Backcountry nutrition: pack easy, ride hard

Tips and recipes to help you pack for cold, snowy, and weight-sensitive multi-day excursions

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Even if you can’t be a hero on the uptrack or the slopes down, you can be a hero in the hut with these nutritious backcountry meals.

We all know someone who shows up at the backcountry hut and pulls out their sack of wine, right after their carefully whittled down toothbrush. Priorities, right? Who doesn’t dream of hot, tasty food followed by the perfect nightcap while huffin’ on the skin track? Read on to cut food weight where you can, while still eating like ski royalty.

Nutrient density

Calories, schmalories. Calories are out, nutrients are in. Think nutrient density when you’re packing for the backcountry.

Fat chance

Here’s the skinny on fat: it’s great, long-lasting fuel for touring. Pack some saturated fat for breakfast and snacks to avoid bonking. Coconut oil and ghee work great for heating up breakfast and dinner. Dark chocolate makes a great high-fat snack, and is also high in magnesium, which helps our muscles relax at the end of the day.

Bean there, rode that

Dried bean flakes are an instant revelation. Pinto or black bean flakes cook quickly in simmering water, provide post-workout protein and carbohydrates, and make a fabulous backcountry bean burrito, or instant bean soup when combined with dried vegetables and broth powder.

Cashew at the bottom, brah

Blend cashews into a powder with nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and mustard powder. Add water and freshly cooked pasta for a creamy powder pasta dream.

Meatballer

Meatballs are a nutrient-dense addition to a delicious meal. Make them ahead of time, keep them frozen, and heat them up for a quick, delicious protein, iron, vitamin B12, selenium, and zinc hit at the end of a long day.

Spice up your life

Brrr, it’s cold out there. Add cinnamon to sweet foods to stabilize blood sugar and warm up the body. Ginger is a warming and anti-inflammatory addition to tea. Garlic powder is a delicious addition to any savory backcountry meal, while its sulphur content and antibiotic properties will help keep you from getting sick. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which increases blood flow. To warm toes, put no more than a teaspoon of cayenne powder spread throughout the inner toe of your socks before booting up and heading out. Just make sure you don’t have any open cuts or blisters (ouch!). This is also not a good time to adjust your body parts without washing your hands first. It’s the type of lesson you learn once.

Hot cheese

Nobody has a problem with the hot-cheeser who brings a wheel of cheese to the hut and bakes it into ooey, gooey dippable strands. Just saying.

Jerk it out

Jerky is an ideal backcountry food. It ensures a strong jaw while being light, delicious, and satisfying. It’s also high in lean protein, which helps to kick-start muscle repair right after your ski-day workout. Make it with wild salmon or local pastured beef.

Watta hottea

Hot tea in a cold climate is nothing short of therapeutic. Try green tea to start your day, rooibos ginger chai amidst the blizzard, turmeric to tame inflammation, and chamomile to prepare for rest.

Miso happy

Miso soup can be packed in a Thermos and enjoyed during touring breaks. It provides gut-nourishing probiotic bacteria, along with plenty of the electrolyte most depleted by sweat: sodium.

Track mix

Put equal parts dates (fibre, potassium, magnesium, carbohydrates) and figs (calcium, fibre, carbohydrates) with nuts and seeds in a food processor. Pumpkin seeds provide zinc, sunflower seeds and almonds provide vitamin E, chia seeds provide ALA, and hemp hearts are a great Canadian source of protein and omega fatty acids. Add some cinnamon, orange zest, and a pinch of sea salt for flavor. Process until sticky and uniform, adding more fruit if too dry, and more nuts/seeds if too sticky. Roll into balls. Keep a few in front snow pant pockets for quick energy on the ascent.

Dry pow, dry food

Invest in a good dehydrator and double your dinner in the weeks leading up to your trip. Dehydrate half, pack, label, and enjoy the flavor and nourishment of a fully-rounded rehydrated dinner deep in winter wonderland.

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