What We Learned While Keto Backpacking on the Lost Coast
Day 1: you decide to live a ketogenic lifestyle.
Day 2: you have keto perfectly figured out. You easily incorporate a low carb lifestyle into your day to day and your favorite hobbies don't change a bit.
Oh wait… something's missing there.
In reality, it's very different. Just as it took us time to adjust to eating keto, it took a while for us to modify our hobbies and daily activities to account for this new way of eating.
We may have thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail successfully on keto, but it took some trial and error to get there. We took many weekend and weeklong backpacking trips along the way and tackled the new problem of figuring out how to balance the weight of our food bag with the healthy fats we needed to sustain us.
Here’s what we did right… and what we did wrong:
Right away, we realized that many of the backpacking foods we ALREADY packed before we went keto were still low carb wins! Items like nut butter, hard cheeses, cured meats, and other calorie-dense foods still met our needs as keto backpackers.
We high-fived ourselves for figuring out that our meats and proteins were ketogenic staples, but we didn't know all of our options and didn't make the smartest choices. For example, we didn’t know that tuna packets were a thing: tuna packaged in a lightweight pouch and portioned out for day-to-day consumption. Instead… we brought cans of tuna. Like, full cans of tuna, packed in oil, and a can opener. And then groaned when we remembered that we had to pack out the empty cans and their sharp lids after each meal. Leave No Trace didn’t hand out exceptions for the ketogenic diet.
We found so many recipes that—if we just removed the high carb rice, couscous, pasta, and grains—would make a filling meal with the appropriate amount of carbs for our new diets. We started dehydrating eggplant to make a ketogenic moussaka, and bought low sugar tomato sauce for a meat-heavy chili. We put together a menu for three days of high fat, low carb meal options to get us through the hike.
After dehydrating ground beef for what felt like days, we realized why so many backpacking food companies go light on the meat and protein: high fat foods don’t dehydrate well. The high fat content of meats and cheese make them difficult to dry, difficult to rehydrate, and give them a shorter shelf life than their carbohydrate cousins. We changed our strategy and focused on dehydrating low fat protein sources, like lean ground beef or chicken, and then supplementing the fats back in with coconut oil, olive oil, and mct powder. Not ideal, but we made it work. We managed to finish the trail without losing too much weight and kept our macros within a healthy range.
We did it. I mean, that was the real goal at the time: to successfully hike 2–3 days on a ketogenic diet. The miles weren’t long (10–15 miles/day) but they were over rough terrain. If you haven’t hiked the Lost Coast, we highly recommend it; between the two of us, we’ve hiked it three times. It’s a beautiful trek, remote but well-traveled. If you’re looking for a break from civilization, this is your hike; if you’re looking for absolute solitude and isolation, you might want to keep searching.
But being able to set up a tent on a cliffside overlooking the ocean? Worth it.