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Best Food To Bring On An All-Day Or Multi-Day Paddling Trip

Packing food for a paddling trip is fun and appetizing, but it can also be rather complicated. When packing for longer trips food preparation and packing can be particularly challenging, as there are several variables to consider. You need enough food that will last, and you need items with nutrition. You also want to ensure none of the food you pack will spoil during your journey.

This is why it is best to pack non-perishable food items. You don’t need food to be as non-perishable as items you would pack in a hurricane kit, but you want food that does not need refrigeration for the duration of your paddling journey. While plenty of food items won’t go bad at room temperature, some are better (and tastier) than others for paddling trips.

When taking a long paddle, pack nutritious yet high-protein food items like nut butter, protein bars, nuts, seeds, tuna, and jerky. Fruit gummies and cookies with high-fiber ingredients are great treats, just make sure you avoid too much chocolate or items that melt easily. Fresh fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots are great, provide fiber and nutrients, and are unlikely to over-ripen in a matter of days.

Creating the perfect menu for an epic paddle adventure is ultimately a personal choice. Everyone likes different foods and has different tastes. But ultimately certain foods are superior, including the 10 foods listed below. Keep reading to learn about the best food to pack on long paddling trips, and some top tips when selecting snacks for these adventures.

Top 10 Food Items To Bring On Longer Paddling Trips

1. Protein Bars

There is perhaps no snack more suitable for a long paddle than a well-made protein bar. These snacks have it all. For one, they come in endless varieties, so regardless of your tastes, allergies, or dietary restrictions, you can easily find a protein bar for you.

Protein bars are also individually wrapped. This helps prevent them from getting damaged or wet throughout your journey. Lastly, protein bars are filled with all the nutrients you need. They have protein for your body, and calories that act as fuel to help you paddle onward. They are also easy to eat, and ideal for when you need something in your stomach, but don’t want to stop paddling for more than a minute or so.

2. Nut Butters

Nut butters are another great food item to pack on a long paddling trip. Similar to protein bars, nut butter packs quite a bit of protein - usually somewhere between 6 and 10 grams of protein in one large spoonful. They are also a compact food, which is great when space is limited. One jar should last multiple people several days.

You can choose classic peanut butter, or be fancier and opt for almond, cashew, or other nut butter. You can eat it on a sandwich, with a banana, or with a spoon, which makes it a very versatile spread.

3. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits are a great natural sugar snack that gives you some needed nutrients and concentrated flavors. They are also much more compact than fresh fruit, which means they should last for a long paddling trip.

It is best to opt for resealable bags of dried fruits, or even individually portioned packages. Once water gets into dried fruit it can spell disaster. You can also make your dehydrated food items, and make all your favorites. The high sugar content of dried fruit might not always be ideal for those counting calories, but when you are paddling all day, calorie counting should be the last thing on your mind.

4. Apples

While dried fruits have many advantages, there is no real substitute for biting into a ripe piece of fresh fruit. Some fruits, like pears, stone fruits, and bananas are not ideal for longer paddling journeys. They can over-ripen in a matter of hours and turn to mush and make a mess of your food bag.

Apples, however, are a much more resilient fruit. They can last for days without refrigeration and are unlikely to go bad unless they are already showing signs of rot before your trip. Another great thing about apples is you don’t need to peel them, and you can easily eat one with one hand. This makes for a great snack for a paddler on the go.

5. Meat Or Vegetarian Jerky

Jerky is the ultimate road trip snack, and a paddling trip is like a long road trip - only over water and using the strength of your body. The beauty of jerky is that it is one of the easiest-to-eat savory snacks. It is essentially like eating a dried piece of steak, out of a resealable bag. Jerky is a great way to mix up all the sweet and fruity flavors in your non-perishable food bag for a long paddling trip.

Make sure you choose jerky that has a high protein content and ideally is lower in sodium. You don’t want anything too salty, as that will make you crave lots of water, and you are likely trying to be mindful of your water intake on a long paddling trip.

6. Nuts And Seeds

Various nuts and seeds are also great foods for paddling trips. Not only do they require no refrigeration, but they are also loaded with nutrition. Nuts like almonds and cashews have a high protein content and nutrients. Seeds like chia and flax seeds are a great source of fiber and are great for sprinkling on nut butter when making a sandwich.

7. Carrots

If you are the type of person who needs a bit of crunch when snacking but also wants to keep things fairly healthy when paddling on the water, then opt for some carrots. Unlike most vegetables that will wilt and quickly go bad out of the fridge, some fresh food can withstand a long tip. Carrots are quite resilient and great for long trips. They are great to snack on with some nut butter, or simply on their own. Carrots are a great way to keep some fresh vegetables in your life when you are otherwise eating mostly packaged or shelf-stable foods.

8. Canned Tuna And Crackers

For those pescatarians, tuna is a great option when taking a long paddling trip. It is shelf-stable, compact, and almost pure protein. One can of tuna is almost enough protein for one person for the entire day. Combining tuna with a bit of crackers provides a balance of carbohydrates, and can act as a meal when you need something fast and filling.

9. Real Fruit Gummies

If you like to have some form of candy, or a quick sweet snack to chew on during a long stretch of paddling, then buy some real fruit gummies. Look for gummies made with real fruit juices. You can also find several types of fruit snacks that have vitamin C and other vitamins that will help keep you healthy as you paddle out in the elements.

10. Healthy-ish Cookies

When you are paddling hard all day, it is great to have lots of healthy options, but you need a few indulgences as well. Cookies are the perfect indulgence when paddling. They often come pre-packaged, don’t require refrigeration, and are one of the best desserts out there. Try finding (or baking) some cookies that have some healthy ingredients folded into the deliciousness. You can often find cookies that have chia or flax seeds, oats, and other “whole” foods.


Five Tips To Selecting The Perfect Snacks For A Long Paddle

1. Make Sure Ingredients Are Melt-Proof

Remember that non-perishable does not always mean melt-proof. Make sure that whatever foods you are bringing on a long paddling trip are also able to withstand whatever temperatures they may be exposed to. If you are paddling somewhere hot in the summer, stay away from items with lots of chocolate, or anything that turns so soft it might get ruined.

2. Individually Packaged Is Ideal

When you are shopping for different food items from the list above for your long paddling trip, take particular note of how the items are packaged. You should always look for lightweight packaging, with glass being the least preferable - since it is heavy and fragile. If you are in doubt, you can even select food items specifically geared towards kayakers and other paddlers.

Many food items are also individually packaged these days. Purchasing individually packaged snacks like protein bars, jerky, fruit snacks, and even nuts, can help keep your food fresher longer. It also makes your snacks easy to access. Naturally, you should also make sure these individual packages are also recyclable, so you are keeping your carbon footprint small.

3. Dense And Firm Over Soft And Fluffy

Remember that your food items may shift positions throughout your journey. So that loaf of bread you strategically placed on top may end up smashed within a matter of hours. This is why it is always a great idea to choose firm and dense products over light and fluffy ones.

If you are keen on bringing bread, opt for pre-packaged dense rolls, like a multigrain roll that is heavy and packed with fiber. Brittle cookies and crackers should also be left at home - as you don’t want to be left with nothing but crumbs towards the end of your journey.

4. Nothing That Will Ripen Too Quickly

It is definitely possible to brign some fresh fruits and vegetables on a long-distance paddling journey. Just remember to bring the right types of fresh items. Apples and carrots are great because they are resilient. But bananas can ripen in a matter of hours, and items like pears and peaches can turn to mush and liquid in your bag, creating much more trouble than it’s worth.

5. A Mixture Of Sweet And Savory Nutrition

Lastly, make sure you take some time to make sure you have a solid variety of food items. The last thing you want is to pack a bunch of food items for a long trip and realize you haven’t bought anything but sweets. Instead, your goal should be to bring a perfect blend of both.

Opt for both sweet and savory items, as well as a good mixture of high-protein items, and food that has carbohydrates and fuel for your long trip. A good variety is a great way to keep things interesting for your taste buds and helps prevent you from getting sick of any one food too quickly.

Final Thoughts On What Foods To Pack On A Long Paddling Trip

Packing the right food for a long paddling trip is essential. Failure to do so can mean a hungry, irritable paddle. If you back right, however, you can eat some delicious food without having to worry if it will spoil or become compromised.

Opt for high-protein foods that are shelf stable like nut butter, nuts, canned tuna, and jerky. Individually wrapped items are also great for paddles, so consider protein bars, fruit snacks, and individual bags of trail mix. Remember a nice balance of savory and sweet nutrition to ensure you have a great variety throughout your trip.


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