I have often justified the consumption of unhealthy food on camp outs using the Camping Act. The Camping Act was adopted long ago when camping for recreation started to involve the leftovers from animals raised for meat and the combination of sugar in a variety of interesting forms.
Yes, the Camping Act afforded all the freedom to pile s’mores on top of hot dogs without fear of persecution.
As a side note, a buddy of mine in California loves s’mores. He and his family are almost fanatical about them but it wasn’t until he came to visit that he ate one that hadn’t been cooked in a microwave. He had never, “roasted the mallow” which killed me, of course. Anyway, Southeast Alaska affords us diverse recreational opportunities for which there are many menus.
When I’m hunting in the alpine, I’m not lugging up bratwurst and chili, nor am I having it as the meal the evening before the hike to the top of a mountain. I leave that sort of stuff at the beach, or at a campsite in which my truck is in immediate proximity.
Camping nutrition is a pretty important consideration when going on long hikes or staying multiple days. There really isn’t anything brave about throwing a bag of M&Ms into your pack for a 14-mile overnighter. Things are dangerous and chaotic enough to risk it all on a stomach and brain lacking in nutrients.
Without going full geek on this, I have found a few things which have made my longer camping trips more enjoyable and less painful. First is the myth (at least for me) of the carbohydrate load the night before. For some it works, but if your normal diet isn’t high in carbs, then hitting the body with a bunch of carbs the night before makes me feel sluggish. If I get the body to function on meat and vegetables, then eat a pound of pasta, I’m going to feel terrible in the morning. Similarly, if the first thing I have in the morning is a load of pancakes with syrup before a hike, I feel sluggish too.
My body feels best when I am hydrated, have had a good breakfast with protein and some carbs (scrambled eggs, a meat, onions, peppers, tomatoes, tortillas or toast) and a couple of hours to process it before I start up the mountain.
Then, since the body burns dietary carbohydrates during exercise, then moves on to stored glycogen, I’ll have trail mix and a sports drink to keep me going. Fats don’t do much in the short term because it takes the body longer to break them down and make them available for energy.
When the hike is over, and I am craving a steak or a fat burger, that’s when I settle on protein-rich food that my body can use to repair muscles. I realize this is over simplified and there are valid arguments for a bunch of different approaches to food on excursions, but I am always a little surprised by the total unpreparedness of some before rigorous exercise. Cool, you’re going up there with one water bottle and a stick of gum, but what if something happens?
The point of getting up and down from mountain camps is to do so safely. There is likely going to be an element of misery, but by taking the right fuel and refuel, it can be a fun misery and you might just want to do it again.
• Jeff Lund teaches and writes out of Ketchikan.