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Backwoods Lessons: Food Edition

Sometimes, despite our crushing human intellect, Mother Nature likes reminding us that we’re not quite the hotshots we think we are.

Nature can penetrate even our homes with fires, floods and pests, but when we decide to spend time outdoors, those moments of insecurity seem to happen with increased frequency.

Here are just a few of my personal food-related backpacking lessons learned the hard way. Share your own misadventures and lessons learned in the comments.

Hang your food up at night.

If you forget to bring a bear canister or bag for suspending your food and other smelly substances (like toothpaste), don’t assume the animals will be courteous and leave you alone. Chances are, you’ll be woken up in the wee hours to the sound of unwanted invaders helping themselves to your trail mix.

Search through all your belongings to find something to hang your food in before you go to bed. Quite a lot can be suited to this purpose: a grocery bag, the detachable top part of your backpack, your pillowcase. Tie it up to a tree and suspend it pretty high — we’re talking 10 to 15 feet.

The one time I neglected to do this, the raccoons helped themselves to all of our best food, and we had to visit a grocery store to replenish.

Bring enough water.

This is especially important in areas where you can’t purify water found on trails — places like Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas, where my now-husband-then-boyfriend and I nearly ended up with heat stroke. We had to stay in the tent until nightfall, when we ventured out to fetch more water from the car a couple of miles away.

Water is ridiculously heavy, but it’s also the most important item in your pack. Outdoor fun gets seriously dangerous if you don’t bring enough of it.

Seriously, y’all. Texas is hot. Bring water every time you hike.

Prepare food for outdoor adventures.

On my very first backpacking trip, I went with two friends to West Virginia. The first day, we hiked a short distance in the rain and then set up camp. I slept well, and the following morning the weather had recovered.

Sadly, my breakfast had not. I had brought instant grits (I know, I know — ew — but I’m from North Carolina, so give me a break), and the packet had gotten wet in my backpack from the rain. As a result, they wouldn’t cook. This led to a diminished breakfast, which contributed to the cold I had caught unknowingly in the storm, which led to the 102 degree fever I finished the trip with.

So, kids, adequately prepare food for your trip — whether it needs to be kept dry, cold, or uncrunched. Otherwise, your trip will prove way less fun.

Any other food-related lessons you’ve had to learn the hard way? Let me know in the comments.

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