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
severe food allergies and thru hiking
Display Avatars Sort By:
Frances Bothfeld

Locale: Iowa
severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/26/2012 13:59:03 MST Print View

I was wondering if anyone had experience with gluten free backpacking. I was just diagnosed with a gluten intolerance and the first thing I thought of was how drastically I would have to change my backpacking diet and planning. A lot of freeze dried meals have gluten in them and of course normal pasta is out of the questions. I have looked into it a bit and there is always rice pasta, soba, and stir fry noodles. Beans and rice is an old stand-by I can also still eat some brands of dehydrated potatoes. Udi's makes GF granola and nuts and dried fruit are a hikers best friend. To make things a little more interesting, I am also severely lactose intolerant and a vegetarian for moral reasons (so basically read as vegan, though I can and do eat eggs).

My main concern is that this is going to affect my thru-hiking experience. Prior to the gluten free restriction, vegan thru hiking seemed plausible with only a few mail drops, but now it seems daunting. I am planning to do the PCT either this summer or next (depends if I get this job I applied for). It looks like I can't just rely on stopping in at gas stations and getting pop-tarts, ramen and the like. I will probably have to rely HEAVILY on mail drops, which I didn't really want to do because it is expensive and keeps you on a tight schedule.

Does anyone have any experience with thru hiking with a very limiting diet?


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/26/2012 14:26:55 MST Print View

It can be done. But yes, you will have to plan all your food and do drops. Once you learn to adapt at home transfer that to your trail meals. You can adapt many recipes as well. It gets easier the more you do it.....

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/26/2012 14:40:11 MST Print View

Just to be devil's advocate - you were planning to thru-hike before you discovered you were gluten intolerant, right? So you were healthy enough then, even with the gluten in your diet? Then maybe it's not such a big issue for you as it is for some and you don't have to hike/shop/eat in fear of getting a little gluten in your diet?

If going GF is leaving you feeling a lot better, I can totally understand wanting/needing to maintain that diet on the trail. There are, no doubt, many lists of off-the-shelf foods that are GF that could be found at a trailhead or gas station, although clearly more limited choices.

And is your allergic reaction to any little bit of gluten or is the reaction proportional to the amount of gluten? If the later, you might have more flexibility than you think, but do any experimentation in town, not on the trail.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
gluten-free dairy-free backpacking on 02/28/2012 07:00:29 MST Print View

I haven't had to figure logistics for a thru-hike, but I've been working with gluten-free dairy-free backpacking meals for the last 9 months. Yes, you will have to make a lot of your own food. Pack-It Gourmet does have gluten-free meals available, but that's the only company I know of off the top of my head. I was already making all our backpacking meals before that anyway, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to figure out what to do.

Get a dehydrator. That will pay off in making dehydrated meals that can be packed ahead of time. That and a Food-Saver, and you can make meals, rather than having to rely on commercially prepped meals. Pack-It Gourmet will mail mail drops ahead, and you can order from their meals, or from their grocery store and get basic materials to mix-and-match meals. Lipsmackin' Backpackin'was written by folks who section or through hike the Pacific Crest trail, and lots of their recipes can be adapted with only a little tweaking. Their are two approaches: Make actual meals ahead of time, or have recipes that can be variations, like having noodles and figuring out a Spaghetti variation, a Chinese variation, a Curry alternative, etc. and just having easy alternatives to switch out.

Breakfast is the hardest. Gluten-free rolled oats are available, and at least you can eat eggs, which isn't on my list. I've been experimenting with pumpkin, sweet potatoe or butternut squash "bark", using's techniques for dehydrating.

Quinoa will probably be a big source of food for you, to help with protein as well as being gluten-free. There have been a few discussions on the Food and Hydration section on how to cook it on the trail. A Taste of Thai has rice-based "ramen" packs that can be used as a base for noodle dishes; not all the flavors are dairy-free, but most of them, just don't use the curry flavors. They are also MSG free, and their flavor packets are free of anything except soy, which you didn't mention as an allergen, so I assume you can eat it. Tofu can be dehydrated.

Dairy can be a little harder. Obviously, cheese is right out, and cheese sauces as well. I just found recipes for making cream soup bases using dairy-free milks, and plan to use that to substitute in recipes from Sarah's web-site and book. She eats vegetarian and vegan, so her website is a good resource, as is Laurie Ann March's books A Fork in the Trail. Her second book, Another Fork in the Trail, is specifically written for vegans and has some gluten-free recipes, and others that can be adapted.

The biggest problem that I haven't found an answer to is tortillas for backpacking. The gluten-free alternatives don't wrap well when cold or when stored; if you spread peanut butter on them, then try roll them around the contents, they shred and fall apart. En-r-G gluten-free crackers aren't bad, just plain, but they need careful packing to not crumble in the pack. Gluten-free breads are frankly nasty, dry and crumbly. Every single one I've tried, store-bought or homemade, is just "almost good". The home-made ones are good fresh from the oven, but once stored they crumble and dry up.

Google Paleo backpacking--by its very nature Paleo is gluten-free, and there are some options out there. Restricting meat might make it hard over the long stretch for protein, but variation will be your friend there. Is fish an alternative? Tuna and smoked salmon might be big protein sources.

I've considered how to do this, as a thru-hike is a dream of mine. I'd break the trail up into sections between mail-drops, counting how many days I think I need to get between them. It will look a lot more do-able. Figure out somewhere between 4-5 meal alternatives-4-5 dinners, breakfasts, lunches. Repeat them in rotation between sections, so that you have variety in each section, but have a manageable number of alternatives to prepare at home. Research possible health-food stores ahead of time along the trail, as they are more likely to have gluten-free options that can be purchased fresh. Fred Meyer and Safeway are usually pretty good for finding options, and surprisingly Wal-Mart isn't bad either. Relying on convenience stores will be a bad idea. Coordinate with Pack-It Gourmet for drop-shipments of dehydrated veggies. Carry ghee for butter flavor, and/or Earth Balance or learn to like olive oil or other oils as alternatives. is good for small packets of stuff for flavors as well.

Just off the top of my head that's the best advice I've got. Think of it as an opportunity for creativity. There have been several posts on the Food and Hydration section, including my panic freak-out on how to prepare for a week-end backpack right after being diagnosed. Just try to test out recipes before you go--there's nothing worse than hiking a long distance only to face a dinner you don't like!

Frances Bothfeld

Locale: Iowa
dehydrating food on 02/28/2012 08:51:16 MST Print View


I am definitely going to get a dehydrator and start testing out some of my home cooked creations. Luckily I LOVE cooking and the diet switch wasn't the worst because I was already a pretty healthy eater.

Dinner- I am thinking about trying to dehydrate wild rice, potato, chickpea stew because that would just be a great protein overload. There are also some other recipes mulling around in my mind. Unfortunately rice noodles aren't that many calories nor are they willing. They would have been perfect though- lightweight with little boiling time. I will also look into dehydrated almond milk as a creamy sauce substitute. Thanks for the idea!

Breakfast- I am thinking about bringing in a almond milk, protein powder dehydrated shake. No fuel needed and about 300 calories and 34 grams of protein for breakfast. I will supplement this with an energy bar.

Lunch- The easiest meal. There are plenty of gluten free bars out there and I am good with almonds and cashews. If I am in a pickle I can buy potato chips in a variety of flavors. I am going to keep an eye out at gas stations now to see what is common and gluten free.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/28/2012 11:31:29 MST Print View

I'm also faced with preparing gluten free and dairy free meals when going out with my son #3. Fortunately this is only once or twice a year. He went to a gluten-free (actually, wheat-free) diet which eliminated some severe rashes he had. A couple of months ago he decided to go dairy-free, and as a result he has stopped snoring! Since he used to make the whole house shake and had some issues with sleep apnea, his wife of course now makes really sure that he gets nothing with even a trace of dairy in it! 'Tis a miracle!

There's another thread here about dehydrating almond milk, which I'm going to use. (I'll test it on him first!) My son has found a number of gluten-free granolas at the health food store, and that plus oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit will be his breakfast. Dinners aren't such an issue except that I'll have to stick with rice and quinoa (no cous-cous, noodles or bulgur wheat) and make sure there are no wheat or dairy products in the home-dehydrated meals I prepare.

As Diane mentions, there are lots of gluten free snack foods out there. While I don't have these restrictions, my "lunches" (more like all-day snacks) are primarily nuts and dried fruit. Of course it takes a lot of label reading!

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/28/2012 11:38:17 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/28/2012 12:25:08 MST Print View

Mary, I have had rice couscous, think it was from Lundberg wasn't instant though.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
severe food allergies and thru hiking on 02/28/2012 12:48:33 MST Print View

Sarah, I had in the back of my mind the several boxes of couscous I have in my pantry that I badly need to use up, since they're a bit past their expiration date! Being wheat based, they won't be used when backpacking with my son!

Any further suggestions, recipes, etc., would be an enormous help!

Protein sources were mentioned; don't forget beans and lentils! Sarah has lots of bean and lentil recipes on her website!

Seth Brewer
(Whistler) - MLife

It can be done on 03/01/2012 08:06:47 MST Print View

I hiked for a few weeks during my A.T thru last year - with a young women who was also GF and relied almost entirely on her pre-prepared food drops (many dehydrated things - which save weight anyway). She successfully did the whole A.T on her GF diet (I think she may have grabbed a few non-GF snacks at one time or another - but she was pretty strict). She said she felt way better and had much better GI health since she stuck with her GF diet.