• dr.aylalester

Healthy (ish) Hiking Adventures: My top 3 tips

Planning a trip to the forest with two feet and a heartbeat? I got you! It is not always easy figuring out what to pack, and how to stay relatively healthy while doing these amazing, adventurous things.

Emperor Falls | Jasper BC, Canada

I LOVE exploring and seeing new places, and, there are a few things that typically cross my mind several times before even thinking about packing my bags for an overnight hike.

Some of the questions I ask myself are:

How can I still eat healthy and fuel my body?

  • I cringe at eating dehydrated food with little to no veggies and straight up carbs…. the struggle is real when #greenjuiceislife.

Garibaldi Lake | Whistler BC, Canada

Do I have access to clean water?

  • Parasites are NOT my friends. I’ve had 5 before. Young. Thailand. Street food – enough said.

  • For a friends Birthday last year we did the Lake Lovely Water hike, and, I hiked up 5L of not so lovely water (read: SO heavy) all the way to the top! I did this while scaling up mountains vertically with my hands and feet in dug out holds carved out moments before from an experienced adventurer ahead of me, in CRAZY amounts of snow – IN JUNE! If you haven’t done this hike in Squamish, BC…DO! It is worth it. Usually you can take the canoes out on the lake...and not just sit on them on the ice.

Lake Lovely Water | Squamish BC, Canada

Where am I sleeping, and more importantly will it be comfortable and warm?

  • I grew up glamping, so, tenting is new to me. #princessandthepea.

  • Don’t get me wrong, I still love to glamp. I’m learning to break out of my comfort zone of hot showers every day after campfires, and cozy bunk bed sister snuggles with a Coleman sleeping bag that weighs more than I do.

Mount Robson, Berg Lake Trail | Jasper BC, Canada

The packing dilemma: What do you bring when you have to carry everything in, and everything out? Uphill both ways is usually how it feels after 20 some km either way.

Pack light, intentional, and with the right gear.

Here are my top 3 tips:




I searched MEC in Calgary for my last hiking adventure for probably a solid hour reading nutrition labels on dehydrated, just add water meals. Not many people would do this, but, for me, it is ALL about the food. The companies I would recommend:

  • Good To Go. I mainly ended up getting this brand because I could pronounce ALL of the ingredients, the packaging was bright and fun colours, the tag line is great -Real Food. Real Adventure - and they have gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options. SOLD. These meals after hiking up 23 km exceeded my expectations. We had the Mushroom Risoto (straight up comfort food that is gluten free and vegan), and Indian Vegetable Korma (Vegetarian, Gluten Free).

Adventure friends of ours brought up a new company of dehydrated meals that have just been created.

  • Nomad Nutrition. Meals for the Modern Wanderer. Gluten free. Dairy free. Soy free. AND NON-GMO. AH, speaking my language!

  • From the raving reviews around our stump dining table, next time I’ll be giving this company a try!

  • Also, Nomad Nutrition makes their food locally in Canada in Burnaby BC. LOVE that. AND they are committed to having a small footprint. SO AMAZING.


  • Because we typically do 2-night hiking adventures, on the first day it is easy to get vegetables in. I bring up “veggie packs” of a multitude of chopped up veggies to have as snacks along the way up, and eat left overs for lunch loaded into a heavy duty plastic baggies (plastic – I know). Last time I packed up a Buddha bowl with wild rice, organic tofu, green beans, peas, sweet potato, spinach, hemp hearts, sesame seeds, and a miso tahini dressing that was prepped the night before. SO GOOD.

  • Second day veggies were OK. Typically not enough, and not super food safe, but, I figure it gets cold enough at night that the veggie packs are still good to eat on day two.

  • What would I maybe pack for my next trip: 2-3 organic cold pressed green juices. One for each day. You could keep these cold with glacier water at the top. They last for up to 3 days. Note: this would add weight to your bag. Worth it? I say 100%. And, you may choose to carry up beer instead…



Things I know for sure about river / lake water: THERE ARE LIVING THINGS IN THERE. Once you’ve had gastroenteritis (think the WORST stomach bug ever?) in a foreign 3rd world country, not keeping anything down or in, and then find out years later you have 5 strains of parasites. You would be as paranoid as I am about having clean water and food.

Keep in mind, that there are many options for water filtration systems out there, and all with different pros and cons. We went with:

The Platypus Gravityworks 4L Filter System


  1. can hold 4L of filtered water

  2. easy to use

  3. relatively light

  4. takes less than 3 minutes to filter all 4L of water

  5. it is effective against: protozoa, bacteria, and particulate


  1. does not kill viruses , and even though this isn’t so much of a problem in Canada, obviously as a worrier, I still boiled my water too…

  2. the system takes up a bit of space in your bag

An ultraviolet light stick

Handy to carry if you plan on doing any day hikes while you are out at your camping destination.


  1. compact and fits into a small day bag, or your pocket.

  2. light

  3. is effective against: protozoa, bacteria AND viruses


  1. does not filter out particulate (so you may be drinking dirt water)

  2. takes approximately 2 minutes to disinfect 1L of water



It is all about the sleeping pad when it comes to a warm and decent sleep in the mountains. I’ve seen people carry up thin yoga mats and things of the sorts. DON’T DO IT. For two reasons:

  1. Your back will absolutely be in tangles in the morning even if you are a young, and nimble, and fit. You will be stiff. Not worth it.

  2. The ground gets cold and damp at night and this thing will not keep you warm, or dry. Like, at all.

What will keep you warm and dry is a pad that has a high R value. R WHAT?

  • R is a ranking system of thermal resistance. The higher the number, the more it insulates you. 1 being minimally insulated to 9 being very well insulated.

  • The plus side is the difference between an okay sleeping pad and a good one isn’t that much money. So, if you don’t have the money to drop on a good sleeping bag, a good pad can keep you warm!

My sleeping pad is a MEC Reactor 3.8 sleeping pad. I like it.

  • It is ranked at an R value of 3.8. So it is middle of the road thickness wise and warm wise.

  • I also have a -15 down sleeping bag that I use in the summer time as I am constitutionally cold, and still a glamper at heart. I bought this on my med student loan which seemed like a great idea at the time…

Those are my basic, non-negotiables for overnight hikes and camping in general.

Other things that I find useful to pack are:

  • Electrolytes. I like NUUN tablets or Emergen-C

  • Instant organic coffee and powdered coconut milk (makes mornings in the forest that much more magical).

  • Trail mix. I make my own because dried bananas, walnuts, almonds, and cacao nibs are dynamite together on a hike. You could add in golji berries too!

  • Good quality protein bars. Low in sugar, high in protein, with a decent carbohydrate and fat profile. I like Designs For Health NGR Meal bars, Vega sport Bars, Metagenics Ultra Protein Bars, and Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Protein Bars. You may be able to find these on Amazon, otherwise, I can order you a box or two from my distributors. Hit up my e-mail. Organic Clif bars will do in a pinch.

  • Stinger energy chews. Organic. Gluten Free. I am not a big fan of consuming straight up sugar in all forms, however, for higher intensity hikes these things are SO handy when you are running out of steam around that 18km mark, but find if you stop for a break your legs just won’t work anymore. Keep handy in a pocket that you can still reach with your pack on.

  • Organic, non-chemical hand sanitizer. Dr. Bonners makes some great products, and they have natural biodegradable soaps for all other washing while you are out camping.

  • Organic gluten free instant oatmeal with a side baggie of: FAT. Pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds. I also like to mix in a yummy protein powder. Mix all together and breakfast is served. Homemade granola and coconut milk is also a go to as well. Heavier for sure, and, so satisfying. Oh She Glows has a great recipe!

Tunnel Bluffs | Vancouver BC, Canada

A helpful check-list for all other things you could bring with you on overnight hikes can be found here.

As always, you can connect with me for all things health. For more info visit my website.

Happy adventuring!

Dr. A