A Guide to Being Vegan on Trail
Expert Hannah Kaufman talks about her switch to a plant-based diet and offers some snack recipes and suggestions if you're thinking of trying a vegan diet on the trail.
First off, if someone judges you for your lifestyle or eating habits, then eww. If you are doing what feels good to your body and makes you happy and healthy, then by all means continue! I still deal with judgemental questions and concerns about how I don’t get enough protein. Enough with the protein questions, okay??!
I have been vegan for the past four years now. I decided to go vegan after I had gotten back from a month out of the country. I had been participating in a culinary workshop in Israel where we started from the south of the country and made our way to the north, eating as we went. Every day was eat, drive somewhere, cook with someone famous and eat, drive, eat some more. While the food was delicious and I learned a lot, I became so insecure of my body from gaining weight. While I always have struggled with this, when I returned back I was at an all time low. So, I decided to go vegan for a month.
Now, some people decide to live a vegan lifestyle for environmental or moral reasons. Those reasons did not play a factor for me until about six months after I made the decision to eat plant-based. After my trial-period of plant-based eating, I fell in love with how I felt, and the environmental benefits only strengthened my desire to continue this lifestyle. And here I am today, four years later offering tips about how I stay vegan on trail and of course, some of my favorite recipes and brands I recommend.
Note: I never follow written recipes so when I describe my recipes, keep that in mind. Most of my recipes are to my personal liking, so change it up to fit your taste buds! Also, some of these meals I would recommend for backpacking and some I would recommend for just day hikes, but use at your own discretion—there are no risks, just yummy food.
If you have read any other articles I’ve written, you know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pita chips with hummus are my go-tos. They never fail to satisfy me and put a smile on my face.
My Hummus Recipe
In a food processor or blender add one can of chickpeas, lots of tahini, a few bulbs of garlic (depending on your taste), a wee bit of olive oil if you feel necessary, and some lemon juice. Top it with parsley and smoked paprika.
Also, if you’re not a fan of peanut butter, I highly recommend pumpkin butter. A pumpkin butter and almond butter sandwich is a sweet delicacy that is a lovely alternative.
I also love making my own granola.
Boil some vegan butter and brown sugar or maple syrup to create a glaze. On a large baking sheet, add some oats, dried fruit, and a variety of nuts. I like to add every nut I currently have in the house, plus some chia and hemp seeds. Pour the glaze mixture over the oats and nuts and stir until everything is covered. Top with cinnamon and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to watch it so it doesn’t burn—which can happen very quickly. Stir it every ten minutes to make sure everything gets nice and toasty.
Peanut Butter Crunch
Add some oats, dried fruit, and whatever nuts you have onto a large baking sheet, then add an entire jar of organic peanut butter (maybe not the entire jar but you get it—a lot). Bake with the same directions as listed above. When it is done baking, pour half a bag or more of dark chocolate chips into the mixture. Let cool completely and transfer into an airtight container.
Mushroom jerky is new to me, but I have quickly fallen in love. There are a few ways to do this: in an oven or dehydrator. I used to work for a mushroom farm at farmers markets, so I had access to a lot of fancy mushrooms that I feel like a lot of people may not know about- or at least I didn’t. For this recipe, I suggest using oyster mushrooms and beech mushrooms.
Tear or cut your mushrooms into whatever shape you feel like. Normally these kinds will just tear away easily. I top mine with a bit of olive oil and a cajun jerk seasoning. If you use a dehydrator, set the temperature to 110 degrees Fahrenheit and wait until you get your desire for cookedness. Mine take about half a day to get it to my liking. Same thing with an oven. Also note that everything in a dehydrator will get smaller, so cook more than you think you will want.
Dark Chocolate Power Balls
Another thing I love is a good oat power ball. There are so many of these recipes online, but here is my favorite.
Combine a lot of oats with chocolate pea protein powder, some cacao powder, salt, torn up dates, and some peanut butter. Add some nuts, chia seeds, hemp, and flax seeds if you’re feeling it. Sometimes I’ll also add coconut flakes, too. Roll them into your desired-size ball; I personally like them small so I can throw them into my mouth and not make a mess when trying to bite into one. Put them in the fridge and enjoy!
And last but not least—if nothing else—just bring an avocado and a spork.
When prepping for any overnight or longer trip, the first thought is food. If I’m just car camping, then I tend to go all out. I’m talking pancakes in the morning and pie at night. I was on a trip with a large group of friends and someone did indeed make an apple pie. For these kinds of trips where I can stuff my car full with everything I could want, I don’t go for dehydrated options as much.
For instance, when I went on a two-week road trip with three friends through Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, we made it a goal of our trip to make a “gourmet” vegan meal every night.
Some of my favorite meals were:
- Tofu pumpkin curry
- Lentil and bean chili with fresh corn and millet
- Pad thai with a peanut butter lime sauce
- Oatmeal with dried wild blueberries (from Trader Joe’s) and slivered almonds
- Mushroom ravioli with a white wine sauce and fresh kale
However, if I’m heading on a car camping/road trip and it would be inconvenient to go to a grocery store or carry along ice to keep food safe to eat, I will dehydrate a bunch of veggies in advance. Onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and even kale all dehydrate well and pack light and small and can be paired with any grain for a simple meal. I’ll bring cans of beans and pasta or grains that don’t go bad, then add some dehydrated veggies and some spices and be on my merry way.
For backpacking trips, everything is different. The goal is to not carry heavy foods while ensuring you get enough calories to keep your body fueled and soul happy. Normally this includes a lot of tortilla wraps (my favorite has extra fiber, so good for poops) and peanut butter, oatmeal, grains, and dehydrated veggies. I know some backpackers prefer to cold-soak, and in the summer, I don’t mind that—it saves weight and space. But when it is cold, without a hot beverage in the morning, I’m a sad camper. I also will bring hummus with me (duh) but normally I will finish a small container within the first day or two to make sure it doesn’t go bad.
While I generally don’t bring dehydrated foods that I haven’t made, there are plenty of options for those who like to buy and bring dehydrated foods on trail. I find them to be a bit pricey for my budget, but it also saves you time from not having to make it yourself. So here are some vegan food brands I really appreciate.
- Backpacker’s Pantry is a very well known brand that has a ton of vegan options. I like the pad thai and the cuban coconut rice and black beans.
- Good To-Go is also a well known brand with options for most lifestyles and “diets.” I recommend the herbed risotto and the kale and bean stew.
- Harmony House Foods, although I specifically have not tried it, has a backpacking kit that has won awards and been highlighted in magazines. Seems like a solid choice.
- Mary Janes Farm has plenty of vegan options that always get great reviews, although I also haven’t tried this brand. But looking at their website makes me wants to so bad. Everything sounds yummy and filling after a long day.
These are just a few, but there are so many brands out there. Let me know if you have a favorite vegan option that I haven’t listed here!
So if you’re looking to cut your meat or dairy, or you are already vegan, I hope these options work for you. Like I say in every piece I write: listen to your own body and do what works for you. I find that I still get enough calories (and protein for those of you still want to ask) with these options. And I also bring food that I haven’t made—granola bars and protein bars are miracle workers. I do want to start making them myself but who doesn’t love a good Clif Bar?
If you want to chat about all things vegan or cooking or camping or anything else, head to my profile and hit me up!