Bulk Buying Jerky and Hiking
July 30, 2012 11:11 AM   Subscribe

2 part question about hiking and jerky. 1) How much jerky should 2 males eat while hiking 80 miles in 4/5 days? 2) Do you have any site recommendations for buying jerky in bulk online (in the US)?

For #1 we are worried about weight. We are packing super light. We hope to finish in 4 days, 20 mile per day. We are not bringing a stove and relying on jerky and trail mix.

For #2 on top of site recommendations, any flavor suggestions?
posted by bleucube to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know how much you should bring, but if you'll be consisting on non-homemade jerky, make sure to check the sodium content and to keep yourselves hydrated. Many jerkies contain a lot of salt, which could dehydrate you quickly.
posted by xingcat at 11:17 AM on July 30, 2012

(Or at least make you feel totally parched.)
posted by xingcat at 11:17 AM on July 30, 2012

I don't know about your other questions, but my last two local butcher shops made their own beef jerky that you could purchase by the pound. If you have a local butcher shop, might be worth a call just to see. (You'd also be able to try it out first. Not all Beef Jerky is created equal.)
posted by PlutoniumX at 11:17 AM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

> Not all Beef Jerky is created equal.


If this is your sole source of protein on such a long hike, I would put some seriously effort into finding a local source for home made jerky. Your local farmers' market or butcher shop would be a good place to start. I have a friend who makes his own, and eating it vs. store bought is like the difference between having a finely aged steak and a McDonald's burger that's spent a week under a heat lamp. Both came from the same source, but they couldn't be more different in their taste and texture.

As for how much: consider that a "normal" meal might consist of 4oz to 8 oz of protein (your basic quarter pound to half pound hamburger). Jerky is dehydrated, so you save on the water weight, but you will also be exerting yourself more, so maybe compromise and figure on 6 oz of protein for each jerky meal? I also predict that after the first day you are going to be so sick of the stuff that it probably doesn't matter how tasty it is, but that's a different discussion.
posted by mosk at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2012

I've done a lot of ultra-light camping.

In my experience, jerky is really easy and cheaper to make yourself. You can also control the sodium content that way. You can also make a few different meats (beef, turkey, chicken, etc.)

To be honest though, you'd be better served taking an ultra-light stove with you and packing pre-packaged, de-hydrated meals. You can get pasta dishes with veggies and meat (veggies and multivitamins are your friends when you can get them), or stews, or other traditional meals that weigh in for less than 120g and can have 500 or more calories to them. Combine these with instant oatmeal in the morning and your jerky and you'll find you will have a tough time carrying enough trail mix to compete in terms of pure weight for calories and you'll be getting a broader nutritional complex along the way.

Especially if you're purifying water along the way, having a stove to boil in particularly murky/bad conditions is a godsend. Also, instant cofee can be worth the 100g or so you need to pack for it.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 11:43 AM on July 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

It's less a question of how much jerky you should eat as how much you're going to want to eat. At 20 miles a day for four days--and please tell me you're training for this--you're easily going to be doing something north 3,000 Calories a day. That's what the Boy Scouts estimate the average hiker at Philmont National Scout Ranch is going to need, and most of those hikes are in the 10 mile range, with 15 miles being a long day. At 20 miles, I'd say you should plan on 4,000-5,000 Calories each.

This matters. Say you want to eat 1,000 Calories of jerky a day. At 82 calories per 20g, that's... 244g of jerky each. Half a pound. For comparison's sake, realize that most retail-packaged jerky comes in 8-10oz packages, right around there. And remember, that's only 1,000 Calories. If you want half or more of your nutritional need to come from jerky, you're probably going to need twice that. Two whole bags of jerky. Every day.

So ask yourself: do you really want to eat that much jerky? Really? I mean, it's definitely a useful and tasty thing to eat on the trail, but that's a bloody lot of jerky.

Suggestion? Mix it up. You're on the right track with the trail mix already, but maybe get more than one kind. Also, Clif Bars, or something like them. Only slightly less calorie-dense then jerky, a wide variety of flavors, and more likely to keep you, um, regular. Crackers. Those peanut butter cracker sandwich packs are pretty ideal, but even just a straight up box of Wheat Thins will hit the spot.

Also, even if you're packing "super light," you need to resign yourself to carrying upwards of 20-30 pounds of food and water. Food alone will easily come to two pounds a day, if not three or more, and that's eight to twelve pounds right there. Throw in a gallon of water--and you'll need no less than a gallon a day--and your minimum food/water weight is right around fifteen to twenty pounds. If you won't have an opportunity to refill your water, you'll need to carry about four or five gallons each on day one. That's thirty to forty pounds right there, plus food. The good news is that you'll be eating and drinking as you go, so your load will get lighter every day.

But Rodrigo Lamaitre is right: dehydrated foods are really the way to go. The reason most foods are so heavy is that they're mostly water, and water is heavy. So if you can just carry the food and add the water back later, you can get way more Calories per unit of weight. Far more than enough to make up for the weight of the stove and pot. Even jerky has water in it, dry as it is. Just something to think about. If one of you carries the pot and the other the stove, that's less than a pound each, in all likelihood.
posted by valkyryn at 12:04 PM on July 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

How about cooking up a batch of pemmican? That stuff is amazing.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:10 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Speaking from experience, you seriously do not want to be eating that much jerky. Intestinal distress is a likely outcome.
posted by gnutron at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can answer question 2! I'm an extremely satisfied repeat customer of Big John's Beef Jerky. Handmade in the USA, and available in bulk.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:13 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm with gnutron. You're not going to poop for a week if you eat all that jerky.
posted by fshgrl at 12:15 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you're just worried about keeping things moving in the latrine, then get a bunch of Clif Bars. They're tasty, have a multivitamin, and plenty of fiber.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2012

I do not want to weigh in on how much jerky it's really healthy for you to eat in a day, but the best jerky I've ever had is smoked in-house at Jigg's Smokehouse in Clinton, Oklahoma. I stopped there once on a road trip (thanks to an old guidebook) and I've been mail-ordering from them ever since. They sell in large quantities.
posted by willbaude at 12:20 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you done this before? Hiking 20 miles in a day takes thousands of calories – 4,000 to 5,000 – and while it's entirely possible to complete the trip without eating that much, your body will thank you for keeping its energy reserves supplied.

Since you're trying to go light, it makes sense to carry foods that are calorie-dense. Jerky isn't very dense – ~70-80 calories per ounce – which means you'll have to carry and eat a lot of it (weight-wise) to meet your calorie needs. valkyryn estimates two full bags of jerky each day, which is about right.

Trail mix is better in terms of calorie density, but consider other options like peanut butter, hard cheeses, even Fritos chips.

More generally: food is not the thing to save weight on. When you "save weight" on food, you don't bring enough food.
posted by Picklegnome at 12:23 PM on July 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

nthing that between caloric density, sodium content, and the potential for catastrophic constipation, jerky and trailmix should not be your primary food sources on this trip. You can get or make a very, very light stove, which coupled with dry food mixes (oatmeal, instant rice, etc) will be lighter overall than carrying half a dehydrated cow on your back for this whole thing.
posted by Aizkolari at 12:39 PM on July 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an ultralight hiker/camper... this sounds miserable. 20 miles a day is perfectly reasonable for the right terrain and hikers in suitable condition, of course.

Eating jerky the whole time? That sounds nuts, like beyond nuts, it sounds hellish. Could I do it? Yes. Would I do it? Not unless I was a Napoleonic soldier retreating from the Russian front. I can feel the migraine that would set in on the second morning from all that sodium and smoke-junk in jerky just imagining it, yuuuuuck.

If you put serious pressure on your body in endurance sports it tends to kinda stop your digestion, if you're anywhere above your home altitude this effect can multiply. As such, generally you will want a fair quantity of some easy to process sugars in your kit for instant energy while your body churns away on your protein and fat sources.

For this type of trip, if I was going on dry food only (and I really avoid that since the extra pack weight is generally worth the comfort) my inventory would be something like (off the top of my head)...

2 pounds raisins
2-3 pounds raw almonds
4 new york style everything bagels
4 kit kat bars
1 squeeze tube of brown rice syrup (for emergency energy)
8 packets of starbucks instant coffee
4-8 packets of cytomax or emergen-c (or your preferred electrolyte beverage mix)

You really don't want to be caught out without enough food and end up hypoglycemic miles from the trailhead.

Severe hypoglycemia, dehydration or electrolyte imbalances can ruin your day in the city, and are way more likely to be fatal or super risky in the backcountry.

If this type of thing is something you plan on doing a lot... check out Ray Jardine's "Beyond Backpacking" wherein he gives lots of useful tips including his own meal plans for his PCT and Appalachian through hikes.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 1:19 PM on July 30, 2012 [9 favorites]

One of the worst decisions I made on a tough hike was relying mainly on jerky and nuts to sustain my energy. There's lots of good advice upthread about things you might want to consider.
posted by moira at 4:59 PM on July 30, 2012

Another thing you want to consider is your teeth. I get 3.25oz bags of jerky on occasion and sometimes I get hardened bits and my teeth hurt for a couple of days afterwards. What if you get to day 3 or 4 and your teeth are too sore for more jerky?
posted by IndigoRain at 9:51 PM on July 30, 2012

I bought a pound of this stuff a couple of months ago, and have never been happier with $30 worth of food product. It is delightfully spicy, is not rubbery like the crap you buy at the convenience store, and is succulent like I never thought jerky could be.

Yeah, yeah, not as calorie dense as trail mix, there are better food options for hiking, etc. etc... whatever, dude. On general principles, you should buy as much of this as you can fit in your cupboard.

I am not a shill for Gary West. I am just a man who loves his dried meat products.
posted by Mayor West at 5:26 AM on July 31, 2012

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