Backpacking Paleo Part 2: Interview with a Pro



Heather Kelly, two time NCAA Championship rower, Evolutionary Sports Nutrition expert and avid backpacker, created a website that is devoted to making backpacking trips work on a Paleo diet.  I thought I’d ask her some questions as a follow-up to my last post on backpacking Paleo style, since she’s more of an expert on the topic than I am. Whether you’re getting ready for your big trip on the Pacific Crest Trail or you’re like me and don’t enjoy anything more than day trips out climbing, this interview will help prepare you for your next excursion into the wild.

PP: How long have you been Paleo?

HK: I have been eating a Paleo diet since June 2010.  I have been studying it, however, for close to four years.  I held out on starting it while I was in college because I was a varsity rower and couldn’t afford to lose any weeks of training (I was afraid of how long it would take me to adapt).  Now, however, I wish I had made the switch during my rowing career.  I honestly believe I would have been fitter, faster and happier.

PP: Why Do You Eat Paleo?

HK: I love that the Paleo diet doesn’t change.  It is scientifically backed on so many levels and is not simply a “quick fix”.  This is a diet that is sustainable throughout an entire lifetime.  I personally have had a ton of success with it and strive to set a good example for everyone around me. It is SUPER powerful! There is no denying that what we put in our mouth drastically affects every other dimension of our life.

PP: What have the benefits been for you?

HK: Since adopting the Paleo diet/lifestyle, I have found the same things that TONS of other people have discovered.  I recover way better from exercise, I’m the leanest I’ve ever been, and I’m just way stronger and happier.  I get to eat a whole bunch of food and I feel good about the food I eat, knowing that it’s nutrient dense, non-gut damaging good stuff.  It has really let me off the emotional roller coaster of needing to “burn off” all the calories I eat. Having lots of good energy after meals is such a welcome change from how I felt in the past on a grain, legume and dairy-heavy diet.

PP: Why did you start your website,

HK: Initially, when I decided to raft the Grand Canyon, I thought I would put aside the Paleo stuff for 25 days and just eat whatever was provided.  That sounded easier and would make me look like less of a pain in the ass to my fellow boaters.  As the trip got closer, I realized I did NOT want to feel like death from eating sub-optimal food the whole time.  This motivated me to pack over fifty pounds of my own Paleo-friendly food for the trip.  Since I put so much effort into this project, I decided documenting it and throwing it up on the web was a worthwhile next step.  I had such a hard time deciding what to pack and how to pack, I figured there must be other Paleo-eating outdoor enthusiasts who struggle with the same thing.  I really hope the site is a good resource for people trekking Paleo-style.

PP: What’s the longest excursion you’ve been on while eating Paleo?

HK: My longest adventure yet has been the 25-day rafting trip through the Grand Canyon.  I actually had some Lara Bars and powdered coconut milk to spare at the end of the trip ☺

PP: Could you do something like the Pacific Crest Trail (the 2,650 mile trail from Canada to Mexico on the West Coast) while eating Paleo?

HK: OF COURSE!  I would LOVE to develop a business planning and preparing Paleo food for people going on long distance hiking, mountaineering, climbing, rafting, and whatever trips!  People put a lot of effort into packing their own food for trips like that anyway, so making it Paleo doesn’t take that much more effort.  It can be as simple as packing dehydrated yams instead of rice, or almonds instead of peanuts.  With a little forethought anyone can make this happen.

PP: Can you do it without “cheating”?

HK: YES!  For example, anyone who’s been rafting knows a big part of the trip is drinking beer ☺ I brought tequila, limes, and boxed wine so that I could be a part of the festivities without getting sick from drinking PBR.

PP: Do you feel like you get enough calories when you do this?

HK: YES!  It is really easy to down tons of calories in the form of nuts, dried fruit and coconut!  Dark chocolate also helps ☺  I had great energy the whole time I was on the river, despite it being thirty-some degrees and having to row my ass off every day.

PP: Is it a lot more expensive to eat this way on a backpacking trip as
opposed to the “normal” way of doing it?

HK: I can’t imagine that dehydrating your own meat and veggies is more expensive than buying Mountain House.  Even if you don’t buy organic, you are still going to get more bang for your buck from canned chicken and dehydrated peas and carrots than Top Ramen.

PP: What was your most exciting trip?

HK: The Grand Canyon is THE trip of a lifetime!  Any chance anyone gets to go, take it!  I hope to go at least ten more times ☺

PP: What is your favorite breakfast while backpacking?

HK: Best breakfast was dehydrated eggs with a pouch of smoked salmon, scrambled together in coconut oil.  If we had veggies in the cooler, I would toss those in the mix as well.  Always served with a big cup of black coffee of course ☺

PP: Snack?

HK: Homemade chicken jerky and apples with Sun Butter.

PP: Lunch?

HK: Instant split pea soup with canned salmon.

PP: Dinner?

HK: Smoked salmon chowder was THE BEST! Basically dehydrated canned salmon, dehydrated peas and carrots with powdered coconut milk, salt, pepper and dill.  That recipe REALLY hit the spot when I was cold and wet and exhausted sitting in my tent at night.

PP: Any other advice for Paleo eaters and Paleo backpackers?

HK: It is absolutely worth it to keep eating Paleo when you go on these adventures!  The other people on my trip were very curious about what I was eating, were receptive to the idea and very willing to make adjustments to the menu so that I could eat with them. Lead by example and be excited about your decision to eat truly healthy, good food!

Thank you, Heather, for your fantastic advice and for taking the time to build your website for everyone to use.  If you want to know even more about Heather or if you have questions for her, her other website is  Good luck out there and eat well!