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Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek?
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Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/07/2011 19:34:12 MST Print View

I know there are a lot of very healthy women and men that are a part of the BPL community that really take care of themselves physically and mentally. I am looking for advice on a one-a-day multi-vitamin that would be your "Go To" on a long distance hike like the PCT,CDT and AT. Company name and brand would be appreciated---Thanks

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/07/2011 19:38:54 MST Print View

Nature Made Multi for him 50+.

But then again, I'm old.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/07/2011 20:10:11 MST Print View

Check with your doctor. It is very likely he might say don't bother.


Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
I didn't bother on 01/07/2011 21:35:50 MST Print View

+1 on not bothering. I've did the PCT last year and only took 1 calcium/vitamin D pill a day because I have a history of stress fractures. I didn't worry about other nutrients because I was eating 4000+ calories a day. Even if most of that was junk food, I think I got my RDA of everything every day.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/07/2011 22:00:59 MST Print View

It comes to your own needs whether you need one or not. If you tend to run low on anything then yes, it can be a good thing. (For example I have to take iron supplements as I am chronically anemic - a huge issue for having energy!) And as good will your food be? If on the junk food diet or no fruit and veggies, again it may be a good idea!

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
"Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek?" on 01/08/2011 03:29:32 MST Print View

Yeah, I agree pretty much that they are not needed for short trips up to about a week.

However, my food system is often devoid of fresh fruit and veggies. Many vitamins break down with dehydration. Some are left, but not as much as I would like. On longer trips, I carry the typical chewable childrens vitamins. They are a bit of a treat in the morning. (I used to carry another multi vitamin. Don Ladigan mentioned this last year, so I used it on two trips...good tip.)

My trail diet is full of fats, oils, proteins, and carbs. (Posted elsewhere, I will continue ...) Calories are usually derived from:
Fats: 30-50%
Protein: 20-40%
Carbs: 20-30%
Many different proteins are needed. About 20 or so. From these many can be synthesized by your needs fuel, thats all.

A typical three week supply of food:
3# Jerkey
2# Pepperoni
2# Salami
2# dry Dried Beef (spread and dried in the fridge)
1# dried whole eggs
Parafied butter (8oz)
Olive oil (8oz)
Cheese (1lb)
2# instant rice
8oz dried carrots
8oz dried peas
1# dried mixed vegies
2# dried beans
1# dried potatoes
1# bisquit mix
3# instant oatmeal
2# instant cocoa
1# dark chocolate bar
8oz freeze dried coffee (crushed.)
About 8oz in spices and salt.

All the food is dehydrated or as dry as it gets. Pepperoni, salami, cheese are full of fats and oils as well as being high in protiens and calcium. Stews, soups, rice dishes and pot pies are usual suppers. Just not many veggies. Foraging in the forest for leeks, berries, dandelions, apples, etc. helps, but I don't count on it. Same for fish and an ocasional rabbit. Anyway...

Only 2 pounds of veggies for three weeks or ~1.5oz per day.
There are 12 pounds of protein/fats or ~9oz per day.
There are 12 pounds of carbs or ~9oz per day.

So, if I am on the trail for a week or less, I do not bother with vitamins. For long distance, yes. Over a week, my immune system, will start to suffer. Scurvy is a real possibility, Vit C is one that breaks down with dehydrating. Soo, I bring vitamins.

I will recommend vitamins for long distance trips of a week or more. Heavy, yes. But, compared with your overall health, and, to let you carry higher density foods without the problems of balancing your diet, vitamins are actually "cheap" in weight. This is once again part of a system that lets you minimize weight, maximize your health & comfort by supplimenting your bodies need for vitamins and minerals directly. By separating the two facets, it leaves your food to be what you want, to a larger degree.

Tracing this just a bit further,removing vitamins from consideration, we get concerned with fat soluable vitamins, proteins, carbs. Hence, we arrive at my recommended diet. You know your body. Listen to what it says.

Your diet will be different. An easy example is salt. When I am hiking, I LIKE salt. When I am home, I rarely use it. Junk foods have a LOT of salt. Many people will eat bags of chips on the trail. I just salt my food... In some cases (>90F) I will add a shake to my water. Different methodes for making sure your body gets enough salt.

drowning in spam
(leaftye) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: "Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek?" on 01/08/2011 04:00:43 MST Print View

Seeing as how multi vitamins are supplementary, and my diet isn't always horribly devoid of a multitude of nutrients, I'm not all that picky about what multivitamin I use. They're usually inexpensive and surely provide at least some of what is on the label. Anyway, I use whatever Costco sells in their biggest Kirkland-branded bottle, and I do bring them on my short and long trips. I used to use Nature's Best (I think), but that was only because it came in a soft gel and I used to be really bad about swallowing pills.

I would only be very picky about my multivitamin if I took the time to the quantity of each nutrient, mineral and vitamin in my diet. I don't care to do all that work right now--without it I cannot justify the effort or expense of getting another multivitamin.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: "Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek?" on 01/08/2011 04:40:04 MST Print View

Yeah, I would also mention that men and women are different. And that your body has many ways of working around shortages of one or another nutrients and still be healthy. Any multivitamin will usually be enough. Get the cheap ones. Better quality will not do anyone any harm or good for most.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
whatever is cheap on 01/08/2011 07:53:36 MST Print View

Since despite prior intentions (good or otherwise) I'm like most thru-hikers in that I eat a lot of crap along the trail, I take a multi-vitamin each day. Just bought the big jar at Costco of whatever is cheap, send some in resupply boxes.

I have no real idea of whether this made a difference or not, but it's a pretty easy thing to do, sort of a compromise between the "don't bother" and "you've got to have the exact right vitamin for you and it will work miracles" camps.

What, wishy-washy? Me? Hmm, maybe I am, not really sure ... :-)

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/08/2011 13:23:11 MST Print View

Thanks for all the great opinions friends---James great info---I need to digest that one for sure..

I feel that I eat a well balance diet at home and on the trail but one longer trips (7-10 days) my instincts are telling me I need better nutrition maybe its my age(mid 40's). IMO a multi-vitamin would be great way to supplement any deficiencies in your diet on a longer trip. Win-Win situation...

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/08/2011 14:20:58 MST Print View

Many years ago, I had a backpacking diet (which included dehydrated fruits and veggies) analyzed by the state Agricultural Extension Service. They said the only shortage was vitamin C, which doesn't survive either dehydration or cooking very well. Unless you are going out for many weeks with no way to eat fresh fruits and veggies during resupply, though, the chances of getting scurvy are pretty small. If you use an athletic drink supplement in your water, you are probably getting more than enough vitamin C right there!

I have great difficulties finding a multi that will work for me, since nearly all of them contain iodine, to which I am highly sensitive. For the supplement I take, Twinlab Allergy Multicaps (no iodine in it), while the recommended dose on the label is 6 capsules, one capsule per day provides more than the RDA except for folic acid (one capsule, strangely, has only 1/6 of the RDA, and this is one vitamin we often don't get enough of in our diets), calcium and vitamin D. In fact, taking 6 per day per the Twinlab Multicap label would be a significant overdose of most vitamins and minerals (most of the excess is excreted from the body and is therefore wasted, but I'd be concerned about taking the suggested high levels of Vitamin A, which is retained in the body and can be toxic in large quantities). If you're eating a halfway balanced diet, a partial supplement, rather than the entire RDA, of most vitamins and minerals is more than sufficient. For us post-menopausal females, the RDA of calcium is really high, and the doc has me take a calcium supplement. It has Vitamin D in it (another item where the RDA goes way up for post-menopausal women), perhaps more than I need when backpacking in summer. I also take a folic acid supplement (the RDA) each day. So while I'm backpacking, it's one Multicap, three calcium pills and one folic acid pill per day. I also lace my drinking water during the day with Hydralite (formerly Gookinaid) powder at half the recommended strength. That alone would give me enough Vitamin C!

The articles by Brenda Braaten on are a splendid source of info on backpacker diet:

I suggest a close reading of labels on any supplements (including your athletic drinks) to be sure you aren't taking too much. Do remember that for most vitamins and minerals, it's hard not to get enough in your food! Of course if your doc prescribes a supplement (such as iron or calcium), be sure to continue taking it!

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/08/2011 14:25:37 MST Print View

Older does not mean less need for vitamins and minerals. You may need different amounts. Yes, trust your instincts.

Rather than perpetuate anything I may say to the popular myth category, take a couple classes on nutrition at a school. Often this is less expensive if you opt out of credits. It cost about half for a lot of classes this way. Make up your own mind.

To me, with a light weight mindset, I believe that a couple pills will offset my poor diet and *save* weight in the long run, even if that weight happens to reside on my belly.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/08/2011 18:44:53 MST Print View

My 2 cents,
don't waste your money. The only way to give your body what it needs is to eat fresh clean food. Everything else is just marketing. You can't make up for eating junk food by popping a pill. The RDA is based on shaky ground and like everything in government it reflects much more on internal politics and special interest than on any science or public health concerns.
Don't waste your money or time on "nutrition classes" as they are notoriously useless for anything other than padding your personal trainer resume.
It may not be what people want to hear but you need to get some fresh foods when ever possible if your really concerned with your health. Sugary granola bars, processed powders and pills are convenient and may supply you with calories but thats about all they will do.

Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
Fortified flour products on 01/08/2011 20:44:54 MST Print View

I got leg cramps from taking a high potentcy multivitamin/mineral every day while also eating a lot of cereal that was fortified with vitamins. No, I don't know which mineral I was overdosing on but it might have been iron. When I resume taking a multivitamin, after a week or two, I seem to have more energy. My suggestion is to occasional take a multivitamin but not daily. Be aware that you can overdose since you will be eating many multiples of a serving of some foods.

I read the label on an ice cream container yesterday. The serving size was half of a cup when I was eating about a pint. A serving of chips will be an ounce. A bag will contain 3-10 ounces of them. Some of those big Snickers bars are two servings, so double the percentages listed the label.

I have read that those who sweat every day, lose less salt per volume of sweat than the sedentary person who only sweats when mowing the grass on Saturday afternoon. Your body does adapt to daily conditons, to some extent.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Fortified flour products on 01/09/2011 12:48:15 MST Print View

You all know why wheat and other main food products are fortified right? To prevent what used to be very common birth defects and health diseases. For example....Folic Acid is added to cereal, bread, pasta, etc - if a woman doesn't get enough in the first trimester it can cause severe issues. An easy and efficient way to help those with poor eating habits, poverty and lack of prenatal care.

Don't knock it!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Fortified flour products on 01/09/2011 17:39:30 MST Print View

Neural tube defects with folate deficiency in early pregnancy.

Edited by jshann on 01/10/2011 07:58:35 MST.

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/09/2011 17:39:39 MST Print View

(Joe)--- I really like he idea of taking a Multi-Vitamin every other day makes good sense to me and you cut down on a few more grams...

The kids multi chewy vitamin is another great idea....They last longer and you get a sweet treat....

Dug Shelby
(Pittsburgh) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Asking about a long distance hike, not short. on 01/10/2011 04:25:13 MST Print View

If folks want to forego a daily multi-vitamin for a short hike of a week or less, go for it.

But if you're on a hike like the PCT, CDT, etc., it makes sense to spend the pennies per day to grab a good multi-vitamin and cover your bases. I'm not coming at this as a thru-hiking long distance expert at all, because I'm not. As it is I'm attempting my first thru-hike this April. But because of that I've been researching the crud out of this topic and have talked to a grip of PCT veterans & nutritionists. Not only that, but I have lived most of my life as an 'athlete,' competing in track and field and cross country in high school and college, and running and surfing & generally being active my whole life after college. I'm older now, and in my opinion, a good vitamin is just plain smart.

Bottom line, vitamins don't cost much, and it's just better for you. Cover your bases & stay on the safe side. Sorry, but no one is going to convince me that the average PCT thru-hiker is getting their share of vitamin C (among other vitamins).

I use "GNC Maximum Greens Ultra Mega Green" caplets. $28.99/box of 120, and I take half the recommended daily dose to stretch out the amount as they are a pretty potent vitamin. For me, that's less than $30 bucks for 4 months of vitamins. Twenty-five cents a day.

I like this particular vitamin for the basic vitamins it contains (A, B, C, D, etc.) as well as the "greens"...the antioxidants.

Before starting a vitamin, especially one with greens, consult your doctor to assure you don't have any serious allergies, or just to see what your doctor recommends, as my opinion might just be cr*p. :)

Hike your own hike,


Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Multi-Vitamin for a long distance trek? on 01/10/2011 20:18:00 MST Print View

Dug, You make some good points- It's good to get a lot of different prospectives...Thanks

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
vitamins and supplements on 01/12/2011 07:23:51 MST Print View

The only supplements I would take on a long-distance hike would be chromium and iron. The first is because I am diabetic and Chromium assists in helping your body in metabolizing carbohydrates and fats properly. The iron is because I suffer from periods of anemia even with adequate iron in my diet.

As the other poster mentioned, except for Vitamin C (which incidentally you can get from things like Cedar Tea if you are in a pinch) you can easily obtain balanced nutrition from dehydrated foods.

Keep in mind, too, that if you are using items like Clif Bars, they already contain many of the same things found in a multi.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 01/12/2011 07:26:59 MST.