GU Energy Gel
GU Energy Gel (courtesy, REI)
Gear Guy

What’s the best bet for high-nutrition, low-fuss trail food?

I'm interested in joining a local search-and-rescue te that requires members to have 24 to 48 hours worth of non-perishable food in their daypack. What are some good foods to carry that are light and don’t take up much space, but would provide me with the necessary nutrients? Jon Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

GU Energy Gel

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Snickers bars. Lots and lots of Snickers bars. Seriously. For 24 to 48 hours, it won’t do you the least bit of harm. They’re full of calories and even have some protein. They keep for months. And, they’re delicious.

GU Energy Gel

GU Energy Gel GU Energy Gel

I’m being only mildly facetious. I can recall plenty of times when I’ve been on a hike or a bike ride and have bonked—light-headedness, fatigue, slight tunnel vision, the whole works. Eat a Snickers, and in five minutes I’m cured. Plus, I did search-and-rescue work for years, and a Snickers bar or three were always in my pack as my emergency food supply.

That said, the list of things you can take is long. Dried fruit. Nuts. Energy bars (you now can buy a Snickers-like energy bar called the Marathon, and they’re wonderful!). Energy gels (those little things that come in Mylar packets and sell for about $1.50 each—perfect for a quick energy hit). Those little things you can buy at the grocery store with crackers and cheese. Heck, military MREs if you can stomach ‘em.

Make yourself a food packet that includes stuff from the list above and some hot items such as hot chocolate or dried soup, or even a freeze-dried meal (surely somebody carries a stove—if not, somebody ought to, if only to warm up IV solutions on a cold night). Put it all in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and toss that in your freezer. When the pager goes, throw the Ziploc bag in your already packed pack, and you’re out the door.

And have fun!

Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer’s Guide, on newsstands now, for a look at on-trail must haves and 396 other torture-tested products.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI