Convenience Store Commissary

One minute and 24 seconds. That’s the record. If you run, know where everything is, have nobody in front of you, and pay with an easy-pay device, you may be able to beat it. I challenge you to beat it.

I’m talking about the amount of time needed to grab all of the essential winter camping supplies from your local convenience store.

I have an affliction when it comes to getting the food supplies for my winter trips. I am physically incapable of spending half an hour driving to a grocery store and hunting down provisions for my trip when the mountains are calling me. As a coping mechanism, I’ve developed a list of food items that I can find at any mom-and-pop convenience store while stopping to gas up.

Snacks consist of a package of gummy worms, a chocolate bar, a bag of beef jerky, and a packet of peanut butter crackers. For dinner, I round up a box of Kraft Easy Mac, Ramen Noodles, a can (or bag) or tuna, and Blueberry Pop Tarts.

That’s it. That’s all you need for a weekend in a tent.

While the list has satisfied my need to avoid a grocery store on my way to the mountain, I’ve always wondered how my convenience store choices stacked up against the fancier camping meals. For example, is Easy Mac similar to a dehydrated meal? Is a Pop-Tart better for you than a Power Bar? And the most important question of all: Is Gu just a yuppie version of gummy worms?

Okay, I know, you can get Power Bars in convenience stores.  However, why pay $2.50 for a Power Bar when you can throw down a $1 bill to get a slice of your childhood. (By the way, they are consistently $1… I think Kraft sends around secret police to enforce this. Don’t tell them I told you, though.) An energy bar is essentially a Pop-Tart with more protein and some additional vitamins. Whether or not you need the protein while you’re exercising is debatable, with most sources indicating that it is most beneficial for post-workout muscle repair. Not only is the Pop-Tart more festive looking, it also doesn’t become an inedible brick when its frozen. The extra fat content helps keep your internal stove humming along, tastes better than seal blubber, and serves an important function in the backcountry. (Think anti-fiber.)

Holy sodium batman!  All of these dinners will get your blood pressure up to Sam Kinnison levels.  Oooh Oooh OOOOOH!

Notice, however, that the convenience store dinners are much more calorie dense. In fact, gram for gram, Ramen Noodles, at 4.4 calories per gram are as calorie dense as fudge. Yes fudge. (I checked.) Hardly health food, but great for winter camping.

Contrary to my original theory, Gu is not just a liquefied gummy worm. It is clearly a liquefied gummy worm with a Flintstone vitamin and a soy sauce packet. So yes, Gu is a yuppie version of the gummy worm.  Interestingly, the nutrition label reveals that Gu somehow has ¼ the sugar of gummy worms, with equal fat and protein, and yet has nearly the same number of calories. This scares me. Clearly their “glucose polymers” and witches brew has led to a calorie source that is invisible to the government nutrition label. Be afraid.

Gu definitely has the advantage over gummy worms on the vitamin front. To even the tables, grab one of those “Emergen-C” packets at the register and throw it into your water.

While the Convenience Store Diet isn’t very healthy, it is convenient for the occasional winter camping trip to the mountains.

When you get a chance to plan ahead be sure to visit your local grocer and stock up on some healthier hiker options.

But when the weather catches you by surprise, get out there with your stop watches and speed passes, and see if you can break the record … without looking like you’re trying to rob the place.

Andy Howard

Andy Howard grew up in the woods of the Northeast Kingdom and learned at an early age that skiing and biking in the trees is fun. After living in North Carolina and Georgia, he eventually found his way back to New England and now lives in the Boston area where he balances a legal career with his love for exploration and adventure.

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