Backpacking on Raw Food: is it doable everywhere?

Back in April 2008 I discovered that in 2001 USA hiker Doug Walsh had walked the 3000 miles of the Continental Divide Trail on a 100% Raw Food Diet, so I sent to Doug this message:

Doug, As I’ve written on Strider, I’m not a vegan or raw food person, but I’ve read enough to convince myself that using, at least partly, such foods is both a good thing in general and, for a backpacker, a good way to reduce bulk and weight of the food to be carried. I would like to ask you about:


  • how a “normal” backpacker could experiment in this field. Somewhere in your web pages you rightly said that it is not possible to go 100% raw without a long preparation, but what if one wanted to eat raw, say, every other day, maybe for just one meal, during a week long hike?
  • tips on how to do the above with non processed, commercial foods and/or with foods which are available outside USA (or, if nothing else, since of course you probably don’t know what raw food sellers there are in Italy) how to learn to shop for the best (backpacking-wise) commercial raw foods in local shops. Part of my interest in trying raw/vegan, at least as part of my diet, is reducing environmental footprint, but it doesn’t make sense if what I eat was shipped from 1000 miles away. Another “limit” (from an Italian/European point of view) of your raw food tips for backpacking as they are today is that several of the things you mention don’t grow nor are sold in stores outside USA. How to “port” them to this side of the pond?

Doug was kind enough to send the following advice and to give me permission to publish it online (more on this below):


Its really hard for me to give advice on what to eat out in the field since I don’t know what is sold in your area. For the ‘normal’ backpacker, the only option really is dried fruit and soaked nuts for breakfast. I have done this a lot and it works fine for energy.

Since a normal person doesn’t have a dehydrator, they can’t make dehydrated crackers/breads, so they are severely limited in the raw food approach on the trail. Another thing that could be done easily is to make a raw food gorp for snacking. Dried fruits, nuts, seeds, raw cacao, etc. It would be ideal if the seeds/nuts are soaked and then dehydrated, but most folks won’t have a dehydrator…

There are a ton of raw food bars being sold retail now in the US. Don’t know what can be found in your area. That’s about all the advice I have to give. Hope it helps.

As I said, the exchange above took place in April 2008. The fact it appears online almost three years later is only my own “fault”: due to lots of reasons, I had no possibility until now to publish these questions and tips on a suitable website. Later, Doug also gave more advice about backpacking on raw food while preparing for the Continental Divide Trail. I have decided to put these notes online anyway, because it seems to me that the specific questions above haven’t had a complete answer yet.


Of course, this is not Doug’s fault in any way, but the questions are general enough that the answer may be useful to many backpackers, so here they are. I hope that, now that I finally have a backpacking website set up to accept comments from unregistered users, so please do add your own answers (or further questions) to this page. Every tip on this topic is welcome, and I’ll reformat them in a separate page for readability if/when there are enough of them.


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About marco

Author of the Digital Citizens Basics online course. Freelance writer, teacher and speaker specialized in impacts of digital technologies on culture, education, environment, government, human rights
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