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Hard Candy

Backpacking Food

It’s a hot day and you’ve been piling up the mileage, hiking up one mountain after another. You come to another peak and you are overcome by fatigue and self-doubt. You think, “there’s no way I can make it up this hill. I’m beat.”

This still happens to me once in a while despite my best efforts to eat and drink continuously when I’m hiking.

But a few years ago, I figured out a way to revive myself quickly when it does. Whenever I go hiking, I bring along a few hard candies with me to suck on when I bonk. My favorites are root beer barrels. If I eat 3 in rapid succession, my energy level perks right up, my mind clears, and I’m revved up again to keep going.

My hard candy trick came in handy last weekend when one of my hiking partners bonked about 4 miles into a 11 mile winter hike on Mt Flume. He had pre-hydrated and had had a big breakfast, but ran out of steam quite suddenly. We all wanted to go on, so I dug around in my food bag and gave him my emergency candies. We shared out some of his heavier gear and 10 minutes later we were back on the trail, hiking toward the summit.

I just got some email from him today regarding our upcoming hike this weekend and he’s bringing his own hard candy this time. This little trick seems to have made an impression on him.

Written 2010.

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  1. This is great. I have a related candy tip.

    When hiking with young children, there are two things I always bring. One is peanut M&Ms (no allergies in our family), and the other is a bag of Dum Dum Pops.

    The peanut M&Ms are, basically, "trail mix that forces kids to eat the peanuts, i.e., the protein, rather than just the chocolate bits."

    The Dum Dum Pops are handy for keeping little ones in one place if Mom and Dad need to stop, say, to treat a blister. Works best if they're well trained not to run around while eating a lollipop. "Sit here and you can have a sucker."

    Of course, the point of having the small child hiking in the first place is so they will get tired and willingly get in the kiddy-carrier backpack and fall asleep for the rest of the hike.

  2. I use a trick like this when backpacking with groups – I'll have the candies (for some reason jolly ranchers are popular with the younger ones) wrapped in paper saying "road flares – keep in bear bag" or something equally cryptic. Then when spirits are low or there is a need for a burst of energy out come the "emergency supplies"

  3. I'm definitely familiar with boinking. Right now a Pop Tart or Sweet and Salty bar works for me, or those Cliff Bar gummy bears – I think they are called Hot Shots

  4. Hot Shots are terrific… they taste great and do wonders.

  5. I bring some of these and Wethers Butter Scotch or Taffy hard candies, really gets the juices flowing….

  6. I bring Werthers and Coffee Nips. I also bring at least a few GUs; one of those gives me a better immediate power than do the candies. I bring more hard candies though, because they’re more enjoyable than GU.

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