Story by Larry Bartlett
By now, us backcountry hunters have dialed in our gear lists for this upcoming season. We use high-tech gear and eliminate redundancy from our packs throughout this process. We know the individual weights of our layers, sleeping systems, optics, rifles, ammo, game bags, and food kits. Then that moment comes to mind when my cub pilot reaffirms what we already know—one passenger plus 50 pounds per flight! Mine has often said to me, “Dude, you gotta shed TEN more pounds.” WTF? That’s 160 ounces! Unless gear manufacturers start making rugged products out of air, I’ll continue struggling to hit that 50-pound pack weight for a serious week of Alaska hunting. Are you prepared? I used to often go over the limit costing me a lot more for extra gear shuttles. I’m tired of the extra cost and extraneous pack weight.
Trimming Pack Weight
We can all agree that our food kit is the heaviest variable of packable weight. And when I take a step back and look at what that food kit includes, it becomes clear it could use a little food-science infusion. In recent years I’ve co-authored peer-reviewed scientific articles that confirmed the caloric demands and metabolic demands of female and male backcountry hunters during remote hunting expeditions in Alaska. Some useful facts became clear from the data:
Fact 1) It IS okay to be calorie deficient while hunting, like a professional athlete, for a week or longer. While burning >4,000 calories/day, our research participants effectively operated on 2,000-calorie deficit in the field, and still retained skeletal muscle through accelerated rates of protein synthesis.
Fact 2) Minimum protein requirements must be met to prevent the loss of lean muscle mass and operational efficacy.
While demonstrating faith in those facts and targeting a fat-rich 2,300 calories/day with a protein intake of 0.8 gm/2.2 pounds of body weight, if you select foods with 140-150 calories per ounce of weight, you’ll hit the target for calories to weight, but you’ll need to be highly strategic with your protein sources. This strategy will help you construct a nutrient-smart backcountry menu that weighs just one pound per day and provides you with a smart field diet your body will use for constant movement.
Additions and Supplements
Lightweight meal enhancers such as coconut oil and olive oil are great to add to meals like oatmeal, ramen noodles or any meal when fat calories are short (i.e., Day 3); they also help regulate blood-sugar levels. Here’s a tip: Olive oil delivers 240 calories and zero protein per ounce, whereas bone broth powder contains 90 calories and 21gm protein per ounce. If your meal planning leaves you short on fat or protein requirements, consider these options serving opposite purposes and having the same weight. Bone broth added to a meal or sipped is great for securing protein needs on hard days.
Hydration is another key component for wilderness athletes. Drinking clean water often throughout the day helps make your stomach feel fuller and it improves digestion and optimizes physical function. The greater your hydration the greater your daily performance.
The above-mentioned guidelines are important, but only take us so far. Through support provided by the Department of Defense – National Security Innovation Network, we developed Minimus Nutrition to synergistically lighten and supercharge the meal kits of our Special Operators in the military. Using scientifically proven blends of carbohydrate (i.e. fructose and sucrose) and fatty acids (i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, oleic acid, and medium-chain triglycerides) to enhance fuel delivery coupled with an instantized essential amino acid profile that will optimize muscle remodeling, Minimus also contains plant fiber to aid with digestion and coenzyme Q-10 to improve metabolism. Minimus is the latest advancement in food science for nutrient delivery in the backcountry and should be considered to improve your performance.
Minimus as part of your Backpacking Meal Plan
Now that I have Minimus in my nutrition arsenal, I include at least two packets per day. I prefer one Cocoa Dust packet (one ounce) per day plus one packet of either Tater Dust (two ounces) or Mater Dust (one ounce) per day for supplementing energy needs when I’m low. I’ll pick the meal or soup that best compliments either flavor, and choose that option for the second daily dose of Minimus. If weight isn’t a major concern, I’ll include all three flavors at a total weight addition of four ounces per day. This added four ounces per day in bulk weight delivers the complement of nutrients mentioned above with minimal weight. If weight is a concern, then I cherry pick my food list to draw micro-ounces of peanut butter, nuts or fruit from the day’s ration plan and substitute Minimus as appropriate to make daily weight.
For other sample backpacking meal plans, including an 8-day plan intended for women 120-125lbs, visit mininusnnutrition.com.
Larry Bartlett is the owner of Pristine Ventures and CEO of Minimus Nutrition based in Fairbanks, Alaska. Pristine Ventures offers innovative products for wilderness adventure, such as inflatable rafts, synthetic game bags and how-to books and videos, while Minimus Nutrition delivers top-shelf nutrient density for human-powered expeditions. Larry is a staple contributor to Alaska’s hunting and fishing communities and continues to deliver creative innovations in the outdoors industries.