Miss 14 went off to camp last week. In year 9, her Leads (leadership) class headed to the Cathedral ranges on a pack hiking adventure and camping in nature. It should’ve been a memorable experience but sadly for many teens, I feel this trip will be memorable for the wrong reasons. It was the first for many kids and after helping Lilly with her pack list provided by the school, I’ll be surprised if any of the kids ever want to experience a pack hike again.
Fortunately, Lilly has been taught that there is a better, more enjoyable way to hike.
On our pack hike adventures, the weight of a client’s pack typically sits around 13-14kg – this includes approx. 3 litres of water – so 3 kgs. The remaining weight is mostly from their clothes and miscellaneous items that after their first hike experience learn why we say, every gram counts.
The lighter the pack, the more enjoyable the journey. With a common consensus that a pack should never be more than 30% of our body weight – even that is borderline boot camp!
Packing her gear in one of our 55L Osprey packs, I know that the bag is well fitted to Lilly’s size and shape. The height of the straps adjusted to her spine, the hips belt sitting comfortably on her bony protrusion of the iliac crest – the hip bone, hugging into her frame as to support the weight in the pack. Her clothing kept to a minimum for the 2 days, and weather appropriate. She has all that sorted.
As a nutritionist, I was excited to help pack her food. I suggested she’d pack what we provide for our clients on our tours. Lightweight, nutritional, and easy to prepare with just 170ml of boiling water. It would’ve weighed in under 1kg – including snacks for the 2 days. Instead, she was told that they were to be cooking food on the trail. Fair enough I thought. Bring it right back to basics and have them cook- great idea. Unfortunately, the cooking they were to be doing was pouring out of a pasta sauce jar (yep, glass = heavy and dangerous to pack out) and adding some grated vegetables they’d stuffed in a zip lock bag- which arrived home uneaten 2 days later mind you. No surprise there.
Now I’m unsure of the educational system's reasons for this but I can assure you it is neither cheaper nor lighter for these kids to be packing this food in. But this isn’t a slam at the school, it's a passionate plea to you, readers, that this horror story of a 50kg kid carrying 18kg is unnecessary and there is a better way.
There seems to be a general idea that Pack hiking is an arduous and challenging task. Whilst the concept can certainly be challenging, it provides such beneficial outcomes for body and mind, there is merit in the goal. It’s not a punishment but a liberation through the simplicity of hiking. There are certain aspects that we consider and mostly it comes down to weight.
The 3 basic things we need to survive are shelter, food, and water.
Shelter our protection from the elements
Tents range in weight and price, with the former dictating the latter. The lighter the tent, the more it will cost. Then consider the size and season and the $$ will scale accordingly. Unless you’re hiking in the snow, a 3 season (Spring, Summer, Autumn) tent will suffice with extra warmth from the sleeping system – sleeping bag, silk liner, and thermals.
Tents provided for our overnight hikes are 1kg as shown here. These are large enough to have bags in the tents in the event of inclement weather. 3 seasons (no camping in the snow) When we are in the Alpine hiking, this is through late Spring - Late Summer. Although it can snow at any time so we always ensure everyone is prepared for any weather.
Our body and brain will not function without water, so the importance of this on a hike is paramount. This is likely the largest contributor to the overall weight pack also. As a guide, I always carry 3litres + a day as with energy expenditure and sweating you will require adequate hydration. Extra water is carried in our Nalgene wide-mouth bottles, filtered, and ready to make a cuppa trail side when needed.
Water sources can be scarce, so it pays to carry sufficient for the day. Filtration systems and or iodine/water treatment tablets are a must on a hike as even if the water looks pristine, we never know what is in it upstream that can make us sick.
Every litre of water carried, equates to 1 kg carry weight
We carry a 3litre Camelbak with 1 + 1.5litre Nalgene wide mouth bottles for cooking water. This makes it easy to filter the water into the bottles and then pour it into our bladders. It’s also easier for pouring straight into the Jetboil system for a quick cuppa or to boil up water, and adding to our meals for a quick, nutritious dinner on the trail.
Unlike the high school kids carrying in glass jars of pasta sauce and unappetizing grated veg in bags, there is a better way.
As a nutritionist, what we eat on the trail is important as I need to know that everyone’s needs are factored in. Eating for energy is crucial and in cooler conditions, make sure we consume warm foods to support our body’s needs. Sufficient protein at each meal helps with muscle recovery – particularly on multi-night hikes. Every meal is considered from breakfast, lunch dinner, and snacks and factors dietary requirements, likes and dislikes, and macronutrient intake for the trip.
The meals supplied are a freeze-dried single-serving, nutritional profiled pack. These meals weigh in under 180g and are easily prepared with 170 ml of boiled water. Stir and leave for 5mins and you have yourself an incredibly delicious and nutritious meal.
So you may ask yourself why the High school thought a jar of pasta sauce weighing 350 grams was a great idea. I know that I certainly am. I understand the cost element but there is certainly better ways to approach this.
The kids were using the Trangia systems – cheaper than the Jetboil systems we use, lightweight but longer to cook plus extra cleaning up. When water is scarce, the last thing you want to do is waste precious water cleaning a pan.
The Radix Nutrition meals (along with other freeze-dried meals available at outdoor stores) can be eaten from the pack so the only thing you need to clean is the fork. It’s simple, nutritious, and time-saving. Over the years, I've ravenously eaten my way through other hiker freeze dried foods. I'm sensitive to preservatives and crap added to my food and end up with chronic inflammation of my hands, feet and face. Not ideal...ever. Radix Meals and the Outdoor Gourmet Company are my choice.
(The Jetboil systems we supply on our tours are RRP $280. So understandably year 9 students aren’t privy to this equipment.)
Snacks on the trail can be the heaviest portion of weight in the food bag. Ditch the sugar-loaded trail mixes and make up your own mix that will power your hill climbs and keep your energy levels high.
I generally make beef jerky and eggplant jerky plus also dried fruits. I pick whatever is in season and in abundance, these could be pineapple, pears, kiwis, or apples. No sugar or preservatives, just dried fruit with the skin on (extra fibre helps you poop).
So as you can see there is a better way. The idea of pack hiking is to strip back to the necessity and enjoy the simplicity of being in nature. Sure, there are ways to make this simpler, and more enjoyable, and often it comes down to knowledge and experience.
Knowledge of the trails that you will be tackling. What equipment is best to use. How much you need to pack for X days. What water sources there are, etc.
Our experiences and knowledge are all part of the package when you book a hike with us. We aim to teach you through informative, hands-on experience using all our gear so you can adventure without the hefty investment, safe in the hands of passionate hikers who will support you through your trip.
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Disclaimer: These are my professional opinions and I have not been paid by Radix, Jetboil or other compaines. We offer our expereince and opinion unbiased from financal or otherwise gains.