks for the link Brian.

Funny, I ate a bunch of sauerkraut tonight (though not homemade).

Haven't played with coconut oil either, I'll look into it.

Half my family is Armenian- I'm no stranger to all manner of Middle-Eastern pickled things thanks to them. At any given time they've got a few 5 gallon buckets in the pantry with something pickling away...

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 22:00:35 MDT Print View

Pickles are processed (had to rib ya!) though they are a natural processed food. Most of what you described can be shelf stable without being heavily processed - simple canning even at home allows stuffed grape leaves. Falfalel can be made from home dried blend - very easy again.

Bars don't have to be processed either to be shelf stable - if you make them yourself.

As for dehydrating vegetables and can do it without heat and have it be raw. For most trips the more delicate produce gets 1-2 days, hardier such as potatoes, carrots, other root items you can get a week or more if you carry them gently. Bruising and heat are your enemies with all.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 22:04:28 MDT Print View

You are fresh food ...

Oh sorry, you're vegan. Pity :-)


Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 22:29:49 MDT Print View

"Canning" is very different from fermenting. fermentation uses wild good bacteria to break down the food and make it more digestible and nutritious. Not to mention flavorful as long as you like sour tangy tastes.
It also has the advantage of being able to to be eaten without cooking or re-hydrating. The disadvantage is its in a brine and so heavier. But thats the price you sometimes have to pay for a better meal. Kind of like how some people carry heavier pads or sleeping bags because its worth it to them.
I still haven't tried it but I don't see why it shouldn't work perfectly well. I imagine that as long as the food is moist in the zipp lock it will remain safe for a few days at least. It may be possible to have just enough brine to cover it( keep it out of oxygen) and it will be good for months.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 22:37:11 MDT Print View

I think my original point is lost somewhere...

I'm really talking fruits and veggies here.

I remember reading about Jardine carrying carrots, corn cobs, potatoes, etc. But there was never any mention about how long they lasted or tips for maximizing how long they last.

Roger, you've lost me.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/16/2010 22:45:28 MDT Print View

Try Green bags :

They seemed to work for me for leafy greens in the fridge. They have mixed reviews. I still have some left. Something else to try in the future.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: How far can REAL food travel? on 03/17/2010 03:11:57 MDT Print View

Hi Craig

> Roger, you've lost me.
I was being really flippant! Add five smileys to the post.


Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
dough on 03/17/2010 05:15:03 MDT Print View

vegan and organic i assume? Should be interesting read:

might save you some dough, or at least thats the point.

BTW what are the brown things in your burrito?

Edited by isaac.mouser on 03/17/2010 08:18:51 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: dough on 03/17/2010 08:53:45 MDT Print View

Brown things would be falfalel.

To carry fresh fruit and veggies see above - not hard but as I said earlier: heat is the killer. In cooler weather they will last longer. Realistically you can do it easier if you have frequent town stops for reloading. Even potatoes will start wilting after a week.

Nutritionally though there is NOT a huge difference between dried and fresh! (That is as long as when you rehydrate the veggies you don't pour off any extra water) You lose some Vitamin C but you still get everything else.

To carry your food fresh you will need to think out insulation - you have to make a chill chest in your pack, a root cellar. One doesn't need refrigeration after all, but coolness is a major factor. That is how people used to store crisp veggies in summer in say Oklahoma.

One trick is to dip your veggies in ice cold water every day (a stream) to recharge them.

Dicentra OPW
(dicentra) - F

Locale: PNW
I look at it differently on 03/17/2010 13:13:30 MDT Print View

The lighter you can get your gear, the more fresh food you can carry! Eat up!

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: I look at it differently on 03/17/2010 14:45:59 MDT Print View


I mentioned keeping my food in the cool dark of my pack as well as chilling it in water in my first post. I have successfully used foil bubble wrap for this- basically, a small insulated food sack.

****Please! I'm not trying to start a debate on whether or not fresh vs. dried or organic food or vegan food is better...Eat however you like and follow whatever studies you believe! I have my reasons and they are sufficient enough for me. I'll be happy to take a discussion on that over to Chaff if anyone feels like fighting...but I'm trying to be straightforward here.
Maybe I was wrong for simply saying "vegan": the mere word seems to start arguments these days...

Again, just looking for some simple tips on fresh foods that carry well or for techniques that I might have overlooked to keep fresh food fresh for as long as possible...that's all. Thanks!

Edited by xnomanx on 03/17/2010 14:48:36 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: I look at it differently on 03/17/2010 15:04:48 MDT Print View

And Roger:
Add five smileys and I'm still completely lost!

j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Re: Re: I look at it differently on 03/17/2010 15:31:44 MDT Print View

Hi Craig,

I would try growing sprouts on trail and supplementing with wild edibles where possible.

This website is kind of interesting:

Edited by justaddfuel on 03/17/2010 15:32:51 MDT.

Dicentra OPW
(dicentra) - F

Locale: PNW
These can be carried fresh on 03/17/2010 15:35:35 MDT Print View

Avocados (carefully)
Tomatoes (carefully)
green beans
sweet potatoes
peppers - all kinds
cabbage - several kinds
salad - spinach, lettuces etc (carefully)

bananas (carefully)

baked tofu
tofu in shelf stable packaging

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: These can be carried fresh on 03/17/2010 16:07:26 MDT Print View

Sprouting looks like fun...The concept of growing a small amount of your own food while walking is pretty cool. I don't know how much volume can really be achieved, but again, I love the idea.

Thanks Dicentra- I've carried much of what you mention out to 3 days with fine results. I've never carried peppers, asparagus, or broccoli, but love them. I guess I just have to see how far they'll go and remain edible.

Never carried it, but I'm guessing that cabbage would do better whole (I suppose most veggies do). I made the mistake of carrying a bunch of homegrown sliced japanese eggplant into the Sierra with me once- It started getting funky within the span of one hot day. But a whole eggplant lasted for 3 days on another trip...

I certainly agree with your post above; going UL is a great way to get to be creative in other areas- like fresh food and art supplies. Less gear weight isn't necessarily an end in itself.

Dicentra OPW
(dicentra) - F

Locale: PNW
Another thought on 03/17/2010 16:30:09 MDT Print View

The larger pieces something is in, the longer it will last in your pack... More surface area (in general) means faster rotting etc.

whole cabbage vs shreds for example.
Same goes for cheese.

And add eggs to my original list! And kale, and chard.

I've had spinach last for 4 days (we ate it all by then or it would have lasted a day or 2 more).

Nia Schmald
(nschmald) - MLife
Re: Re: These can be carried fresh on 03/17/2010 16:33:55 MDT Print View

I carried cucumber, peppers and romaine on a thru hike, trying to get some real food and loved it. After the third day it started looking somewhat unedible, but would rarely last that long before I ate it. This was largely on the cut portions though. If the skin is intact it would last longer.

Olives and capers are also very nice for a punch of flavor and will last well over a week.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: I look at it differently on 03/17/2010 17:36:26 MDT Print View

Hi Craig

> Add five smileys and I'm still completely lost!
Ah well, you have to allow for a distorted Australian sense of humour. Very distorted.

To any one else you are fresh food ...
Read 'Survival' by John Wyndham, in his collection called 'The Seeds of Time', published by Penguin, 1959.

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-)


Edited by rcaffin on 03/17/2010 18:01:15 MDT.