How Gluten Free is Changing Camp Food…

I’m always behind on two things in life, diet trends and technology.  I never got onboard the Diet Coke bandwagon, somehow missed all the Trans-Fat hysteria, and never understood the Atkins diet craze, especially when Dr. Atkins ate slabs of bacon every day yet convinced people to follow his stupid diet.

I honestly thought Gluten Free was another one of those trends, because it seemed like suddenly everyone had a gluten intolerance.  But I digress.

Rewind to last summer, July 2012 when I took a trip deep into the Ansel Adams Wilderness near Mammoth Lakes.  I had previously done my usual REI pilgrimage to pick up supplies, a can of fuel, 4 freeze dried meals, some water purification tabs, and a new knife.

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I didn’t have any sort of method for picking out my meals for the trip, I think I just grabbed whatever sounded good.  But I do remember looking on the back of the package and seeing tons of chemicals that I didn’t understand.  “well there’s no way it’ll kill me” was my likely thought process.

While it didn’t kill me, twice during the trip I remember feeling borderline sick, bloated, slightly dehydrated but not as a result of hiking.  I recognized the feeling and realized it was not a symptom of altitude sickness, but this was how I felt after eating a large, cheap meal from the Chinese place a couple blocks over.

Fast forward to this summer, when I took a trip to the Channel Islands.  My girlfriend had recently gone Gluten Free and I noticed a couple brands that were sporting labels that state Gluten Free.

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This had me a little curious, so we picked up all of our meals from Gluten Free options.  Later on during the trip, I noticed a huge difference in the quality of ingredients.  But what really drew my attention was how great I felt after eating these meals.  While prior meals had left me feeling sick to my stomach or bloated, the Gluten Free meals left me feeling energized and ready to continue on my our adventure.

See, prior to the gluten free revolution in camp food, freeze dried meals such as backpackers pantry contained a cocktail of preservatives.  But this silent revolution has started to debunk the myth that backpacker’s meals need high levels of sodium because of the amount of calories due to your active lifestyle.

I encourage all of you to try this sometime.  Next outdoors chance you get, try comparing how you feel after a bag of Pad Thai (usually very high in sodium, preservatives, MSG) vs a bag of gluten free AlpineAire bliss.

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Debunked: Dehydration urban myths

 

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Dehydration has a number of urban myths surrounding it.  Here’s a handy little infographic debunking a few of the most common myths.

Eating snow can actually dehydrate and lower your body temperature, increasing the likelihood of hypothermia.

Drinking urine is a common misconception.  Urine develops bacteria the moment it comes in contact with oxygen, causing more harm for a body entering dehydration.

While cacti occasionally contain excess water, reaching this water will likely take more energy than what it’s worth.  Chances are, you will have cut through 5 or 6 cacti before reaching one with water, and at that point, you’ve used up more energy than what it’s worth.

Why we spend so much, to live so simply

Last weekend as I was driving up the Kern River late at night, I began to wonder, why do we put ourselves through so much, all in the name of camping.  I remember my girlfriend asking me what drew me to camping and it got me thinking late into the night.

Comparing motives for camping is like comparing tastes in music.  We don’t really know why we do it, we just go with it because it feels good.  For most of us, it’s an escape from the daily To-Do list or routine, but for others it’s a necessity for our personal emotional well being.

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I’ve been camping since I was a kid, and whether I was with my family or scouts, the outdoors is a irrevocable element in my life.

As human beings, we are naturally drawn to fire, to water, and to the earth.  Camping is to homemaking, as BBQing is to cooking.  It’s not that a rack of ribs can’t be made indoors, but it tastes so much better outside.

This same principle applies to camping, hiking and backpacking.  Jogging through our home neighborhood would give us the same cardiovascular benefits as hike, but that added element of curiosity into the unknown, wanderlust, or thrill of leaving one’s sense of security is what keeps us human.

But whether we’re backpacking or luxury camping (aka ‘Glamping’), there comes a point after the first meal has been consumed, or after somebody finally figured out how to start the fire, that we realize there’s nothing left to do but sit and do nothing.

I’d like to argue with you, that this moment is the most important part of camping.  The tent stakes that you left behind, those have already left your mind.  Your cell phone has already died. The fact that you didn’t buy the -30 degrees mummy bag, and opted to go with a cheaper bag, this no longer matters.

But when all the travelling has ceased, we’re forced to live in the moment, and this is why you should be adventuring in the outdoors.

Bucket List – Kern River

Bucket List is a feature that will routinely discuss multi-day excursions around the state of California, as well as outside the state.  This intended as a travel guide and resource for areas that would otherwise offer little information.

Nestled in the foothills of the south western region of the Sierra Nevada mountains is the Kern River.  Fed by runoff from Mount Whitney, Kern River is most notably known for it’s white water rafting and bed & breakfasts.

The weather in the canyon itself is dynamic.  Ground temperatures can be hot and dry, while rain can roll in at any moment and coat the surrounding mountain peaks with snow.

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A scant 3 hour drive north of Los Angeles, Kern river serves as a perfect get away for those looking to immerse themselves in nature for a day.  The river serves as a gateway to the Sierras for those living in the southern half of the state.

River side campgrounds are a plenty, and reservations can be made here, here, or here.  Camping is plentiful in the area, so while reservations might get you a better spot next to the river, they’re not necessary.

This means Kern river is open to the best kind of travel accommodations, impulsive weekend trips.  Outdoors adventures are not meant to be planned out, down to each and every step of the way.  Nature has no schedule, and planning minor details to your trip prevents you from living in the moment.

Swimming in the river is strongly discouraged.  The river itself was named after Edward M Kern, who nearly drowned to death while venturing out into the waters.  Kern has strong under currents, so even when it looks safe, the river can grab you at any moment and take you down it’s turbulent path.

Five Household Items That Can Save Your Life

We’ve all heard it.  Two backpackers went out on a seemingly easy hiking trip but fail to return.  This situation is more common than not, and can happen even on a trail you may have visited once or twice.  While there’s no remedy to prevent getting lost, there are remedies to improve your survival odds.

Rather than preaching the preparation of an ’emergency kit’, I’d like to tell you about five small everyday items that can be used to increase your survival odds.  Emergency kits are often cumbersome and overlooked because of the additional weight they add to a backpackers payload.  In total, these items should weigh less then half a pound and fit inside a pill box.

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Condoms

Aside from their intended use (which is also helpful while camping), Condoms are a vital survival tool.  Most utensils used for storing water are bulky and inconvenient, but condoms come in a small package (pun!) and can hold up to a gallon of water without breaking.  It’s still unknown whether the flavored condoms will actually make the water taste better, but this will help prolongue dehydration nonetheless.

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Glasses

Whether you wear them or not, glasses are the Swiss Army Knife of this blog post.  Aside from making you see better, a pair of glasses can be used as a distress signal.  By holding the glasses at an angle relative to the sun, the glasses can grab the attention of somebody up to a mile away.

But that’s not all… glasses can be used to start a fire.  Remember lighting ants on fire with a magnifying glass as a kid?  Same concept, just gather some kindling, get a good angle under the sun, and hold the glasses about an inch above the kindling.  The glasses must be convex (usually prescription), and made of glass.  One of the most potent sources of kindling can be found using the lint in your socks, and this generally burns quickly, so make sure to have something that burns a little slower below.  You’ll have to be a little patient, and need to blow on the ashes to give it a little oxygen.

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Dental Floss

We all know you have some of this buried deep in your bathroom.  You’ll remember this as that stringy stuff your dentist always gives you, but you always forget to use.  To quote my favorite comedian, the late and great Mitch Hedberg “People who smoke cigarettes, they say ‘Man you don’t know how hard it is to quit smoking’ Yes I do – It’s as hard as it is to start flossing!”

Dental floss is another multi tool.  It’s importnat to note, that floss is extremely valuable as fishing line.  Dental floss can also be used as a belt or shoestring.  But most importantly, floss is a vital tool to adhere sticks together for shelter.  By weaving inbetween poles, floss can hold wilderness shelters together with enough strength to lay brush on top to help preserve heat.

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Fritos

That’s right, Fritos can increase your survival odds.  Corn chips are generally made from dough that’s derived from corn or maize and then deep fried, making these chips caked in oil.  Corn chips burn unlike anything else.  They light as easily as kindling, but they burn slowly, making for the ideal fire starter.

By building a fire with larger logs on top and smaller sticks towards the bottom, you can place a few corn chips near the smaller stuff and let them slowly start the remaining logs.  You might have to feed the fire some smaller sticks until the larger logs light, but if the flame goes out, you can just as easily light another corn chip.

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Paper Clips

Paper clips make for the perfect emergency fish hooks, should you find yourself stranded near a body of water.  Fasten together a long pole and your dental floss, and you’ll have yourself a nice makeshift fishing pole.  Paper clips are small and add almost no weight, making this tool a near necessity for any backpacker.