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Searching for snackvana

Sacha Knight models the 1000-calorie tramping snack. Photo: Hazel Phillips
Hazel Phillips explores a range of tramping snacks that aren’t your usual fare and reaches a higher plane of culinary delights.

A one thousand calorie snack. It’s either something that would call for gnashing of teeth and anxious hand-wringing from the health police, or a gift from heaven while you’re on the track. For a group of Auckland University Tramping Club members, it’s what they rely on for energy on their 23-day summer trips.

“Show me this 1000-calorie piece of joy,” I said.

At this point, the AUTC trampers had been on the track for a long time and only had a small amount of food in reserve (notably a lot of peanut butter). They’d turned up at the NZ Alpine Club lodge in Arthur’s Pass a day early, camped out, and regaled me with stories of hilarity and promises of fatty-pants snacks.

After so long on the track, they only had enough to create their legendary 1000-calorie snack in a miniature size.

“You take a Snickers bar,” said Sacha Knight, “and put a layer of peanut butter along the top, then another layer of the same thickness of Nutella. And then you top it with a walnut.”

(We didn’t have any walnuts to hand, so Sacha settled for a cheeky cashew instead.)

It’s a tricky thing, energy while tramping. On a recent nine-day trip, I did some number crunching to figure out how many calories I was carrying on average each day, and for how much pack weight. It turned out to be 1500 calories for somewhere in the vicinity of 3.5-4kg. I lost a couple of kilos that trip and had to use my emergency hair ties to elasticate my shorts so they would stay up.

Not long after being introduced to the 1000-calorie snack, I met an American and a German who were doing the Te Araroa Trail. They reckoned they had devised the perfect trail snack: Milo and peanut butter. Peanut butter purists may recoil in horror, but hear them out: Texas and Fritz would mix the two into a fudgy consistency; the sugar in the Milo, which you ordinarily can’t taste, emerges and mixes “beautifully” with the salt in the peanut butter.

“Take a Snickers bar, put a layer of peanut

butter along the top, then another layer of

the same thickness of Nutella. Then top it

with a walnut”

Then there’s Super Peanut Butter, which promises the ultimate PB experience. This recipe was concocted by outdoorsman Josh Bougen and handed to me by one of his mates. Take a jar of peanut butter, scoop approx one quarter out (presumably save it), add butter and ground almonds into the jar and stir in the chocolate variety of your choice. Eat with a spoon as a pre-climbing or tramping booster, or at any point when you feel the need for a little more deliciousness in your life.

Inspired by all this peanut butter and chocolate, I cast around for other innovative tramping snacks.

My friend Laura has been experimenting with a dehydrator and has mastered the fine art of dehy hummus. Just add water, wait a few torturous seconds and glory is yours. Add crackers, of course, for the full effect. (Laura also makes a mean Russian fudge, which powers us all up steep hills. It’s on the heavy side, so we’re currently leaning on her to figure out a dehy version.)

And Vicki, who just smashed out the Greenstone-Caples, swears by ‘Life-Changing Crackers’. That’s actually what they’re called. You can find the recipe at Coveteur.com, where the author adapted a bread recipe that involves rolled oats and pumpkin, sesame, flax and sunflower seeds, and claims the crackers will last up to three weeks.

Many readers will know the goodness that is the Magical Tramping Cheesecake. You can only bust this out on the last night of a long trip and you have to keep it quiet the whole way so it’s a surprise.

It’s basically the Edmonds Continental Cheesecake packet mix, some melted butter and a bit of milk powder all mixed into the cheesecake filling. Add a swirl of Baileys and some grated chocolate or mini marshmallows for extra effect. It’s not even necessary to wait until it’s set; you can make up the base and leave it as a crumble, plus the filling and extras, and call it a Magical Deconstructed Tramping Cheesecake. Either way, you’ll amaze your friends.

I’ve long known about this cheesecake, but its delights really came to the fore during a night at Speargrass Hut on Queen’s Birthday weekend. The hut was packed and a good sort from Nelson made up a cheesecake which he shared around. Everyone soon protested they were full and couldn’t manage anymore, but there was still at least half of it left. What would we do with all this cheesecake?

“It’s wood rules here, right?” asked Florian the German. None of us knew what ‘wood rules’ are, but we agreed.

Florian produced a bag of alternative smoking paraphernalia and dropped it onto the table.

“Who vants to smoke viz me?” he asked with a grin. Well, a lot of people as it turns out.

That cheesecake didn’t stand a chance.

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