Planning your DofE Expedition Food can be confusing if you haven’t done it before. If you are moving on from Bronze to Silver or Gold I hope the following advice will be useful too. I have put together a few thoughts to help and some questions to ask yourself to help in your planning.
Will you enjoy your food?
If you don’t like what you have and don’t have the option of a trip to the corner shop it can make you and the rest of your group unhappy, so try your meals out in advance. Plan for variety and flavour and take salt, pepper and some spices on a longer trip if there’s a danger of the food getting dull. A little curry powder in your baked beans will work wonders.
Is there enough energy?
The government tells us we need about 2000 calories a day for a normal lifestyle. Spending time outdoors and going on any kind of expedition will mean you burn more than usual. In winter you will use energy just to keep warm. If things go wrong you’ll want something in reserve. I generally go for about 3000 calories a day for a paddling or walking trip and I’m not a big person.
Personally I find I eat more for a day in advance of a trip but my consumption drops after a couple of days to a lower level as my body gets used to the extra effort of a full days paddling or lugging lots of kit about. If you aren’t practised in what you are planning you may struggle to eat enough calories for your needs. Always take a bag of nuts or trail mix for hungry times on the trail.
What will happen to the packaging?
If you carry it in you must carry it out and that goes for your food packaging too. Take a rubbish bag and use it. Many food packages you may be considering will be made of non recyclable, plastic packaging. These need to be disposed of carefully. There is now an answer in the form of home compostable packaging from the Firepot Food Company and we now have the full range available in our shop and online. It was thoroughly tested by Sian Sykes of Psyched Paddleboarding on her circumnavigation of Wales. If you have compostable bags then you will need to keep them dry before use. They take up to a year to degrade in a home composter, so please don’t leave them in the outdoors. As always leave no trace.
Is weight a factor?
Fresh food is great, as long as it lasts and stays fresh but can be heavy. If you can get water on the way then dehydrated foods and fatty foods are far more calorie dense.
Porridge made with milk is tastier and has more calories than when made with water and its more filling too but its tricky to take the milk. My usual breakfast consists of oats, dried milk, ground seeds and any tasty bits I fancy to liven it up. Add water for a high calorie breakfast with no hassle.
Do you want to cook at every meal, or any meal?
Some people are happy on a mountain top with a cold tin of sardines, and most boil in the bag meals can be eaten cold but you should consider at least one hot meal a day, preferably in the evening. There’s something about a hot meal that boosts the spirits and warms you from the inside out. If you know what you are doing you can forage for salad and add your own olive oil and seasonings for a tasty accompaniment full of vitamins.
The Carbohydrate conundrum
Most sweets and many snacks have a high glycaemic index. This means they give you quick energy and then your energy levels will crash. Some fatty and high protein foods are a much slower burn. So you can balance out your energy levels with well planned food. You can make your own trail mix to be both interesting and fun with a mix of fast and slow burn goodies.
Many endurance athletes go low carbohydrate and high fat. To run entirely on this basis only works if you train your body to work from your body fat over weeks or months.
Carbs vs fat and protein
Generally (yes, it’s a gross generalisation) carbs give us quicker energy. Fat slow energy. Protein (with vitamins, trace elements and minerals) gives some slow energy. These are the nutrients we need to repair our bodies and make us stronger after all that exercise. These energy paths do not work well unless we have trained them, so practice. Learn how your body works and get it in condition for a major trip. If you change everything food wise for a hard trip that your body is not ready for it may not go well.
Take some fresh food
It tastes good if well prepared, but may only last a day or two.
You are outdoors, you sweat more, you exercise more so you need more water. When you are dehydrated your gut won’t have the water to digest your food properly and give up it’s energy.
Our Camping Food Options for DofE Expeditions
We carry four ranges of meals for your expedition, don’t forget when you choose that freeze dried food costs around the same per calorie and is 2 or 3 times lighter per calorie than boil in the bag.
Beyond the Beaten Track Meals – Standard Meals to eat cold or heat in the bag or pan (DofE Expedition Food approved, which means they pay DofE for the privilege of using the logo). 300g each. Some Dairy Free Gluten Free and Halal options
Wayfayrer Boil in the bag Camping meals– Our most popular range of meals – hot or cold boil in the bag expedition food. 300g each. Not great for special diets.
Expedition Foods freeze dried meals – we stock the high calorie meals, generally 800 plus calories – if you want to save weight you’re probably on a longer or harder trip and will need the extra calories. Light weight and high in calories.
Firepot Foods dehydrated meals – Made in Dorset with local ingredients, we stock the standard meals which are up to 650 calories. We have chosen to stock them in compostable bags. Light Weight with 5 vegan options and and all dairy free.
Special dietary needs
We have made it easy to choose meals to suit your needs with the following categorisation on our website, you can also see how many of each product we have in stock to order with confidence.
What to do?
So in summary, when planning your DofE Expedition Food.
Find out what your expedition groups restrictions, likes and dislikes are.
Test the options before your trip
Set a per head budget
Order what DofE Expedition food you need
Pete, former DofE Gold Assessor