The Search for Food

As a runner, I’ve never had to be concerned with the types of food I’d need to carry on a run. What I eat before and after? Sure, to some extent. But not during the run. Even my seven marathons featured nothing more than a gel or two. Hydration was (and is) the big deal, not food.

And that’s yet another key difference I’ve found between hiking and running. For hikes that last half a day or longer, food (in addition to hydration, of course) becomes a consideration. And within that primary consideration lurks a couple of others, namely weight-to-calorie ratio and whether or not to bring a stove and cook. And, as with every other aspect of hiking, opinions are legion. I’ve read many posts and comments, and gleaned from them all, even though I’m still weeks away from my first overnight.

I’ve also found that the appetites I’ve generated while hiking differ from those of running. A sweet sticky GU packet sounds so good on a long run, but I’m learning that my hiking cravings are different. I’ve done mostly half-day hikes so far, so using my running experience as a guide, I figured that just throwing a couple of Clif bars in my hip belt would suffice. And it has, to a point. A Clif bar is a decent snack at the mid-point of a 6-8 mile hike. But on my trip out to the AT last Wednesday for an 8-miler, I found the Clif bar I had brought along to be wholly unsatisfying. It was minty and sweet, and I found myself craving something salty. I choked it down with several shots of my Nuun electrolyte drink, and vowed to do better for myself next time.

So for my next half-day hike (or possibly a full day; I’m due for one) I’m looking at bringing a little of both sweet and salty. Having choices is good. Maybe I’ll create a GORP mix to try. Or grab some jerky and jelly beans. Regardless, I’ve reached the point where I need to start taking my hiking food choices much more seriously.

In an interesting and ironic parallel, the protagonist in the post-apocalyptic novel I’m writing is always searching for food. So maybe my search for the best hiking snacks will make me a more enlightened and effective writer…

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