We’ve all been there; the lounge looks like a garage sale with pots, spoons, tents and clothes everywhere, all in the effort of sorting the gear for another adventure outdoors. Rifling through the deeper corners of your favourite pack, you find an old mangled muesli bar from 2009 and a spare freeze-dried meal you had stashed in there on your last trip, just in case.
These ‘forgotten delights’ however, could make all the difference on a cold mountain top and taste better than any restaurant meal.
A supply of snacks in an easy-to-reach part of your pack is an excellent way to keep the energy up and make your experience more enjoyable. Things like scroggin, muesli bars or even a hot drink can bring your group together at a track junction, allow for progress conversations and allow everyone to have a break before the next leg of the journey.
Even more important, is the chance to eat and discuss the approach to an upcoming bluff, steep climb or river. Have a munch and chat about who is nervous about what lies ahead, how is the weather looking, how many daylight hours to you have and is the river looking safe to cross? If not, pop on the billy, make a shelter and wait it out.
It's all about thinking about questions for your future self.
Here is where that old muesli bar and spare freeze-dried meal come into play. These are just some of the situations that can occur in the harsh environments of New Zealand’s backcountry, as well as short day walks. Having warmth, food and shelter can prevent a situation from getting worse.
Walking on colder days can make the body burn energy faster, so drink and eat more frequently, especially starting and ending the day with a warm beverage to get you heated up fast. This kind of action can help prevent hypothermia and also aid in someone in the showing early stages.
An important note: do not feed someone who is in the later stages of hypothermia, either semi or fully unconscious, as it is a choking hazard.
We at the NZ Mountain Safety Council are huge supporters of people having a solid plan and being safe in the outdoors through effective decision-making. It is well known that food is a way to directly feed the brain and help you make these smart choices in the outdoors. Food gives you energy, a chance to pause and can save your life in a dire situation.
A well-fed tramper is a safe and happy tramper.
A hard day climbing up in the heat might call for some more water and sugar-fuelled options. A long cold valley trip would welcome a nice hot meal at the hut. Also, remember to pack rations depending on your trip length and how remote you are. Realistically it would be great if everyone packed enough food for one whole extra day's rations. It's easy, it's practical, and it could be stretched in a pinch to a couple of days if stranded
…and share the items amongst yourselves so everyone plays a part. Yes, get the kids to carry it too and help share them out. It’s all good learning.
Consider what you are leaving. Don’t just leave it because you don’t want to carry it. Make sure a rodent can’t just eat it, and check the expiry. Your food might be helpful for another hut user, but try to be smart about it. Leaving unused avocados or half of a cooked dehy meal is doing more harm than good.
The Plan My Walk app has a customisable gear list for adding items and the ability to save files like extensive menu excel spreadsheets and links to online documentation – for the real foodie outdoor folks.
Try some new ideas or ask other trampers in the hut, you might find some excellent items to add to your backcountry menu. We are long past the ‘canned corned beef age’.
So take a moment to appreciate those food items in the camping cupboards, check the use-by date and put them back in your pack, ready for the hills once more.
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