How to Lighten Your Backpack: Fueling hikers and others who need lightweight food

Posted on 01-04-2019 , by: Nancy Clark , in , , , 0 Comments

Are you thinking about doing a multi-day backpacking trip? A thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail? Rowing across the Atlantic with all of your food? Going camping for the weekend?

Whatever your outdoor adventure, you want to fuel well so that you feel strong, have stamina, maintain your weight—and yes, even have yummy meals you look forward to eating.

To help thru-hikers and all outdoor adventurers fuel well, registered dietitian and backcountry foodie Aaron Owens Mayhew RD has written Ultralight Recipes for Outdoor Explorers. Aaron is an experienced hiker. I met her at a sports nutrition conference and was totally impressed by her nutrition knowledge as it relates to eating from a backpack, as well as her passion for helping hikers and other outdoor adventurers to be well nourished.

Aaron knows her stuff, including how to dehydrate food, pack lightweight meals, and prepare yummy menus for hungry hikers. Her recipes include meals that you may or may not need to cook. Some you just rehydrate, others you can just eat as is. Many of the recipes are for vegetarians and vegans (or have a vegan option). The book includes tasty suggestions for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, desserts and beverages, as well as information about calories per ounce, the weight of the recipe, prep time at the campsite (short!) —and even a template for labeling each food-pack, so you know when to eat what. What more could a hungry hiker want?

Here’s a sample of one of her recipes. For more recipes, see Ultralight Recipes for Outdoor Explorers; available at

Cake Batter Dessert Hummus

This dessert (and snack) is a treat, not only for athletes on a gluten-free diet but anyone hankers for a spoonful of healthy-ish chocolate cake batter. As long-distance backpacker and registered dietitian, Aaron Owens Mayhew reports. “This recipe is quite addictive and dangerous to keep in the house. It’s just plain delicious.”

Aaron dehydrates this dessert (adding the peanut butter at the time of consumption) and enjoys it as a treat on long hikes, along with a chocolate mint Honey Stinger Waffle. You can enjoy it in the comfort of your kitchen!

1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans drained and rinsed*

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1/2 cup water (or to desired consistency)

2 tablespoons nut butter

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth, adding water to the desired consistency.
  2. Get your spoon and dig in!

Yield: 4 servings

Total calories: 800; 200 calories per serving; 34 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 5 g fat

*If you have the time and patience to remove the skins from the garbanzo beans (chick peas), you’ll end up with a smoother batter. If not, expect a slightly gritty texture. (It is not at all offensive, but just different from standard cake batter.)


Menu Planning Services

Aaron plans menus for all kinds of outdoor adventurers. She knows when hikers consume the right balance of carbs, protein, fat and calories, they have a lot more fun, are able to maintain weight, and feel so much better than with an inadequate food plan, To learn about her ultralight meal planning services, visit

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