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July 2013 Issue
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Food for long-distance tramping

Te Araroa Trail trampers need between 600-1200g of food each day

Planning a long-distance tramp? Get ready for dull food, warns Benjamin James

Food on the trail has one single purpose: to fuel the body. In my experience, all other considerations are counter-productive to a successful long-distance hike. The sole aim should be to consume more calories than you burn.

Getting enough calories while through-hiking the Te Araroa Trail, where you might need to carry enough food for five to 10 days, is a difficult task.

After experimenting with a number of different cook sets of various weight and function, I have settled on a simple ideal – use the lightest, most efficient stove and pan set you can get your hands on and only use ingredients that have a short cooking time. When I hiked the Te Araroa Trail, this meant a lot of angel hair spaghetti, instant polenta and dehydrated peas.

In researching the Te Araroa, I read that the average hiker needs between 600-1200g of dry food each day and found this to be a reasonable range to work within. On the longer sections, 600g left a definite void, but balancing this on the shorter sections by gorging on 1200g a day I managed to maintain a fairly stable weight.

My average day looked like this:

Breakfast: Muesli and powdered milk

Lunch: Pumpernickel and cheese (brie for the first three days, then harder cheeses for the remaining)

Dinner: Angel hair spaghetti with peas, tomato paste, salami and garlic.

Snacks: Trail mix, muesli bars, cookies and sweets.
A few other tricks I picked up along the way were:

  • Gorge on fresh food whenever in town, stuffing as much bread, fruit, yoghurt, meat and vegetables into your body as possible
  • Eat takeaways at every opportunity. Burgers and chips offer a high concentration of calories – it’s all about fat, carbs and protein
  • Multivitamins make you feel remarkably more alive
  • Drop boxes are a waste of time unless absolutely necessary – it’s hard to account for leftover food from the previous section.

– Benjamin James finished the North Island section of the Te Araroa Trail in February 2013