Food Safety Tips for a Happy Hike
Going on a hike can be a great way to experience nature, de-stress, and get some exercise. You don’t have to walk the entire Appalachian Trail to get these benefits either; even a short hike that lasts an hour or less can make a difference. That said, hikes of all lengths require a bit of planning: when you’ll go, what you’ll need to wear, and very importantly, what you’ll bring to eat and drink and how you’ll keep it food safe to avoid getting sick.
Meals and Snacks
If you’ll be on the trail for a few hours, you may want to bring along food to keep your energy level up. Trail mix is a popular hiking snack because it’s non-perishable and lightweight. Other snacks that fit this bill include dried fruit, nuts and seeds, and granola bars. If there’s space in your pack, you could also bring sturdy fruit (like apples, oranges, and bananas), tuna pouches, whole grain crackers, or jerky.
If you’re on a longer trip and want to bring a full meal or something perishable, make sure to keep it cold until you’re ready to eat. Pack your perishable foods with ice packs or frozen water bottles. Keep perishable foods cold at below 40°F before eating, and don’t let them sit out for more than an hour once they’ve been brought out to eat. Even if you’re only planning a brief hike, remember that the time it takes to get to the trail counts as well. You might want to consider using a cooler if it’s a long drive to your destination.
Hot weather and physical activity both increase the amount of water that your body needs to function properly. Find out ahead of time if your hiking trail will have safe sources of water to drink, and also bring plenty of your own. Even if a lake or stream looks perfectly clear, it may not be safe to drink from directly.
Always remember good hygiene when you handle food! Your hands should be cleaned before and after eating. Easy ways to do this outdoors include disposable wipes and biodegradable soap with water and a clean towel. Hand sanitizers are good for killing some potentially harmful microbes, but they aren’t great at getting dirt off your hands.
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