Trekking the Trails

Backpackers across the globe marvel at the landscapes set before them as they trek across the terrain. Many factors help make a successful backpacking adventure such as knowing what to bring, efficient packing and minimizing your environmental impact on the places you explore with all-natural products.

What’s for Dinner?
The National Outdoor Leadership School estimates that backpackers burn 2,500–4,000 calories daily. This translates into 1.5–2.5 lbs of food per day, which may seem overwhelming (1). The key to packing efficient meals and snacks lies in understanding which foods will provide you with consistent energy.

Instead of gobbling up a candy bar, try what backpackers call gorp, a mix of nuts and dried fruits. Sticking to lightweight and low-bulk sized foods also helps when packing and carrying your backpack. Fresh fruits work for one to two days of travel. Any canned foods like tuna under the traditional 15 oz are okay to bring. Whole-grain pasta, brown rice or any dry foods that are easy to cook can provide a hearty dinner after a grueling day of hiking. Bringing several spices as well can heighten the taste of any meal. Many of these foods are readily available at your local natural products store. Pack an extra day’s worth of healthy food for an emergency backup.

And, don’t forget your water! Using a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) water bottle is appropriate for both backpacking and hiking trips (2). Durable, lightweight and BPA-free, this type of bottle is a great option for carrying water in an eco-friendly way. But how can you ensure clean water from streams and brooks? Investigate various types of water treatment options, such as boiling, pump filters and purifiers, and chemicals (halogens). One major hiking supplier recommends backpackers carry some form of water treatment when exploring wilderness (3).

Bugs, Bugs and More Bugs!
From mosquitoes to gnats, these little guys can quickly turn an exhilarating hike into one that is annoying and uncomfortable. Yet, no one enjoys the chemical slime of bug spray and the smell partnered with it. Choosing an all-natural bug spray can provide you with less smell and maintained protection.

Ingredients in an all-natural bug spray can include wintergreen oil, rosemary oil, cinnamon leaf oil, lemongrass oil and geraniol (4). These ingredients are plant based and non-toxic. Traditional bug spray contains chemicals such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), which can pose a serious threat to human health in high doses (5). But, natural sprays can be just as effective without the harmful chemicals.

Hair Care
Backpacking involves tents, hiking shoes and no running water. So, what’s a guy or gal to do when your luscious locks become grimy and greasy after a few days? The answer is a no-rinse natural shampoo! Companies have created a biodegradable, alcohol-free, pH-balanced soap that leaves backpackers with a clean, fragrant head of hair. This easy-to-use product simply requires a quick shake of the bottle and then a direct application to your hair. Massage until foaming lather covers hair and towel dry. No rinsing required. A win–win for the environment and for your hair.

Dominating Dirt and Grime
How can you clean your sweaty clothes and dirty dishes while hiking? Well, you whip out an all-purpose, biodegradable soap that can be used with hot, cold and even salt water.

Ingredients contained in soaps like this include purified water, vegetable-based biodegradable anionic and non-ionic cleaning agents, and oils (7). Many traditional soaps do not have a biodegradable, vegetable base which prohibits you from using them outdoors. Various companies have launched biodegradable soaps strong enough to devour dirt and grime but gentle enough to clean your body and clothes. Just add water.

Maintaining Efficiency
To maximize space and minimize weight, backpackers utilize two-in-one products. For example, pack a natural lotion that includes SPF. This way, you can moisturize your skin and protect it from constant sun exposure. All-natural lotions with added sun protection will keep your skin healthy and protect it from free radical damage. Such lotions may include nourishing ingredients like vitamins C and E and contain no synthetic fragrances or artificial colors.

Enjoy trekking the trails! WF

1. REI, “Expert Advice: Planning a Menu—What’s For Dinner?”, updated Dec. 2009, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
2. T.D. Wood, “Expert Advice: How to Choose a Water Bottle,”, updated Jan. 2010, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
3. T.D. Wood, “Expert Advice: How to Choose a Water Treatment System,”, updated Sept. 2009, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
4. EcoSMART, “Insect Repellent,”, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
5. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, “Tox Faqs for DEET,”, updated Aug. 2003, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
6. REI, “No Rinse Shampoo,”, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.
7. REI, “Campsuds Soap,”, accessed Jan. 13, 2011.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, April 2011