Tramping snacks have always tended to be a non-event for me. Keep them light, keep them cherry and they’ll be fine. With oats for breakfast and protein-bound to be in my dinner, snacks were just sugar that bounced me from car to hut and back again. Munching on chocolate heavy nut bars and supermarket bread rolls, I had noticed the jerky, salami and tuna sachets my meat-eating mates would carry but I had never really bothered searching for a vegetarian alternative - I had assumed they didn’t exist.
However, when I first suggested Rakiura’s North-Western Circuit to my friend, food was the first thing we discussed. Specifically: ‘what on earth does nine days worth of food look like?’ followed by ‘how on earth are we going to carry that?’ On top of this, when you’re in the bush for nine days everything you carry needs to be worthwhile nutritionally (or spiritually - don’t worry we did take chocolate) and quite quickly I realised that bread rolls weren’t going to cut it. There was awesome advice online but it mainly catered for the meat and fish-eating population, and I struggled to find any sound advice for vegetarian, tramping friendly snacks. I wasn’t keen on trying to maintain a sugar high for the duration of the tramp and as my mate put together a variety of meat-based options I started to envision a miserable existence of cracking out a can of chickpeas every time we stopped for a rest…
I found Off-Piste Jerky only ten days before I was leaving to Rakiura and re-arranged my food plan for it to sit front and central in my daily protein intake. Having only tried it once before, it made for a pretty ultimate test but it totally pulled through and made me a big ol’ jerky fanatic!
Buying the same snack for nine consecutive days could be seen as setting yourself up to fail. After all, I knew I was not immune to getting sick of the same flavour (OSM bars have never tasted the same since a Tongariro tramp and dear lord please keep chocolate covered pretzels away from me). However, the jerky was gold! Teriyaki and Original were like night and day and Sweet and Hot was an entire personality in itself! I found that I enjoyed the choice of different flavours each day and it was an exciting (and a much needed) way to break up the endless bags of scroggin!
I also really appreciated the resealable packets that the jerky came in. My jerky stayed fresh and free from sand, mud, etc despite the sand, mud etc finding its way into every other corner of my pack. A lot of our food came in single-use plastic wrapping that we then had to pack out, which became particularly gross when oily or sticky food was concerned (also all of the single-use plastic weighed pretty heavy on the conscious). We relied on reusing our old ziplock bags, but as we got further into the tramp I noticed a lot of the bags were breaking - not sealing properly or (my favourite) sneaky little holes emerging to leak stink and grossness into my pack. Once I had eaten my jerky the Off-Piste packets were really useful for carrying out our rubbish - they were a lot more durable and much more trustworthy than the other bags. And even better, unlike all the other waste, the packaging was recyclable when we reached town!
It was light! Oh my goodness how highly do I rate food that doesn’t weigh much! 50 grams per packet is heaven on earth. Especially when you consider a nut bar can be close to 200 grams and contain nowhere near the same nutritional value. With a 20-something-kg pack on my back, my one true love became the 50g packets of jerky joy I had to look forward to each day. I found that it is incredibly good for the morale when walking up an endless sand dune to think that at least something in your pack makes sense!
One of the biggest challenges of my tramp came unexpectedly. I normally have an enormous appetite but for the first few days, I lost it almost completely. Breakfast was a no-go which didn’t set me up well for our first days that were also our biggest, longest and hardest tramping days. In one of my most ridiculous moments during this lacking appetite period, I ate an almond in five separate bites… And so, for obvious reasons, it became really important that anything I could eat was as energy and protein-dense as possible. My jerky was a lifesaver! Those first days were slow going but it brought me a lot of comfort to know that I was feeding myself the best food that I could be. I can’t overstate how useful the jerky was, it was the fuel getting me up those hills and through the mud.
The jerky was also serious ammunition in making and keeping friends. My carnivore mate never declined an offer of vegan jerky despite his farmy farm-meaty meat background. In fact, I would say he was always a bit stoked when it appeared from my pack. Getting a good jerky shot became a frequent consideration during our breaks and my jerky-inspired friend became photographer extraordinaire. My favourite jerky fueled photo we got was when I was crossing my first three-wire bridge. I was about halfway across when said photographer extraordinaire yelled out to ask if the jerky was handy - why not have a photoshoot on a three-wire-bridge?! Vegan jerky was also offered to a lingering eight-year-old we met at the hut (whose eyes lit up at the offer) and it guaranteed us a friend and shadow for the rest of the night. Overall 10/10 to the jerky on the social front.
I was totally stoked with Off-Piste’s jerky on my tramp. Munching on it daily kept me going and kept me happy. What more could I ask for? Big thanks to the Off-Piste team for their support on my adventure and for making such an epic product available! I can’t wait to take it on more adventures up the hills, into the bush and through the mud.
Blog by Zoe Brawn