Food in the Backcountry

One of the essentials to bring when camping in the backcountry is food. We all know that food is essential for our bodies to live and thrive. With the exception of fasting for brief amounts of time, no one recommends eating just once a month or even once a week. While there are a variety of opinions on what diet is best, almost all nutrition experts would agree that it is essential to eat food on a daily basis.

When doing long hikes in the wilderness it is important to increase your calorie and protein intake since you are exerting yourself more. It is also a good idea to bring more food than you think you’ll need just incase you get lost or stranded due to getting hurt. Many hikers recommend planning for at least one full extra day’s worth of food. Our family has been on a five day hike before where I didn’t adequately pack enough food as I was trying to plan our hike so that we are carrying as little weight as possible. Thankfully we were able to make it stretch but we were hungry throughout the trip. My wife said she would plan the food for the next trip and ended up overpacking causing our loads to be much heavier than it needed to be as we had lots of food left over after the trip. Through experience we have learned a good balance of having the right amount of food but not have more weight to carry than we need to. That said, it is good to plan at least one extra day’s worth of food just incase of an emergency.

In bear country it is often required to have a bear canister food storage system or to hang your food in a
tree. This is because bears and other wildlife can smell miles away. Some sources say that bears can smell scents up to around 20 miles away. You definitely don’t want a bear digging into your tent in search of food while you’re sleeping. It would be a nightmare to wake up to! It is recommended to store your food in a bear canister or bear hang at least 100 feet away from your campsite. Just don’t be inconsiderate like one man was to us who basically put his bear hang on a tree in our campsite. I wanted to go bring my bear resistant food canister into his campsite to make a point but thankfully I resisted the temptation to do so as that would have been responding in the flesh instead of in the spirit.

It’s not just the bears, cougars, elk, or other big animals that might try to get into your tent if they smell food in it. So even if you’re not in bear country it would still be wise to bring a hard food canister to store your food away from the campsite otherwise rodents (rats, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, etc) may chew their way inside of your tent. It is also vital to not feed the wildlife. Yes, it may be cute seeing a chipmunk or bird eat food out of your hand, but you are conditioning the animals to see humans as their food source. This can cause them to unlearn their instincts to find food in the winter when there is less people hiking but it can also cause these little critters to get aggressive towards humans along the hiking trail. Likewise, don’t feed the big animals either. There is a saying that goes “a fed bear is a dead bear.” This is because a bear in the wild that grows accustomed to seeing humans as a food source can become more aggressive and attack humans. A friend of mine had a grizzly encounter this past summer. The bear kept walking towards them as they were fishing and they were having a hard time scaring the bear off. While they were able to get out of the area safely, this could have been fatal. They learned that other hikers and fisherman were throwing salmon towards the bear. Sometimes this was because they thought it was an exciting experience to feed the bear and sometimes it was out of fear, throwing the bear a fish in hopes that it wouldn’t come after them. This conditioning caused this grizzly to be a danger to hikers and fisherman. This then endangers the life of the bear as sometimes the rangers will have to put them down so they’re not a threat to humans.

Jesus gave us a model prayer that includes praying for our daily bread (Luke 11:3). When we are hungry sometimes our stomach will growl as a reminder to eat food. While this is a great reminder to eat food, it is easy to forget taking time to partake in our spiritual food. By spiritual food I mean reading the Bible on a consistent basis. The word of God is spiritual food for our daily life. Reading it more than once a day can be helpful in forming a healthy spiritual habit. The psalmist says about the righteous man in Psalm 1:2 that “his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Food is absolutely necessary to live but we see that Job’s attitude to the word of God was that it was even more of a priority to him than his necessary food.

Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

In Psalms we see that the word of God is to be desired more than “much fine gold” and sweeter than “honey and the honeycomb.” God’s word gives us warnings that if we take heed to them will benefit us greatly. God’s word was not meant to be grievous to us nor to take away the fun out of life, but was meant for our own benefit individually and collectively as a community.

Psalm 19:9–11 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: And in keeping of them there is great reward.

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.


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