I am constantly on the prowl for 72 hour kit and backpacking food that’s healthy or, at least, healthier. Here are a few ideas for healthify your hiking and backpacking foods, as well as your 72 hour kit food preps.
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Backpacking Food for 72 Hour Kits
My big problem with most of the commercial versions of backpacking food is that they taste nasty and/or they’re full of cruddy ingredients. There are several freeze dried foods on the market now and those are usually superior in taste, if nothing else. What you’re really purchasing is the convenience of not having to come up with these emergency meals yourself. There’s no shame in saving time, as long as it doesn’t give you indigestion.
Perhaps there are a few things we can actually make ourselves and maybe, just maybe, there might be a decent commercial variety we can try.
Make Your Own Healthier Backpacking Food
One of the easiest ways for ensuring that your backpacking and 72 hour kit foods are as healthy as they can be is to grow, harvest and preserve them yourself. I’m not to the point of freeze drying my own full-blown meals for my 72 hour kit, but I do make a lot of the snack foods we include. Some easy snack foods to prepare are:
These taste like sweet, apple chips with your solar oven and are so easy to dehydrate yourself! Really any fruit will work for dehydrating and fruit is always pleasing to eat.
Most home-dehydrated food will last about a year or so, if it’s stored properly. Always keep your preserved food in a cool, dark place away from moisture of any kind. A great way to keep your dehydrated foods sealed and preserved is with a vacuum-type sealer like this one.
Other fruits to try dehydrating include apricots, pears and grapes. To learn to make your own raisins, click here.
If fruit leather is a big hit at your house, try making your own in your dehydrator from pears or watermelon. So tasty! Here’s a general tutorial on making fruit leather. And here’s a recipe for pumpkin fruit leather (tastes like pumpkin pie) from Common Sense Homesteading.
FYI on Dehydrating
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use your regular oven at it’s lowest setting. You can also use your solar oven as a dehydrator. Here’s a post on how to make apple chips with your solar oven (the sun provides completely free energy, by the way).
The best part about making your own jerky is that you can control the ingredients yourself. If you’re a hunter or you raise your own meat animals, you can be pretty certain that your meat is free of pesticides, chemical enhancements and other gunk.
If you don’t raise your own, you can find clean meat that’s local to you. Eat Wild has a food finder that might be helpful (click here to access that) and Weston Price has an App for their Find Real Food Shopping Guide to help in your search (click here to access that).
Graywolf Survival shares his idea of the best backpacking food with his GORP post and recipe. Be sure to read this because it’s so helpful!
If you’re just going on a quick day hike, have your kids help you make this simple, healthy trail mix.
Packaged Food for the 72 Hour Kit
If you’re going to purchase backpacking food and you want healthy or organic options, then you’re going to have to be prepared to spend more money and look pretty hard to find them.
Most commercial backpacking foods are filled with preservatives and cheap salts in order to make them last for years and years. Thrive has a very short list of organic freeze dried foods and they’re not really 72 hour kit-friendly.
According to Misty from Your Own Home Store shared her opinion of Thrive in her fine article on Which Type of Food Storage is Best. I asked her about healthier options for commercial food storage and this was her reply to me:
“I’m glad you found [the article] helpful! As for organic/responsibly produced food the only one I’m familiar with is Thrive. They have a (very small) organic line, but the vast majority of their foods are non-GMO. You can find a lot of information about each of their products on this list, but let me know if you have questions about a specific one.”
Is Organic Important?
That’s for you to decide with research and thought. For me, the organic label is a great place to start, but since there’s so little oversight with the program (and since it costs so much for farmers to qualify for the label), I’ve come to a place in my health journey where I’m more interested in local products, raised as cleanly as possible. I’d rather be able to just talk to the growers and find out what their practices are and if their philosophy matches mine – or, at least, comes close.
If I can’t do that, I’ll settle for non-GMO. Right now, with American and Canadian products, the organic label does mean that the food is non-GMO. Here’s more information on that from GMO Awareness.
Valley Food Storage
James from Valley Food Storage contacted me to see if I’d like to review their products and, being a new company and one I’d never heard of, I decided to take him up on it after looking over their website.
I told him right off that I’m a foodie (although I have a big family and not a big budget), and so I’d be analyzing the products ingredients, as well as tastes and ease of use. That didn’t scare James any as he was confident his products would please. I chose to sample the lime chili and once it came, the kids and I gathered around the pot.
I was going to make it up on the Kelly Kettle but we’d already packed it in anticipation of our move and I had no clue where it was. So, we used the regular stove. We didn’t feel like we were eating fun backpacking food because we didn’t have a fire, but it cooked up quickly and well.
A Backpacking Food Health Challenge
I think I picked chili for the challenge of it. I wanted to see if any of my five kiddos would like the flavor. If they did, I figured we’d be on to something with Valley Food Storage. Three out of the five kids devoured their samples and asked for more. I’m lucky I got any at all.
The two who didn’t care for it were my youngest, a two and a six year old – no big surprise that they didn’t care much for the spice and beans. I, however, really liked it because I have mature taste buds and food sense. It was yummy.
The ingredients of the lime chili are as follows:
- Northern beans
- Pinto beans
- Food starch
- Sea salt
- Bell peppers
- Cumin seed
- Chicken broth
- Cheese and onion powder
- Xanthum gum
- Citric acid
- Black pepper
- Lime juice
- Jalapeño and cayenne pepper
No MSG, no HFCS, no Trans Fats, no Cholesterol and no fillers of any kind.
It is a perfectly pristine food with not one ingredient a foodie might disapprove of? Don’t be daft, it’s food storage food. For emergencies and lean times, we’ll be glad to have food of any kind to eat!
This is the cleanest packaged storage food I’ve seen on the market, though. The sea salt alone is worth purchasing these products, from my perspective. Commonly used, cheap salt is so destructive to your health and so hard on your system. I also love the fact that there’s no high fructose or regular corn syrup.
I haven’t run across an ingredient on their site that I haven’t been able to pronounce or one that has been unfamiliar to me. That is a big plus in my book!
More Dish on the Ingredients
I asked James a few questions looking for specifics on the ingredients in my chili and thought I’d share them with you, as well as his responses.
Here are my questions on the ingredients:
- Sweet whey – sweetened with what? Source?
- Food starch – from which food? Potato?
- Chicken broth – any other ingredient in the broth besides water and chicken? Actual broth or bouillon?
- Sugar – white/table? Brand? I notice you use “cane sugar” in your strawberry oatmeal – is this simply sugar or something else?
- I love the use of sea salt – thank you!!! Any particular brand of sea salt?
- Is the food processed here in Utah? If so, are there any items sourced “locally” – as in, somewhere in Utah or even the intermountain west?
Here are his responses:
- We don’t really sweeten the whey with anything its just what its called after the process is complete. It differentiates itself from sour whey which is and acid base process.
- Our starch comes from some corn (South American, to try and stay away from GMO) and potatoes.
- We only use cane sugar and we source it out so no brand, same thing on the sea salt.
- Our product are all manufactures here in Utah and we source as much as we can from here but it can change depending on the quality of the crops.
One of my favorite things about their website is that every product has an ingredients label included in it’s listing, along with photos of the food. PLUS, they’ve clearly listed how many servings and whether or not the food is gluten and/or dairy free!
My One Complaint
The only complaint I had from a 72 hour kit and backpacking foods perspective was about the packaging. The mylar bag was sealed up great and would last me 25 years. BUT, it was full of air and wouldn’t squish down in my pack. The amount of food in the bag was small compared to how much space the bag took up (the food bulks when you add water), but I couldn’t justify the space it took up.
It’s a bugger but the only thing I can think of to fix that is to open the package, remove the air and reseal it in a food saver. That would reduce the shelf life, perhaps, but I could at least fit it into my pack. We rotate our food consistently in our 72 hour kits so it’s not something I’m worried about and it certainly won’t prevent me from ordering from Valley Food Storage.
I plan to slowly build up or backpacking food first, as we can afford it, and then move on to some long term items to replace what we have now that is simply not up to my current standards of health and well being. I’m grateful to have any food stored but I’ll be super happy to have healthier options in a time of emergency or need.
Thank you James and the Valley Food Storage team – so glad to have found you!
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*I received one bag of White Bean and Lime Chili for review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post and it reflects my honest opinion of the product. It’s good eatin’.