Over the past six months, I’ve devoted plenty of blog posts to different gluten free foods that I’ve found and tried, but I figured it might be interesting and/or helpful to some of you out there to have one post where I discuss all of the staple foods that I plan to eat during my thru-hike. I’ll try not to make this post too dry, but I also know that I could have benefitted if I stumbled across a comprehensive list like this six months ago.
My approach and diet may not be for everyone, even other gluten free hikers out there. In fact, I’m positive I could successfully thru-hike gluten free without mail drops if I were less picky about food choice and nutrition. However, in addition to my gluten sensitivity, I have inflammation issues that are exacerbated by eating too much of several other common hiker food ingredients, such as peanuts and soy. At this point in my life, I know my limits, and six months of tempting fate with a poor diet would mar my experience.
As many of you know, I’m fortunate to have the support of a wide variety of companies that have provided a selection of their products to fuel me during my trek. Of course I’m grateful for their donations, and I’m also grateful that my months of research turned up so many healthy gluten free products that are thru-hiker friendly. Six months ago, I was completely oblivious to the options available in the ever-growing gluten free market. Now, as you’ll see below, I’ll have a wide selection of gluten free foods at my disposal, and my diet will be anything but bland.
Unless otherwise noted, everything discussed here is gluten free. Regardless, I recommend that you always read labels when considering a purchase if food allergies are an issue for you.
OK, so let’s break the list down by meal. Who knows when I’ll actually end up eating any of this stuff, especially since I don’t usually eat until four hours after I get up, but for the sake of argument…
- Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free quick oats
- Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts (raw shelled hemp seeds)
- Kirkland Signature (Costco brand) gluten free Steak Strips (beef jerky)
- Sunsweet prunes and dried apricots
- Justin’s Nut Butters OR
- Barney Butter almond butter (alternating jars)
I feel like bars are a topic all their own. Remember that I have other sensitivities. Not only did I have to find gluten free bars, but I actively avoided bars that contain soy and whey protein (yes, I’m bringing lactase pills, but even so). I managed to discover a wide selection of brands that fit those criteria, much to my surprise. On that note, I’m bringing along bars care of the following companies and brands:
- Pure (Naturals and Organics)
- CLIF Kit’s Organic
- Rise Bar (Energy and Breakfast)
Now moving onto dinner. Dinner foods are another topic worthy of discussion. Minute Rice will be supplying my staple carbohydrate to accompany my evening meals, but the task of finding suitable dehydrated entrees was more challenging. Despite the fact that gluten free meals exist, they’re not always available for purchase at outdoors stores since the retailer chooses what to source – even more of a reason to send mail drops.
There are several backpacker meal companies out there that offer gluten free meals, but I found it best to refer to several of them to keep the menu interesting. I won’t detail everything that each company offers. Instead, I’m just going to highlight what I’ve found noteworthy.
- Backpacker’s Pantry – Mostly ethnic foods – think Thai, Indian, Cuban, Bayou. Offers about a dozen gluten free meals and another gluten free sides/desserts.
- Mountain House – NOT certified gluten free. About 2 dozen wheat-free meals. Run-of-the-mill American food; think like Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s.
- KNA Foods – owns Alpine Aire, Natural High, and Richmoor. Alpine Aire and Natural High produce about two dozen gluten free entrees as well as a bunch of sides/desserts. In fact, some recipes have VERY RECENTLY been converted to gluten free. Please leave me a comment if you would like me to email that unpublished list.
FYI, although the company was not able to product sponsor me, I want to acknowledge and thank KNA Foods for agreeing to sell me entrees at wholesale prices for the duration of my trek. Dehydrated meals are a significant cost for such an endeavor, and KNA’s generosity has helped keep my budget in check.
There we have it. For the time being, that’s the censored list of Jor’s Gluten Free Thru-Hiker diet (the uncensored version includes Ben & Jerry’s by the pint). I’m sure that my diet will evolve as I discover jars of Nutella or fresh deli meat at the grocery store, but rest assured that it will likely always include the above (I’m a creature of habit).
As far as mail drops, I packed and shipped all the boxes I plan to send through Damascus, Virginia – for a total of ten. Since I don’t know if that’ll take me a month or 6 weeks, I figured that ten boxes would be enough to ensure I don’t starve but not so much that I’ll worry about overdoing it. Worse comes to worse, I’ll throw a bag of rice in a hiker box or, conversely, go to a store in town for extra provisions. Once I get a solid handle on my pace of mileage and food consumption, I’ll discuss with my mom, who has agreed to pack and send boxes beginning after Damascus.
Generally, when packing, I tried to keep my mail drop boxes conservative but reasonable. I planned to eat 2,000 calories a day on the trail in the first month and added a jar of nut butter every few boxes for “contingency” calories. In every few boxes I threw a roll of toilet paper, toothpaste, hair conditioner, batteries, ibuprofen, duct tape, etc.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but it’s not the end of the world if I have to go shopping when I hit a trail town. However, have no fear: each and every box contains a sheet of lactase pills. This gluten free gal may not be able to eat a piece of Wonder Bread, but nothing’s going to get between me and my Ben & Jerry’s.