Food options in the field
Longevity on any multi-day hunt is paramount. In order to spend days living out of your pack, you must replenish your body daily with nutrients it has used. More than likely on the hunt there will be a fair amount of uphills along with a healthy amount of downhills. In order to keep your body fueled for high output activity some thought must be put into which items you eat throughout the hunt. Through my time in mountain trail running, high endurance workouts and the military, I have found some foods very beneficial to help supplement an exerting mountain hunting diet. I prefer a "keep it simple" food menu; it’s not elegant, but it gets the job done. Some of the following items you may have seen before as well as some that may be new to you. Hopefully, some will fit into your field rations on your next outdoor endeavor.
Like the old saying goes, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," this still holds true. I personally like to keep it straightforward with instant oatmeal and protein powder or breakfast bars. I don't like to boil water unless needed, so, luckily, neither of these NEED hot water. Sure, oatmeal tastes better warm, but when conserving stove fuel it's not so bad cold or lukewarm. I will typically take two oatmeal packets per day of hunting. Adding a half or full scoop of your favorite protein powder to each packet will aid in feeding and rebuilding sore muscles from the day before, stoking your body’s fuel tank of quality carbs and proteins. The easier morning meal though is breakfast bars. Be sure the bars you choose are dense in macros such as protein, carbs and fats (I prefer the M.R.E. or Breakfast at the Ready Bars from RedCon1).
Tuna packets with small tortillas are my go-to. Not a whole lot of prep required for this little meal, but two packets of tuna in your favorite flavor and three tortillas is enough to keep me going. I don't like my lunch to become overly filling, just satisfying. I packed the tuna and tortilla combo everyday in my go-bag on my recent deployment in the event we didn’t get a meal while on mission. Another dense option that could be used for both lunch is a ProBar Meal-on-the-Go. These bars offer a good amount of calories to keep your body in the fight during the day.
I learned from a buddy, Charlie, last season about the ramen noodles with tuna added as a replacement from the more expensive, dehydrated prepared meals. With the ramen, you get a lot of carbs and replace sodium you have lost from sweating throughout the day. The tuna gives you a lean source of protein. Just be sure to add it to the noodles AFTER the noodles are ready; tuna turns to a nasty paste if cooked in boiled water (ask me how I know). Dehydrated meals are an easy, yet more expensive option with a lot of options for each individual’s taste and also fulfilling. If going stoveless, then a Meal Replacement Shake or Greenbelly Meal bar may be a more fitting option. The Greenbelly bar packs around 650 calories of high quality energy in all macronutrient aspects. These are great if trying to use less water and stay lightweight, yet be fueled back up at the end of a long day. I have also prepared bagel sandwiches the day before leaving and then wrapped them in tinfoil so they can be ready when hungry or reheated by fireside.
Trail mixes, Stinger Waffles, Larabars, jerky and nut butters are all options I use as snacks throughout the day or to help supplement my lunch or dinner depending on how hungry I am. Trail mixes and nut butter packets are great since they supplement a fair amount of healthy fat back into your system as well as give sustaining energy opposed to quick shot. Jerky adds protein with minimal fat. The Stinger Waffles and Larabars are popular choices not only for taste, but they also pack a lot of needed nutrition.
Shot bloks/energy gels, candy bars, gummy bears and Strike Force Energy round out this area. While learning trail running tactics, I was introduced to energy gels and energy gummy blocks. There are a multitude of options in the energy block and energy gels categories so research which ones best fit your kit or food sensitivities. Candy bars/gummy bears or worms are fast burning, cheap and can deliver a helpful energy kick through, essentially, a sugar rush. On this recent deployment overseas, I was introduced to Strike Force Energy drink mix. Strike force comes in to-go concentrated liquid single-serve packets for 16 oz of water. You just mix completely until clear. They have zero calories, zero sugar and 160 mg of caffeine (more than enough to crank out some vert!). They come in four flavors; my favorite is original. Overseas, these performed great when getting tired and exhausted in the Middle East, which is why they will be added into my diet come hunting season.
Dehydrated fruit, That’s It bars, fruit leathers and dates are what I use to supplement my fruit intake. As much as I would like to enjoy a crispy apple while in the field on a ridgeline glassing elk, you won’t find me packing in whole apples, so these options will suffice. My favorite would have to be the That’s It bars, which come in a few flavors of compacted fruit in a small bar form. Vitamins from fruit are a staple for me personally. The healthy carbs and natural sugars they provide enures a clean burn when demanding the most of yourself. Fruit leathers are also a lightweight option for those looking for their fruit fix.
Coffee is not required but it's a nice creature comfort in the morning. I really enjoy a nice hot cup when preparing for the day. Dark Timber Instant Packs are perfect when it comes to that warm cup of joe in the morning or when the weather turns nasty. They have a few options. The Gravity packs have a single-serve, biodegradable cup attached pour over filter system, so, once finished, you can simply bury it and it will naturally compost. The Mt. Baker blend tastes like a mixture of hot cocoa and quality roasted coffee. The Vapor instant packs are extremely convenient. Just heat some water, then enjoy a gourmet cup of coffee while basking in the great outdoors.
I'm a firm believer that you get out what you put in. In this case, it’s your body. Testing out foods that fit your individual body needs will make you not only feel better but also perform better. By testing food before you go hunting, you will find what your body prefers and what doesn’t agree with it. Be sure to try some kind of food/calorie tracker to help gauge your current daily caloric and macronutrient intake like the MyFitnessPal App. This app is handy due to the plethora of foods already in their library, the option to UPC scan items and also add in your own home recipes. There are other apps out there that do this same task, but this is the one I am most familiar with.
Hopefully, I mentioned some items that will help you with some new additions for your next hunt/adventure. If you have suggestions on what foods you currently use and recommend, please post the suggestions in the comment section below. I would like to try some of the options you have to offer!