Becoming The Backcountry Foodie: a dietitian’s dream!

Well, let’s just call it one heck of a mid-life crisis!

Hello and welcome to a blog dedicated to meal planning for thru hikers.

Professionally my background is in clinical nutrition, specifically the ketogenic diet, but spend my days dreaming of the outdoors. I also have a long history of being an endurance sport athlete who struggles with fueling for performance despite training as a dietitian. What does any of that have to do with this Foodie business and a mid-life crisis?!?

Backing it up a bit…

I’m turning forty in 61 days…not that I’m counting…and over the last year have taken the time to do a lot of reflecting on where I am in my life. What brought this on? I would say that custom ordering the fancy new car that I didn’t need was a good sign that something was up. Better yet, I went on a two week vacation in the Philippines and Bali with a man whom I’d met via an online dating site and had never met in person. Needless to say my friends and family were quite concerned about my actions. The trip, however, turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I experienced cultures that have so little tangibly but so much to give in regards to spirituality and kindness. It was during this trip that I realized that I needed to make changes in my own life as I acknowledged that what I thought was happiness wasn’t true happiness.

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Banuae Rice Terraces, Philippines – Backbreaking labor planting seedlings one at a time.

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Summit of Mt Agung, Bali – Our mountain guide praying for a safe return to the base of the mountain.

After returning from my trip, what did I do?!?

Decided to quit my stable job that I’ve poured my heart and soul into for the last seven years and thru hike the PCT! The decision wasn’t as rash as it sounds as thru hiking the PCT has been a dream for many years now. Letting go of the fear of the unknown has allowed me to pursue a new career that I hope to be even more passionate about.

What exactly does a backcountry foodie do?

To be honest, the beauty is that I have an opportunity to make my new career into anything I want it to be. Therefore, I hope to combine my passion for backcountry travel and food in a way that I can continue to help serve others as I do in my current role as a ketogenic dietitian. It is a well known fact that thru hikers struggle with consuming adequate nutrition with some treks ending prematurely due to weight loss. My goal is to write about my experience with homemade ultralight food and an unconventional resupply strategy with the hope that my training as a dietitian and experience as a future thru hiker might help others stay stronger and remain on trail longer. Essentially, I’m my own guinea pig.

Topics to look forward to prior to my trek:

  • What exactly constitutes an ultralight meal?
  • Power packed foods for a thru hiker
  • Equipment used to prepare dehydrated trail food
  • Dehydrating and long-term storage tips
  • Meal planning strategies
  • Ultralight meal recipe development
  • Cost savings when preparing meals at home
  • Myth busting time spent preparing food at home

Topics to look forward to while I thru hike the PCT:

  • Foods most commonly available on trail that fit into the ultralight category
  • Taste preferences and how they change
  • Weight and strength management: adequate calorie and protein intake
  • Availability of water for cooking throughout the trek
  • Anticipated meals packed vs what is actually consumed
  • Resupply strategy and how it plays out on trail

Until next time…

Consider joining the “Backcountry Meal Planning for Thru Hikers” Facebook group as this is where you will find experienced foodies and thru hikers representing all of the long trails throughout the United States. Your questions will not go unanswered.

 

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Comments 8

  • Kim Mccorquodale : Jan 26th

    It’s fabulous to start to read about your journey up to this point and I’m excited to follow you and learn lots. We’re planning a JMT thru early next fall, and I haven’t begun to ponder food. My hubby is leaner and can lose quickly, so I’m anxious to keep him strong.
    Do you work with people with glioblastoma? I also know there’s an application with some kids, but I know little about that.

    Reply
    • Aaron Owens : Jan 30th

      Thanks for following my journey as I’m incredibly excited about what’s to come! Hopefully future posts might provide some ideas to help keep the weight on your husband. As for the keto diet and glioblastoma, I personally do not work with cancer patients as my focus is children with epilepsy. The use of the diet, however, is certainly a hot topic and will likely become more common in the not so distant future. There’s quite a bit of research being done by a group in Arizona. If you’re interested in learning more I would recommend checking out the Charlie Foundation (www.charliefoundation.org). Good luck next year on your hike!

      Reply
  • Ken Baldrey : Jan 28th

    Very interesting focus for your PCT thru-hike! Ketogenic and high-fat fueling strategies from endurance sports may be the next frontier in ultralight backpacking, certainly there is vast room for improvement in the typical thru-hiker sugar/carbohydrate diet. Given the opportunity for combining strategic mail drops with buy-as-you go, there must be interesting and creative ways to add saturated fats into a wide variety of hiker meals and beverages. Could this be a book project?

    Reply
    • Aaron Owens : Jan 30th

      Yes, my training as a ketogenic dietitian has definitely played a part in my meal planning. Many of my recipes include addition of oils too boost the nutrition content. As you mentioned, many meals and beverages are heavily carb based and digested quickly with little energy to be gained. By adding oils, volume of the food consumed is significantly less with energy gained sustained much longer. Win win! I’m not sure how all of this is going to play out but have several ideas in mind after I return. Thanks for following!

      Reply
  • Nicole : Jan 30th

    Really looking forward to seeing how this develops for you, on the trail and off. I’m really interested in seeing what you come up with for healthy UL/Lightweight meals.

    Reply
    • Aaron Owens : Jan 30th

      I’m considering posting meals and beverages prepared in the interim within each blog post. To give you an idea, this weekend I made: apple cinnamon granola, chocolate cherry muesli, mango coconut granola and a tri-berry granola. I’ve chosen multiple muesli and granola recipes as they can either be eaten dry or with/without hot water. Works well when water and/or fuel are limited. Thanks for following!

      Reply
  • Noelle : Feb 1st

    Ohmigosh, a backpacker who knows keto! Yay!!! I am bad at food in real life (i.e. can’t invent my own recipes like so many do) and have been trying to find someplace online that talks about keto food on the trail. Since I’m bad at food I have backpacked with Mountain House-type meals, but I end up feeling awful from all the carbs. I am looking forward to reading all the things! Thank you!

    Reply
  • Aaron Owens : Feb 3rd

    My posts will not specifically address the keto diet on trail as my expertise is in the use of the diet for treatment of pediatric epilepsy. However, you will likely gain ideas as many of the ultralight foods that I plan to consume do contain a higher percentage of fat when compared to commercially prepared foods. Hope you enjoy future posts. Thanks for following!

    Reply

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