Healthy Travel 103: Backpacking Essentials

For more on the healthy travel series, check out packing for success and staying on track away from home, backpacking essentials, camping and eating well.

One of the major stresses I dealt with before leaving for India was what type of food would be available for a protein hungry, gluten-free, dairy-free lady like me. I had a legitimate fear that I was going to starve to death, be tricked into eating gluten, or consume peanuts and die from an anaphylaxis attack.

To ensure I wasn’t going to go hungry or be panicked when I ran out of my favorite things, I started stock piling snacks, meals, and health products months before my departure. In retrospect I went a bit overboard, but I had no idea what to expect!

I swear it looked like a lot more than it was. I was surprised too when it all fit into my backpack…

mind you that bag weighed WAY too much. My gosh, it was heavy.

I placed similar items together and sealed them in a large Ziploc bag. I had a protein bag, snack bag, healthy fats bag, etc. It worked great to keep everything organized.

I’d assumed that keeping my food in Ziplocs would keep it safe from the critters in India but I was dead wrong. Thankfully, I’d brought a vacuum seal bag that was originally intended for my clothes but ended up being an anti-bug lifesaver! Best $10 I’ve ever spent.

Out of everything I brought with me, these were the essentials…

Protein and fats

There wasn’t a lot of fat or protein in the food at the ashram so I’m so thankful that I brought my own. Also, all they served at snack time was tea or; if we were lucky, a small bowl of fruit. I always brought a Simply Bar with me for morning snack and a bag of hemp hearts with me in the afternoon. 5 hours of yoga a day requires far more calories and protein than what they were providing.

  • Hemp hearts – went really well with the coconut oil drenched rice.
  • Savi seeds – also went really well with the coconut oil drenched rice.
  • Pecans – went great with my morning oatmeal.
  • Egg white protein – there was a snack center at the ashram where you could purchase fresh fruit shakes. I bought one every night, poured it into my own container, added egg white protein, and stuck it in my fridge for the morning.

Not so essential:

  • Steve’s Original paleo kits – I brought them with me but didn’t have any while I was there. I could see how they could be beneficial for many backpackers, I just didn’t feel like eating meat.

Snacks

As I mentioned, there weren’t a lot of meals at the ashram, so I was happy that I brought snacks and breakfast items to fuel my yoga. Even when I left the ashram, it was nice to have my own food so I didn’t have to rely on restaurants for all of my meals.

I purchased a lot of fresh fruit, dried fruit, and honey at the various markets that I used for breakfasts and snacks but it was harder to find fresh vegetables. Carrots and tomatoes were about the only things available, even in the various shops I visited in Mumbai.

  • Gluten-free oatmeal – such a great idea. I alternated the oats with the egg protein smoothies for breakfast. I seemed to gather quite the collection of oat toppings too – from stuff I’d brought from home and random fruits and nuts I purchased along the way.

Many of you had asked about holy crap cereal last time I posted these images. I believe they ship all throughout North America, but best check on their website. I don’t generally buy it as it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, but you’re not able to bring seeds into the country without them being packaged, so bringing my normal bulk bag of chia seeds was out of the question.

Not so essential:

  • LARABAR – I didn’t eat too many of these because there was so much fruit to be had in India. Having said that, I could see how other backpackers would find them useful. For next time, I’ll stick to my Simply Bars for added protein and save some room in my pack.
  • Jennie’s coconut macaroons – create a hot mess in your bag in the India heat. The oil melts away from the coconut, the packaging leaks… oh man, so many bugs. Definitely will not be taking these with me anywhere, ever. But they’re great at home!

Other things

  • Printed out itinerary – many of the airports will not let you in unless you have a printed out copy of your travel details. I printed off 3 copies and placed them in my various bags, just in case.
  • Canada flag patch – it was so awesome to start up a conversation just based on the patch on my bag, connect with other Canadians, and talk to locals about our igloos and pet polar bears ;)
  • Laundry soap sheets – you can find soap everywhere in India, but not the sheets! They were so handy to have with me not only for my clothes, but I washed my dishes with them, too.
  • Extra Ziplocs – you can never, ever have enough bags. Ever.

  • Antibacterial wipes – there were no soap dispensers in any of the washrooms I went to. I always kept a pack of wipes with me on one side of my sports bra and a couple sheets of toilet paper in the other.
  • Mosquito net – many places will provide you with one, but expect them to have holes!
  • Blister treatment kit – came in handy on multiple occasions.

  • Immodium – I didn’t have to use it, but it was good to have just in case.
  • Chlorella – just in case I got a parasite of some sort.
  • Rooibos tea – you’d think that tea would be easy to find in India, right? My gosh… it wasn’t. At least not the herbal stuff. I’m so happy I brought my own.

  • Probiotics – I seriously believe this is why I didn’t get sick even after eating all the street food. These babies don’t require refrigeration so they’re perfect for traveling! They’re a bit expensive, but worth every single penny. Seriously. If I were only allowed to bring one thing with me, this would have been it.

And of course, it’s highly advised that you indulge in your favorite meal before you leave home for a month.

My choice? Hawaiian pizza on a gluten-free rice tortilla!

What is one thing you can’t leave the country without?

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