As a vegan backpacker I’ve learned that proper plant-based nutrition sustains energy levels and performance during long hikes, fueling you to tackle switchbacks and peak-bagging all day long! Once you get it down, plant-based nutrition is easy to plan and pack.
First, I would like to share a handful of important tidbits around vegan trail-nutrition, related to protein+fat+carb needs, energy level sustainability, and preventing muscle cramps and stiffness. With a heavy pack and a full day ahead, the most important thing to focus on while planning is getting all the calories needed for long hikes.
Active vegans need to increase the fat and protein in their diet while eating complex carbs. Protein will complement the carbohydrate, allowing it to enter the bloodstream at a steady rate, thus delaying the onset of hunger and sustaining energy levels. Much of the real energy for backpacking comes from carbs and fat. Fat is the longer-lasting energy source and is needed most during endurance activities. Fat also supports brain health, helps maintain body warmth, keeps the joints lubricated, aids in recovery and minimizes the inflammatory processes. Vegan backpackers should pay close attention to getting enough protein, fat and carbs. TIP: pack healthy fats!
Quality fat examples:
- Olive oil (.4 oz packets are available)
- Chia seed
- Sesame seed
- Hemp seed
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans)
- Avocados – fun to eat with a spoon!
Quality protein examples:
- Hemp seed nut
- Beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, soy)
- Whole grains
Energy level is vital in keeping you trekking strong, so it’s important you don’t forget iron! Active vegans need to pay close attention to iron. After hiking for hours you want your iron levels to stay healthy. Strenuous exercise, constant foot striking on the trail and sweating all result in iron loss. TIP: Plant-based iron-rich foods need to be consumed with vitamin C to help with absorption.
Examples of easy-to-pack vegan iron-rich foods:
- Soybean nuts
- Dried peas and beans
- Peanut butter
- Nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds)
Everyone wants to prevent muscle cramping and stiffness when backpacking. It’s easy! Keep your sodium and calcium levels up! TIP: Bring your sea salt.
Examples of easy-to-pack vegan calcium rich foods:
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Introducing the “Cheesy” Hotchpotch Wrap from my BeVegan recipe collection. It’s the end of the day and after hours of ascending and descending, you put on your comfy camp shoes and nothing satisfies better than this tasty, nutrition-dense meal packed full of vitamins and minerals. This compact surge will re-energize your body, re-fuel your muscles and even provide you a deep sleep to prepare you for next day’s adventure. It’s the gear head of all crowd pleaser meals.
The beauty of this nutrient-rich meal is that it’s enjoyed uncooked on the trail or enjoyed cooked in your kitchen. You are probably wondering where the “cheesy” comes from? Have you ever tried hippie dust? (Formal name: nutritional yeast.) It has a lovely, nutty-cheese-like flavor. Hippie dust is rich in B-vitamins (helps convert our food into fuel), iron and is also a complete protein source, including all the essential amino acids that drive us along the trail.
This recipe came to me one day as I was on my morning run. I have created many vegan one-pot wonders and this one in particular is a power meal in a wrap. It will keep you moving forward with sustained energy.
“Cheesy” Hotchpotch Wrap
Notes: My choices are indicated below next to each ingredient. You can purchase and pack the ingredients however it makes the most sense to you. I have found backpacker-friendly packaging for all ingredients in Trader Joes, Whole Foods, PCC and QFC.
1 box of black beans (Whole Foods, Target and QFC)
1 package fully cooked brown rice (Trader Joe’s has a great one)
½ cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons chia seed (bulk or packaged)
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (Braggs is a great brand for vegans with added B vitamins)
2 brown rice tortillas (or whole wheat if you are not gluten intolerant)
2 tablespoons olive oil (individual packets available)
1 tube tomato paste (Whole Foods and QFC)
Sea salt, everyday seasoning, cumin (season to taste)