Kendal Mint Cake at the bottom of my pack
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“What on Earth is that?”
I looked across to the far side of
the room at my walking companion. His tone was one of disbelief. We were soon
to depart for Lakeland’s Great Gable, and I was repacking my rucksack before we
left. By chance, I had found a long-forgotten emergency ration at the bottom of
the pack and was now holding it proudly between finger and thumb for my friend
“Kendal Mint Cake,” I replied,
letting the white, rectangular bar dangle by a corner. For a long time, I had wondered
where it was, and had now found it by accident.
“Get rid of it,” my companion instructed.
“Yuk! It’s so out-of-date I can barely read the label.”
He was right. I had carried the bar
in my pack, in case of emergency, for many years. Over time, I had experienced
several mountain crises, yet I never ate the bar. There had always been
something else available. It was now stained, greasy, and the definition of
Since I was tiny, I had regarded Kendal
Mint Cake and walking as natural companions. The energy source was first made in
1869, apparently by mistake, and has been taken on global expeditions ever since.
Antarctica with Shackleton, Everest with Hillary, and round the world by
motorcycle with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. It is part of outdoor
history and is both mascot and energy source.
My unused bar highlighted a problem
that affects many outdoor walkers. How much thought does any of us give to the
food we carry in our rucksack? Are we hoping to balance energy intake and
output, or do we choose our grub based on how it looks and tastes, without
worrying about content?
Balancing intake and output may be
harder than it sounds. An Everest summiteer will expend 20,000 Calories on the
day they reach the top of the world. Unless they intend to be permanently
munching, there is no chance of eating 20,000 Calories daily. Despite the
difficulty of equalising energy in and energy out, when it comes to food, it is
worth being scientific.
First is carbohydrate, a common one
being glucose. We need it to keep us going, but as it depletes, so we start
feeling wobbly. When walking the fells, much of our glucose comes from the
breakdown of another carbohydrate - glycogen - which is found in muscle and
liver. As our glycogen decreases, so we must replace it, which we do by eating
carbohydrate. I aim to guzzle 50 grams of carbohydrate hourly when on the hills,
which is roughly one-and-a-half Mars Bars. I want carbohydrate to form 60% of the
calories for my daily diet.
Second is fat, which the body can
also turn into glucose. I aim for 5 grams of fat hourly when walking and make it
25% of my daily calorie intake. To me this is difficult, as I find fat tasty
and would like to eat more. Show me a tub of ice cream and it will disappear in
Third is protein, which I need for
my muscles and blood cells, as blood takes oxygen to muscle, and muscle keeps
me going. I aim for 5 grams of protein hourly when walking and make it 15% of
my daily calorie intake. The protein can be from any source.
Although theory tells us what we
should eat, on the fells I doubt many pay much attention. To check on my
concern, I stopped by a Lakeland shop, Cotswold Outdoor in Grasmere, and talked
with its two managers.
“Few come for grub,” they said. “If
they do, then dehydrated food is popular, as are ready-to-eat meals. Mostly they
come to buy clothing and equipment. We placed energy bars near the till, to
encourage opportunistic shopping.”
I looked towards the shelving near
the cashier. It was burgeoning with energy bars, instant food for those who had
little time to stop.
I leaned across, retrieved a bar, and looked at the list
of ingredients on its back. The tiny typeface showed it to contain 279
Calories, and at least my hourly allowance of carbohydrate, fat and protein.
“How many look at this?” I asked, pointing at the list
“Few,” the managers replied, in almost unison. “Content
is rarely considered.”
Which worried me. Mountain food is important, as it keeps
wobbly legs at bay. When you walk the fells, have sufficient grub with you,
including an energy bar, to replace some of what you expend. Try to balance
energy out with energy in if you can. Stop regularly to eat, even if in a
hurry, and do not end up like me, with expired Kendal Mint Cake at the bottom
of your rucksack, looking greasy, stained and past its best.
If you seek outdoor food
My favourite shops for outdoor food are:
Ideas for mountain food
Water: Essential - I have not covered it here, but where would we be without water?
Nuts and dried fruit: Rich in fat and protein.
Fish: Brilliant source of protein.
Bananas: Fantastic as an energy boost and comprise mainly carbohydrate and water.
Cheese: Lots of protein and calories.
Oatmeal: High in fibre and carbohydrates, and good for lasting energy.
Eggs: Filled with protein and simple to carry.
Vegetables: High in fibre and carbohydrates.
Pasta: Brilliant source of carbohydrate.
Hummus: Filled with carbohydrate, fibre and protein.
Meat: Lots of protein and, when lean, not much fat.
Energy bars: Good for a
quick fix when walking.
My favourites are:
Clif Bar (68g white chocolate macadamia nut flavour contains 279 Calories, 42g carbohydrate, 7.4g fat, 9g protein)
Chia Charge (50g dark choc
and ginger chia seed flapjack contains 241 Calories, 27.7g carbohydrate, 12.2g
fat, 4g protein)
Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake (85g White Kendal Mint Cake contains 322 Calories, 83g carbohydrate, 0g fat, 0g protein)
Mars Bar (51g Mars Bar contains 230 Calories, 35.3g carbohydrate, 8.6g
fat, 2.2g protein)
Based on the Meal-Ready to Eat
(MRE) for the Army, I keep a supply of these to hand. They are quick to
prepare, need no extra water, may be eaten hot or cold, but have a shorter
shelf life and are heavier than freeze-dried meals. One of my favourites is Wayfayrer.
Lightweight, plenty of choice, and
a long shelf life. Just add hot water. One of my favourites is Summit to Eat.
Often mistaken for freeze-dried
food, dehydrated food is different. It is slightly heavier than freeze-dried
food and has a shorter shelf-life. It is possible to dehydrate food oneself.
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