Napoleon is one of many Leaders who has quoted that “an army marches on its stomach” we can apply this principal to the Fells both from calorific intake and morale booster in enjoying what you eat.
From running the overnight camp since 2011 we have seen many teams have good food and skills to cook it, but we have also observed some teams having insufficient food and a good number of teams struggling to cook their evening meal.
In addition we have seen teams on Sunday reluctant to get up and walk, as well as being physically tired, we feel a number are “running on empty”.
We hope that that sharing some guidance may assist all groups in planning their food.
Average teenagers need 2400 to 2800 calories for a normal day, you can add 100 calories to this for each mile walked, on Saturday this is about 11 miles for Scouts and 16 miles for Explorers (excluding getting lost).
So you need to plan for about 4000 for the first 24 hours.
Using a Wayfarer meal as a base line, these are about 450-550 calories, so while excellent and easy to heat up, not sufficient on its own for replenishing the body. We have also seen teams with a pot noodle each for evening meal; well this is just not going to do it!
So our suggestions and tips.
Ensure you discuss with your teams what they like to eat, plus a practice session a week or so before. This ensures they can cook the food. In addition it makes a good evening activity, not only for those taking part, but the other Scouts or Explorers in your Group not walking.
It also avoids mistakes we have seen in the past. One team was heating up meal by placing unopened sachet of dehydrated food in a pan of water. When challenged they said it was the same way as another group was heating up a Wayfarer meal. Clearly no pre Fells Practice took place! Also many examples of pasta “soup” because they have added too much water.
So have a practice evening in September, agree the food they like and set them the task to work out calories and plan their menu as well.
Eat well Friday night. Would suggest you don’t just rely on what they have eaten at home.
Many teenagers are not good at eating in the morning but they will need more that a bowl of cereal to set them up for the day. Discuss with them what they like and load up on slow burn carbohydrates.
Most groups get Scouts/Explorers to bring their own packed lunch with them. There is no point in dictating what they need as they will need to like it to eat it. So think about this and have a chat at planning meeting, don’t leave it to parents to make up a box of green salad with chargrilled chicken and Caesar dressing. This is not enough calories and not easy to eat while walking.
Sandwiches are a good baseline. We would suggest you need 4 slices of bread so homemade is better and not to rely on pre-packed from service stations. They can also be made to personal preference.
An alternative, or supplement is easy to eat finger food, high in calories and easy to eat on the go. As such you can have some every few hours and not just when the team stops at lunch time. Pork Pies, sausage rolls, cooked sausages are all available in meat or vegetarian versions as well as Babybel, stringy cheese or other individually packaged cheese.
Flap Jack, fruit cake or other “solid” cake also good, as are biscuits.
Sweets give some instant energy but this dissipates fairly quickly.
So give some guidance but let the young people choose what they like to eat.
Please also advise about litter on route. Eating on the go is good for maintaining calorie intake, but don’t drop litter, take a bag to collect wrappers. The sweep teams are there for safety not to “sweep up” your rubbish.
The kind and caring overnight camp crew, will offer all teams a hot drink and a piece of cake, not enough to fill them up but just to keep them going till they have put up tents and had their meal.
Wayfarer meals are a good starting point. Fairly tasty and give a team choice. As heat in the bag, team members can choose different ones and still cook them at the same time. But they are heavier than dehydrated options and pricy. Plus not as many calories as you would think.
Dehydrated food is minimal weight. You can buy the brands specifically for camping, but many supermarket pasta or rice based “instant” meals are as good and cost effective.
Do look at calories on packet, some are full meals but if sold as a snack, then will not be enough for a meal after a full days walking. So just double up quantity or allow 6 packets for team of 4.
Also think about what you can add to the packet meal. Chopped up pepperoni, or hand full of grated cheese, both add flavour and calories.
Can also take sachets of sauces, be this a chow mein, sweet chilli or simple tomato sauce. Make each person’s meal personal and they will enjoy it more.
As mentioned in the beginning we have seen several examples of “pasta soup” with Scouts boiling up a full billy of water then pouring in their dehydrated food,
One simple tip, is to work out how much water is needed for the quantity of food in advance and to put a mark on the inside of the billy with a felt tip pen at appropriate level, they then can fill with water to this level, outcome is stew not soup.
In the past we have had some teams taking some fresh or frozen food as well. If happy to carry it and have skills to cook, why not, it may boost team morale.
So after your delicious dehydrated or fresh main meal, consider a pudding. This can be simple such as cake or biscuits, either eaten after their main meal or just before going to bed. Leave it up to the team.
Think about a hot drink before bed as well, many come in sachets now too.
The Leaders on the overnight camp will ensure that all have cooked and eaten their food before bed. We won’t cook the food for the teams but if any teams are very late back and/or brought in by the minibusand it is dark, we have even gone as far as giving them access to the mess tent to cook.
It does not matter what, but something that the team will eat and will keep them going until lunchtime.
A hot drink is always a good to start the day, but we see few groups doing this.
Instant porridge, the little pots are quite good, but buy 2 for each person, can repackage into one pot.
Cereal bars good and easy to eat, again look at calories, usually about 120-150 a bar. One bar per person is unlikely to be enough.
If only eating cereal or cereal bars, think about hot drink as well. In a nutshell start the day well.
Discuss with teams that they need to keep hydrated, both throughout the day and rebalancing the body by drinking loads when at the overnight site. Brains work better when hydrated!
Work out tasks in advance, ½ the team can be putting tents up while 1 or 2 of the team are making a brew or starting cooking tea.
Yes the leaders at the overnight site are very helpful, but we do not respond to request for hot water and or to wash up pans. The portable toilets are not a place to wash pans either so, pack ½ a scouring pad with a squirt of washing up liquid on it, in a polythene bag, one for each meal/pan and you have a single use way of washing up your pans.
Plan your food and practice cooking your main meal it will boost your performance and enjoyment of the event.
The Wolds Challenge and The Fells Marathon are organised and run by Blacktoft Beacon District Scout Council.
Registered with the Scout Association: 016357. Registered Charity Number: 1148031