The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir



Jan 04, 2017

Young, Intrepid and Invincible: A Guide to Dealing with Worrywart Parents

It’s normal: parents worry. As the mother of two fearless children, I am not new to being on the verge of a nervous breakdown while my kids are off doing high-risk activities around the world.


Bonnie Maggio

This article originally appeared in print, in the 2014 Spring issue

In the summer of 2013, my son Callum Strong took part in the British Universities Kayak Expedition. Callum and a team of 4 other gung-ho young kayakers headed off to Pakistan for the summer to tackle some exciting rivers.

Was I worried? You bet!

So, if you are heading off into the great outdoors with your mates on an exciting expedition, here are some tips on how to help your parents survive your adventures:


Chances are that your mates’ parents will be as worried as yours. Put them in touch and help them establish a Mothers’ support group like we did for the BUKE expedition. We reck- oned that keeping in touch with each other would probably be easier than keeping in touch with the team, and if anything went wrong we would be able to join forces to help if required, or at the very least moan to each other or send Valium. (It was called the Mothers’ support group because it seemed to be mostly the Mums who were worried. If the Dads were worrying, they certainly were not letting on…)


The BUKE expedition was initially planned for a part of northern Pakistan where, three weeks before the eventual start-date, the Taliban would kill 9 climbers. Already apprehen- sive about the choice of destination, we were hugely relieved when the team decided to shift the expedition to Ethiopia. It was the comparison by Bonnie Maggio between the two places that made it palatable that they were going to spend the summer exploring the wilds of Ethiopia tackling previously un-kayaked rivers (un-kayaked for a reason one wonders…) whilst brushing shoulders with crocs and hippos. Phew.


Gone are the days when you can take off and be incommunicado for weeks or months on end. I have always said I don’t mind what my kids are up to or if I won’t see them for months on end just as long as they let me know what they are doing and roughly where they are (hint: this works equally well with girlfriends as it does with mothers). Try to communicate often, but spare us the graphic photos and grid references that lead us wide-eyed on google Earth.

Keep it simple. A text along the lines of “still alive and in Ethiopia” works well enough. You can tell us all about it and how scary it was when you are safely at home sitting at the kitchen table having a cup of tea. The exception to this is we do like to know if you injure yourself, in case we need to start saving for unexpected costs. If you end up in hospital with Malaria, please tell your mother (yes, i’m talking to you Callum).


Giving your parents jobs makes them feel less helpless and also minimizes worrying time. During the BUKE expedition, various parents helped out with medical advice, communications updates, and even arrangements for transportation and security on the ground.


While my son was off in the wild, I made the mistake of expressing my anxieties to my own mother. “Now you know how I felt,” she said, reminding me of the 6 weeks she didn’t hear from me when I took off, aged 18, hitchhiking to Turkey with my best friend. Mum very nearly got Interpol to find us. And then there was the time I set off to cross the Atlantic on a yacht with a bunch of friends in less than perfect weather and didn’t get in touch for weeks. Or, the real jewel in the crown of parental torture, the time I decided to go exploring from the Caribbean to the south Pacific on a hand built tiny catamaran with a mad French anthropologist that I hardly knew.

So bear in mind that you may be a parent one day and the likelihood is that the adventure gene will be passed on and you, too, may spend long spells of anxiety whilst your offspring are out there risking life and limb in the pursuit of adventure.


However scared or anxious your parents are, they are most likely still amazingly proud of you and they wouldn’t want it any other way. I know I am, and I look forward to hearing my son’s plans for the next expedition, although I would like for my daughter to get back in one piece from her season in the Alps first! Get out there and have FUN!

This article was part of the Newbie section in Issue 4 of our print magazine.

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Jun 24, 2019

Dealing With Dietary Restrictions In The Backcountry.

Gluten intolerance, vegan, Halal, nut allergy, dairy-free, Kosher… whatever your dietary restrictions may be, you don’t have to let it hinder your ability to get out and enjoy the backcountry!



Brooke Hess

We spoke with expedition whitewater kayaker, Ben Stookesbury, about his experience of maintaining a vegan diet on long kayaking expeditions. As a guy that needs to hike to remote rivers, nutrition, to maintain endurance is key. As Ben’s puts it “I began going after rivers that had not yet been explored, and quickly realized the endurance component of carrying a heavy kayak – sometimes days into a wild river or around unrunnable stretches of river – was the key to the mission”.

Read Next: Adventuring On A Plant-Based Diet With Ben Stookesbury

We took Ben’s advice and put together some tips for dealing with your dietary restrictions in the backcountry.

Photo: Brooke Hess

Preparation is Key

It’s easy to head to REI and buy the pre-made freeze-dried backpacker meals. They are easy to prepare, lightweight, and a quick cleanup. The cons? They are expensive, kinda gross, and most likely don’t comply with your food intolerances or restrictions! So, instead of doing that, just prepare your own meals!

Plan your meals ahead of time, so you know exactly what ingredients to shop for before you go on your trip. Crack a bunch of eggs into a nalgene for scrambled egg dinners. Portion out oatmeal, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolate chips into a ziplock for breakfasts. Make your own granola bars, jerkey, and bread for sandwiches. Know exactly what food you will eat for each meal while you are in the backcountry, and prep it accordingly.

For Stookesbury, planning and preparing his meals before a long trip “takes some focus and forethought… but it feels quite empowering to be so much more cognizant of what I am putting in my body, and obviously there is simply no longer the need to eat much of anything that has all those nasty preservatives.”

Go With Good People

Unfortunately, some people are not as accommodating of food restrictions of others. I can’t say why, but some people think of food restrictions as “picky eating” and “high maintenance”, rather than a serious medical need or a spiritual belief. The fact that you may get seriously sick from eating gluten, or go into anaphylactic shock from your food being near peanut butter might not quite register on their radar. It doesn’t mean they are a bad people, but it might mean you avoid going on long backcountry trips with them in the future.

Alternatively, there are many people out there who are WONDERFUL to plan trips with. They will go out of their way to make sure you have the food you need, and will often sacrifice their own meal plan in order to include you in the group cooking. These people are the best, and you should keep them in your contacts for future backcountry trips. Sharing food and coordinating meals with the group will save both time and weight while carrying food into the backcountry, so going with good people who don’t mind accommodating your dietary needs is key!

Photo: Brooke Hess

Make Time For Three Full Meals A Day

No NOLS-style meal plans here. Stookesbury says one of the most important parts of expeditioning is “planning the time to eat three tasty meals a day.”

Give yourself enough time in the morning to cook up a hot breakfast. Plan a one hour stop mid-day to prepare a sandwich or wrap for lunch. Give yourself enough time in the evening at camp to cook a meal of veggies, protein, and carbs. Without the ease of the freeze-dried backpacker meals, you will have to put more time into your meal prep. But don’t worry, you’ll be happy you did when you are eating a freshly-prepared meal of roasted veggies and quinoa!


Find a bar that works for you. And if you can’t – make your own!

I have spent the past year searching for the best gluten free and dairy free bars. I want the maximum amount of calories and protein, in the smallest possible package. As soon as I found one I liked, I ordered it in bulk on Amazon. I now have a stash of 50+ energy bars in my truck ready to be packed into a drybag, backpack, or ski jacket as soon as the need arises.

If you can’t find one that works with your diet, or can’t find one that you like – make your own! Any combination of dried fruits, nuts, oats, honey, and dark chocolate can make a damn good energy bar. You can find recipes online for homemade bars, then substitute various ingredients to make it work with your diet.

Stookesbury prefers the trail mix method to energy bars. “Nuts, dried fruit, and vegan chocolate is my personal substitute for an energy bar, and I call it a homemade energy bag! Keeping that ‘Power Bag’ of nuts, dried fruit, and some quality chocolate is a good way to keep your energy up and make snacking easy.”

Other popular snacking favorites include jerky, chocolate-covered almonds, cheese sticks (if you can eat dairy), and nut butters.

Photo: Brooke Hess

Be Prepared To Carry More Weight If Needed

I recently met a woman who has developed a severe allergy to all red meat, due to a bite from a Lone Star Tick. If she eats beef, pork, lamb, or any other red meat, she goes into anaphylactic shock. Even if her food is cooked in the same cast iron pan that has recently been in contact with red meat, she could go into anaphylactic shock. For these reasons, whenever she embarks on a backcountry expedition, she brings all her own cookware (and an EpiPen, just in case). She has learned to be adamant about her dietary needs on trips, and often prepares her food separate from the group. She is well aware that her food restrictions might force her to carry more weight than other members in her group, but that hasn’t stopped her from continuing her pursuit of overnight expeditions!

Photo: Brooke Hess

Examples of Day-Long Meal Plans for Various Diets:

Stookesbury’s Favorite Backcountry Vegan Meal Plan

Breakfast -150g oats, chia, flax, pumpkin seeds, hemphearts, raisins and walnuts (add a little salt).

Snack – Powerbag (nuts, dried fruit, vegan chocolate)

Lunch – Hummus, veg (arugula, beet, carrot, avo) sandwich

Dinner – 150g Rice, lentils, broccoli, onion, garlic, with or without nuts, salt, and olive oil.


TOJ’s Favorite Backcountry Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Meal Plan

Breakfast – Pre-cut kale scrambled with eggs, avocado, and vegan “cheese”

Snack – Bobo’s gluten free oat bars, apple, and dairy-free dark chocolate peanut butter cups

Lunch – Gluten free tortillas with peanut butter and jelly

Dinner – Roasted root veggies (sweet potato, beets, carrots, potato), kale, and quinoa, topped with avocado and vegan “cheese” if preferred.

Photo: Brooke Hess

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