Preparation of meals and snacks before a multiday hike is essential if you want to be able to enjoy the hike. We really focus on getting enough calories, carbohydrates and protein in our main meals, so our bodies have more energy, and we fell better when hiking. Also we sleep better during the night, if we don’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. BUT bringing enough food for 13 days is difficult, so we knew, that we would be in energy deficiency during the hike. Also hiking in high altitude will reduce your hunger.
Overview photo of all the food, that was planned to last 13 days in the Cordrillera Real, Bolivia
We also have to take into account that Esben burns more calories than me (Camilla), because Esben weighs 20-25 kg more than me and is male, which means that he by nature burns more calories. We carry about the same amount of weight in our backpacks, because it equals our difference in physical fitness. We have met a lot of others hikers, where the man/guy carries a heavier backpack, which means that he will burn even more calories, than the girls carrying less weight. So how to plan the meals so Esben gets more calories than me?
1. Esbens breakfast is bigger, also I added peanuts to raise the amount of fat and calories
2. Esbens trailsmix is bigger
3. Esben gets to eat one Snickers chocolate bar per day (no Snickers for me)
4. We share lunch and dinner, but I try to eat a little bit less than Esben (which can be difficult, when I am really hungry)
The majority of food is dried, and has to be mixed with water. The multiday hikes we have done so far, water has been easy to find on our way. Remember that you body need around 1 gram of protein per kg of your bodyweight. When you are physical active the need for protein is higher, and when hiking it will be 1,2-1,4 grams per kg of your bodyweight. So the main meals should contain at least 25-30 grams of protein per person. This post is written with a background as a clinical dietician and a personal trainer for 10 years. This is what works really well for us, when we go hiking, but off course it can be done different. I just hope that you will get inspired. Also here in South America it is almost impossible to buy ready freeze dried food fx Mountainhouse, and if you find it, it is really expensive. So this is also a cheaper solution.
We don’t carry a lot of spices but on this hike we chose to bring bullion, chili, pepper and ketchup. Ketchup is always a life saver. We try to avoid canned food, because it is heavy, and the cans makes the amount of garbage bigger. Here in Bolivia we found dried meat (it is similar to beef Jerky in the US), and had two bag of 100 grams of dried beef (flavor: spicy and BBQ). This added additional 75 grams of protein per bag (in total 150 grams of protein) to our diet during the hike. The 2 bags of dried meat had to last for 3 meals, adding 25 grams of protein per person per meal. Also the dried meat was a nice change from the soy protein.
Different kinds of soup and sauce powder to be mixed with soy protein or pasta
The breakfast is prepared in portions in Ziploc bags before we go on the hike. I mix oats (one minute and old fashion), granola (we prefer chocolate flavor), nuts/raisins/rice puffs, milk powder (1 scoop), vanilla protein powder (1 scoop) and cinnamon or chocolate powder for different flavor (then you don’t have to feel, that you are eating the same every morning). To add more carbs you can add dried fruit or nuts to add more fat and calories. Try to mix it all together in a bowl to evaluate the size of the breakfast, it should be bigger than, what you eat on a normal day with less physical activity. 1 scoop of milk powder and 1 scoop of protein powder raises the amount of protein to 30-35 grams, if you don´t add it, the protein content will be only 10 grams. Esben’s breakfast contains a bigger amount of oats, granola and nuts to make sure he gets enough calories for breakfast. 12 bags of prepared breakfast (just add cold or warm water) for each of us, because you need 12 breakfast for 13 days, since you will eat breakfast before leaving on day 1.
We also carried tea and coca leaves for the Cordrillera Real. Because we had to carry food for 13 days, we didn’t bring cacao powder or instant coffee, it was a matter of reducing the total weight of the food. Right picture: breakfast in the tent.
For breakfast we boil water for tea, at the same time we fill our thermal bottle with hot water (1 liter). The hot water makes it easy to make mashed potatoes from powder. This lunch is 125 grams of powder mashed potato mixed with 1/2 liter of hot water (2 persons). In the right picture it is served with soaked soy protein (75 grams for 2 persons). 75 grams of soy protein contains 35 grams of protein, and together with mashed potato or polenta, sauce and milk powder each person will get 20-25 grams of protein. In the left picture you see, one bag of polenta (750 grams) which had to last for 4 meals, and next to the polenta is powder mashed potato (250 grams), which had to last for 2 meals. In the right picture you see a bag of soy protein (300 grams), which had to last for 4 meals. The ziplock bag contains milk powder.
On this hike we also enjoyed two meals with cheese and two meals with eggs (hard boiled before leaving)
I think it is a great idea to add powder sauce or bullion, when soaking the soy protein for flavor. This “crema de espinacas” had to be mixed with milk and water (right picture). It is amazing how many different kinds of powder sauce you can buy, so pick the ones you like. We do carry a small Ziploc bag with milk powder. The milk powder makes the sauce more creamy, but it also raises the content of protein. In the left picture we used 190 grams of polenta (1 minute) instead of mashed potato powder. You will get more carbs and more calories when eating polenta compared to the mashed potato.
Mashed potato to the left and polenta to the right
We carry a Trangia stove. It has two pots of 1 liter each, with is perfect for the two of us. To get enough to eat for lunch and dinner one pot has to filled up (with pasta, polenta or mashed potato) and the other one half filled with soy protein. This is what works for us.
It is important for us to find a good lunch spot, so if it is windy we try to find a little bit of shelter and if it is cold we try to find a sunny spot. We take our sweaty shirts of, and put a dry one on during lunch. When we have finished lunch we change back, and hopefully the sweaty clothes have been drying during lunch. This is so we don’t get cold. Due to the low temperatures while hiking the Cordrillera Real we were not sweating a lot, so it was not a big issue on this hike. Lunch on the trail.
Pasta (100 g for two persons) mixed with powder cheese sauce (or sup powder) and milk powder, served with bacon on top and soy protein (75 grams for two persons) on the side. About 25 grams of protein per person. Before leaving La Paz we had bought 1200 grams of pasta at a local market (12 BOB = 1,8 USD or 11 DDK), and split it into 12 smaller bags. One for each dinner. The pasta only had to boil for 5 minutes (to save white gas), then I would add sauce or soup powder and sometimes 2 tablespoons of milk powder. An alternative would be buying instant noodles (2-3 boiling time), but here in Bolivia they cost 3 Bob per package (3*12 = 36 bob). The pasta got very sticky, so next time we will spend the extra money and buy the instant noodles. To raise the amount of protein, fat and calories you can bring shredded parmesan cheese in small bags, this will raise the protein content to 30-35 per person.
To carry enough food for 13 days, we carried food for 12 lunches and 12 dinners. Every meal consist of 1 part protein, 1 part carbohydrate and 1 part of flavor. This means that we need to carry 24 portions of protein, 24 portions of carbohydrates and 24 portions of flavor:
4 bags of soy protein (300 grams): 4*4 portions = 16 portions
2 cheeses (200 grams): 2*1 = 2 portions
1 piece of precooked pork (500 grams) = 2 portions
12 eggs (6 eggs per meal): 12/6 = 2 portions
2 bags of dried meat (100 g): 2*1,5 = 3 portions
In total we had 16+2+2+2+3 = 25 portions of protein (one extra)
2 bags of polenta (750 grams): 2*4 = 8 portions (for lunch)
2 bags of powder mashed potato: 2*2 = 4 portions (for lunch)
12 bags of pasta (100 grams): 12*1 = 12 portions (for (for dinner)
In total we had 8+4+12 = 24 portions of carbohydrates
For variation of flavor we carried different kinds of soup and sauce powder:
10 soup: 10*2 (half bag for one meal) = 20 portions
4 sauce: 4*1 (one bag for one meal) = 4 portions
In total we had 20+4 = 24 portions of soup and sauce powder for flavor
If you visit a big supermarket in La Paz, you should be able to find all the food, that we had with us on the hike. We also recommend, that you visit the local markets, where it is cheaper to by nuts, fava beans, dried fruits etc. for great snack bags. Yes, it is a lot of food, but we still lost 2-3 kilo each during the hike. Of course we got hungry every day, but we think that is normal when hiking for several hours each day. But we did not feel, that we were starving at any point, and felt that we had enough energy for the hiking we did.
Dinner in the tent: pasta with cheese sticks and pasta with tomato soup and dried meat
Ideas for snacks: nuts, corn nuts, fava beans, puffed rise covered in chocolate, granola, raisins or different kinds of dried fruit. Try to mix sweet and salty. The salt will help you to stay hydrated in warm weather, or if you sweat a lot. We don’t add chocolate to the bag of snacks, because in warm weather it will melt. Esben carries Snicker bars, so he has one per day. In the right picture you see, that I had prepared 4 bags of snacks for Esben (laying on top of his breakfast), each one had to last at least 3 days. In total Esben carried 10 snicker chocolate bars for 12-13 days. Since my bags of snacks are smaller than Esben, I had 3 bags of snacks the same size, but they each had to last for 4 days, and not 3 days like Esbens.
When we are hiking, we usually don’t eat dinner later than 7 pm. After a full day of hiking we could always eat more. So we carry dessert. Typically some kind of cookie, and on top we add peanut butter or Dulce de leche (alternative: Nutella). If we don’t carry dessert we eat our snack bag too fast. The snack bag is for the trail, and the dessert is for after dinner, when relaxing in the tent. We had 15 bags containing 6 crackers (3 for each). 2*Dulce de leche (250 g) which had to last for 4 evening each (8 desserts) and the peanut butter with chocolate flavor (250 g), which had to last for 6 evenings. In total we had dessert for 14 evenings and one extra bag with 6 crackers.
What comes in also have to come out. Don’t leave any garbage in the nature, not even your toilet paper. We carry an extra plastic bag for used toilet paper. If you take it with you on the trail, you can also carry it bag out.
Overview of my basic things in my backpack
What did we bring? Equipment for 2 people:
1 SPOT (emergency rescue)
1 LUCI solar lamp
Our own passport
3 rolls of toilet paper (and bought one during the trek)
1 (45 pieces) baby wipes
1 (1 liter) thermal bottle
1 hunting knife (which we didn’t use)
2 spoons and 2 forks
1 Stove (Trangia), 1 burner and 1 liter of white gas (MSR bottle 750 ml and MSR bottle 300 ml)
1 kitchen towel, 1 sponge and a small bottle of dishwashing soap (bio degradable)
3 garbage bags
2 sleeping bags, 2 thin sleeping liners and 2 sleeping mattresses
Personal toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, medicine, hairbrush + rubber band, nail clipper and file)
Sun screen SPF50, 2 pair of sun glasses and 2 caps
2 beanie’s, 2 turtle necks, 2 pair of gloves
2 pair of rain pants
2 hard shell jackets
2 dow wests
2 pair of Crocs (ugly but so nive to get out of the boots, and are more secure than flip flops. No fun hiking with a bruised toe)
2 pair of hiking boots (Esben: Sportiva, Camilla: Asole)
Power bank from Weego including wires for charging, cellphones, Garmin Fenix 3 watch, 2 sets of headphones
Camera equipment: 2 cameras and several spare batteries
1 drone (don’t bring this on such a long hike) including 3 batteries
MSR Guardian water purifier
2 first aid kits
2 backpacks (55 liter from Osprey and 55/65 liter from Black Diamond)
Personal clothes Camilla: 2 pairs of hiking socks (Smartwool), 1 pair of warm sleeping socks (REI), 2 pair of underwear (Aclima light wool), 1 Aclima sport bra, 2 t-shirts (smartwool), 1 set of long underwear Aclima woolnet, 1 Aclima 400g Warmwool pants, 1 hiking pants (Prana), 1 sweater (Aclima Hotwool). This includes the clothing we were wearing during the hiking and while Camping. While hiking all my spare clothes could find in a small waterproof bag (the green one in the upper picture). My arm sweater was placed at the top of my backpack, making it easy to access during lunch.
Personal clothes Esben: 2 pairs of hiking socks (Smartwool), 1 pair of warm sleeping socks (REI), 3 pair of underwear (2 Aclima light wool and 1 Aclima Warmwool), 2 t-shirts (Addidas wool), 1 set of long underwear Aclima woolnet, 1 Aclima 400g Warmwool pants, 1 hiking pants (Prana), 1 sweater (Aclima Hotwool).
The first aid kits
We also carried one bag of freeze-dried food (for 2 person) in case of emergency, which we had had with us since leaving the United States 1,5 year ago
How to get to the trailhead? Mini-bus from La Paz to Sorata
We were ready to hike the Cordrillera Real, but first we had to get from La Paz to Sorata. We had parked our van in La Paz, at La Fonte Hotel (safe parking behind a gate for 15 bob per day/night), and from there we took the teleférico to the cemetery, where a mini-busses should depart towards Sorata. We found the cemetery, and behind it one block away, we found the “bus-stop” for the mini-busses, which would depart towards Sorata (the GPS coordinates for the bus stop -16.494255, -68.1533281). We left La Paz 10.30 am, but due to the big Sunday market in El Alto it look forever to get out of the city. Usually the trip takes 1,5 hour but we were not dropped off at the trail head before 2 pm.
Maps for the Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek
- We downloaded the GSP points from Peter Albringer: “Trekking Bolivia’s Cordrillera Real – Maps, Basic info, and Planning Advice”.
- We downloaded a topographic map over the area of the Cordrillera Real and the Choro Trek using “My Trails” (the app is free, but downloading the topographic map over the area takes forever. You need a good internet connection, so try to do this in advance and don’t wait until you get to Bolivia).
- The GSP point from Peter Albringer was viewed on the topographic map in the app “My Trails”.
- For backup the GPS points was also viewed on Maps.Me (app) on both of our phones, just incase one phone would die, but Maps.Me does have a topographic map.
- We carried a huge power bank (18.000mAh) from Weego to be able to charge our phones with the map and GPS points and my Garmin Fenix 3 watch, which was recording the trek.
- For emergency we went to a internet cafe to print out one topographic map (look for the free “OpenTopoMap”) for each day of the hike, covering the route of Peter Albringer. These would only be used in the case, where non of our phones would be working. Our phones worked all the way, and our power bank was almost out of power, when we finished the hike. During the hike we used the paper maps for notes, which we have used in describing the Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek after our return to make the write report more accurate.
- We also read and downloaded the descriptions for each day from Peter Albringer and saved these on our phones as PDF files (no more paper). You can find the links for each day here: “Trekking Bolivia’s Cordrillera Real – Maps, Basic info, and Planning Advice”. It was a great help to be able to read the description for the next day, while laying in the tent.
- Also we read and downloaded the description from Desk to Glory on the Choro Trek: “El Choro Trek Unguided, Bolivia”. No need to download GPS trek since the trail is on Maps.Me and MyTrails.
Topographic maps from “OpenTopoMap”
Acclimatization for high altitude hiking
Hiking in the Cordrillera Real means hiking in an altitude from 4300-5300 meters most of the time – you have to be acclimatized for this trip. We have head about people turning around on the second day, because they got sick of the altitude. But what does acclimatizing means and how long does it takes?
Acclimatization is defined as: The physiological adaptation of an animal (humans like us) or plant to changes in climate or environment, such as light, temperature, or altitude. One common form of physical adaptation is acclimatization. Adaptations enable living organisms (humans like us) to cope with environmental stresses and pressures.
Altitude acclimatization and physiological adaptations to altitude, does have both acute (immediate) and chronic (long term) effects. When ascending to a higher altitude the body will sense the lowering of the oxygen. The initial acute phase usually lasts up to 3 days, varying on the health conditions of the subject and if he has previously been exposed to high altitude. During the first 3 days the body will make cardio-respiratory changes to compensate for the lowering of oxygen, these are: increased ventilation and higher cardiac frequency. Later adaptation processes at the cellular and molecular level will occur of which the major one is increased hematocrit. However, a permanent and stable adaptation to 3600 m is only achieved at around 4 weeks when the hematocrit reaches the optimal level for the altitude. Check out the figure below. Vertical you have the hematocrit in % and horizontal you have number of days. The curve shows, that the biggest raise in hematocrit happens during the first 10 days in high altitude (3600 meters). According to the curve, this means that you will be over the acute phase after 3 days, then your hematocrit will already have begone to raise, and after 10-12 days it will have raised significantly. The raise in hematocrit is a crucial part of acclimatization. A raise in hematocrit means, that the body is producing more red blood cells. The red blood cells are responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to every organism in the body including the working muscles. This means that in high altitude, where less oxygen is available, the raise in hematocrit will result in more available oxygen for the body and the working muscles. The chances off experiences subacute mountain sickness will be less the better your body is acclimatized. So our advise would be to acclimatize for 10-12 days in 3500-4000 meters (minimum is 3 days to avoid acute mountain sickness), before starting a multi-day hike in high altitude. If you want to read more, I recommend reading my source “HUMAN ADAPTATION TO HIGH ALTITUDE
AND TO SEA LEVEL” by Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja, MD (link: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/about/shortcourses/huerta_sanchez_presentation.pdf).
This was how we prepared for our hike in the Cordrillera Real and for the Choro Trek. As we started the hike in the Cordrillera Real, we didn’t know if we wanted to continue on the Choro Trek, but we had made the necessary preparations, so we could take the decision later during the hike. Check out our overview of the hike here and to download the GPX tracks: “Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek (Overview)”. A more thorough description with pictures from each days have been split into 4 posts:
Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4)
Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)
Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 9-12)
Hiking the Choro Trek (day 12-15)
You can find the different posts on our website: “Hiking trips”
How did our first 1-4 day go in the Cardrillera Real? Check out the next post