The ultimate adventure. The total package. These are a few ways I’ve heard backpack hunting described, and I agree with them. There are few things more freeing than loading up a backpack and heading into the mountains to live for a stretch. No scrolling through social media, no schedules, and no work. Well, at least not the 9-5 kind you might be thinking of. There is plenty of hard work that happens on a backpack hunt. Just getting to a campsite can be hard enough. Add in hunting, and then potentially hauling out an animal, and I’d dare say you’ve got your work cut out for you. Because of the hefty physical demand that comes with these backpack hunts, our bodies are put through the ringer. Which is exactly why supplementation on backpack hunts should be on your radar. Below, I’ll go through a few ways I’ve personally benefited from my own supplementation on backpack hunts.
Altitude Sickness is Real
Yet again, I was on a long ascent back up to my glassing spot after getting winded by a couple of shifty mule deer bucks. A thousand feet down and a thousand feet back up it was. Arriving breathless back at my pack, I noticed a few fellas coming up the opposite hill. After chatting with them a bit, they informed me that they were in fact on their way back up into the area after having to bring their buddy back down to the vehicle. Turned out he had altitude sickness pretty bad. These were a group of guys that literally drove across the country to hunt mule deer. Now, one of them was having to sit out, due to the high elevation. This is something that can be avoided with supplementation on backpack hunts.
Altitude sickness is no joke. Not everyone gets it, and the folks that do get it experience a wide variety of intensities. From just a headache all the way to vomiting. In rare and severe cases it can even be fatal. There are all sorts of medications out there to help prevent altitude sickness. I’m sure they all do the job. I’m also a guy who finds something that works and sticks with it because of that. I’ve used Altitude Advantage for quite a few years and have had ZERO issues with altitude sickness since doing so. That’s coming from someone who used to get altitude sickness too as a kid. With how much we look forward to and put into these adventure hunts, it’s worth dealing with it ahead of time.
You Need Calories
With this backpack hunting stuff you live and learn. From my start to now, my food bag has changed quite a bit. It’s really because my overall eating habits have changed to a healthier side. This can often mean that less calories are being consumed. Which really clicked for me this past spring while bear hunting. I was running through my food bag quicker than ever and was left hungry. I just plain wasn’t getting enough calories and was bumming food off of a buddy to get me through.
If one thing is true about backpack hunts, it is that you are without a doubt going to burn an extremely high number of calories day after day. Everything takes work out there whether it’s hanging food, going on water missions, or making that long stalk on a bedded buck. There is a reason why most folks come back from these hunts a little lighter than when they went in. One can only get so many calories though from the norm of bars and trail mix. So getting creative is key here for making sure an adequate amount is being consumed. Doing things like adding olive oil to a freeze dried meal is a great example. That stuff has 119 calories per tablespoon. Adding instant mashed potatoes to those meals is another backcountry trick. Something I personally like to do is throw in a scoop of Daily Strength into my oatmeal for the morning. This adds 110 more calories plus an adequate amount of protein to start the day.
Recovery Is Key
The more days go on, the more worn down a backcountry hunter can feel. I was feeling that exhaustion on day 8 of a backpack elk hunt. Every muscle in my body was screaming for help. I wasn’t drinking enough water, wasn’t eating all of my food, and wasn’t getting enough sleep. And on that morning we spotted a giant herd of elk. I was not ready to go after these things in my current state.
The day after day grind of a backpack hunt can wear on a person. I’ve seen it and experienced it. From the mental side, and certainly the physical side, these hunts can leave folks sitting in camp, or even heading back to the vehicle. What was vigor turns to aimless thought and fatigue. This is why recovery is so important during backpack hunts. We need to be able to hit the reset button night after night and be recharged for the next day. You are not going to feel how you did on the 1st day on the 9th day. Anyone that says you will has not spent much time backpack hunting, or they’re just not hunting that hard. I do believe there is a happy medium between the two though and that happy medium can be achieved through supplementation on backpack hunts. Using resources like valerian root, melatonin, or unplug is a fantastic route for an adequate night’s rest. Good sleep is paramount for recovery, as is hydration from my experience. I’ve noticed my muscles don’t feel near as limber when I slack on my hydration. Even if I’m not thirsty, I really try to make sure I’m drinking throughout the day now.
It’s no secret at this point that backpack hunting gets romanticized. Hunters like myself talk about doing such things as if it transcends any other hunting experience. For some, that might be true. For others, they may hate it. What is true though is that it is demanding. We spend quite a bit of money on hunting gear year after year. Things that help keep us warm, shoot better, and lighten the load of our backpacks. While that stuff is all fine and dandy, your brand new jacket isn’t going to give you the gas to keep going day after day. Supplementation though? It can absolutely help in that arena. The only piece of gear that is a constant in your hunting load out is you. You are the piece of gear that will carry that brand new bow over to shoot that bedded buck. You are the piece of gear that throws on that heavy backpack full of meat and hauls it out. And you are the piece of gear that puts all other gear in amazing places. Take care of you.