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.


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.


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.


Escape LA – Anacapa Island

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

Just west of the Ventura coast lies Channel Island National Park.  You’ve likely heard of one of the islands, Catalina.   The national park is made up of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Miguel, and Santa Barabara islands.  The remaining Channel islands are used for a variety of purposes.  San Clemente and San Nicolas islands are owned by the Navy and used for training purposes, while Catalina is a tourist trap a privatized island for the more luxurious travelers.  I have some choice words for Catalina, but that will have to wait for another day.


Catalina, Santa Cruz and Anacapa all provide great day trips with accommodation options.  The smallest of the two, Anacapa, makes the perfect day trip, because of it’s proximity to Ventura harbor and easy trails.

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The island itself is divided into 3 different islands, East, Middle and West island.  The only island you’re able to visit is the Eastern island, about 1 square mile around, and has no beach access.  Anacapa sits high up on a plateau, about 100 feet to the ocean.  There’s little shade, several flights of stairs to climb, and lots of birds.  Lots of birds.

Visitor's Center

Visitor’s Center

Get There: The island can be reached by taking a 2 hour ferry ride.  Anacapa and Santa Cruz both have two ferry rides a day, so most people will ride out in the morning and head home at night without staying the night.  If you decide to camp, you must bring your own water, and conditions are rough.  The lack of shade gets a little annoying, and the wind gets really intense at night.  But if you’re up for the adventure, Anacapa doesn’t disappoint.

The island serves as a breeding ground for the Western Gull, as well as a dozen other endangered species of birds.  Nesting months are between May and July, and seeing these small birds hatch is a pretty incredible experience, especially from someone who hates birds.

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

The island has one particular amazing view.  Hiking to the eastern most point of the island gives way to views of middle and west Anacapa Island, with Santa Cruz island off in the distance.  This view alone makes the entire trip worth it.  It’s dirty, hot, cold, windy, dry, but the island’s scenery makes it all worth it.