Tag Archives: vegan

Another new year for vegan hiking

Hiking on Mt. Cardigan, New Hampshire

Happy new year! Here we are again, it’s been nearly six years since my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail while vegan, and I gotta say… I still can’t believe it was that long ago.

As I’ve repeated over and over on this blog, I started this site to support other vegan hikers with tips and inspiration, and so far I think I’ve been successful! Many people view the site every day from around the world, which is a pretty clear sign of how widespread the interest is in hiking more compassionately.

In most ways, vegan hiking is the same as non-vegan hiking. We just do it without animal products.

My concern for the earth, our communities, and farm animals led me to go vegan many years ago. I don’t consume any animal products (including meat, dairy, or animal derivatives like honey), and I try to minimize my use of non-vegan stuff as much as possible. I’m not dogmatic about it, and I try to be realistic and practical. I never make exceptions in my diet. But I also recognize that living a life that is 100% free of harm to any animals is a futile endeavor. That is just the terrible reality of a world built partly upon the wholesale exploitation of animals for meat and dairy. My veganism is an attempt to live a more conscious life and trying to do the best I can.

My personal commitment to veganism gives me inspiration in the rest of my life. It helps me focus, allows perspective, and is a daily reminder to put my life and actions where my beliefs and politics are.

Since I was thirteen years old I dreamt of thru-hiking the AT. The year after college I achieved my dream, stepping off of Springer Mountain into a new world of walking and mountain air. I set out to be a thru-hiker, not a vegan thru-hiker, and after the first few weeks I almost gave it up. But then I reflected on what was important to me and realized that I could safely and happily stay vegan and stick to what I had set out to do.

Happy new year, dear readers! Keep on vegan hiking, just one more climb before camp…

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Book Review/Response: Last Child in the Woods

A valley in VirginiaGreetings hikers, today for something a little different: a book response! A large part of my veganism is political; I am trying to live responsibly and challenge the intersecting oppressions and destruction of the meat and dairy industries.

When I was a child, my parents frequently took myself and my siblings on car-camping trips. I was encouraged to play outside, to ride my bike in the neighborhood, and explore the patch of woods behind my house. The summers after seventh and eighth grade I was lucky enough to go to an outdoor adventure-style camp that included plenty of backpacking, hiking, and climbing. I personally credit these experiences with sparking my interest in outdoor activities, protecting the Earth, and hiking.

Since its original publication in 2005, Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv has become a classic of the movement to reconnect children with nature. Louv makes a powerful argument for the need of children to have regular, unstructured, outdoor play time in undeveloped “fringe” areas of nature. He connects childhood outdoor playtime with development, disease, and cognitive abilities, as well as a healthy appreciation for the outdoors. He writes of the declining amount of time that children spend in the outdoors, and the negative impacts on society. His argument is compelling and we should all listen.

Despite my general agreement with the arguments made in the book, I have one main critique: Louv does not acknowledge his privilege as a white, middle-class, male, nor does he make efforts to explore how his background has shaped his ideas. He discusses suburbs, parents’ play time with kids, access to parks, as if these are universal. His few discussions of non-white folks, especially in the urban environment, come off as dismissive and patronizing.

His only examples of diversity are in describing programs for troubled urban youth that he introduces as “boyz of the hood become boyz of the woods” (pg. 55). The boys in question are part of a California program called Urban Corps, but he calls their leaders “Anglo” instead of white, and transcribes quotes from the boys while preserving the slang and dropped syllables in their language, something he does not do in other stories. This diminishing of their lived experiences is part of the problem in the environmental movement. By describing them as “boyz” instead of just boys, and emphasizing their way of speech instead of their discoveries in the outdoors, Louv reinforces the dominant white history of environmentalism, that it is “new” and “foreign” to young people of color and must be taught by us. This is an unfortunate and problematic way to describe what sounds like a good program.

To build an accessible, universal appreciation of the living world around us, we should heed Louv’s call to emphasize childhood outdoor play. But we should also work actively to take down the barriers to the outdoors that keep so many from the experience. It’s time to talk about why outdoor recreation and adventures like thru-hikes are predominantly white activities. Until we recognize the issues of class and privilege that have shaped historical outdoor activities and the dominant environmental groups–and challenge them–we will never be able to reverse nature-deficit disorder.

What do you think? How can we address diversity and equity in the outdoor world?

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Nutritional yeast is great backpacker food

It definitely qualifies as a vegan/veggie/healthnut food. But I really love nutritional yeast, and many people have never heard of it. As a quick introduction, nutritional yeast is yeast, it’s yellow and flaky, and tastes vaguely cheesy. It also happens to be very high in nutrients (both natural and fortified)!

At home, the classic way to eat nutritional yeast is sprinkled liberally on popcorn. It’s also possible to use it in vegan cheese sauce or vegan mac and cheese. I enjoy it sprinkled on pasta, or just on toast with earth balance.

Two tablespoons of Red Star brand nutritional yeast contains eight grams of protein and four grams of fiber. It is also high in B vitamins, including B12, B6, B2, and B1. (Source and source)

It is incredibly lightweight and a little goes a long way. When I hike I carry a half-size sandwich bag full, and put a spoonful on every dinner as a way to increase flavor and boost vitamins.

Nutritional yeast is difficult to find in anywhere but natural food stores. It also is greatly more economical to purchase from a bulk section than in containers (In bulk, it should cost $7 to $9 a pound. If it’s more than that, look elsewhere). Due to it’s rarity, as a backpacking food it is best in maildrops or when packing from home. I never counted on finding it along the Appalachian Trail, but I did put some in every maildrop.

Have any of you taken nutritional yeast on your hikes? Or come up with creative recipes for it?

As an aside, here is an obligatory note making excuses for not posting more! Here it is: I recently started grad school, and I’m super busy. But this project is really important to me so I’ll be continuing to write! As always, if you have experience as a vegan hiker and are interested in writing a guest post, please contact me!

 

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What’s in my pack

Well, here is a classic hiker gear post. Almost everything I’ll be carrying on my upcoming hike on the Appalachian Trail. Total base weight for everything in my pack (including crocs that aren’t pictured) is 16.5 pounds. Not so bad!

 

What’s in my pack:

  1. Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2
  2. REI Raincoat
  3. Osprey Atmos 65, brain removed
  4. Sea to Summit Pack Cover, medium
  5. Thermarest RidgeRest
  6. Lafuma 600 45° synthetic sleeping bag
  7. Bear line and mini carabiner
  8. Petzl headlamp
  9. Wire pot stand, wind screen, lexan spoon
  10. Homemade pepsi-can alcohol stove
  11. Titanium pot
  12. Denatured alcohol in plastic soda bottle, wrapped in duct tape
  13. Silnylon stuff sack for food, bandana
  14. Platypus Big Zip 2 liter water bladder
  15. Platypus 4 liter water carrier
  16. Aquamira
  17. First aid kit, lemon eucalyptus bug spray
  18. Rain mitts from ULA (no longer available…)
  19. Mosquito net
  20. Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers)
  21. Umbrella
  22. Clothes and stuff sack: ultralight boxers for sleeping, patagonia long underwear bottoms, EMS long sleeve shirt, REI fleece camp socks, extra pair Darn Tough hiking socks
  23. Ultralight fleece hat
  24. L.L. Bean hiking poles
  25. Crocs shoes (not pictured)

What’s on my body:

  • A. REI running shorts with mesh liner
  • B. REI sleeveless shirt
  • C. Buff
  • D. Darn Tough socks
  • E. New Balance trail runners with Superfeet green insoles
  • F. Ipod mini
  • G. Hat from Monson, Maine General Store, picked up on my thru-hike in 2009!

Finally, a discussion of the only non-vegan gear that I use: Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks (As with most “technical” wool socks, these are actually a blend: 65% wool, 35% synthetic). These are the best hiking socks. They are ultra comfortable, extremely durable, and do an amazing job wicking sweat and preventing blisters. I replaced my socks once on the whole trail, some other hikers went through many more pairs of Smartwool socks. I’ve tried the synthetic version that Darn Tough makes and found them to be scratchy, moreso than I’d like. So for now, I use wool socks. Though I try to avoid all animal products, for now I’m ok with using them! One day hopefully there will be a non-animal sock available that works just as well… If you have a vegan sock recommendation that’s worked great for you, let me know!

Check back soon for updates from the trail!

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Planning resupplies on the Appalachian Trail

This summer I will be heading back out to the Appalachian Trail for a 320 mile section hike! This is a technical post on how I planned my resupplies:

First of all, I used two resources to determine the best resupply points along the trail. First is a copy of AWOL’s 2012 AT Guide (Which I’ll be carrying on the trail), and second are Baltimore Jack’s AT Resupply Information posts on WhiteBlaze.net. Though the latter are a few years old, they list every popular stop for thru-hikers and everything in between. I use the AT Guide for up-to-date information on the towns.

The next step is to use both resources and map out potential towns and the miles, looking for points about forty to seventy miles apart. As a long-distance hiker I want to minimize weight by carrying only as much as I have to, but I also don’t want to waste time going into town constantly. Two to five days in between resupplies was the average on my thru-hike.

To resupply vegan, I’m primarily looking to figure out which towns have big supermarkets and which might be better served by a mail drop to the post office.

This is the list of towns I came up with for this section, their mileages, and guide book pages:

Beginning from Duncannon, PA I’ll carry four to five days of food. What this often means for me is carrying four dinners and five lunches, with enough to stretch to a fifth dinner if I have to. As this will be my first long hike in a while, I’m not totally sure how fast I’ll be able to hike, so I’m working in some flexibility!

The first resupply will be Port Clinton, PA. This town is on the trail, and very small. It’s possible to hitch into larger Hamburg, PA and find a grocery store, but I’m going to send myself a mail drop here to the post office. In the box I’ll include enough dinners to get to Delaware Water Gap, but only enough lunch to make it to Palmerton. I’ll discuss exactly what I put in my mail drops in another post.

As Palmerton, PA is only forty miles from Port Clinton, I expect to make it on the third day out. Palmerton looks on the small side, which is why I’ll send dinners in the last mail drop. It has a grocery store where I’ll resupply lunches and breakfasts.

Next up is Delaware Water Gap, PA. There is not much in the town, but there is a hostel, an outfitter, and a small store. Nearby Stroudsburg has big markets, but I’ll send myself a mail drop to avoid the trip. From here I’ll take three and a half days worth of food to make it to Vernon, NJ.

Vernon has a large grocery store, so I expect I’ll be able to find some good food options here. Looking for three days to make it to the Bear Mountain Bridge. Most hikers will resupply in Fort Montgomery, NY near the bridge, but this happens to be near where family lives, so they will pick me up. When I pack food for my mail drops I’ll get enough to leave there. From here I’ll carry about four days worth of food to get to Kent, CT.

I planned like this because this section is so relatively short. For a thru-hike, it probably wouldn’t make sense to do this kind of planning ahead of time for the whole trail. Before you get out there, it’s difficult to know how fast you’ll hike, how much food you need, or what your future trail friends will want! Before my thru-hike I roughly mapped out resupplies, only to determine where to send the three mail drops for the first half of the trail. The rest of our resupplies we figured out during our hike.

To eat vegan on the trail takes some planning, but it’s not much more than the average thru-hiker!

(Look out for some posts from the trail this summer!)

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Technically Vegan Part 1

In the real world I tend to eat a lot of vegetables and try to avoid eating too many processed foods (I also generally avoid buying from terrible companies like Kraft Foods, owned by Philip Morris). But with my hiker-hunger raging, I ate some foods I don’t normally buy, like delicious Oreo cookies. I jokingly refer to these as “technically” vegan, in my effort not to be one of those junk-food vegans we hear about all too often. This is somewhat of a joke in the vegan world, that something as ubiquitous, processed, and junk-foody as Oreos also just happen to not be made with any dairy or animal products; including other varieties like mint and peanut butter.

Other bloggers have written about vegan Oreos plenty before, and are in agreement that in the U.S. Oreos are in fact vegan. Though unfortunately it seems this is not the case in Europe or other places around the world, though it appears this petition garnered a positive recent response from Kraft Foods UK.

A single package has over 2000 calories and I burned through each one in just a few days. Cookies are an easy form of cheap calories on the trail when you’re burning as many as a thru-hiker. That Oreos are vegan is merely coincidental, as many of my hiker friends ate them as well. It certainly helps that they are available in almost any size grocery store.

From my personal experience with nutrition on a thru-hike, I found that I needed so many calories on a daily basis, paired with the difficulty of carrying and cooking fresh food, that I frequently padded my diet with these sorts of foods. I justified that if I ate more “nutritious” foods for the bulk of my main meals, it was ok to add in from the crappy-but-delicious-and-calorie-dense category. When I was doing well, I tried to have some semblance of vegetables included in my dinners. Though often that was just in the form of the little bits that were in packaged Indian food and rice and bean mixes… oh well.

Given the availability (and if they’re on sale) I’ll always choose organic mint Newman-O’s or Liz Lovely for a real treat.

*A disclaimer: I debated with myself about doing this kind of post that seemingly endorses a single product from a big company. Unfortunately, because of the general reality of the limited food choices along the Appalachian Trail, my intention is to highlight vegan options that are widely available for easy resupply. I encourage you to make your own decisions! And please don’t take this as an argument that it is only possible to thru-hike by eating crappy food, it’s just easier.

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Holiday Gift Ideas: Things any vegan hiker would love

Today we have a slight departure from the norm here, a list of some inexpensive gear and treats any vegan hiker will love! If you do any sort of December gift-giving, hopefully this list can help. I’m so bad at shopping, often spending way too long researching every option and alternative before picking my gear. Also, I’ve tried to include some things you may not have thought of, if you are still planning for an upcoming hike. So here is my curated list of excellent gear buys:

Original Buff $20

It’s like a bandana but it’s attached in a loop. Pretty versatile thing, I wore it as a headband, or around my neck when it was a little bit chilly. Comes in lots of colors.

Platypus Water Tank 4.0-Liter, 3.6oz. $30

A collapsible water carrier! I never would have thought of this before I actually saw it in use on the trail. I first bought it when I was still using a filter. It was way more comfortable to go sit and filter at camp, instead of awkwardly balancing my water bottles down by the stream. And later on, it was just super nice to get all the water I needed in one trip. Sometimes the water source is a good hike from the shelter…’

Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Rain Mitt, 1.2oz/pair. $49

I don’t have these and I’ve never worn them, but, I wish I did! I had a different brand of rain mitts that didn’t work so well, they wore out pretty quickly and weren’t very waterproof. But I can’t say enough about how great rain mitts are. When it’s cold and rainy, fleece gloves get soaked and don’t keep you very warm. Before my next big hike, I’ll probably get a pair of these, or try my hand at making a pair myself…

Fleece Socks, $15

One of my favorite backpacking “tricks” is to carry a pair of camp socks that I only wear when I’m done hiking for the day. This way I always have a dry, cleanish pair of socks to put on after a long, cold day of slogging through the mud. I found fleece socks to be a great choice for this, they’re warm and really lightweight, and there’s no chance of confusing them with your hiking socks. Any basic fleece sock is fine, I recently found some more inexpensive ones at Costco.

Liz Lovely Cookies, $4

Because they’re my favorite cookies, vegan, made in Vermont, and delicious. I’m always happy when someone gets me a pack of these…

So there’s a few options, hopefully something that might be just right for someone you know who’s planning a thru-hike!

Happy December! I mean, happy end of the fiscal fourth quarter!

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Why I hike

“A footpath for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness.”

When I was 13 I spent a summer in Maine at an outdoor adventure camp. We camped every night, cooked our own food and spent our days hiking and rock climbing, hopping from activity to activity. It was fantastic and I loved it so much that I went back the following year.

Only that year was different, it featured a four day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and it sparked inside me the burning desire to thru-hike. The hike that summer was hard, my whole body hurt and I was the slowest in the group, but was one of the only kids who loved every second. While everyone else was complaining, I was soaking it all up.

Even though I was the slowest in the group, I told my leaders that I was going to hike the whole thing one day.

There are a lot of things that drive someone to choose spending months in the woods instead of in civilization. For me, it was the idea of carrying my whole life in one backpack. I wanted to completely rely on myself in a way that was difficult to find while off the trail. I wanted to set out on an incredible adventure, and in the mean time fulfill one of my dreams.

Once on trail for a while, life changes and begins to revolve around your daily life of walking. It is very different than “off-trail” and perspectives of a thru-hike change in a big way. The big dreams and ideas of what a hike will be like start to fall away. The sense of accomplishment at the end is real. But along the way, the old ideas become less important, less tangible, and they change to accept the reality of what a thru-hike is like.

I remember coming home at the end of my hike and finding it very difficult to understand what the experience was, it was impossible to put into words.

It was the constant reassessment of what’s important and what isn’t. On one hand is the pain and challenge of getting up every day to keep going. On the other is the incredible feeling of reaching the top of the next mountain, and of having no worries except what is happening on the trail.

I think that before starting a thru-hike, many people have misconceptions about what they will find and what it will be like. Many expect to “find themselves” or just have a relaxing experience in the wilderness. A thru-hike is nothing like that. I remember a discussion one day amongst my trail friends a few months in, and everyone had different expectations than what the hike turned out to be. The truth is that this is what drives many people to quit before the end. On the other hand, the reality for me was that the changes and experiences I had on the trail will stay with me forever and have definitely helped shape and add perspective to some aspects of my life. But the immediate sense of “change” after completion that I was hoping for never came to be.

But my thru-hike was still incredible, and I still love the Appalachian Trail. When I encounter aspects of the A.T., I am washed over with nostalgia and a new longing to be back on the trail…

2108.5 miles to Katahdin (2178, the year I hiked)! My first time back to Amacalola Falls State Park since 2009.

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