Written by: Shilletha Curtis. Shilletha is a New Jerseyan who loves to hike, skimboard and try new things. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, then became a Veterinarian Technician. Shilletha's goal is to be the second Black woman to get a Triple Crown, completing the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. Find Shilletha on Instagram: @_dragonsky_.
Food is the love of my life and we are well acquainted with each other. We are forever intertwined, like DNA in a beautiful, twisted ladder. Eating is my favorite activity especially while hiking. On the trail I become a ravenous bear searching desperately for any type of sustenance.
All hope is not lost though as I always come prepared with a variety of savory, sweet and salty snacks to quench the roaring beast in my belly. Eating healthy and nutritious foods are especially important to me as I truly believe that you are what you eat.
Hydration is equally as important, as I’ve learned while traversing the forest in the overwhelming humid summers of Jersey. One too many times I have felt sick to my stomach while taking on steep switchbacks under the blazing sun. Warm sweat would trickle from every pore on my body and an angry migraine would soon follow. Drinking water was a seldom thing I did as I tried to keep up with other hikers in my group and my body paid the price for it. Dehydration is nothing to play around with. Soon after I did some research and found that my body truly needed electrolytes, sugar and salt; something I had strayed away from due to health conditions that run in my family. Feeling fatigued, having low morale and cramping throughout the body are one of many symptoms in which your body is screaming “Feed me! Water please!”
I want to feel refreshed, energized and have mental clarity when I hike so I decided to add some delicious snacks and electrolyte tablets to the mix.
Best Snacks for Hiking: Mango
Mangoes are my favorite fruit (second to lemons), and I am always sure to grab a bag of them. Natierra makes Organic Dried Mango Strips that really satisfies my sweet craving with 24g of sugar, 424mg of potassium and no chemicals. Because the mangoes are freeze-dried they have a soft crunch and I enjoy the texture. Dried mangoes are equally as delicious, and I find them to offer a more juicy approach. I plan on slicing, seasoning and dehydrating my own mangoes for my thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail next month. I can never see myself getting sick of this sweet gem.
Best Snacks for Hiking: Baby Food
Nutrients, vitamins and minerals are all things that we need to be healthy and I found a snack which encompasses it all. I’ll admit that I have been judged by other hikers and my friends for always carrying a pouch of baby food. Yup, you read that right. I have no shame when it comes to going into the baby food aisle at Wegmans and scouting out these goods. Weighing in at about 4-6oz a packet, I generally like to carry two on a day hike. Some would consider that heavy but it is worth the weight, and the wait. Sometimes because of the weather or adrenaline I find myself struggling to take a bite of solid food. I find baby food to be less intimidating when confronted with the mental aspect of eating when you don’t want to. The consistency of baby food is similar to applesauce or a dicey smoothie but nonetheless good. Happy Tot is my jam every time, I like that they use organic ingredients and have different categories, from to “Super Morning” to “Fiber & Protein,” and others. Combinations ranging from organic bananas, blueberries, oats, yogurt and chia to just mangoes provide a plethora of snacks to choose from. Savory or sweet, baby food has it all. Dairy and non-dairy lovers can enjoy these as they make recipes that are loaded with fruits, vegetables, grains such as quinoa, chia or flax seed and some substitute coconut milk rather than dairy yogurt. As long as you stay away from dinner meals like chicken and potatoes or what have you, then in my humble opinion you can do no wrong. Your body will gladly thank you.
Best Snacks for Hiking: Nut Butter
Then comes the protein, the building blocks of amino acids and my muscles which carry me relentlessly through the valleys and upon the mountain ridges. Nut butters are generally smooth, creamy and rich. However, only one can take the reins — peanut butter has a new competitor and its name is Almond. Almond butter is a great grab and go snack as they conveniently come in individual packets that you simply knead and squeeze into your mouth. My personal favorite brand is Barney because it doesn’t have a gritty texture that feels like sandpaper in my mouth, like many others I have tried. It can still make my mouth a little dry so I always make sure to have a bottle of water nearby, with electrolytes of course.
Hiking Hydration: Nuun
I am definitely living the Nuun life to the fullest and often rally behind these fizzy, tasty and healthy tablets. Since first discovering Nuun this past fall, I have asked myself why I didn’t try it sooner. I wish I had known about Nuun over the summer when my body so desperately needed it. But now the tides have changed Nuun comes with me everywhere I go. We are now best friends for life.
These tablets have been a huge life-changer for me and have helped me enjoy hiking that much more. Drinking water has always been iffy for me as I enjoy seltzer water and flavors that enhance the taste rather than keep it basic. Flavors make water more appealing and makes me want to drink the water rather than stare at it with discontent. What’s more to love about Nuun is there are a variety of flavors and tablets for different activities. Nuun makes tablets for sports, immunity, rest and vitamins for a wide array of activities before and after. Sodium is paramount and when we sweat we lose this mineral and electrolytes through our pores. Sodium is responsible for retaining water inside and outside of our bodies cells and the lack thereof is disastrous. I can finally say goodbye to headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue because I have made it a priority to keep up with hydration. My rule is if I am not urinating often, there’s a high chance that my body is not getting sufficient amounts of hydration. To help me drink, I also like to attach a hose to my smart water bottle for easy access or to put my bottle in my bottle holder in my harness on my Swift X pack for the visual.
Staying hydrated and having delicious and nutritious snacks on-hand can really impact how you feel and perform on the trail. Hiking comes with its challenges and lows, but eating and drinking should always be part of the experience. Adequate fuel and proper hydration should help build you up, not bog you down and make you move like a slug.
Ingesting proteins and sugars, and having adequate levels of sodium, work to make the body live up to its demands while climbing, bouldering and other outdoor activities. I love food and I am a firm believer of replenishing the nutrients my body has lost but keeping it as tasty as can be. It has been a true learning experience for me over the past few months, but I am glad that I have learned how to take better care of my body.
The most important lesson: listen to your body. If you take care of it, it will most certainly take care of you and carry you further than you have ever been.