Geez, with all the information from magazine covers, your friend who’s on a new fad diet, and television commercials, it’s hard to know what to eat and what not to eat. When you’re out on the trail, it can be even harder, because the bacon cheeseburger from your favorite fast-food joint won’t stay warm for two to three hours while you hike to make yourself hungry. It’s okay, relax. I have not asked a sports nutrition expert or registered dietitian for help, but I have rigorously tested five performance food products I believe are somewhat adequate, or at least moderately excusable, when you’re out there working hard in nature.
Cookies, Made By My Mother
Smart people have told me that cookies are not that good for you, especially in instances when you sit down with a box of Oreos and mow down an entire row of them when you’re not paying close attention. But shit howdy, are they tasty when you’re exercising, especially above 12,000 feet when all other snack products taste like dog food. When cookies made by my mother are not available, substitute cookies made by your mother, or really anyone who knows how to bake cookies without burning them.
Downsides: Chocolate melts in warm temperatures. Cookies baked in someone’s home kitchen are also traditionally not that sturdy, which means if you take a bag of cookies hiking, you often will find yourself enjoying a bag of cookie pieces.
Starbucks Doubleshot, 6.5 ounce can
Have you ever experienced caffeine withdrawal on a long hike, mountain bike ride, or climb? Did you kill anyone, or just want to kill anyone? If you answered yes to one or both of those questions, allow me recommend Starbucks Doubleshots to fix that next time, provided you still have friends. These little happiness hand grenades pack 120 milligrams of caffeine per can, and don’t taste at all like shit. At under seven ounces, you’re crazy not to pack one the next time you’ll be away from society for more than four hours at a time.
Evol Egg & Green Chile Burrito, frozen
You’ve done it. You’ve worked hard, stuck with the program, and you’ve finally eaten your 1000th peanut butter and jelly sandwich. While sitting on a rock or a downed tree or the summit of a peak. Congratulations. Now, reward yourself: Start carrying frozen burritos with you when you go hiking instead. When you get to the lunch spot, halfway point, or summit, your burrito will be lukewarm or a little chilled, and you’ll find yourself digging into your pack with the enthusiasm of a bear ripping off a Yosemite tourist’s car door to get the food inside. If it’s going to be a really long day, park your car facing south and toss another burrito on the dash, to “cook” while you’re out braving the wilderness (provided you’re not in bear country).
Fact: When you sweat, you need to replace electrolytes. Fact #2: Sodium is an electrolyte. One ounce of Fritos contains 170 milligrams of sodium, as well as corn. Corn is not an electrolyte, to my knowledge, but when smashed into chip form it is tasty, which is sometimes as good as being healthy when you’re in the mountains. During testing, Fritos proved to be one of the smaller chips on the market, so when you pull a bag of them out of your pack, they’re not smashed into like a billion pieces, as is the case with Ruffles and other types of potato chips. Plus they are totally flammable, so you can use them for kindling when lighting a campfire. They are not organic or anything.
Long rumored by a handful of cyclists as a sort of energy drink with semi-scientific benefits, Coca-Cola is a widely available beverage used by many people to grow large volumes of flesh. I tested it over several long bicycle rides over many years and have found it to be tasty, effervescent, and basically a really diluted, less healthy and less portable GU or Clif Shot—with about three times the sugar, none of the potassium, and way more high fructose corn syrup (all of which I guess are technically not that good for you). Still, it’s easy to find in gas stations, food carts, and bars and restaurants worldwide, making it a go-to when you’re in the middle of nowhere and have no other options.