Edible Wild Berries for Backpackers
By Steve Gillman
Edible wild fruit a regular part of my backpacking meals.
Why? Wild berries are delicious for starters - at least some
of them. They provide vitamins and enzymes that are often missing
in ordinary backpacking food. Ultralight backpackers can go even
lighter when they know there will be berries to eat (I've eaten
an entire meal of wild raspberries during a twenty-minute break
along a Colorado trail, for example).
Wild Berries for Survival
It would be a good idea if anyone who goes deep into the wilderness
learned how to gather wild foods. You can get lost, a bear can
eat your food, and you can lose your pack. Realistically, though,
most people won't take the time to learn wilderness survival
skills. That is why edible wild berries are such a blessing for
all back country travelers.
Edible wild berries look and taste like their domestic counterparts,
meaning you can find safe food in the wilderness without training
or identification guides. If you know what strawberries, blueberries,
blackberries and raspberries look like and taste like, then you
can identify the wild varieties. They'll be smaller, but just
as full of flavor and nutrition.
When you have time, pick up a good identification guide and
go for a walk with it. If you learn a few new berries a year,
you'll feel more at home in the wild. On a day hike in Glacier
National Park, we ate wild blueberries, service berries, rose
hips, blackberries, strawberries, high-bush cranberries, raspberries,
thimbleberries and currants. It's a good feeling to be in the
mountains and know that there is food all around you.
Can you really fill up on edible wild berries? Absolutely!
Wild blueberries on rocky little islands in Lake Superior kept
a friend and I from going hungry during a kayaking trip (we underestimated
our food needs when packing). I did the math, based on the calorie
count per ounce, and found that we could eat 500 calories of
berries in an hour. With wild raspberries in the Rocky Mountains,
I found I could gather and eat 500 calories in less than 30 minutes.
For more survival topics, visit our newest section
of the site:
The Wilderness Survival
Start by tasting the next edible wild berries you see. If
it taste like a raspberry, it is a raspberry. If it taste wrong,
just spit it out. There are not many wild berries that look like
a raspberries, strawberries or blueberries, and virtually no
berries in North America that can poison you from just a taste
(except poison ivy berries - so avoid white berries if you are
Actually, in most survival situations, food is a low priority.
You need to stay warm, hydrated and uninjured above all. Still,
there is a deep psychological comfort in being able to provide
food for yourself, and that confidence can put you in
a better state of mind for survival. For an easy introduction
to wild foods, and a great excuse for a break when backpacking,
learn to identify a few edible wild berries.
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