Hiker Hunger Goes Vegetarian and Gluten Free
Do you dream of the ultimate hiker food regiment of ramen and Honey Buns but your diet doesn’t allow for that? As someone who eats mainly vegetarian (I sometimes have fish) and strictly gluten free, it was an adventure in itself to find the right combination of food to keep me full and happy along the trail. I’m excited to talk about what I ate most days and hopefully inspire your inner hiker chef.
Things to mention:
I mail-dropped my food for most of the trail for a few reasons: I was worried the grocery stores we resupplied at wouldn’t have food I could eat, I made some of my own food, and I had a significant amount of food donated to me. In hindsight, I would have been fine to resupply in most of the towns. There were only a few that I can think of where my food choices were very slim and I would have had chips and candy for a couple of days.
I did not carry a stove. This made me want to stay away from Knorr sides and instant mashed potatoes. That being said, I am open to giving them a cold soaking whirl on the PCT this year.
Pack out fresh fruit and veggies from town. My top picks were avocados, apples, and bananas. I usually grabbed a Gatorade too, because once you get back on trail, nothing tastes as refreshing as a chilled bottle of sugar water.
Once I got into a routine and better understood what my mind and body wanted, my day of consumption looked like this.
R.e.d.d. bars were my ideal bars. They are delicious, healthy, and, bonus, some of them even have caffeine! Also, it was great because if I wasn’t hungry right when I woke up, I was able to stuff one in my hip belt and eat on the go. If I didn’t have this, a stroopwafel loaded with peanut butter was my next best option. I did reach a point where I couldn’t even look at peanut butter without gagging… so there’s that.
Depending on my mood and the terrain that day, I would snack every one to two hours. Really, this was more of a reward system and a mental trick. I would keep Honey Stinger chews or stroopwafels in my hip belt pockets for quick access to eat as I walked.
I would have an avocado/chips/hummus or peanut butter/banana/granola wrap. Wild Garden makes 1.76-ounce portioned packets of hummus. I had these in every mail drop and loved them. The wraps that I ate for most of the trail were NUCO Coconut Wraps. I got soooo sick of them at some point, though, and fell in love with the Mission gluten free wraps. Fair warning, they don’t hold up in high heat or humidity. For the first month or so I was eating tuna and salmon packets with nutritional yeast and chips on a wrap. They started to make me really nauseous and I stopped eating fish. Until Maine, because lobster roll.
Usually after lunch I would be pretty full and I would not snack as often as I did in the morning. Since my tramily would normally meet up for lunch, we would spend the majority of the afternoon hiking together. This is all to say I was more distracted and did not snack as much as in the morning. I would munch on Snickers, nuts, trail mix, or leftover stroopwafels and energy chews.
Homemade oatmeal. This is something I made before I left for trail, but you could get all of the ingredients in town and package it up for yourself. In a ziplock bag I added oats (that I pulsed in a nutribullet for a few seconds so they would absorb water more quickly), chia seeds, flax seeds, coconut flakes, and protein powder. I used three different flavors to keep things interesting. It just needed water and as much patience as your hiker hunger would allow. I genuinely believe that this food item is what kept me going.
Favorite Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Foods
- Power oatmeal: For the energy and regular poo.
- Fritos: Salty, crunchy goodness.
- Honey Stinger energy chews: Sweet, chewy bombs of sugar.
- Honey Stinger stroopwafels: If you’re feeling fancy, smother these bad boys in peanut butter.
- Chips. Salt and vinegar for the win.
- Spirulina powder: I sacrificed a tent stake to the spirulina mission. I would add a “stakefull” to my water every day and I swear this gave me superpowers. Pro tip: Add a Nuun tablet to help with the flavor.
- Snickers candy bars: There were moments when I couldn’t look at one of these and moments where I could eat 12 in a row.
- GrandyOats granola: I love this granola with my whole heart.
- R.e.d.d. bars.
- Munk Pack protein cookies: The best, but they were so hard to find on trail.
*If you have a stove, Good To-Go makes my favorite dehydrated meals with the best gluten free/vegetarian options. This is the one reason I am considering a stove for the PCT. *
Main Takeaways About My Food Choices
- Most of the towns will have all of the food your little heart could dream of and only a select few will have you eating Snickers, chips, and hummus until your next resupply.
- Snacking is key. It allows you to continuously hike to make those miles while keeping your belly full.
- Protein will help you go the distance. I felt my best when I was eating my homemade oats with the protein powder. Not into that idea? Simply pack out some powder and shake it up in your water bottle.
- Team cold soak is the best, but I’d be lying if I said I was never jealous of my friends eating warm backpacker meals at night.
If you are reading this and you follow a similar diet, any suggestions to spruce up my (as of now stove-less) PCT meals? Are you team cold soak or stove?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional. Be sure to speak with your health provider about your food allergy and options. Some of these items are manufactured in a cross-contaminated facility.
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