Vegan backpacking provides an incredible way to rediscover our wonderful outdoors that is cruelty-free and healthy, in addition to connecting even closer to Mother Nature. If you are new to vegan backpacking, it may seem difficult, however with strategic planning, it’s easy and quite fun! Fueling with wholesome, nutrient-dense plant foods to maximize performance is exciting and important to understand when preparing for a backpacking trip in the backcountry. Knowing how plant-based food pairing works will not only strengthen your planning, it will also give you superpower energy when you are trekking and traversing with 40+ pounds on your back.
Here are some prized vegan backpacking tips to get you stoked about taking on the backcountry cruelty-free with vibrant energy.
First and foremost, plan!
When vegan backpacking, you need foods that do well with constant movement, longevity, and temperature changes. Plant-based foods make this easy as most options stand up well in this environment. Also, there are so many lovely earth-driven options that keep your food interesting! With that being said, knowing how to calculate energy density (calorie-to-ounce ratio) and what foods to pair together for maximum digestion and usability will not only give you the energy needed to tackle elevations and switchbacks, but lighten up your load.
Energy and Nutrition:
- All nutrients are important, however knowing your caloric needs is extremely helpful because it will most likely increase significantly once you hit the trails for a full day of exertion.
- Aim for a protein-fiber-carbohydrate-fat variety with strong focus on fat.
- Be mindful with higher glycemic foods: Foods with too much sugar will give you a quick boost, but they won’t help you for the long haul as your blood sugar will spike and plummet. Protein, fat, and fiber digest more slowly than carbs, and help keep you going longer.
- Speaking of fat; it is the most energy-dense fuel and the preferred fuel for long-duration exercise. Also, fat consumed in the diet spares muscles glycogen. As a bonus, fat not only provides the fuel your muscles are using, it doesn’t weigh that much. When our bodies run out of fuel, they start using the reserve tank – then, it starts eating up important things you need like muscle.
- Be on top of what you are consuming even when you don’t have a strong appetite to keep your fuel steady!
Vegan Backpacking Shopping List
If you are able to pre-cook and pack some foods in airtight bags as much as possible, awesome! However there are several healthy pre-cooked options available for convenience.
- Grains and noodles: Be sure to add fat and or protein to these to increase the nutrition density. Checkout Tasty Bites, Seeds of Change and Koyo Organic Ramen. Trader Joes and Target also have nice options.
- Lentils, beans and hummus: There are excellent products which are dehydrated, vacuum packed and in small cartons. Checkout Fantastic World Foods. Also, Trader Joes, Target, and Whole Foods have excellent options.
- Dehydrated and vacuum-packed fruits and veggies: Karen’s Naturals is fabulous.
- Wraps or breads: Get an extra nutrition boost by opting for sprouted grains, like Food For Life
- Healthy Fats: Avocado, coconut oil, hemp seeds, nuts and seeds
- Seeds, nuts, and nut butters: While you’re out exploring, eating a variety of seeds and nuts is extremely important for calorie density, fat, and protein. Try making your own granola/trail mix with a variety of flavor and superfood nutrition. Nut butters can be eaten with a spoon, in a wrap or in oats. Checkout Justin’s for individual serving packs.
- Dehydrated and vacuum-packed meals: These are a good idea to pack since they are lightweight and nutritious. Great vegan options include: Outdoor Herbivore, Harmony House, Good To-Go, and Backpacker’s Pantry.
- Clean/Limited Ingredient Bars: Bearded Brothers, Amrita Bars, Picky Bars, Pro Bars, Plus Bars, GoMacro Bars, and Vega One Bar are great options.
- Green Drinks: An excellent brand is Amazing Grass. They sell a few single-serving options that you mix with water. These are a great way to get some micronutrients into you backpacking diet.
- Vegan Complete Meal & Protein Powders: A great way to add significant nutrients to your day. Mix with water, in oats, etc. Several great options available in individual serving packets.
- Fresh Veggies and Fruit: Depending on how long your trip is some sturdy fresh veggies and fruit can withstand room temperature for days to making you feel healthy along the trails. (I.e.: Apples, carrots, avocados) However, these do add weight so you may consider packing dehydrated options, such as Karen’s Naturals.
Check back next week when I will give you an awesome 3-4 day vegan backpacking sample meal plan (minimalist style). This plan tastes great and will keep you going strong on the trail. See you next week!