What does a day of keto-on-trail look like?
I sat on a folded piece of Tyvek, surrounded by pine trees and the sounds of a nearby stream, trying to squirt a mayo packet onto a low-carb tortilla perched precariously on my knees, and the realization hit me: I can't eat this. One hundred and three days of daily Spam sandwiches and suddenly my tastes had switched from "yay! salty meat!" to "I don't care if I starve, I can't put this in my mouth."
Burnout from the repetition of trail meals was something that I had anticipated: every guidebook advises against pre-purchasing all your food for your trek because there will always be one ingredient that turns your stomach and you can eat no more. For me, that was Spam. But when you have strict keto requirements, pre-planning and purchasing is a necessity: resupplying out of hiker boxes and purchasing mass quantities of dehydrated potatoes isn't an option. Luckily, everything else I consume on a regular basis still remains novel and, dare I say, exciting to consume each day. (I'm looking at you, trail mix.)
Balancing variety and pack weight is a constant struggle for many hikers, but it's an issue I don't have to deal with. Accept that the food you eat each day varies only slightly and you'll be a happy camper… er… hiker.
With that acceptance in mind, here's exactly what fuels my daily trek, keeping me fed with more than 3000 calories per day over 30+ miles.
When you're trying to get moving in the morning, you need something that you can sip or nibble while packing up your tent and bag. Caffeine and keto protein shakes ftw
Stoked Coffee + MCT Powder
(100 cals | 0 net carbs)
nutritionally-complete keto protein shake (made with dehydrated heavy cream) [edit: the supplier changed the recipe for this last year, and I can’t recommend it anymore]
(600 cals | 10 net carbs)
While there is usually a pause midday to be social with my hiking group and eat together, much of our food is consumed while moving, in the form of small snacks nibbled on throughout the day. This strategy is employed by both keto-ers and non-ketoers alike: they eat Snickers and I eat salami sticks.
(200 calories | 0 net carbs)
(320 calories | 0 net carbs)
Chomps (meat stick)
(100 calories | 0 net carbs)
Duke's Smoked Sausage
(130 calories | 2 net carbs)
(220 calories | 0 net carbs)
(190 calories | 3 net carbs)
Mama Lupe's Low Carb Tortillas (1.5 tortillas/day)
(90 calories | 4.5 net carbs)
(234 calories | 2 net carbs)
"Trail Mix" (macadamia nuts, almonds, sugar-free chocolate)
(567 calories | 7 net carbs)
(190 calories | 4 net carbs)
After scouring the interwebs for a keto-friendly backpacking dinner with no luck, we decided to take the challenge on ourselves. Thus, this site was born. If all goes well (and so far, so good!), we'll soon have a series of keto backcountry dinners available for other hikers and campers, trail-tested and Pipes-approved!
Next Mile Meals - Beef Tacos
(580 calories | 4 net carbs)
Olive Oil (for added calories when hiker hunger kicks in)
(239 calories | 0 net carbs)
What does it all add up to?
Roughly 3500 calories and 35 net carbs. These numbers are much higher than my normal keto life because I'm hiking 30+ miles per day and burning all of those calories; otherwise, there are plenty of ways to reduce both the calories and carbs for non-hikers (for example, eliminate the Quest bar, ditch the olive oil).
The daily food outlined above has ticked off all my boxes: it's kept me energized up the peaks and charging through the valleys, without losing too much weight and muscle mass like my hiking companions, while also keeping my pack weight low (more on the calories/oz math later).
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Next Mile Meals is a small, family-run business that came to life on the Pacific Crest Trail. This blog is our way of giving back to the hiking community; sharing our successes, our failures, and our learnings as we try to eat better, pack lighter, and go farther in our many outdoor adventures.