Milk is the New Gatorade


Milk is the new Gatorade for backpackers. At least dehydrated milk is. What other energy drink weighs so little but packs such a big punch in terms of calories and overall nutrition?

With a caloric density of 150 calories per once (dry), drinking a quart of whole milk will add 640 calories to your diet per day, in addition to loads of protein and electrolytes that hikers and backpackers have to work on getting enough of on long hikes. In liquid form, it goes down quick and doesn’t need a lot of preparation like cooked food.

Here’s a side-by-side head comparison of several varieties of milk vs. Gatorade to show you what you’ve been missing.

 Serving Size (g)Caloric density per ounce (dry)Calories per cup (liquid)Fat (g)Carbs (g)Protein (g)Sodium (mg)Potassium (mg)
Nido Instant Whole Milk301511609117105390
Myenberg Instant Whole Goat Milk281421407118115327
Instant Non-Fat Milk23111901.5188125390
Better-Than-Milk Instant Soy Milk239880012111525
Gatorade Orange Powder237460021014545

While Gatorade positions itself as an electrolyte replacement and energy drink, it’s basically just carbohydrates in the form of sugar, without the calorie-rich fat and protein provided by milk. When compared side-by-side, Gatorade doesn’t even provide significantly more electrolytes than milk. Maybe, it’s time to get a milk mustache and toss your Gatorade into the hiker box.

Whole Milk

Chances are you grew up drinking regular whole milk after school with your cookies or to wash down a PB&J sandwich. Nido dehydrated whole milk is the most popular brand among long-distance hikers and tastes great when mixed with cold spring water on a hot day. Anecdotal evidence has also shown a significant reduction in the number of thru-hikers who choke on Nutella/Flour Tortilla sandwiches when eaten with a cold cup of Nido whole milk.

Goat Milk

Lactose intolerant? Try Meyenberg dehydrated goat milk instead. While goat milk (like all natural milk) contains lactose, many people who react poorly to lactose don’t have the same problem with goat milk. Because of its digestibility, you may find it’s the perfect alternative. And it’s gluten-free. (Remember if you have been clinically diagnosed with either true cow milk allergy or lactose intolerance be sure to consult your medical professional before drinking goat milk.)

Instant Non-Fat Milk

While instant non-fat milk is not as nutritious as whole milk and goat milk, it is much more widely available in small-town grocery stores, which is a real consideration on long-distance hiking trails. It’s also widely available in smaller stay-fresh envelopes, making it possible to buy in smaller quantities and more convenient to send to yourself in mail resupply boxes.

Soy Milk

If you don’t consume dairy products, you can also benefit from drinking Better-than-Milk Soy Milk. While it’s technically not milk, it’s a pretty good stand-in versus Gatorade. But if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you know all this already, right?

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  1. There are 28.3 grams in an ounce, not 30.

  2. Bob Mason AKA Tattoo

    Been carrying powdered milk since I started backpacking around 1974. Use it on my 6 Oz of raisin bran every morning. In cool weather I mix the night before. Hot weather will start to sour the milk over night.

    • I like quaffing it at the end of the day a quart at a time. great recovery drink and a heck of a lot less expensive than tailwind!

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