Refuelling in the Arctic

Photo by Jason van Bruggen.
Photo by Jason van Bruggen.

 

Last year, ML contrib Jason Van Bruggen canoed the uber-remote Horton River. Part of the Arctic Ocean drainage basin, the Horton flows above the 69th Parallel – the furthest north of any of the continent’s mainland rivers. This barrenlands river is among the most pristine environments on earth. One of Van Bruggen’s sponsors was VEGA, and here we include his trip report on how the Canadian-made, plant-based nutrition supplements helped to fuel his expedition.

 

Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.
Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.

How do you fuel and make sure you eat right in the wilderness?

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​We grow a lot of our own food and are getting more focused every day on responsibly raised and harvested food sources. That being said, most of those considerations go out the window on an expedition. After two or three weeks on an Arctic river, fresh food is not an option, local food doesn’t really exist (unless you’re hunting wild game and have a real understanding of local flora) and caloric intake becomes really important after days on end of physical exertion and cold.​

 

That’s where the VEGA products really helped me. I’m a pretty big person and require more calories than many others on the trip. I could supplement as I went, with the performance products provided.​

What fuelling tips would you give to people prepping for a long expedition?

Don’t underestimate how hungry people get after days of continuous exercise in extreme climates. I refer to an object lesson from this past summer. On the leg of my Arctic trip, we paddled the Horton River to the Arctic Ocean. We paddled to the top of the world. The last week was spent in barrenlands tundra. There were no trees and therefore no firewood. We had brought a propane stove in anticipation of this. However mid-way through our trip the hose came into contact with the element and burned right through. We spent our last seven days rationing a few scraps of wood that we had collected earlier in the trip. As a result many of the meals, dinners in particular (requiring high heat and boiling water to convert freeze dried goods into something edible) were not an option. People were pretty exhausted by the end, which is part of the adventure, but I was grateful to have a stash of VEGA products to keep my energy up.

 

Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.
Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.

 

Were there days where you felt your body was talking to you? About muscle exhaustion?

​On this trip, it was more steady exertion day in day out so the muscle ​exhaustion was cumulative ​rather than acute. I found the VEGA Sport Recovery Accelerator was extremely useful. I really noticed a difference on the days that I had emptied a packet into my water bottle before going to bed the night before. It was remarkable.

 

Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.
Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.

 

Any other health, fitness, or fuelling tips?

​Stamina is a huge component of these trips, which require continuous exertion for weeks on end. ​Aside from paddling which is a surprisingly good overall upper body workout, you’re not really using one muscle group to the exclusion of all others. Good preparation for me involves steady aerobic exercise like cycling or swimming to get the body used to longer periods of continued exertion. After a couple of knee operations, my days of running on pavement are over, but I am sure this would be great preparation for city-dwellers other than myself.

 

Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.
Photo by Jason Van Bruggen.

 

While on the trip, I think stretching is essential and it was really important for me to use my legs and lower body after a day of canoeing. The good news is that the sun never really sets in the Arctic in July, so the opportunity to do something active was always there. A hike up into the mountains to find a good view was my standard way to create a more balanced workout.

In terms of food, try to put good protein and good calories into your body. On a lot of canoe trips I have ended up living on pasta and cheese for the last legs. I am always focussed on keeping my meals as full of colour as possible – lots of fruits and vegetables, even if they are freeze-dried towards the end of the trip.

Follow more of Jason Van Bruggen’s adventures here. And check out VEGA’s product overview here.

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