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For short hikes you can generally ignore nutritional concerns, because you don't generally become malnourished in two days. However, for a long trip like the Appalachian Trail or other long hikes (at least a month and possibly more) what considerations should be taken with vitamins that do no exist with an overnight or short trip.

What specific vitamin needs are going to increase and what vitamins are likely to be depleted on this length of trip? Which can I just stock up on in town vs. those which will need to be available and consumed on trail.

I won't use multivitamins (personal choice). I am really looking for an authoritative list of vitamins needed and sources to get those.

Edit: Made more clear, limited to just vitamins to avoid confusion.

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Where in the world are we talking? –  Jay Bazuzi Feb 3 '12 at 18:51
    
Temperate forest, but there should be some nutritional concerns common to virtually all areas for backpacking. –  Russell Steen Feb 3 '12 at 20:38
    
I'm really looking for something more detailed (and tried to improve the clarity on the question). I geneally know "oh yeah, veggies are good", but I need to know something more like "X vitamin, you'll need more, here are sources. Y vitamin, you can go two weeks, so just eat <sources> in towns, Z vitamin ...". You get the idea. –  Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 14:40
    
That's a pretty difficult question to get a good answer for, considering that experts can't agree what constitutes good nutrition when you're not backpacking. –  Jay Bazuzi Feb 10 '12 at 20:08
    
@JayBazuzi -- Fair point, but at the same time, we do know for sure that things like scurvy exist. Perfect nutrition might be hard to pin down, but avoiding scurcy, rickets, etc. should be easier to define. –  Russell Steen Feb 10 '12 at 20:08

3 Answers 3

For such a long trip, however, you should do your best to make your diet a little closer to a home diet if at all possible. While not as convenient as an MRE, a variety of simple minimally processed whole grains, seeds, and nuts are easily transported and cooked on the trail and are nutritious enough to support civilizations. Whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice, whole oats, almonds, sesame, peanuts, etc. have excellent nutritional profiles. The grains pack easily and can provide the bulk of your calorie needs, and then you can supplement with backpacker's meals and other food.

Carry, buy, or gather fresh vegetable ingredients whenever possible. Look up food safety information for each food. Eggs will last for a time depending on conditions, and hard boiled eggs will last for longer. Powdered dairy and eggs are good enough. Tuna pouches(as compared to cans) don't have a lot of water. Dried vegetables such as peas, etc., lose some of their nutritional value but are useful. Dried fruits and meats are also useful.

Gathering food safely takes additional experience, but some herbs are foolproof. Everyone knows what a dandelion looks like and they are nutritious from the flower to the root. Their young greens and flower heads are the easiest to eat. You can learn about the mints and berries in your area as well, and with guidance and extreme prejudice you could learn about mushrooms, although once you are in the wilderness and away from hospitals is certainly not the time to learn about them.

It is reasonable to take a daily "active" multi-vitamin to cover your bases, because with a diet of portable food you probably won't have enough variety of fresh foods. Its simpler and safer than choosing an arsenal of specific vitamins, unless you have professional nutritional guidance.

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Why the downvote? –  Jan Hlavacek Feb 3 '12 at 19:59
    
You are incorrect. I did read the question and I spent a mere two sentences in a long response to the worthy response that multi-vits are nothing to avoid before giving many other options. –  Peter DeWeese Feb 5 '12 at 20:48
    
You can't carry eggs and fresh vegetables and supply 15 days worth of food without the weight being a serious burden. Tuna pouches have about the same amount of water, but less weight because of the foil instead of can. –  furtive Feb 5 '12 at 21:31
    
@furtive, absolutely true for 15 days, but for the first few days out or after a resupply it is reasonable as a supplement. –  Peter DeWeese Feb 6 '12 at 2:38

First, Freeze-dried Vegetables. Unfortunately, the texture isn't quite right, but it works.

Secondly, if you want actual FRESH veggies, then I'd recommend sprouts grown in your pack

Thirdly, if you will be resupplied during the trip, arrange a few fruits/veggies from the local store. I know through-hikers will go into town on resupply-day and eat in a restaurant, wash clothes in the laundromat, and get whatever other sundries needed at the local grocery/convenience store.

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2  
Have you ever tried growing sprouts in your pack? –  Russell Steen Feb 5 '12 at 20:41
    
I've never personally done this, but I hiked with someone a few years back who did. I carried a little extra gear so he would share his sprouts with me. IIRC, he used mung beans in wrapped in a couple layers of bandanna that he kept wet and stored in a sturdy plastic container. –  Pulsehead Feb 6 '12 at 0:52

From your question, it sounds like you already have a plan to supply your body with calories. I'll further assume you will have protein and fat, not just carbohydrates.

With those covered, you then need vitamins and minerals. Fiber is a good idea, too.

It is possible to be healthy eating only wild animal foods (hunting / trapping) for quite some time, but you have to do it right. Eat the fat and the organs, as they are nutrient rich. (Lions eat only the organs, and leave the muscle to scavengers!) Liver is rich in Vitamin A, which is great but must be balanced with Vitamin D.

Very lean meats such as rabbit will leave you nutrient-deficient (if that's all you eat), so you'll still need to fill in the gaps another way.

If you learn a few edible wild plants for your area, you can round out your nutritional needs very nicely. I believe that wild plants tend to have much higher mineral and vitamin content than farmed plants.

Here in Pacific Northwest, I would focus on:

Miner's lettuce, so named because miners would eat it for this very reason. It's very tasty.

Stinging Nettle is very nutritious. I eat it raw, but most people will steam or boil it to avoid the stingers. The stems are good for cordage - maybe a bracelet to remember your trip.

Dandelion is nutritious and easy to find in many places. I love the yellow flowers, but dislike the stems immensely. Leaves are good, especially when new. Don't confuse it with catsear aka false dandelion.

These plants are easy to find & eat, and give you fresh leafy greens that you can't pack with you. To learn more, you can take a wild edibles class and get an edible wild plants book for your region.

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