So, we’ve discussed the WHY. Now, let’s talk a bit about the HOW. There are…
Most hikers will not go anywhere without an extra energy source in their pack. This usually comes in the form of something easy to carry and quick acting. Some of these products suggest that they be taken with water and others are intended to be added to water. In either case the water acts to allow the product to be absorbed quickly. These supplements are intended to get you through the normal daily adventure.
All well and good, and recommended, but NOT what the Ten Essentials are suggesting. Again, the key word is “Extra”. The extra food is for what might be needed if things are not normal. This essential goes in the bottom of your pack and is not intended to be used unless you are on mile 98 of an Ultramarathon and have run out of energy and everything else.
Think about what you might like in an emergency situation. It’s a good thought because emergency responders are likely to look in your pack for something to sustain you. How about something that can be heated and provide warmth to your core in cold environments? What about something that will provide sustained energy to get you out of an unexpected situation? How about something that you will not snack on and be gone when you need it most? What other criteria can you think about that will direct your choice of “extra food”?
Start out at the grocery store and walk the aisles. Most of what you focus on will be too heavy or too inviting or too fragile or will spoil before you need it. If you are going to carry a stove, try the soup section and find dried soup. It can be rehydrated, heated and provide warmth in cold temperatures. It has no “use by date” and can be sealed in a plastic baggie.
The obvious alternative is to find the camp food section and choose a meal requiring little added product or preparation. Maybe just a measure of water. Without a stove, it may be important to choose something that does not have to be heated. A potentially less available alternative is to find, and use, a military MRE (Meal-Ready-to-Eat). These are a bit bulky but provide balanced nutrition and are certainly not likely to be nibbled along the way. These have become better over the years but they are not as tasty as other options. They are designed to be stored for long periods of time and are not likely to have a “Use By Date”.
Speaking of which, most food has one of those “Use By Dates” so if you are using commercially produced food (including snack bars), note the date and rotate your stock by purchasing a new item and consuming the “about to expire” product. Most “Use By Dates” do not mean the product is not useable. It may just be a bit crunchy or dry. The hard part comes in finding something that is not heavy that can be stored in your pack.
Remember, these extras are for emergency use so don’t expect one more trail snack to get you through an emergency.