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#110959 - 02/09/09 01:30 PM Foraging while hiking
SheltieDad Offline
newbie

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 1
Loc: Chicago, IL
Have enjoyed so many of the posts and discussions. This is a great community with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Truly a shining example of what the Internet can be when you tap into good folks.

So, to pick your brains a bit, I'm wondering how folks feel about the issue of foraging for meals and food, and perhaps, by extension, other natural resources for a more primitive camping experience such as building a brush shelter, etc.

Certainly, there are many books on identifying wild foods, edible plants, and surviving in general. Just this year, I received two books on wilderness survival for Christmas from family and friends who, I suppose, worry about me when I'm not home. (Not that I'd carry 5 lbs. of books in my pack.)

Anyway, with the exception of some of the more plentiful juicier wild berries (black, rasp, and mul) and some sassafras roots, I rarely feel comfortable impacting the land and competing with the native wildlife for food.

Of course, I would never consider trapping or otherwise killing small animals or game unless it was a true survival situation, although fishing is definitely fine with me.

As a hiking philosophy, ideally, I don't want anything to be worse off because of my passing through, not the wildlife, not the spiders, not the plants. (Well, okay, maybe the bloodsuckers aren't off limits so much, and the fish, but you get my drift.)

And yet, the wilderness has enormous resources wherever you look, especially in certain seasons, that could be used to supplement the amount of food carried or, according to some, replace it altogether. There certainly is a bit of a mystique to surviving solely on nature, but even Les Stroud seems to do a lot of three and four-day fasts.

Living off the land, while not necessarily being the most appetizing way to live, kept a lot of our ancestors alive. But with today's already significant manmade pressure on the environment and wildlife, I have a tough time justifying the practice of foraging while backpacking, even though it could lighten the load considerably.

Certainly there are some regulations to deal with when using public and park lands, although as far as I am aware, foraging for immediate and personal consumption is generally okay. It's the people that are poaching ginseng and morels that are a real problem but I suppose that is another issue.

I'm not on the Survivorman bandwagon, but a more primitive camping style does have a certain appeal, especially when coupled with contemporary equipment and practices. I'm also thinking, though, that to really do this right, absent a real emergency, you would need to practice this type of camping on private land, preferably your own.

So, thoughts. What are your experiences either in a survival situation or by choice in feeding off the land, where allowed. Is it worth it? How does it fit in to your overall philosophy regarding your relationship to nature when you are out there? Certainly a handful of huckleberries or mulberries can make a world of difference to a breakfast of Bisquick pancakes, but do you ever go beyond that level, and how did that work for you?

Thanks.

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#110961 - 02/09/09 01:48 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1144
Loc: Washington State, King County
There are a lot of vectors this discussion could take --- and HAS taken in past discussions of the same topic, though I don't recall for certain which forum(s). Here, whiteblaze.net, elsewhere, dunno, but you might search.

One vector is the morality and legality aspects; I'm not inclined to talk about that much as IMO the legality issue is pretty straightforward, call your local ranger district office and ask would be one approach.

Another is the utility. In previous discussions of this topic, it seems to me that the majority opinion has asserted that it's hardly worth it, as it's tough to get many actual calories that way. Thru-hiking the PCT this year I talked with a fellow early on who planned to heavily supplement his diet that way, so I ended up having this discussion with some other folks along the way. The time and energy (calories) needed to gather foods that provide much in the way of calories is generally going to be significant, especially if you plan to walk many miles each day. Obviously the specific opportunities vary by location, time of year, the legality/morality issue on a per-food-item basis, and your expertise and perhaps equipment (hunting, fishing).

Bottom line is that --- I believe --- few people that look into this sort of romantic notion end up getting a lot of food that way. Of course if your goal is to add a little spice to your food, picking some wild onions or the like is fun, nice. It's just not significant in terms of food value. If the whole purpose of your outdoor trip is to go out and live, but not move around a great deal in a natural setting, perhaps this can work out better. I don't know how much of the day our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent just keeping fed, but for an amateur like me, I wonder if there would be enough hours in the day (!), again, depending on when and where.

Again, search some sites for words like "foraging", "calories", etc and I would guess you can find existing threads that offer a variety of opinions (and who knows, maybe some actual experience ...).
_________________________
Brian Lewis
http://postholer.com/brianle

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#110973 - 02/09/09 02:59 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
It depends completely on your hiking goals, and your foraging skills. You mention survivorman. He does a good job of showing how hard it is to find food on your own without a film crew catching fish for you and letting you hit it with a stick on TV to simulate a catch. I have seen others go out with 20-30 snares coupled with years of experience and only come away with one or two animals at a time. So, in other words, I wouldn't count on foraging for food, only adding to what I already carry.
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I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#110978 - 02/09/09 04:39 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: finallyME]
Narf Offline
member

Registered: 12/25/06
Posts: 76
Loc: Missouri
Originally Posted By finallyME
how hard it is to find food on your own without a film crew catching fish for you and letting you hit it with a stick on TV to simulate a catch.


i'm not sure who you could be talking about

but anyway, most i've ever done was pick some gooseberries...but thats only because its one thing i can definately recognize. I've always wanted to add a bit more to my meals, I just don't know what to look for. Most of the books I've seen don't do a really good job on the descriptions. I don't trust hand drawn pictures of yummyleafplant right next to the drawing of superdeathweed where the difference between the 2 is an extra squiggle. Would love to find a book with some nice high res shots of the plants in different seasons.

also thought about picking up some crawdads to boil up several times, but they always look so small it would be a waste.


Edited by Narf (02/09/09 04:45 PM)

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#110988 - 02/09/09 07:52 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Doggydad

i notice that you live in chicago. i have to type with one hand because my dog butts my hand for attention when i'm ast the computer.

in big sur i can supplement my food about 50% with local plants and herbs, but around you, fish is all you will be able to get, and only then if you hike in wisconsin or michigan.

let me guess, you have a big knife to protect yourself from animals right?

jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#111007 - 02/10/09 03:33 AM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I have a buddy that has said we should head out with nothing but peanut butter and crackers and try to forage for the rest. There's always something to hunt or fish for here, so there's no real legal issues to deal with.

But I've declined. I've spent a lot of time foraging for fun, and fishing, and tracking and stalking game for a good sighting.

It's not a sure bet. Without intimate knowledge of an area you might not find a thing to eat for days.

I'm all for adding to my diet while rambling around, but food is one thing I bring enough of.

I hate being hungry frown

Bill
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#111017 - 02/10/09 12:00 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Roocketman Offline
member

Registered: 03/10/07
Posts: 203
I agree that for a few "low hanging fruits" or "easily rooted vegetables", to add to your already sufficient food, foraging for fun could be, well, fun.

The romantic vision of living off the land would require a skill set that reading a few books and articles wouldn't really cover. Those who lived off the land were taught by parents and others who lived off the land, who were taught by ........

If you can get the skill set from books, be sure to let us know, however.

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#111032 - 02/10/09 04:53 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1070
Loc: California
I've picked a few berries in the Sierra here and there, and wild onions, and even picked up a trout once that had beached himself and was flopping around (and caught a few on a hook, of course) but mostly where I hike edible stuff is not so profuse that I could significantly forage without damaging the ecosystem.

Locally in the SF Bay Area I took a class on wild edibles and we sampled lots of stuff like pancakes made with curly dock seed (a weed related to buckwheat - we called it "Indian tobacco" when I was little - made very delicious pancakes 50/50 with Bisquick) and elderflower fritters; tasty and interesting, but mostly requiring other ingredients to prepare in a tasty fashion, so not so practical for backpacking.

However, when in Maui once we took a hike with a guy who had lived off the land there for a few years back in the 60's. He had amazing knowledge of all the edibles, and had us sample stuff as he led the hike. Lush tropical areas would not be so prone to over-foraging, and I wouldn't have a problem with the ethics of eating off the land when it was so heavily productive. As long as there weren't scores of others like me doing the same thing, anyway.

_________________________
dk

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#111043 - 02/10/09 07:49 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Waffle Offline
newbie

Registered: 02/10/09
Posts: 11
Loc: North Idaho
I've been doing a little bit of research on the whole foraging idea, and I'm planning on doing a little experimenting with it in the spring time. One thing I have had trouble with is finding some decent straight-forward literature on the subject.

I did purchace one book, but it includes the entire united states. The pictures are vague, and the areas the plants grow re even more vague. I'd like a book that shows maps of where the plant can be found easilly. Decent pictures would be nice too.

If anyone has literature suggestions please let me know.
_________________________
http://darren.thiesen.us

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#111083 - 02/11/09 12:26 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Wolfeye Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/07
Posts: 413
Loc: Seattle, WA
I grew up doing a lot of foraging and thought it was normal. Perhaps it was normal in my little sub-culture; my tribe was sleeping in longhouses & hoarding fish for a living a mere 150 years ago. People up there still catch & dry fish, collect berries & sea asparagus, pick & dry seaweed or Hudson bay tealeaves, dig up cockles, and hunt the odd deer even though we have access to grociery foods. People do it for fun, but mostly they do it because that's what their parents do.

How did it work for us? It was great. smile We'd eat dried salmon with our meals throughout the winter. We poured ooligan oil over our potatoes. Dad & I would spend the day picking blueberries, and Mom would make cobbler out of it. We'd set shrimp pots, crab pots, and dinner would be fresh & cheap. We harvested herring eggs laid on kelp, a delicacy that I haven't seen anywhere but at the res. My diet was probably a lot healthier back then than it is now.

Much of that wasn't "normal" behavior, or even considered to be fair treatment of nature, when I moved to Seattle. I get yelled at by passers-by when I wander a few paces off the trail to pick some huckleberries: "You're contributing to erosion, dude! Get a clue!" These people wear funny looking nylon shorts, they carry ski poles while hiking on dirt, and I have to pay money to park my car in what was probably somebody's ancestral hunting ground.

And what the people yell is right. If everybody in this area grew up with the same background I had, the woods would be ravaged. It just isn't sustainable, not for the hiking population that this area has. Back where I grew up, I might have shown respect to the berry bush's spirit by thanking it for what it provided. Now I'm repsectful from a distance.

All of this changes my outdoors philosphy on a base level: I'm a guest. Not a resident.

Edit: In regards to hiking, I can't say I've thought of foraging as such. I suppose we were hiking much of that time, but the aim was to collect, not cover miles. Our packs held tupperware. The only place I can picture as abundant enough to collect food conveniently during hiking trips is a tidal beach.


Edited by Wolfeye (02/11/09 12:39 PM)

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#111089 - 02/11/09 02:52 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
The only foraging I do is in my kitchen because 1)I'm big on LNT and 2)I want a guaranteed food source and 3)I'd rather spend the time relaxing.

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#111094 - 02/11/09 07:17 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: Trailrunner]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
LNT is a regional thing in how you practice it. In the West you can see a 10 year old set of footprints in some places.

Here in the Ozarks, well used trails get swallowed up in a few years of no use. Therefore, the trail is often considered a blight, and using one discouraged in some areas.

There are generally no laws against collecting food from the forests. There are some highly regulated plants. Ginseng and Purple Coneflower among them. There are many other wild plants, fruits, and herbs that locals collect each year though with no ill effect on the ecosystem.

Bill

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#111096 - 02/11/09 07:59 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: billstephenson]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
Bill,
As you say, LNT is a regional thing. Like not sawing on trees, lighting wood fires, preserving habitat, hunting, fishing, etc. Its really dependant on the region, not just in terms of attitude, but in terms of reasonableness. We have so many pine trees in Oregon that they have be thinned out to keep the forests healthy. The Native Americans used to light fires to do this, now the pale face does the same thing, only he also carries a chain saw. We burn habitat here, and its ok.

Trails - in the far west we like to stay on the trail because it can be pretty deeply eroded, and we try not to cut corners on switchbacks, but as soon as we're on the bare rock everything changes.

What really upsets people here are irresponsible dog owners who take them to no dog areas in the national forest. The skiers will pet your dog and suggest that you take her to a legal dog park up the road a couple o'miles.

Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#111365 - 02/16/09 03:05 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: Jimshaw]
MattnID Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 317
Loc: Idaho
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
Bill,

What really upsets people here are irresponsible dog owners who take them to no dog areas in the national forest. The skiers will pet your dog and suggest that you take her to a legal dog park up the road a couple o'miles.


I hear you on that. It drives me nuts when I see folks out with dogs in areas they shouldn't be in. What adds to the irritation though is that pretty much anywhere you go now in Idaho is now wolf territory. So when I see someone out with their dogs, I always almost want to tell them they should have just left the dogs at home or back in camp. Having lived in Alaska for a little while and seeing what wolves do to dogs, I'm not one for wanting to see someone lose a dog or two because their owner ignored some re-established rules in the mountains and want to pretend like it is still 15 years ago.

Heck, I'm waiting for folks in the foothills here around Boise to start reporting wolf sightings. I was up snowshoeing on the front side of the Boise range and came across a ton of wolf tracks in the snow.
_________________________
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle

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#111383 - 02/16/09 11:25 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
It all depends on what environment you are backpacking in. Mountain terrain has never been great for living off the land. Tropics and coastal areas are much easier.

I fish and fly gear weighs so little (about half a pound) that I think it is well worth the effort. Of course, you have to learn the skill first. Fish is a supplement - not all your calories.

Berries are very seasonal. You can only get sufficient berries to make a difference when they are harvestable - usually late season. Same with roots - seasonal.

I usually can get enough wild greens to have a salad. Again not for calories, but for a nice variety and the vitamin C. Columbines are my favorite - just love to eat these beautiful flowers. Anothe is Miner's Lettuce. And Elk Thistle.

As for mushrooms, I only eat a few kinds that I am very sure of and in areas that I have been before.

All in all - it is just something to add a bit of variety and keep me busy. But I do appriciate that I know enough to get some food if I need to in a survival situation.

The more valuable experience is simply to spend 4 days in the woods without food and walk out 40 miles and learn how you phycologically handle it. I have done this several times. I learned that energy depletes fast - make as many miles as you can the first two days. After about 3 days I tend to halucinate. You really have to concentrate to keep your head. Training does help. With training you do not panic.


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#111384 - 02/16/09 11:34 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: SheltieDad]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Whatever you eat, just be SURE it's safe.

Read or see Into the Wild .

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#111404 - 02/17/09 12:27 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: wandering_daisy]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
The more valuable experience is simply to spend 4 days in the woods without food and walk out 40 miles and learn how you phycologically handle it. I have done this several times.


Are you recommending that people do this or learn from your experience?

Bill
_________________________
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"You want to go where?"



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#111460 - 02/18/09 03:05 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: billstephenson]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2742
Loc: California
I mean that they should do this! You cannot evaluate how you will react from someone else's experience. This is basically the survival part of the NOLS courses. Other organizations and the military also do these kinds of exercises. You need to do it with others to be safe. If you hike off-trail regularly, then do it off-trail; if you hike on trails, then do it on trails. You also need to be sure you do not have some metobolic disorder that would make this unsafe. Most people in the USA have never even gone without food for one day, let alone four. You also need to be in the real situation - not sitting in your house! Obviously you need to learn your survival skills before this "test". To be conservative - first do a 2-day survival, then a 3-day and then a 4-day. This is an exercise without food, NOT without water.

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#111464 - 02/18/09 03:46 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: wandering_daisy]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Well, I imagine that it may be good training but I'm still going to pass. I've done the "without food" thing and still do on a nearly daily basis, only eating when I get really hungry, but I do have a limit and I would be feeling awful after even two days.

Shoot, I'll eat a McDonalds Cheeseburger after a couple days of nothing. I'd probably start eating bugs and worms after three days, shoe leather by four, any longer than that and I'd be inviting the "others" over for a "Donner Party".

Maybe that's why I always carry too much food when I head out wink

Bill

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#111466 - 02/18/09 03:54 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: wandering_daisy]
bigfoot2 Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/06
Posts: 1432
Loc: Eugene , Oregon
Nothing wrong with hunting deer while hiking (not much meat on tha' young-uns, though....):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOUEjiE6-Hk

BF cool
_________________________
Hammockers aren't stuck up, they're just above it all.

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#111468 - 02/18/09 04:22 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: bigfoot2]
jpanderson80 Offline
member

Registered: 07/28/06
Posts: 292
Loc: Memphis, TN
Bigfoot2,
You really are fast with those videos!


My last trip, I hiked for probably 8 miles before realizing I was hungry.

Sustaining oneself with foraging would take LOTS of time. In fact, I'm not sure one could make serious miles AND forage effectively. I understand walking the trail and spotting something over to the side and checking it out. But even this would limit your miles during the day. I think unless I set up a base camp in a nice area, foraging would only suppliment my diet. Otherwise, I would have to tell my wife that I'm going foraging vs I'm going backpacking.
_________________________
I always forget and make it more complicated than it needs to be...it's just walking.

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#111469 - 02/18/09 04:58 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: jpanderson80]
bigfoot2 Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/06
Posts: 1432
Loc: Eugene , Oregon
Originally Posted By jpanderson80

foraging would only suppliment my diet...


Agreed. The only "foraging" i do is trout fishing and checking others camps for leftover beer (you'd be surprised :)) . My son has found an unopened Coke on the beach (i think it was last year when we camped with Jimshaw, actually), and two cans of Hormel chili in the Three Sisters Wilderness. Both were good finds and were consumed asap laugh

BF
_________________________
Hammockers aren't stuck up, they're just above it all.

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#111475 - 02/18/09 06:27 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: jpanderson80]
MattnID Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/07
Posts: 317
Loc: Idaho
The only place I've ever been able to forage and walk at the same time was in Denali. And that's only because the whole tundra was nothing but blueberries anyway.

I agree though, foraging is a pain in the butt unless you have the time to spare. I would never rely solely on foraging unless I had to.
_________________________
In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.-Aristotle

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#111500 - 02/19/09 11:33 AM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: jpanderson80]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
I have given up on making miles count when I'm Bpacking. Well most of the time. I'm out there to enjoy the sights,sounds and smells of the woods. Certain times of the year you can find Morell mushrooms and I will definatly take the time to pick enough for dinner. If I section hike, I will try to maintain my pace but if something interesting catches my eye, I will spend the time to check it out. Sometimes just stop and take a mid day nap. If I'm with a group and they leave me behind it's o.k. we can meet up at a certain destination. I can't see myself trying to live off the land. The time I get to spend in the woods is precious to me and I like to carry decent food to eat. At the cost of slower travel. Especially first night meals.
_________________________
Enjoy your next trip...

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#111504 - 02/19/09 01:51 PM Re: Foraging while hiking [Re: bigfoot2]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3865
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By bigfoot2
Nothing wrong with hunting deer while hiking (not much meat on tha' young-uns, though....):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOUEjiE6-Hk

BF cool


See, the thing that scares me with that link is your prelude. I haven't clicked it yet, but my clicking finger has been getting a little twitchy. Thing is, you just don't know what you'll be subjected to...

Bill
_________________________
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"You want to go where?"



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