Grocery Shopping with a Thru-hiker, Part 2

A Thru-Hiker Shopping List

In part one, I wrote about the features of the best backpacking foods (calorie dense, easy to prepare, nutritious, non-perishable, appetizing, inexpensive, and versatile). Below are common items on my resupply shopping list that take all of that into account with more nutrition advice from New Orleans Saints sports dietitian, Tavis Piattoly.

Obviously, taste is too subjective to tell you specifically what to buy, so my goal instead is to give you new things to consider when buying food. It's inevitable that I will miss something, so please share your own suggestions in the comments below.

Olive Oil
Oil is all fat, so it's the most calorie dense thing you can pack (about 242 calories per ounce). By adding olive oil to pasta, potatoes, rice, beans, etc, you can increase all of their calorie density. Instant potatoes, for example, have about 111 calories per ounce, but has 176 if you mix in two tablespoons of olive oil.
That brings up an important point: If you need 6,000 calories per day, and your meals average 110 calories per ounce (the average number of calories in freeze-dried pasta meals and instant potatoes), you'd need 3.5 pounds of food per day. If you instead carry meals that average 150 calories per ounce, you will reduce your food weight by 1 pound for every day's worth of food in your pack.
There are lots of oils to choose from, but olive oil has a nice buttery flavor, it's easy to find in resupply towns, and it's cheap (as low as US$0.99 per 1,000 calories), which brings up another important point: If you want to do a long distance hike on a budget, think of the cost of food per calorie, not the shelf price or the price per meal.
Another benefit to olive oil is that it's nearly 75% monounsaturated fatty acids, which is a healthy dietary fat. It also contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which help reduce joint and muscle inflammation.
One more thing, even if you can find the small plastic bottles of olive oil, I found that an empty soda bottle works better to prevent leaking. 
Instant Potatoes
Instant mashed potatoes taste good and cook quickly, but nutritionally they're not great. Their glycemic index (GI) is higher than table sugar. I put them high on this list, however, to talk about blood sugar spikes from consuming a high GI diet.
In the morning, and during the day while hiking, high GI foods will provide you with an immediate source of energy, but pair that with fats, protein, and fiber: 
"Adding fat or protein to any high glycemic carbohydrate source will blunt the spike in blood sugar," says Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN and Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints. "I wouldn't recommend high GI foods while you are resting (before bed or during any period of inactivity) as your blood sugar could drop quickly and a hiker could experience fatigue. It would be best to have a meal mixed with protein, carbs, and fat to keep blood sugar in check." 
For example, when eating a high GI food like instant potatoes, mix in olive oil and bacon bits to add fat and protein to help blunt the spike in blood sugar. Add a side like peanut butter on whole-wheat bread or tortilla for additional fiber, fat, and protein.
Some of the best backpacking foods are nuts and seeds. Macadamia Nuts and Pecans pack about 200 calories per ounce. Most other nuts average about 185 and peanuts have about 150 calories per ounce (Peanuts are higher in protein, however, and considerably cheaper). Nuts are also versatile, since most are great mixed with oatmeal, trail mixes, or eaten plain.
My favorite are walnuts. They offer a good balance of calories and protein per ounce. They are not the best in those categories, but a good average in both. What really makes them my top choice are their high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce muscle and joint inflammation. No other nut has more.
Peanuts are my second choice for cost, taste, and protein per ounce, but eating a variety of nuts and seeds is always a better choice.
Here is a comparison of commonly available nuts in a variety of categories:
Nut Calories / oz Protein / oz Cost / 1000 cal. Omega-3
Walnuts1894.72$2.99 2.50 g
Macadamia Nuts  2132.02$3.940
Peanuts152 6.07 $1.460
Pecans2002.83$2.880.29 g
Mixed Nuts172 6.07$1.95-

Peanut Butter

My favorite backpacking food is peanut butter. It has a lot of calories per ounce (about 169), it keeps for a very long time, and it is one of the cheapest foods per calorie (as low as 88¢ per 1,000). It's also a great substitute for meat protein, which can be limited on the trail.
Perhaps the best thing about it as a backpacking food is its versatility. Slather some on a tortilla, bread, or crackers, make a peanut butter sauce for pasta (see recipes in part 3), add it to oatmeal to increase protein in your breakfast, or just eat a big spoonful with any meal or snack for extra fat, protein, and calories.
It’s tempting to buy powdered peanut butter (like PB2) to save weight, but it has almost 40% fewer calories per ounce, so it's actually heavier. It also costs nearly twice as much, is less nutritious, and in my opinion tastes absolutely terrible. It should be ashamed to call itself peanut butter. 
Tortillas, Breads and Crackers
Unlike bread or crackers, whole wheat tortillas can take a lot of abuse when stowed in a backpack. Per calorie, however, tortillas cost about twice as much. Cheaper bread alternatives that can take more abuse are bagels, pita bread, and English muffins. (Campfire English muffin pizzas are amazing on the trail, by the way, more on that in part 3.)
If you want more calories per ounce, consider whole wheat Ritz crackers with your peanut butter, tuna, meats, or cheeses. They have twice as much as bread and tortillas. 
Always go with whole wheat when possible to get all the fiber you can get:
"I typically recommend trying to get 10 g [of fiber] for every 1000 calories consumed," said Tavis. "The importance and benefits for a hiker would be to help regulate blood sugar and keep you full longer. The more stable your blood sugar and insulin levels are, the more energy you should have throughout the day. A more stable carbohydrate [from whole grains] will be better utilized as an energy source and keep you more full during a long day of activity." 
Whole Wheat Pasta
It’s tempting to go with cheap ramen noodles or Knorr Pasta Sides (and sometimes I still do), but with regular whole wheat pasta you can improve your diet without adding to your food budget. Unlike ramen noodles and many prepackaged pasta meals, whole wheat pasta is high in fiber and protein, it has a lower glycemic index, and it has no saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat can lead to sluggishness and inflammation.
Whole Wheat Pasta is also versatile and, with only slightly more effort, you can make some meals every bit as good as a freeze-dried Mountain House meal, which will weigh less per calorie and at a fraction of the cost. 
Save fuel by purchasing thinner pastas, like angel hair pasta or mini rotini, which cook much faster (al dente in about 4-7 minutes, 30-50% faster than regular spaghetti). Also, cooking it al dente, so it's still firm when bitten, has the added benefit of slowing digestion, which levels out the spike in blood sugar and makes you feel fuller longer.
My last pasta tip, you don't need a giant pot of boiling water to cook pasta. This of course wastes fuel and would be impractical in a small backpacker cook pot. Instead, fill your pot with enough water to cover the pasta and stir regularly, especially in the first minute or two when the sticky starches are at a high concentration on the surface of the pasta. Your pasta will cook just as well as if you had a large pot of boiling water and without clumping. After the pasta is finished boiling, save that starchy water to use in sauces to make them thicker and creamier.
Unlike soft cheeses, hard block cheeses like Parmesan and Romano do not need to be refrigerated. They can last for several days if sealed and if temperatures do not exceed 85°F. 
Other reasons to carry Parmesan is that it has 11 g of protein per ounce. That's more than nuts, peanut butter, powdered milk, and non-dehydrated meats. It can be added to prepackaged pasta dishes or used with whole wheat pasta and olive oil to make Parmesan Noodles.
Softer cheeses, when individually sealed, can keep for a few days if it isn't too hot. String cheese, in particular, packs well. On a warm day, keep cheese in the center of your pack to keep it cool. 
Mac and Cheese
Skip the box of Kraft Macaroni and cheese and make it from scratch using versatile ingredients that can be used in multiple ways. Just cook your pasta, add powdered whole milk, olive oil, and melt in shredded cheese or block cheese that has been shredded or cut into tiny pieces. 
Another reason I suggest versatile ingredients such as these, is because the more ways you use them the larger quantities you can buy, which will save you money on a long distance hike. 
Oatmeal also has a high glycemic index and instant oatmeal, although convenient, is loaded with additional sugar. Plain rolled oats are often less expensive per calorie and can be prepared in a number of healthier ways.
Reduce the overall glycemic index of the meal by adding nuts, peanut butter, whey protein, and/or powdered milk. You can also add a little olive oil or butter (if it's cold enough to carry butter) to increase the calories and improve flavor. Oatmeal can also be mixed with dried fruit or cocoa mixes such as Nestle or Ovaltine. It's great with a freshly chopped apple or fresh picked berries too.
In the photo of my oatmeal above, I added walnuts, peanut butter, blueberries,and protein powder for a 1,000 calorie breakfast with about 30g of protein 80g of carbs, and 35g of fat. 
 Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is not calorie dense, but a variety of dried fruit will prevent some vitamin deficiencies on your thru-hike. Not only are they a convenient quick snack, but many dried fruits are great in oatmeal, trail mixes, and when used to sweeten certain rice and pasta dishes.
Tart cherries are particularly excellent on the trail, because they have been shown to reduce joint and muscle inflammation. 
Powdered Whole Milk
You can find powdered whole milk in the Hispanic section in most grocery stores, usually the Nestle Nido brand. Whole milk has 50% more calories (151 per ounce) than powdered skim milk and is usually a little bit cheaper per calorie. 
Another reason many people, including myself, prefer whole milk is that it's creamier and tastes better in recipes, but both are a great way to add calories and protein to coffee, hot cocoa, oatmeal, and many other meals.
Cocoa drink mixes
Ovaltine with powdered milk will mix well hot or cold, which is why I stopped taking hot cocoa mix on the trail. It also tastes better to me than hot cocoa mix and is fortified with vitamins and minerals. It can also be added to oatmeal, coffee, or used in other trail recipes.
Instant Coffee or Cider
Definitely not a necessity, but when it's cold I like to have hot beverages in my pack. It can do a lot for morale at the end of a long cold day. 
For more protein and calories, mix instant coffee with cocoa and powdered milk to make a trail mocha. Add a little sugar to that, drink it cold, and it tastes similar to a Frappachino from Starbucks. 
Breakfast cereals with powdered whole milk are like dehydrated foods that don’t require a stove, which is great when going stoveless or when you're unable or unwilling to cook. They are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals that hikers may become deficient in without taking a multi-vitamin.
The major drawback to cereals on the trail is they take up a lot of space in your pack. Many cereals also have a high glycemic index, so look for ones that are high in fiber and protein, such as Kashi Go Lean Cereal or shredded wheat. Dried or freshly picked fruit is a great addition.
Some cereals are also great in trail mixes and oatmeal. Cinnamon Toast Crunch, although not a healthy option, makes nearly all trail mixes better. Actually, it makes life better in general. Cereal is my comfort food.
Candy Bars
Candy bars are a cheap and convenient snack to carry and I'm always in the mood for them. Energy bars are generally higher in protein and lower in saturated fat, but they are 2-4 times more expensive and not as calorie dense. And I personally don't like the taste of most energy bars. Anyway, there are much cheaper ways to get that protein you need.
I'm a big fan of Snickers bars, but possibly the best candy bar for backpacking is Payday. It's about the same cost per calorie and has about the same calories per ounce as Snickers (134 calories per ounce), but Paydays have nearly 60% more protein and half as much saturated fat. They also don't melt on a hot day.
Peanut Butter M&Ms are also popular on the trail for their high calorie content (150 cals/oz.). They are lower in protein than Payday, however, and nearly three times as high in saturated fat. They are great in trail mixes though.
Foil pouch of Chicken, Tuna, and Salmon
Salmon and Tuna costs about $21.00 per 1000 calories. What salmon and tuna do provide, however, is protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Tuna is a decent protein source (7g/oz), but foil pouches of chicken have just as much at half the price ($10.20 per 1000 calories). 
All of these only have about 30 calories per ounce, so I rarely buy more than one or two pouches on a resupply. Of course, if you have the time and it's legal in your area, fishing makes the weight and cost of fish irrelevant. 
 Dehydrated and pre-cooked meats
Beef Jerky is more calorie and protein dense than tuna or chicken, with about 81 calories and 14 grams of protein per ounce. The price is comparable too, at $12.48 per 1000 calories or more.
Pepperoni is one of my favorite trail-suitable meat sources, due to its higher calorie density (132 calories/oz.) and its versatility. It's good on crackers, tortillas, trail pizzas, or eaten plain. It's also the cheapest meat suitable for the trail, if you buy a pound unsliced it can be as low as $2.63 per 1000 calories if you order it from (I'll be testing out using for a few mail drops on the PCT, I'll let you know how that works out in a future post.) Grocery store pepperoni runs more like $4.60 per 1,000 calories, so still the cheapest meat on my list.
Another great meat option on the trail is pre-cooked bacon or bacon bits. They're great in instant mashed potatoes, salads, sandwiches, wraps, mac and cheese, and other pasta dishes. The "Fully-cooked" bacon has 126 calories per ounce and "real" bacon bits have 101, but bacon bits are half the price per ounce, at about $7.30 per 1000 calories.
If you like the taste, foil packs of Spam have 101 calories/oz., 12 g of protein/oz., and cost about $7.73 per 1,000 calories.
Lentils and other beans
Lentils are not lightweight calories, at only 33 calories per ounce, but they make my list for a lot of reasons. They are the cheapest source of calories, protein, and fiber (as low as 26¢ per 1,000 calories).
They are 1/5th the cost per gram of protein of the next cheapest protein source on my list, whey protein powder. They are not a complete protein, however, but if eaten with whole grains you can create a more complete protein dish. 
Other than being one of the best sources of fiber on this list, lentils are also full of many things thru-hikers may lack in their normal diet, such as, iron, folate, vitamin B1, and several essential amino acids.
Cook time can be reduced by soaking them in a zip-loc bag of water a few hours before cooking, but I haven't found this to be necessary unless I'm trying to conserve fuel. I tend to eat them al dente to reduce cook time as well.
Whey Protein
It may seem expensive, and it is per calorie, but it's one of the cheapest, most versatile, and most convenient protein sources you can buy. It has over 24 grams of protein per ounce. Nothing else on my list even comes close. It's great in protein shakes, oatmeal, cereal, or hot cocoa.
Fruits and Vegetables 
A lot of produce, although heavy calories, will pack out well: potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions, cucumbers, squash, garlic, apples, avocados, hot peppers, carrots, and celery, for example. Also, consider picking up a bag of complete ready-made salad for your first night's dinner after a resupply. Keep produce in the center of your pack where it is coolest. 
Little Debbie snacks, honey buns, pop-tarts, and donuts may not be the healthiest food choices, but they can be cheap (pop-tarts as low as 88¢ per 1000 calories). They also require no time to prepare and are an excellent comfort food. I've said it before, but don't underestimate the power of comfort foods to improve morale on a long-distance hike. 
And I'll repeat myself again, pair high GI foods like these with foods that are high in unsaturated fat, dietary fiber, and protein to blunt the blood-sugar spike. If you're going to eat them, have them with breakfast or during a mid-day snack break for their immediate source of energy, but not before bed or during periods of inactivity so you can avoid the subsequent drop in blood sugar.
Spices and sauce packets
Soy Sauce, hot sauce, mustard, honey, sugar, salt, pepper, and other restaurant condiment packets are a great way to improve recipes without carrying large quantities. I pick up a few when I'm eating in restaurants in town. You can also purchase single use sized portions of spices in many grocery stores. 
Drink Mixes/Electrolyte replacement
Drink mixes with electrolytes are vital when getting this much physical activity, especially on a hot summer day climbing up mountains. Drink mixes will also make creek or lake water taste better, which helps ensure you'll drink enough. Electrolyte replacement is important enough to consider it part of your first aid kit.

Once again, thanks to Tavis Piattoly for helping me get some of my facts straight in this article. In an upcoming post, I'll use this list in a sample daily meal plan including recipes from the authors of the best-selling backpacking cookbook, "Lip Smackin' Backpacking." Please send me an email with your own recipes, comments, or suggestions, or leave them in the comments below.

Thanks for reading


Related Articles:
Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Cooking Supplies and How to Make an Alcohol Stove
Grocery Shopping with a Thru-Hiker, Part One
- - - = = = - - -

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department where he coordinates nutritional assessments, provides nutrition education, and develops individual meal plans for athletes to improve their health, performance, and recovery. In addition, he consults for numerous high schools athletic programs throughout the state of Louisiana. Futhermore, Tavis worked closely with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins to help them retain their boxing titles and has been working with Lance Berkman since 2011.

He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian (, an online sports nutrition education company to help High School and College Athletes improve their eating habits to enhance performance, recovery, and health through the guidance of a Licensed Sports Dietitian.

Tavis obtained a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana State University and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana State University. He is a registered and licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. In addition, he serves on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Board.

Grocery Shopping with a Thru-Hiker, Part 1

(Photo: The wonderfully versatile peanut butter)
When non-backpacking folk ask what I eat on a long trail, many assume I carry a couple months of food on my back or that I fish, hunt, set traps, and forage for edible plants and berries. I would love to maintain that false image of me in their heads, but I've never been a good liar. A month of food would weigh nearly a hundred pounds, hunting and gathering is often prohibited, and there isn't enough time when you need to hike 20 miles a day. The truth is, other than the occasional wild berry bush, my food is foraged from grocery stores and gas stations along the way.

This series on food is about long distance hiking, with the aspiring first-time thru-hiker in mind, but it will still be relevant for any multi-day hike. The main difference is that with long distance hiking, things like budgets, resupplying along the way, limited availability of items in towns, maintaining body weight, and good nutrition are more important factors to consider. On a week-long trip, I don't worry about saving a few dollars or maintaining body weight. Nor do I think as much about proper nutrition, joint inflammation, or getting burnt out on certain foods.

Part two will be a sample long-distance hiker shopping list, but before making a list, here are a few things to consider:

How many calories do you need?

There are too many variables to know the exact number of calories you’ll need on a given day, such as body weight, gender, age, metabolism, pack weight, elevation gain, temperature, and hiking speed. You can, however, get an estimate of what you'll need then work from there.

“To get a rough estimate,” says Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN, Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints. “First, determine your estimated basal metabolic rate (or BMR, the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest). For men the formula for your BMR equals:

88.362 + (6.077 x weight in lbs.) + (12.189 x height in inches) - (5.677 x age in years) 

For women, BMR equals:

447.593 + (4.194 x weight in lbs.) + (7.869 x height in inches) - (4.330 x age in years)

That's approximately what you'll burn doing nothing but keeping your vital functions going, such as breathing and keeping warm. Next, add the following number of calories for every hour you are backpacking in a given day:

Body Weight
Pack Weight     
100 lbs. 115 lbs.
130 lbs.
155 lbs.
180 lbs.
205 lbs.
9 lbs.
318 365
10 to 20 lbs.
341 392
21 to 42 lbs.
363 418
Over 42 lbs.
408 470

I’m 6 foot, 180 lbs., 35 years old, so my BMR equals 1,861 calories. After a strenuous 10-hour hike, with maybe 2 hours of breaks, my average daily calorie needs would be about 7,000. The calories in the chart above are for strenuous uphill hiking, so the numbers may seem higher than what you normally eat, but this isn't an exact science, rather it’s a guide to get you started. You’ll need to make adjustments as you go. Most of us have plenty of fat stores to get us by until we figure it out, but you will lose about one pound for every 3,500 calorie deficit in your diet. That adds up fast on a long distance hike, so it's important to have a general idea of the calories your body needs.

“In the beginning of your thru-hike," says Tavis "Weigh yourself every 3-7 days, if possible (early morning after going to the restroom). Measure how hungry you are every 2, 3, or 4 hours. If you’re getting hungry in 60-90 minutes after eating a meal, you either didn't eat enough or it caused a spike and crash in your blood sugar, so you would need a more stable carbohydrate: quinoa, beans, whole grain cereals, like Kashi or Shredded Wheat, or whole grain bread - anything rich in fiber.”

Features of the Best Backpacking Foods

The best backpacking foods are:

  • Calorie dense

    Calorie density has less to do with dehydrated food and more to do with fat content. Fat has just over 250 calories per ounce, 225% more than protein and carbohydrates. For comparison, a bag of mixed nuts has about 185 calories per ounce, a dehydrated pasta meal has about 110 per ounce. Dried fruit has about 85. Foil packages of tuna, salmon, and chicken and fresh produce have about 30 calories per ounce.

    With a 6,000-calorie diet, if you ate a very low-fat trail diet of fish and fresh produce, you’d need to carry 90 pounds for a week on the trail. If you choose high-fat calorie-dense foods, you can get that down to about 16 - 19 lbs. Although I've never met a backpacker attempt the former, you can see how food selection can make a huge difference in your pack weight.
  • Easy to prepare with minimal cooking supplies

    That way there's no need to carry more than a stove, cook pot, fuel, and spoon. I've gone on many backpacking trips without cooking supplies, but on a long distance hike, the ability to cook will increase your food options and make it easier to have a more healthful varied diet.

    Campfires can save weight by eliminating the need to carry a stove and fuel, but they can't always be relied on due to rain or fire bans. If you're planning for campfires, be sure you have plenty of foods that do not require cooking for those rainy days.
  • Highly Nutritious

    With the food limitations of long-distance hiking, namely the lack of refrigeration, access to fresh produce, and the need for calorie dense/high-fat foods, it’s very easy to become deficient in a variety of vitamins and minerals over time. Additionally, it's very important to reduce saturated fat and sugar intake. It's tempting to pack a lot of cheap, high-saturated fat and high-calorie junk foods, but too much can lead to increased inflammation and sluggishness. Constant soreness and lack of energy have sent a lot of would-be thru-hikers home before finishing their goal.
  • Non-perishable

    Lack of refrigeration makes it more difficult to eat a healthy varied diet on the trail, and the need for non-perishable foods is obvious. Some perishable foods, however, can last a few hours or days without refrigeration. Hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano will last for days if kept sealed well. Individually wrapped cheeses, like string cheese, also pack well.

    A lot of produce, although heavy calories, will pack out well: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, cucumbers, squashes, garlic, apples, avocados, hot peppers, and carrots, for example. Also, pick up a bag of complete ready-made salad for your first night's dinner after a resupply.

    Bacon, which makes all things better, is available pre-cooked at most grocery stores. Farm-fresh eggs, which have not been previously refrigerated, can keep for several days at or below 68°F. (Once refrigerated in a grocery store, however, eggs should stay refrigerated due to the “sweating” on the shell that happens from the sudden change in temperature. This can lead to bacterial growth.)

    And don't forget the world is your refrigerator when it’s below 40° F. When it’s cold enough outside, your food options open up considerable, like milk, eggs, meats, cheeses, and butter. As with most perishable foods, keep them stored in the center of your pack to keep them a little cooler and avoid body heat and seal them well after opening.
  • Appetizing

    It may seem obvious, but on a long distance hike you’ll probably get tired of even your favorite foods eventually. This is the main reason I buy my food along the way and avoid preparing mail drops before a trip and shipping them to myself along the trail. What sounds good before a trip, may make you dread dinner at the end of your day months later. You want to crave the foods you carry. It will help morale and ensure you’re going to eat enough calories to maintain body weight.
  • Inexpensive

    Believe it or not, people who hike for several months out of the year (rather than working) are usually on a tight budget. Some of the cheapest calories on my list are: lentils, ramen noodles, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, Pop Tarts, peanut butter, and olive oil. All are less than $1 per 1,000 calories and lentils are as cheap as 26¢ per 1,000 calories. For a comparison, Mountain House or other brands of pre-packaged meals, run over $12 per 1,000 calories. Beef jerky costs about the same. Foil packets of tuna and salmon, about $20 per 1,000 calories.

    Hiking with a group can save you a lot of money by allowing you to buy in bulk and separate the food into individual zip-top bags. If you prefer to hike alone, try to find other hikers heading to town around the same time as you. Ask if they want to share the cost of bulk foods and slow down or increase your hiking speed to ensure you get to town the same time as them.

    If you're not with a group, buying in bulk can still save you money without carrying more food weight, if you carry versatile ingredients that can be prepared in multiple ways.
  • Versatile

    Buy ingredients that can be prepared in multiple ways and with varying cook times, like pasta, oatmeal, crackers, cheese, and peanut butter. Have some meals that don't need to be cooked at all and save them for nights when you don’t have the time or simply aren't in the mood to cook. This is especially important when you run out of fuel or fire bans or rain prevent you from building a campfire.
An example of putting this information to use

I'll have more details in the next post, but as an example, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, peanuts, peanut butter, and olive oil fit in all of the above categories. For example, combine two servings each of cooked whole-wheat pasta, crunchy peanut butter, and olive oil, and you have one of my favorite backpacking meals, Peanut Butter Noodles. (Add salt or a packet of soy sauce to taste.) It has 1040 calories (145 per pre-cooked ounce), 96 grams of carbohydrates, 64 g of fat, 30 grams of protein, 14 grams of fiber, and costs just $0.86. That’s not much more per calorie, than even ramen noodles and much healthier too. In other words, with a little creativity, you can eat for a whole day for the cost of one pre-packaged freeze-dried meal.

These ingredients are also versatile and can be used in a number of ways. Swap out the peanut butter for 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and instead use the peanut butter in your morning oatmeal. In your oatmeal, mix a couple tablespoons of whey protein, cocoa drink mix (such as Ovaltine), or powdered whole milk to add additional vitamins, nutrients, calories, protein, and fat. You could also save the peanut butter to spread on whole-wheat tortillas for lunch and instead add nuts and/or dried fruit to your oatmeal. The Ovaltine and powdered milk can also be used for cold chocolate milk or hot cocoa, or use them to turn your instant coffee into a mocha.

That is all for now. I will post more food ideas in part two. Thanks for reading!


Related Articles:
Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Cooking Supplies and How to Make an Alcohol Stove
- - - = = = - - -

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department where he coordinates nutritional assessments, provides nutrition education, and develops individual meal plans for athletes to improve their health, performance, and recovery. In addition, he consults for numerous high schools athletic programs throughout the state of Louisiana. Futhermore, Tavis worked closely with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins to help them retain their boxing titles and has been working with Lance Berkman since 2011.

He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian (, an online sports nutrition education company to help High School and College Athletes improve their eating habits to enhance performance, recovery, and health through the guidance of a Licensed Sports Dietitian.

Tavis obtained a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana State University and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana State University. He is a registered and licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. In addition, he serves on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Board.

The After Interview with 2013 Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker, Victor Maisano

(Mount Katahdin Photo by Victor Maisano)
Regular readers of this blog will remember Victor Maisano, who earlier this year, set out to thru-hike the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail. I interviewed Victor before he left for the southern terminus on Springer Mountain in Georgia and was curious how his thoughts about the trail would change after the hike.

On October 13, 2013, Victor completed the trail, summiting Mount Katahdin in Maine 198 days later.

RG: Just about everyone I met, experienced some degree of post-hike blues when they returned home. How are you feeling about being back in civilization and what do you miss most about being on the trail?

VM: There has certainly been some post-hike blues, however, I knew this was coming and I was prepared for a cure. Since ending my physical adventure, I have been fairly swamped tying up loose ends with my followers, sponsors, and other BackpackingAT related social media adventures. On top of that, all my friends I am getting back in contact with are always asking me questions and want to listen to stories, so I get to relive my trail experience through memory, still, on a daily basis.

The thing I miss most about the trail is probably the routine and challenges. With Baxter Park closing after October 15th, I was on a time crunch near the end, as I summited October 13th. Waking up every morning, not exactly knowing what I was going to see or where I was going to sleep always filled my soul with excitement. I miss that most.

(Moxie Bald, Photo by Victor Maisano)
I completely understand what you mean. Not knowing exactly where you’re going, while nevertheless knowing it is exactly where you need to be going, is quite liberating. 

In our first interview, you said you hoped to gain a new perspective from the hiking community and learn all you could from the experience. What was the biggest lesson you learned on your journey?

For as much as everyone comes from different walks of life and have their own reason for starting to hike 2,185.9 miles, they all have inherently similar characteristics; longing for adventure, trying something different, an excuse to leave modern civilization. What I have learned is that people have different thresholds they are willing and not willing to break. This fact alone sets the course for how the hike will finish (or not finish).

(Photo by Victor Maisano)
You said the things you're most looking forward to on your AT thru-hike are meeting great people, seeing wild animals, and attempting some wilderness survival skills. Did that meet all your expectations?

Yes they did! I did meet a number of great people. Some of which will continue to be great friends, even though there is great distance between us now.

I certainly saw my fair share of animals. I did not expect to see the numerous amount of snakes and turtles I saw. On the flip side, I was disappointed I did not see any moose, elk or porcupines near the end.

As for my wilderness survival skills, I picked up some knowledge along the way from other hikers. Looking back, I probably don't consider many of these things wilderness survival skills as I learned them early on and practically used them every day (hanging bear bags, moderating fire, climbing rocks, recognizing animal traces, etc.), but they most certainly are!

Before starting your hike, you said your biggest concerns were having enough power and knives. Did that change as you started getting used to your new life on the Appalachian Trail?

Ahh yes, I remember this thought clearly.

In terms of security, I feared a little knife would not protect me. This may be true, but there was not much I could practically bring in its place that would have actually satisfied this feeling. I ended up losing and sending home two of the three knifes I started with, leaving me only with a small 2.5 inch knife. This definitely was all I really needed in the end and was perfect for all the tasks I assigned it to (cutting mole skin, hot dogs, kindling, rope, food packages). Anything larger would have certainly been extra weight and not efficient. From a protection stand point, anything dangerous in the wild would need, much, much more than a large knife to secure your survival. Luckily, I never (other than one encounter at night with bear) felt threatened during those six months from animals and mountain folk.

Power: You can never get enough. I feel like that's a plot to almost every movie, but it's true! In the beginning, I was using a Goal Zero Solar Panel and battery back. This worked great as I had the panel strapped to my backpack most days (when it was not raining). Once the leaves started to grow in, however, this option was not effective for me as I was always on the move and could not afford to hangout out in the sun for two hours at a time.

I switched systems and went with a NewTrent rechargeable battery pack. Since I was going through a town every 4-8 days, I would seek out an outlet and recharge my power source, which would allow me enough power till the next town. I just had to be mindful of how I used my power allocation. Uploading content almost daily, it was hard to fight the demons not to use my devices for other internet surfing and Netflix.

(Photo by Victor Maisano)
When you left for Springer, your pack weighed around 45 lbs. Did you end up shedding some pounds before reaching Katahdin? What are some of the things you got rid of?

I shed so much weight and could have shed so much more had I not been carrying around all the technology I did. At the end, I got down to 30lbs. Much of my cookware (excess pot, cup, fork, scrubber), clothing (additional shirts, shorts, underwear), gear (knives, ropes, pulleys, excess stuff sacks, nalgene bottles) was sent home. By the end almost all my gear (including technology) was different from when I started. Either it broke and was replaced, upgraded, or traded out for something different. If you want to check out what I ended up with, check out this list I put together:

Now that you're an AT expert, do you have any recommendations or advice for people starting their hike in 2014?

Actually test your gear. I kinda went at this with a big headed approach "being an Eagle Scout, I know what I need and how it works." However this did not necessarily hold true. Actually going out for a weekend in the elements would have saved many packages being sent home within the first couple months of the hike.

Get in contact with a number of former AT Hikers. They have so much knowledge to share and LOVE to talk about their experience. Take this information and make a note of it in your AWOL Guide (I advise against the ATC Guidebook as it's a little too simple - no elevation map and significantly less tips about information about towns). This way you don't have to memorize all the information, but rather can reference it as you stare at this book at least ten times a day. I would have gotten the PDF version as well.

Remember that while you’re hiking, you’re hiking your own hike. So many times I saw that others and myself, felt like they were trapped or obligated to stay with certain groups or spend an extra day in town. You don't have to. There are always (mostly) people on the trail you can hike and/or camp with and people always have a way with catching up.

(Thru-hiker on Mount Katahdin, Photo by Victor Maisano)
A lot of aspiring thru-hikers are curious about corporate sponsorship, but are unsure where to begin. You were successful in this regard, what did you learn from that experience?

My sponsors where Verizon Wireless, Dollar Shave Club, Leki, SuperFeet, Dr. Bonner's, Grand Trunks Goods, Sea Bear, and Big Agnes.

Having worked in the marketing industry for the past 6 years, I know what sponsors expect and how to keep them happy. However I learned that sitting behind a desk while communicating with your connections and sharing content is much easier than attempting to hike 20 miles, and get 6 hours of sleep while finding a strong enough signal and time to send out the 15+ pictures a day. Planning in advance, maintaining expectations and following through on your commitment certainly made this a positive experience for me.

For approaching companies, I would 1) highly suggest going for the B-List companies. Unless you have connections within the A-List companies I do believe it is much harder to get sponsorships. 2) Make sure to start your communication early. Many companies plan early on in the year how they plan to allocate their funds. 3) Be prepared and provide information about your background and intentions on how you will use their product, and what they will get in return. 4) Don't be afraid to pick up the phone. Many people hide behind email, message boards and direct messages. Give the company a call and ask to speak to their marketing department.

From following your blog, it seemed you loved just about every moment of the hike. I know how hard it is to stop the adventure when you love it that much, so what is next? Any trips planned?

I did love every moment. From fording the Kennebec river, to starring a bear in the face at night (alone), to completing the day’s hike in darkness cause your headlamp ran out of batteries… I loved the experiences.

What is next... well I am financially forced to find a job. Luckily, I have a great resume and experience, so hopefully I can land something soon in the Marketing/Social Media field. I'm looking to the outdoor/adventure/racing areas for opportunities as this is a natural fit.

Whether it's riding across the US on a bicycle, sailing across some oceans or hiking the PCT I am always keeping my ears and eyes open for that next adventure opportunity. Perhaps my next job and adventure could be one in the same... we can all dream,

It has been done before and you seem like a person that can make it happen. Victor, I wish you the best of luck and keep in touch!


The Before Interview with Victor Maisano
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Nutrition for Thru-hikers, Part 3: An Interview with Tavis Piattoly

(Photo: Snack Break on the Appalachian Trail)
Click here to read part 1 of this interview

In part two of my interview with New Orleans Saints Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly, we talked about the best backpacking foods, but on a long-distance hike, I’d also like to know which are the best town foods. Life on the trail often leads to nutritional deficiencies, but in town we have new choices available.

RG: When thinking of a typical trail diet, what vitamins and nutrients are likely to be limited and what should we try to eat more of when we are in town?

TP: This would depend on the town and what's available. Eating clean as often as possible will always be your best option. I feel fresh fruits, veggies, and lean protein would be three staples you want to eat when you get in town that you probably don't eat enough of while hiking. Although you need the calories (which fruits and veggies don't have much of), you also need the nutrients and antioxidants for immune support. You can pour Olive Oil or Cheese on your veggies for extra calories as well as having a few extra portions of carbohydrates to restore the gas tank.

Another common question in the forums and on the Facebook page have been about binge eating episodes, the common thru-hiker practice of eating small frequent meals at a daily calorie deficit, to reduce pack weight and then binge eating while in town. With town visits on a thru-hike usually happening every 3-7 days, would you discourage this practice completely or is there an acceptable amount of short-term calorie restriction? 

First, I wouldn't recommend restricting calories on a trail, especially when you're burning calories at the rate you do. This could lead to fatigue sooner than later. Since you usually go into a caloric deficit within a few days, I would say you don't want to do this any longer than 3-4 days without starting to see some significant fatigue, especially if you’re not consuming enough fluids.

It will vary person to person as well as it will depend on the body fat levels of the Thru-Hiker. Someone with a higher body fat will do better utilizing his/her fat stores where the extra lean person will struggle with being in a deficit a little more as their metabolism is a little higher and they burn calories faster. This could lead to fatigue sooner than later.

A large meal due to being in a caloric deficit will be advantageous every 2-4 days as your body will want and need those calories. I would also recommend doing this at night so you can store some additional extra calories as fat. This will be burned off quickly the next day.

Inflammation is frequently a problem for me on a long trail and I’m certainly not alone. Ibuprofen is taken so routinely by some, that we call it Vitamin-I, because we pop a pill (or three) every morning without even thinking about it. Does this pose a health concern with regular daily usage? Are there foods that more safely support joint health and reduce muscle and joint inflammation? Conversely, are there foods that increase inflammation?

First, Ibuprofen. Most important is making sure you don't cause stomach bleeding with overuse. (See: Proper Use and Precautions) There are plenty of foods and spices that reduce inflammation:

Fresh Fruits and Veggies - Excellent anti-inflammatory foods (Berries, Pineapple)

Fish Oil Supplements - Nordic Naturals are the best in my opinion

Curry or Turmeric Powder/Supplements - Great anti-inflammatory agent

Spices - Like Oregano, Curry, Cinnamon, Basil, etc., are anti-inflammatory

Glutamine - Great for the immune system and muscle

Greens Powders - High in nutrients and lighter in weight

Fruit and Veggie Extract Gummies by Juice Plus - Great option if you can't carry too many fruits and veggies

Foods that promote inflammation are: High sugar foods, foods made with Omega-6 Fatty Acids (chips, cookies, pies, French fries, anything fried in oil, etc.), Foods high in saturated fat (high fat animal products, high fat cheese, etc.).

SawnieRobertson on the forums asks if you have any special advice for those who are hypothyroid.

Continue to eat frequently (every 2-3 hours), take your medicine if prescribed by your doctor, and eat lean protein at every meal as it can be thermogenic in nature.

Mizirlou, also from, mentioned he has suffered from Acute Mountain Sickness in the past, so wanted to know if you had something to say about high altitude nutrition. The Pacific Crest Trail (my next hike), for example, can vary from 1,000 feet above sea level to over 14,000. Aside from the energy expended to get up the mountain, will nutritional requirements change simply by being at a high elevation?

I thought it would be more appropriate to credit the source when answering this next question as Wayne has an excellent review on his site that can answer this better than I can. The link will provide a comprehensive answer to this question:

As a non-expert, there are probably many questions that I don’t even know to ask. Are there any important questions I haven't asked that you'd like to talk about?

One component of nutrition that is often over-looked in all activities and sports is the significance of hydration. The first sign of fatigue is usually related to being dehydrated. We often wait until we receive cues of thirst before we drink but we should drink on a schedule, especially when going on a hike longer then 3-4 hours which is nothing compared to what the experienced hiker does. Regardless of the season (fall, winter, summer), hikers will excrete water through urine and sweat and without proper re-hydration strategies, the journey could become more difficult even for the experienced and well trained hiker.

As you get 2 hours into the hike, it's important to start replacing electrolytes to avoid an imbalance which could lead to many issues from cramping to irregular heart beats (if potassium and magnesium get too low). To avoid adding more weight to a pack, I like using the NUUN tablets as well as a product called The Right Stuff. The Right Stuff is excellent for heavy sweaters. Both are easy to add to water and drink. My rule of thumb is to consume 8-12 oz of fluid every 15 minutes or 16-24 oz every 30 minutes. Don't wait until you're thirsty as you'll already be 1% dehydrated.

And finally, one more important question from the forum at Beer as a sports drink? Carb loading?

The average 12 oz beer has approximately 13 grams of carbohydrates, but I wouldn't rely on it to carb load as it will have a significant dehydrating effect on the body if consumed in excess. I'm sure this wouldn't make for an enjoyable hike the next day. Stick with Tequila shots. :)

I will definitely keep that in mind, Tavis, and one again thanks for answering all of our questions! As I said in part one of this interview, the good nutrition advice online doesn't often take into account the limitations that long-distance hikers face. I will now be better prepared at my next resupply.

Also, thanks to all of you that contributed questions. You had many I hadn't considered, so you made this a more thorough and informative interview. If you have further questions or comments, please leave them in the comments section below.

- - -

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department where he coordinates nutritional assessments, provides nutrition education, and develops individual meal plans for athletes to improve their health, performance, and recovery. In addition, he consults for numerous high schools athletic programs throughout the state of Louisiana. Futhermore, Tavis worked closely with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins to help them retain their boxing titles and has been working with Lance Berkman since 2011.

He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian (, an online sports nutrition education company to help High School and College Athletes improve their eating habits to enhance performance, recovery, and health through the guidance of a Licensed Sports Dietitian.

Tavis obtained a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana State University and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana State University. He is a registered and licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. In addition, he serves on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Board.

Related Articles:
Part One: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Part Two: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Cooking Supplies and How to Make an Alcohol Stove

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Nutrition for Thru-hikers, Part 2: An Interview with Tavis Piattoly

(Photo: Lunch at Redgap Pass, Glacier NP, Montana)
Click here to read part 1 of this interview

On a long enough hike, where you'll need to stop for supplies along the way, it can be very difficult to stick to a specific meal plan. That being said, in part two of my interview with Sports Dietitian Tavis Piattoly, I asked for specifics.

Tavis is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department. He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian, as well as creator and host of the Next Level Podcast.

The difficulty in sticking to a strict meal plan is largely due to limited selection and having to carry our kitchens on our backs. Also, when it comes to food, the goal of most thru-hikers is to simply eat everything in sight in a vain attempt to avoid looking like an immunocompromised refugee in the end.

It would be difficult to convince most long distance hikers, myself included, to count every calorie and eat perfectly proportioned meals, but a perfect diet isn't necessarily my goal. Rather, it is to educate myself so I can make better food choices whether I find a fully stocked grocery store or have to resupply in a small town gas station. My ultimate goal is to improve my health, increase my energy, and maybe reduce some the aches and pains that come with long distance hiking.

So, before asking Tavis what foods we should eat, I asked what foods we should avoid.

TP: The foods you want to avoid as much as possible are very high saturated fat/fried foods as well as watching sugar intake. High saturated fat/greasy foods will promote sluggishness and foods high in sugar could create blood sugar fluctuations, especially if you consume them while taking a break in the hiking process.

There's a difference in how the body metabolizes high saturated fat rich foods (high fat beef, cheese, butter, other animal fats, etc.) versus your more mono and polyunsaturated fats, particularly those rich in Omega 3s. Nuts, Nut Butters, Olive Oil, Avocados, Fatty Fish, Fish Oil Supplements, and Flax are great sources of fat that will not make your body feel sluggish after consumption, especially when you're burning a high amount of calories during a hike.

Fried foods and high fat meats could have the opposite effect, but that doesn't mean to completely avoid them. They can be consumed at night after a long hike and used as recovery along with other balanced foods (starches and veggies). I typically don't recommend high fat meats to athletes 8-12 hours before any activity due to the very slow digestion process. I'd recommend leaner meats if you do consume them or have them available (i.e. Lean deli meats).

Regarding sugar intake, I know some people have said that the “sugar crash” is a myth. Malto from tested this out for himself. “On a couple of occasions,” he said. “I have tried to force a sugar crash by eating no other calories for three hours other than Kool-Aid, but I had no crash. I have not been able to see any difference between high and low glycemic index carbs during exercise." What are your thoughts on this?

During activity, your body is insulin sensitive, so you probably won't see a sugar crash as the body will utilize glucose as an energy source into the muscle and liver. The blood sugar will eventually get low but you won't have that feeling of fatigue or hunger like you would when resting and then consuming a ton of sugar.

A lower glycemic approach usually includes carbohydrate, fat, or protein-rich foods with more fiber and protein. Foods like nuts, apples, veggies, peanut butter, dairy products, meat, etc. are all low glycemic foods. You can make any meal lower glycemic by combining fat, fiber, and protein as these are the three nutrients which help blood sugar stabilize and also help you stay full.

How about salt? Many meals consumed by thru-hikers are very high in sodium. Is this much of a concern for someone getting this much exercise on a regular basis? What would a healthy amount of sodium be for a long-distance hiker?

I'd have to know sweat rates and how much fluid is lost in the process. I would think you'll need a minimum of 5,000 mg per day depending on sweat loss, considering it's about 2,000 for a 2,000 calorie diet. It may be in the upper limit of 7,000-8,000 mg per day for the very high calorie hikers. I would only be concerned with someone consuming too much sodium if they had a medical issue that requires them to be on a lower sodium diet (heart or kidney disease, high blood pressure, family history of stroke).

With our limited access to produce, should we be taking a multivitamin or other supplementation? 

There could be a ton of nutrient deficiencies here since fruit and veggie intake are lower than normal considering they are low calorie foods. Using nutrient rich starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes), wheat germ, and fortified cereals could be extremely helpful. Many of the powdered protein carbohydrate bars are fortified with Vitamins but it would be a good idea to take a Multivitamin to get some additional nutrients you are not getting with food.

You could also look at using a Fruit and Veggie Powder that could assist with getting antioxidants and nutrients you would not be getting from food. It could be added to high calorie powered. Mix in and shake up with water.

Other supplements to consider to help with Immune Health are: L-Glutamine (10 grams per day), N-Acetyl Cysteine (1200 mg per day), and Fish Oil Capsules for inflammation (2000 mg or 2 g per day).

When we are out of energy between meals, what snacks are going to help get us up the next mountain?

Calorie dense snacks like Peanut Butter, Nuts, and Trail Mixes are best to spare glycogen and help you utilize some fat stores, but also mix this with dried fruits (dates, prunes, raisins).

Nutrition Bars like Clif Bars, Clif Builders, Balance Bars, Odwalla, Luna, and Lara Bars are all good options depending on what you like. You can also use candy bars with Nuts (Snickers, Pay Day, and Peanut M&M's) for extra calories when needed. Or additional options like Fig Newtons, Beef Jerky, and Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats. High Fiber and High Protein Dry Cereal can also be helpful (Kashi Go Lean and Special K Protein Plus are good options here).

Do you have recommendations for foods to eat at the end of the day for recovery?

Recovery should consist of a good balance of protein and carbohydrates to help the muscles recover (protein) and to refill the gas tank (carbohydrates). Whole Grain Pasta and Quinoa would be great choices that are light and would be easy to carry along. You could even try the instant bagged brown rice. Another option is oatmeal at night as this would be light to carry several bags of instant oatmeal. The best options would be the Quaker Low Sugar or Weight Control as it's high in fiber. They have several flavors that are excellent.

Protein for you at night will be Peanut Butter, Nuts, Protein Powder, Powdered Milk, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Protein Bars, Beef Jerky or Fish if caught and cooked.

My last question for part two is one from Max Patch at He asks if you can give us one sample of a day's menu. 


2 Handfuls of Nuts or Trail Mix (your choice)
1-2 cups of Kashi Go Lean Cereal (good fiber and protein)
Dried fruit (dates, prunes, or raisins) or 1 cup of oatmeal (if you have boiled water available)
Water or Water with Electrolyte tablets (i.e. NUUN)


Clif Bar, Nature's Valley Protein Bar, Peanut M&M's, Pay Day, or Snickers Bar
Handful of Nuts


1-2 Peanut Butter and Jelly Wraps (Can use a Large LaTortilla Wrap which is high in fiber)
1-2 handfuls of Trail Mix or Almonds (I'd recommend creating your own mix of nuts, seeds, and fruit)
Water with Electrolytes to hydrate (1-2 Nuun Tablets or The Right Stuff for sodium replacement)


1-2 scoops of Protein Powder with Powdered Milk and Water or 3 ounces of Beef Jerky
Nutrition or Protein Bar (Clif, Clif Builders, Myoplex Original, etc)


2 cups of Whole Grain Pasta (try Barilla Plus - good fiber and protein)
Can use 1 can of tomato sauce (optional if you bring canned anything)
2 tablespoons of Peanut Butter or Protein Bar
1 cup of dried fruit (good antioxidants)
Hydrate well

I'll just add that if you don't want to carry a can of tomato sauce or paste, you could also use the peanut butter to make Peanut Butter Noodles (one of my favorite backpacking meals.) To make the sauce, just mix together a serving of crunchy peanut butter, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a little bit of the water left over from boiling the whole grain pasta. So good... but I'll talk more about meal ideas in a future post.

In the third and final part to this interview, we'll talk more about foods that prevent and cause inflammation, binge eating episodes (maintaining a calorie deficit on the trail then gorging in towns), and what we should eat while in town. I'm really hoping he says McDonald's with a side of Duncan Donuts. Keep your fingers crossed!

Thank you once again Tavis for offering your expert advice. Click here to read part three of our interview where we talk about the best town foods and binge eating episodes. If you'd like to read part one of this interview, please click here. If you have any other questions or comments, please include them in the comments section below.
- - -

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department where he coordinates nutritional assessments, provides nutrition education, and develops individual meal plans for athletes to improve their health, performance, and recovery. In addition, he consults for numerous high schools athletic programs throughout the state of Louisiana. Futhermore, Tavis worked closely with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins to help them retain their boxing titles and has been working with Lance Berkman since 2011.

He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian (, an online sports nutrition education company to help High School and College Athletes improve their eating habits to enhance performance, recovery, and health through the guidance of a Licensed Sports Dietitian.

Tavis obtained a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana State University and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana State University. He is a registered and licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. In addition, he serves on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Board.

Related Articles:
Part One: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Part Three: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Cooking Supplies and How to Make an Alcohol Stove

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Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly

A few months ago, I began researching for a series of articles on the subject held most dear to every thru-hiker: food. The Internet is full of sports nutrition advice, much of which is driven by fads and not entirely evidence-based, but even the good advice doesn't take into account the limitations that long-distance hikers face. We lack regular access to fresh food and refrigeration, for example, and our kitchens and pantries have to fit on our backs.

Additionally, thru-hikers can't always get to a decent grocery store to resupply and food selection is often limited, so it would be difficult to stick to a dietitian's specific meal plan. Instead, we need to educate ourselves, so we know how to make smarter decisions and adapt to whatever situation we're in. That is what I've been trying to do for the last few months and what these articles are all about.

In order to get this right, and not simply contribute to the bad advice on the Internet, it quickly became clear that I needed to consult some experts. I reached out to many professional sports dietitians, but I had no idea my search would lead me to meeting someone with a resume like Tavis Piattoly's. He is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department. He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian, as well as creator and host of the Next Level Podcast.

Down the road, I'll combine my backpacking experience and Tavis's expert advice to write more posts about food and nutrition, but today I'll start it off with part one of a three-part interview where Tavis tackles some of my nutrition questions and questions from fellow backpackers on the forum and the Backpacker's Life Facebook page.

RG: First off, from a nutrition and optimal performance standpoint, how do you see long distance backpacking being different from shorter duration trips or other endurance sports?

TP: I find it very similar to other endurance or even ultra-endurance sports. When you're going on a 10-12 hour hike, you not only need a strong cardiovascular system, but you also need to be well fueled to get through a long day of activity. The intensity may not be as high compared to someone competing in a 1/2 or full Ironman, but the duration is very similar. I've estimated that when backpacking for 10-12 hours carrying a 30-40 backpack, your nutritional requirements could range from 6000-8000 calories for someone between 160-185 pounds.

I know many thru-hikers, myself included, do not get enough calories. The weight and muscle loss proves that. Although, weight loss seems to taper off after two or three weeks, even if daily miles increase. Do our caloric needs change on a long distance hike? Or is this simply because we require less calories as we lose weight and/or because we eventually develop a stronger appetite and start eating more?

There could be several reasons for this. One is they are not eating enough calories initially and they begin to realize it by noticing a reduction in energy and strength, therefore they increase their calorie intake. If you lose a considerable amount of weight (15-20 lbs.) during a hike, your metabolic rate will drop as well as your caloric needs, so it is possible for the hiker to begin to match their calorie needs once their weight stabilizes. The only way for me to truly know would be for the hiker to log everything he or she eats while logging their activity.

If you are hiking the same distance each day with a similar elevation then calorie needs will be similar if weight remains the same. It seems some days are more intense than others depending on elevation, but on average, calorie needs should be similar each day. At the same time, let's say you are averaging an intake of 5000 calories per day but burning 6000 calories per day, at the end of the week you will be in a 7,000 calorie deficit, which would yield a 2 lb. weight loss.

In those daily calories, do you recommend a certain ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein?

I can't say this sport has an ideal ratio that is a one size fits all. If I were to design a plan for a hiker, I'd probably design something along this ratio: 50-55% carbohydrate, 20% protein, 30% fat. It also will depend on the body type of the hiker. If I have a skinny or lean hiker with a good amount of body fat, he or she will probably tolerate carbohydrates better, so I wouldn't need to be too conservative here. If I had someone who had a higher body fat, I'd probably go a little lower in carbohydrates (40-45%) in order to utilize more fat stores as an energy source.

Protein is often expressed as a percentage of total calories, but I’ve read that there is a finite amount of protein our body can process. Is this true and what seems to be maximum amount? Is there harm in consuming too much protein?

There's never been a study that has truly examined how much an individual can truly metabolize. In regards to protein synthesis, the optimal dosage post exercise seems to be around 20 g but the key is making sure you get 6 grams of Essential Amino Acids (EAA's) with the key Amino Acid being Leucine. Leucine is key for signaling mTOR synthesis which is critical for muscle recovery and growth. 

(Note: Good food sources of Leucine include: soy, beef, peanuts, salami, fish, wheat germ, almonds, chicken, chicken eggs, and oats.)

For a sport like hiking, I would recommend 1.6 - 2.0 g/kg of body or about .8 grams per pound. If you weight 200 lbs, you would need approximately 160 grams of protein/day. I would recommend at least 20% of your total calories be from protein, so this could be a lot higher than the g/kg previously recommended. This is to make sure you preserve muscle tissue during extended hikes. My concern would be if you're not consuming enough calories and utilizing muscle tissue for energy, the extra protein could help spare muscle loss and tap into some fat stores unless carbohydrate was prevalent throughout the day.

Jasper from the Backpacker's Life Facebook page would additionally like to know, “Would those percentages change over the course of a 5-month hike as your body's caloric demands increase?”

If the intensity or duration increases during the 5 months, then yes, as I'd probably boost carbohydrate intake a little. If calorie intake is sufficient and meeting the demands, we shouldn't have to alter much to maintain a high level of energy.

The quality of food consumed could have an impact on a backpacker's immune system (i.e. lack of fruits and veggies) which could make the backpacker more susceptible to infection, illness, etc., especially during a 5-month hike when the only recovery time is at night while you sleep.

Also related to this question, Malto from asks, “Will eating fats while hiking increase your total caloric contribution from fat, or will it reduce the calories that your body burns from fat, keeping it constant?”

Great question. If you're consuming a high fat diet, the body will utilize fat as an energy source and spare glycogen. If you can get to the point where you tap into your fat stores, then you will be a fat burning machine. Keep in mind we only have about 2000 calories from carbohydrate available to use during activity until we have to replace it. We have over 100,000 calories from fat available for use but we rarely tap into those stores because we're always consuming refined carbohydrates which prevents us from burning fat as fuel.

What are some good examples of high-fat calorie-dense foods that are suitable for backpacking? Nuts and seeds, peanut butter, olive oil, and some dark chocolates are some of the most calorie dense that I know of, but I wonder if there are others I haven't considered.

You mentioned those that are the most critical that remain stable under heat as well as don't spoil. Walnuts are best due to added Omega 3 benefits which can help fight inflammation. Another would be MCT Oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides). It could be added to veggies or starch. It's bland and the body burns it quite quickly after consumption.

I'd like to go into inflammation more in a bit, but to finish up this section, what about fiber? How much and why is it important to a thru-hiker?

The average recommended amount is between 35-45 g. I typically recommend trying to get 10 g for every 1000 calories consumed. The importance and benefits for a hiker would be to help regulate blood sugar and keep you full longer. The more stable your blood sugar and insulin levels are, the more energy you should have throughout the day. This would be the benefits of bringing foods like Nut Bars, Trail Mix, Quinoa (cook later), Whole Grain Pasta, etc. on a hike as a more stable carbohydrate will be better utilized as an energy source and keep you more full during a long day of activity.

Click here to read part two of our interview where we discuss sample meal plans, foods to avoid, inflammation, and much more.
- - -

Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is the Sports Dietitian and Nutrition Consultant for the New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Hornets, and the Tulane University Athletic Department where he coordinates nutritional assessments, provides nutrition education, and develops individual meal plans for athletes to improve their health, performance, and recovery. In addition, he consults for numerous high schools athletic programs throughout the state of Louisiana. Futhermore, Tavis worked closely with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins to help them retain their boxing titles and has been working with Lance Berkman since 2011.

He is also the co-founder and Director of Sports Nutrition education for My Sports Dietitian (, an online sports nutrition education company to help High School and College Athletes improve their eating habits to enhance performance, recovery, and health through the guidance of a Licensed Sports Dietitian.

Tavis obtained a Master’s of Science Degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana State University and a Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Louisiana State University. He is a registered and licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist. In addition, he serves on the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Sports Medicine Advisory Board.

Related Articles:
Part Two: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Part Three: Nutrition for Thru-hikers: An Interview with Sports Dietitian, Tavis Piattoly
Cooking Supplies and How to Make an Alcohol Stove

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30 Tips for Hitchhiking to Resupply

(Photo: Liv hitching in Maine)
On a long enough hike, hitching into town to resupply is almost a necessity and often a major concern for aspiring thru-hikers. The first time I stretched out my arm and put out my thumb, I felt equally nervous and excited.

A couple hundred hitches later, the nervousness dwindled to nothing, but the excitement continues. It's not simply free transportation. Something about it evokes a feeling of uncomplicated freedom. Akin to minimizing possessions to only what you can carry.

My friends and I have gotten many hitches from people who said we were the first hitchhikers they have ever picked up, so it seems we’re doing something right. Not everything here is essential for getting a ride, but they are all of the things I consider. The tips are geared toward the short hitches between trails and towns for resupplying, but most of them apply no matter where you’re hitching.

1. Give room for cars to pull over safely
Look for a spot where someone can easily pull over without issues or in places where it would be illegal to stop. Wide shoulders and turnouts are prime real estate for hitching. This will be the most obvious thing you'll read on this list, but also be sure you're on the side of the road where the traffic is moving in the direction you want to be going.
2. Give time for drivers to see you and brake safely
Stand in a spot where a driver will have a few seconds to see that you’re hitching and have plenty of time to slow down. And of course, enough time to take pity on you. Few people will want to slam on their breaks or turn around to pick you up. It happens occasionally, but don’t make it a requirement.
Standing by a road sign or anything else that a driver might already be looking at, may give them an extra second to notice you.
3. Put your thumb out and pointed up, if in the United States
This might seem obvious, but I mention it because the tradition of putting out a thumb is what we do in America and Europe, but it's not the standard everywhere. If you’re in another country, you’ll want to learn their gesture. For example, in Israel, hitchhikers hold their fist out with their index finger pointing towards the road.
4. Hitch where traffic is slow or stopped
Such as near traffic lights or within eyesight of where people are pulling out of gas stations or parking lots. While waiting for a light or pumping gas they are more likely to notice you. Perhaps the best spot is right before a highway on-ramp.
(Photo: Me hitching by the Inn at Long Trail)
5. The Law
The law can seem a little complicated, so I’ll try to simplify it:
Although rarely enforced, hitching is illegal in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and New Jersey.
It is illegal to hitch on Interstates except in Texas, Oregon, North Dakota, and Missouri. This doesn’t mean you can’t hitch on the road that leads to an Interstate on-ramp though.
Although, most states prohibit standing on the road itself, it is usually okay to hitch from the shoulder. If you're unsure, stand just off to the side of the shoulder. It's safer anyway.
California, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Kansas, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have more complicated laws that you may want to read up on. I’m not going to go into them here, but I will just say if you’re outside city limits in these states it’s usually okay to hitch. Although, failure to read up on these laws could result in a citation. It's rare, but it happens. Just remember that I warned you.
The police may ask for your ID even if you’re not doing anything unlawful. Just let them, even if you don’t technically have to identify yourself when not breaking any laws. They are usually just trying to keep people safe.
Sometimes it’s illegal to hitch on other federally-owned roads other than Interstates, like National Park roads, National Scenic Byways, and National Recreation Areas, but I’ve never had any trouble. A park ranger in Yosemite even once suggested I hitch to a certain trailhead since their buses did not go out that far.
6. Minimize Turns and Simplify Your Route
The less complicated your route, the more likely a person driving by will be heading to your destination. If you’re a few blocks from the first turn, go ahead and walk that distance to eliminate it from the route. The more turns and on-ramps that you eliminate from your route, the better. By all means, stick your thumb out as you walk, but toward that better position.
7. Don’t get dropped off in a bad hitching spot
If you’re going to need multiple hitches to get to where you’re going, don’t get dropped off in the middle of nowhere even if it’s closer to your destination. If they will have to drop you off between towns where there is little to no traffic, thank them for stopping, but wait for the next hitch.
Also, it’s harder to get a hitch from downtown. Traffic will be going in every direction and people aren’t necessarily driving out of town. If someone has to drop you off in a town you’re not staying in, ask to be dropped off at the edge of town instead.
(Photo: Red in the back of a pickup
while hitching in Gorham, NH)
8. Hitch in pairs when possible
This may also mean separating a larger group into pairs. People aren’t just giving you a ride, but your packs as well, which take up a lot of space. Hitchhiking is a numbers game, and if you’re in a big group, you’re going to have fewer vehicles pass that could possibly carry you all.
Consider having all but two standing off to the side where they aren't seen from the road. If someone stops that has the room, ask if they can take you all. Otherwise, leave the rest behind and meet back up in town.
Also, when possible, have one female to each pair. Couples and women are a lot less threatening to motorists. When I was hitching with Sixgun and Liv, there were many times when we'd put our thumbs out and a car would stop almost immediately.
9. Be Happy
If you’re not happy, fake it. People don't want to pick up a stranger who looks angry or dangerous. If you’re with someone else, have a happy conversation while you’re holding out your thumb. Laugh, even if what is said isn’t that funny. Tell jokes if you have to force it. You’ll seem friendlier.
Although, don’t exaggerate your happiness or laughter. I was with another hiker on the AT trying to get a hitch and his over-sized smile and exaggerated attempts at physical humor were just creepy. Nobody stopped.
10. Don’t have a knife sheathed on your belt
If you want to have one in your pocket for safety, that’s fine, although 99.9999% of people are stopping to help a fellow human, not harm them. Anyway, they are usually more afraid of you than you are of them, so put the knife out of sight.
11. Make Eye Contact
Eye contact can really increase your chances of getting a ride. If someone makes that simple connection with you, I think it adds a little bit of guilt or pity to their quick decision making. In this scenario, guilt and pity are your friends.
Of course don’t stare at them in a creepy way, but give them a friendly smile. If walking, turn around and walk backwards with your thumb out when a car is coming, so you can still make that eye contact.
12. Take off your sunglasses
Let them see your non-threatening face. If your face is just naturally threatening, I don’t know what to tell you.
13. Don't Smoke
A lot of people don't want cigarette smoke in their cars. Smoking can definitely reduce the percentage of cars that will pick you up. And they will already have your hiker odor to deal with. If you need to smoke, ask after you're on the move if they mind.
14. People Sometimes Come Back
If the speed of the car makes it obvious they are not going to stop, smile and wave anyway like you’re thanking them for the consideration. Show them this common courtesy and sometimes they will turn around and come back for you. Guilt and pity sometimes takes a second to brew.
15. Look as clean as possible.
If someone thinks they’re going to have to get their car’s interior detailed after driving you three miles, they’re probably not going to stop. And if they do pick you up, actually being clean may make them tolerate taking you further. In other words, do whatever you can to freshen up.
(Photo: Red and Cocoa Toe hitching from Asheville, NC
back to the Appalachian Trail.)
16. Wear something bright
When you’re buying a shirt or bandana for your hike, consider the brightest ones possible. They could help you get noticed when hitching.
17. Talk to people near trailheads
If you know you’re going to try to hitch at the next trailhead, parking area, or road, start talking to day-hikers that you meet on the trail. You don’t need to ask them for a ride, but later, when they see you standing by the road with your thumb out, they will often pick you up. Even just asking them for the time or commenting on what a beautiful day it is can be enough.
18. Talk to people in town
The same thing applies in town. While you’re in grocery stores, convenience stores, or restaurants, talk to people. Some business owners frown on you soliciting a ride from their customers, but you don’t necessarily have to. If you’re being friendly and talking to people, they’ll often pick you up when they see you hitching later. Just make sure they see you, hitch in eyesight of the people pulling out of the parking lot. If you see someone that you had a conversation with, wave to them so they know it's you.
19. Don’t bother hitching on the side of the road at night
Instead, go to bars, restaurants, or well-lit gas stations and meet people. Again, business owners don’t want you walking up to customers to ask for a ride and most people don’t like it either. Start conversations first and mention where you’re headed. They'll see your packs, they know you're travelling. Often they will offer the ride and think it was their idea the whole time. 
Besides, standing on the side of the road in the dark could be dangerous. 
20. Ask people about public transit
Sometimes I feel weird asking people for a ride, especially on a business's property, so I resort to a more passive indirect way of doing it. Sometimes I’ll ask the employees of the business or the locals if they know of any public transit services in the area and tell them where I’m headed. Often they’ll just offer you a ride. Remember, it’s always good to find ways to make the ride seem like their idea.
21. Stand and Pace to get noticed
But don't walk away from a prime hitching spot. Only walk while hitching if you're moving to a better place. I've walked toward town while hitching while other hikers stayed back to hitch and they ended up passing me. Something you realize after walking in the woods for hundreds of miles is that cars are incredibly efficient at moving people around.
22. Keep your backpack on or in plain sight
If people can see your pack or trekking poles, and you’re near a trail, they will often know your just a hiker needing to resupply in town. This means you probably aren’t going far and probably aren't there to murder anyone.
23. Make Signs
I'm still not sure if signs really help, but it's something to consider. One time on the Long Trail, Red and I made one. I asked the guy, “So did the sign help out at all?”
“Actually,” he said. “I didn’t even notice the sign. The first thing I noticed was the kilt.” Red hikes in a kilt. When he bought it, I was certain we’d never get another ride again, but I was proven wrong many times.
If you’re already carrying a colorful bandana, use that instead of cardboard. It doesn’t add weight to your pack, it will stand out, and if you use cardboard people may just assume you’re "willing to work for food" instead of looking for a ride.
When making a sign, make it as simple as possible. This ensures it's easier for a driver to read and it will be reusable. It can be as simple as the letter of the direction you’re going, for example on a north/south running trail, you’ll probably only need an E on one side and a W on the other. You could also write something even more generic and reusable like, “Hiker to Town,” on one side of a bandana and “Hiker to Trailhead” on the other.
If you get too specific and write your actual destination on a sign, not only is it not reusable, but if the destination is further away or in a direction the driver isn't going, they may not bother to stop at all. And you really want them to stop. If they have already made the effort to stop, they are more likely to take you where you’re going or at least get you part of the way there.
24. Consider the time of day when you’ll get to the road
Obviously, you don’t want to get to the road after dark, but get there at least an hour before dark in case you don’t get a ride right away. Think about how many miles you have to the road and how much time you’ll need in town. If you want to get back to the trail before dark, leave enough time to shop and get two hitches. Usually two or three hours is plenty unless you're in the middle of nowhere.
Also, remember that a lot more people go on day-hikes on weekends, so you are more likely to see cars parked at trailheads and so more likely to get a ride.
25. Sometimes going in the wrong direction will get you to your destination quicker
If you’re in a bad spot and you can’t get a ride in the right direction. Try to also get a ride to a better hitching spot in the other direction.
(Photo: Sixgun and Liv hitching in the rain)
26. When all else fails, just look as pathetic as possible
Being rained on helps. So does taking off your coat and looking cold. Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.

Tips for after someone has taken the bait

27. Tell them the shortest distance you’re willing to go on the hitch
For example, when someone asks where you’re headed, say something like, “Well ultimately, I need to get to _______, but if you can take me to _______ that would be great!” That way they won’t feel like they’re stuck with a smelly hiker for a long time, but if they like you, they’ll usually take you further. Actually, I think everybody except two people took me the full distance even if it wasn't on their way, but in their defense both of them were expected to appear in court.
28. Be leery of putting your pack in someone’s trunk
They might just pull away with all your gear when you get out. Either on accident or on purpose. Just imagine being dropped off by a trailhead and helplessly watching all your gear roll away. Instead, put your pack on your lap, or if you're in the backseat set it right next to you. If you’re hiking with someone else, have a rule that one person stays in the car until the other has pulled the packs out of the trunk.

Tips for when you’re in the car

29. Have a good conversation
Don’t just sit there quietly the whole time. That’s weird and they will be less likely to take you that extra distance. Ask them where they are from. Be happy. Tell them about your travels. If they enjoy your company, they are more willing to take you the extra mile or pick you up again if they see you hitching back to the trail.
Tell them interesting stories, but try to get them to talk about themselves. Not only are some of these people really interesting, but people like talking about their lives. If they are enjoying the conversation, they will usually drive you further.
I’ve had many people go out of their way to take me where I needed to go. After finishing the John Muir Trail, a driver drove me two hours out of his way to take me back to my car in the Yosemite Valley (four hours round trip). We had a great conversation. Not only that, but I’ve had people drive around to look for me later to take me back to the trailhead.
Never talk about anything even remotely controversial. This should be a given, but if the driver brings up the topic, just smile and nod or try to change the subject. I know some people can’t help but argue, but you have to fight the impulse if you want them to take you further or pick you up again later. Or just agree with them, if doing so doesn't kill something dear inside of you.
30. Be courteous
Apologize for the hiker smell and thank them for the ride. These people are doing you a huge favor and all you’re offering is your stench. Make sure they know how grateful you are for their kindness. When people think you like them or appreciate them in anyway, they will like you almost 100% of the time. I’ve had people wait for me to finish shopping and drive me back to the trail. People are just amazing sometimes. Make sure they know that.
In Conclusion 

There will be exceptions to all these tips. They are simply things that may help increase your chances of getting to where you need to go.

Hitching isn’t without risk, of course, but it’s not as dangerous as most people believe. As with everything, firsthand experience reduces your fear by making you more aware of reality.

People often say, “I wouldn’t hitch in this day and age.” Those people need to stop watching TV. The news is to reality what reality shows are to reality. Get out and see the world as it really is. Believe it or not there are fewer acts of violence today than ever before. The number of people willing to injure or murder a stranger with his thumb out on the side of the road has not gone up, in fact, it has gone down.

Actually, come to think of it, people have picked us up because they were afraid if they didn't a crazy person might. So maybe a little bit of fear in the population is good for hitchhikers.

Take precautions, but don't let a fear of hitchhiking keep you from attempting a thru-hike  Besides, you may find that many of your best stories of the long hike are your hitchhiking stories.

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A Backpacker's Life List by Ryan Grayson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.   

Pleasant Pond Mountain

A cool breeze just isn't the same as when you climb a mountain to get to it. I'm very happy with my decision to do this. Since I boarded the train, I have not had a moment of regret. Even when I was on Moxie Bald last night in a thunderstorm. The sky was bright and blue on the way up. The storm clouds were hiding on the other side. The lightning began to strike as soon as I was on top of the bald. Exactly where you don't want to be when thunder cracks above your head.

I ran below treeline and the downpour came down so hard it turned the trail to a stream in minutes. I sloshed through one and three quarter miles of mud and water to the next shelter, while singing the Pearl Jam song, Driftin':

Drifting, drifting, drifting away.
I got myself a mansion, then I gave it away.
It's not the world that's heavy, just the things that you save.
And I'm drifting, drifting away.

Drifting, drifting, drifting along.
I rid myself of worries, and the worries were gone.
I only run when I want to and I sleep like a dog.
I'm just drifting, drifting along.

The suitcoats say, 'There is money to be made.'
They get so damn excited, nothing gets in their way
My road it may be lonely just because it's not paved.
It's good for drifting, drifting away.

Drifting, drifting, drifting, along.
I feel like going back there, but never for long.
I sometimes wonder if they know that I'm gone.
I'm just drifting, drifting along.


At a crossroad. Bambi is having bad foot problems that will take at least a couple days to heal enough to move on. I gave her my backup lightweight trail running shoes to replace her boots (luckily I have the feet of a petite 18 year old girl). I think that will help. We are trying to decide how we can stay together and give her time to heal. I think the girls will shuttle ahead a few days and wait for us. We formed a great little family here. We are all too attached to each other to want to split up right now. We've been through a lot, it would be nice to reach Springer together.

Just about ready to hit the trail. We have 75 miles to Stratton, ME before our next resupply.
(In the photo, Mock-a-Son eating a block of cheese, Red with a pint of Ben & Jerry, and Bambi)

Fourth Mountain

Pictures can't do the landscape justice. The difference between seeing a photo and being here is about the same as kissing a photo of a loved one and actually embracing them in person. Wish you could all be here to see it.

Summited four mountains so far today.. one more to go. Once we get out of Maine and New Hampshire they say 20% off the trail is finished, but 80% of the effort. This is no Walk in the Woods.

Thumper and Red at WHL

I have met a lot of wonderful people on this trip, that I will write more about when I can get to a computer, however this is two of four I find myself with every night (Thumper and Red). I know eventually our hiking pace will change, but I will find it hard to leave them behind. We tend to hike our own pace during the day, but all look forward to hanging out at night. And it has been a blast. I feel like I've known them for years already.

I think we'll stay together at least for a July 4th night in Monson. Then hopefully we will all be ready for some long days on the trail. Getting seperated is a sad thought, but I want to be sure I finish by Thanksgiving.

Trail Name Story #1

I heard my favorite story of how a hiker got his trail name. His friends were calling him One Way. I assumed his name meant he was heading only one direction, north to Maine.

He and his friends were trying to figure out the safest way to climb down a hill. He went first, fell, and slid to the bottom. One of his friends said, "Well, that's one way to do it." And the name stuck.

In the photo you see what I've been doing this whole time... Following the white blazes. The AT is marked by them at least every 100 yards or so to keep you on track.

White House Landing

A mile from the Appalachian Trail lies an oasis in the 100 mile wilderness. The side trail ends at a dock on a massive lake. Sound an air horn that is tied to a tree and minutes later there is Bill in a boat, the owner of White House Landing, coming to pick you up.

No phones or electricity, but WHL provides a small restaurant, bunkhouse, cabins, and showers for weary hikers or whoever else finds themselves in the Middle of Nowhere, Maine. After a shower, I headed to the restaurant for lunch. They have a high calorie hiker menu. I had the one pound deluxe hamburger with everything. Five days ago I wouldn't have thought that was very appetizing. But a lot has happened in five days.

After lunch, I washed clothes by hand in a tub. Then took their kayak out on the lake and paddled around with a loon. Now I'm relaxing on their porch swing. I could get used to this simple life.

I'm rested and ready for the 68 miles over White Cap Mountain into Monson, Maine, my next resupply point.

View of Katahdin

Another amazing day. I've been hiking with Thumper, Bambi, and Red today. I thought I would have spent more time alone than I have, but I'm really enjoying our nights at camp together. We all have our story of how we got here and why.

We just took a dip in a beautiful remote mountain lake under the first blue sky we have seen in a while. Now we are sitting on bedrock looking out at Katahdin (In the background). It's hard to believe I was on top of that mountain just 3 days ago.

I'm sorry to have to keep these posts so short and infrequent, but cell phone reception is rare in Maine's 100 mile Wilderness. As the name suggests, it is quite remote out here.

Only 2,146 miles to go!

Rainbow Ledges

I wanted to have some time alone today, so stayed at the shelter a little longer this morning to give all the other Sobos (southbounders) some distance on me. I think I heard a moose forty yards away just now. I'm going to hang out here quietly for a bit to see if it comes out.

I met more hikers at the Hurd Brook shelter last night. Two sisters from Kentucky going by the trail names Bambi and Thumper. I've been given the name Cam, short for The Cameraman, since I stop to take so many photos (anyone surprised?). It hasn't really stuck yet though. I'm still Ryan for the most part. At the shelter, I also met a retired French couple who don't speak a word of English. We try to speak through a very rudimentary form of sign language, but that isn't working well.

This is only day three, but I feel confident I will make it to Georgia. I'm having the time of my life.

On the trail

This is the first cell signal I've noticed since Katahdin. We caught back up with the hiker called Moccasin, who had to turn back on Katahdin, so there are still three of us hiking together. Just wanted everyone to know I'm still safe and everything is going very well. I am getting rained on one mile south of Abol Bridge just south of Baxter State Park. I'll update the blog soon as I can, but given the remoteness of this section, it won't be that frequent for a while...