Here at tentree, we are constantly striving to make the world a healthier place by planting trees and exploring what Mother Nature has to offer. When not planting, many of us enjoy one of the ultimate outdoor endeavors: the backpacking trip. Many things go into a successful trip, yet one area which is often overlooked while preparing for a trip is one’s health. Backpacking is extremely physical and by optimizing your health, you will be able to stay safe, be healthy and have fun on the trail. Enjoy these five simple ways to make your backpacking trip healthier – your body and the environment will thank you.
1) Ditch the Prepackaged Meals
Many of us are guilty of running into a gear store and buying a mass of prepackaged dehydrated meals ten minutes before our ride departs. Yes, they are convenient. No, they are not healthy. Besides being expensive, they are loaded with excessive sodium – far more than you need even when crushing forty five kilometers per day. Additionally, the packaging is non-reusable and contributes to waste in our landfills. Finally, the meals are littered with additives and chemicals, which hurt optimum performance.
A simple alternative to the prepackaged meal is to dehydrate your own food. For the price of 15-20 meals, you can purchase a quality dehydrator. Benefits include knowing exactly what is going into your meals, customization and the ability to go organic. Store them in reusable zip-lock bags in the freezer. By choosing reusable bags, you ease the burden on landfills. While dehydrating can be time consuming at first, you will notice an increase in taste, performance and recovery. You will be the envy of the campfire when you break out your creations.
3) Consider Protein Requirements in Advance
When taxing our muscles extensively, we have significant protein requirements that have to be met. While beef jerky is a great way to get some protein, it is hard on the digestive system and requires a ton of water to breakdown. Plus, you have to bring a lot to meet your body’s requirements. Translation: increased pack weight. A great alternative is to bring protein powders. I recommend pea, or rice based powders as they are easier on your gut than whey. Certain nuts and seeds are also excellent for protein; however, make sure to calculate how much protein they will give you before you depart.
4) Nix the DEET
Seriously, take your bottles and give them to the Fire Department for disposal (no landfills!). DEET is a disgusting chemical that leaches into your skin and can slowly poison you with toxins. Rashes, disrupted hormones and illness are just a few of the potential side effects. A great alternative is to utilize essential oils: make a spray of distilled water, citronella oil, holy basil oil, lavender oil, tea tree oil and rose geranium. Geranium is critical if you are in tick country. Not only will you smell awesome, you are playing a part in helping to keep the wilderness au natural! At tentree, we are working to reverse the damage humanity has inflicted to our planet. By not using DEET, you are not only protecting yourself, but protecting our dear friend Mother Nature. Show her some love and ditch the DEET!
5) Get New Sunscreen
Anyone who goes outdoors knows the value of sunscreen – after all, it protects our largest organ from roasting. A serious burn will not only put a damper on the trip, but can cause cancer. However, the vast majority of explorers slather on sunscreen loaded with chemicals that soak into our skin and can cause issues similar to DEET. Looks over labels and avoid sunscreens with benzoic acid, Octyl salicyclate, Oxybenzon, Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Phenylbenzimidazole, Parabens and Methoxycinnamate. Aim for sunscreens with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as the active ingredient. These types can be found at your local natural food store. Finally, don’t forget that your best defenses against burning are a SPF rated long sleeved wicking shirt and a tentree ballcap! As with any new gear or routine, be sure to experiment at home before heading out into the wild. You don’t want to have an allergic reaction, or find out you didn’t bring enough of your newly dehydrated foods. Of course, we always recommend doing your own research and talking to your local naturopathic doctor about how to stay healthy on the trail. Slather up!