How much does a foraged meal really cost?

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How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Apr 27, 2016 12:22 am

I was working on updating a stove thread done some time ago with actual field testing, the sub 20 dollar stainless steel wood gas stove and also wanted to do some work with a WCF neck knife. I guessed the best way to accomplish both was to head out into the woods and forage a meal. When packing I thought about an issue which came to mind years ago. During a winter outing I wanted to forage a meal but ended up falling through the ice and snow into a river (was lucky only up to my knees) and had to crawl out through a deep 3 foot snow base with my snowshoes. Ended up breaking some of the teeth on the shoes and froze my feet. I did manage to setup a shelter and make some tea.

Here is that outing from years ago.

Deep snow base.

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Snowshoes disappearing into the powder.

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My pack.

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My stupid plan. With fishing pole in one hand and camera in the other I walked to the edge of the river to try my luck. I was going to catch a trout for my winter bush meal and become an internet hero. What could possibly go wrong?

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Into the water I go. Why? Simple, during winter it can be hard to determine what's land or undercut ice and snow. I leaned back to increase the surface area then took this photo. I can't imagine the water was more than 3 feet deep but didn't want to find out. Moving water no matter the depth can do unpleasant things.

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Stupid.....

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Setup a fast day shelter to recoup as dark moved in.

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I need to crack out the old Trail stove again!

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It was a cold walk of shame back.

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I came away with several conclusions.

1. I can be profoundly stupid.

2. Never take a river for granted, more so during winter.

3. In a survival situation the risk to reward ratio of trying to forage a meal isn't worth it. I am not taking about hydration or good chance finds rather going far out of my way for food. This is time and effort which could be spent on shelter, wood and water.

Moving things along for today. As stated my intent for this outing was for two other topics so don't be surprised if some of these photos come up again in those future (as in a day or so) threads. What made me thing about this was finally technology offered a good way to quantify the effort required to forage an entire meal. I would take the exact same route as the ill fated winter outing of years ago shown above. The weather was easier but still kinda sucked. It was in the low 40's all day. In fact was 41 Fahrenheit on the hike out as it rained on and off all day. But a snow base is very hard to deal with and maybe this time success would make me reconsider some of my above conclusions though will always be profoundly stupid at times. LOL!

Foraged meal energy to reward assessment. GO!

First wild edible. Onion grass. My meal is off to a good start.

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It is very wet. I will be field testing those inexpensive wood gas stoves so will need good tinder. This yellow Birch bark will do nicely.

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The banks are clearly defined now.

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Success!

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I collected water and cleaned the trout a mile or so away. The little brook in that area isn't stocked by the state, in fact neither is the larger river but I don't clean trout near the same water as it was caught in. Guessing that could be a no no once the head is removed. So cleaned it from not connected water in a very very small brook long after done fishing. Also this was for immediate consumption. During summer it can dry up.

Set-up a similar shelter.

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Ran the ridge line from a small Hemlock so the conifer tea would be an easy addition.

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The foraged meal and water ready to GO!

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This ground pad is looking better than the last one. Gathered tinder and fuel for the stove.

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The onion grass turns black fast but it's still good! Tea was great as well.

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The best trout I had in years. No joke!

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So what was the cost? My hands were getting cold but no big deal. They warmed up nicely when drinking the tea. I turned on the device once the decision was made to go out of my way to forage so minus the base hike in then turned it off after breaking my daycamp near dust so not to add extra on the hike out. Here is the extra distance foraging cost me.

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In terms of time maybe 3 hours as the fish didn't come easy. So was that really worth it? Would it have been better to spend that time gathering wood as dusk was well on its way. Maybe more water? What about the unqualified costs? I went up and down some steep hillsides etc etc during those extra 2.11 miles. Not too long ago I trail jogged over 20 miles with a pack.

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So these days the extra distance with my pack wasn't noticeable but roll back a year or two ago and it would have been much more strenuous. Then there is the physiological benefits of success along with the satisfaction of surprisingly good meal even if the calories expended might not equal the intake. People are more than just calories in and calories out IMHO. There are aspects to us which aren't so easily measured. I am still undecided if expending a good deal of time and energy for food would be worth it if involved in one of those fantasy survival situations. I am certain hydration and shelter/fire is worth effort. Then again what the heck do it know as this is just mostly ramblings.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by woodsghost » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:15 am

Great lessons and great discussion!

I too had a similar experience in winter with rivers and ice. And fires and avoiding hypothermia or frostbite.

In a "survival situation" I don't think catching 1 trout would be "worth it." Gathering wood and building shelter would have been a better use of your time. But the next morning could have been spent gathering food and just hanging out. That is where the "calories in/calories expended" stuff comes into it's own, IMHO.

Further, if you were in a "fantasy survival situation," you would not have been walking and walking. You would have parked your butt until rescue, right? So then the calorie expenditure goes down and catching/foraging local edibles starts to make more

At least, those are my $.02. :)
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by majorhavoc » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:24 am

This is why many anthropologists believe that the lion's share of caloric intake in hunter gatherer societies was not provided by the men off on multi-day hunt expeditions, but by the women expending far less energy staying closer to home and gathering nuts, berries, grubs and other wild edibles.

And no, don't ask for a cite. It's one of the many marginally useless bits of information I somehow retained from my college studies. I can remember the professor's name (Asmarom Legesse), but I'll be damned if I can remember the authors of any of the books/articles he made me read.

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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Maeklos » Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:10 am

majorhavoc wrote:This is why many anthropologists believe that the lion's share of caloric intake in hunter gatherer societies was not provided by the men off on multi-day hunt expeditions, but by the women expending far less energy staying closer to home and gathering nuts, berries, grubs and other wild edibles.
During the Ice Age, evidence shows that Eurasian humans and Neanderthals subsisted on an diet what was about 80% protein from meat, 20% fruits, nuts, and vegetables. But bear in mind that this is a time when hunts consisted of going after large game like reindeer, mammoth, and wild horses, where a single take would feed a number of people for a few days - probably weeks in the case of a mammoth. Migration patterns of animals as well as places to camp for shelter and water were also known, so hunting wasn't as hit-or-miss as it can be today, as it was known which animals would be where at what times of year and where to set up camp in order to hunt them.

However, the waning of the Ice Age and subsequent die off of megafauna species through climate change and overhunting is what pushed humans in Eurasia toward domesticating smaller animals and put them on the path toward eventual agriculture. Without the same die off in North America, people were able to maintain the same migratory hunting lifestyle that had existed in Eurasian in previous millennia. At least until the railroads.

These patterns were disrupted much, much earlier in Australian history - roughly 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, shortly after humans first reached the island. Once there, people started slash and burn tactics in order to facilitate the change from a forested/jungle type of environment that had existed to a more open, lush grassland/savannah type of ecosystem that they were more used to. This burn off not only completely changed the ecology of the island wherever humans went, it also led to the die off of the predominantly marsupial (rather than placental mammal) megafauna that inhabited the island.

So there's your history lesson for the day! :D

Getting back to the OP...

Survival foraging is one of those things that should be considered before you set up camp. If you know you're going to try your hand at fishing, you'd want to set up camp close to a river/stream/lake that you're going to fish in. Like was mentioned, you want to be pre-emptively thoughtful about how you expend your energy versus the potential to replenish it. And fish, though tasty, don't really have much caloric content to them. It'd take, what, 3-4 trout weighing in at a pound or two to keep you relatively fed for a day.

It also pays to be mindful as you move. Spotting wild edibles as you're moving from Point A to Point B falls under the "free calories" heading, since you're expending no energy specifically to forage for food. However, if you do get your camp set up for the day and want to wander off and see what you can find to augment whatever meal you packed in, kudos - doing so will not only help you stretch out whatever food you brought with you, but will also allow you to get your eye in at finding wild edibles without being under the pressure of *having* to find wild edibles. Practice makes perfect, after all, and even moreso when that practice is done for fun.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Apr 27, 2016 1:34 pm

majorhavoc wrote:This is why many anthropologists believe that the lion's share of caloric intake in hunter gatherer societies was not provided by the men off on multi-day hunt expeditions, but by the women expending far less energy staying closer to home and gathering nuts, berries, grubs and other wild edibles.

And no, don't ask for a cite. It's one of the many marginally useless bits of information I somehow retained from my college studies. I can remember the professor's name (Asmarom Legesse), but I'll be damned if I can remember the authors of any of the books/articles he made me read.
I wonder how many of the anthropologists actually foraged or hunted. Doing matters. I have hunted and fished in groups which is another dynamic compared to solo. Here is what my experience tells me. Foraging is very seasonal and can be sporadic. For example hickory and acorns like many other things have their off years for reasons which aren't really relevant to the topic. The same apples to game. There is also a push to attempt historical revisionism even for times when there is no written history :roll: though the make up of the carbon sequestered withing their bones would help. Here is the bottom line IMHO.

People were not stupid. They did what was most advantages. So if a group goes out on a hunting party you can bet it wasn't to fill their tags on Sunday. Same goes for foraging. On a side note it turns out people had more free time than one might expect back in the day though again who knows.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Woods Walker » Wed Apr 27, 2016 1:40 pm

Maeklos wrote:
Survival foraging is one of those things that should be considered before you set up camp. If you know you're going to try your hand at fishing, you'd want to set up camp close to a river/stream/lake that you're going to fish in. Like was mentioned, you want to be pre-emptively thoughtful about how you expend your energy versus the potential to replenish it. And fish, though tasty, don't really have much caloric content to them. It'd take, what, 3-4 trout weighing in at a pound or two to keep you relatively fed for a day.

It also pays to be mindful as you move. Spotting wild edibles as you're moving from Point A to Point B falls under the "free calories" heading, since you're expending no energy specifically to forage for food. However, if you do get your camp set up for the day and want to wander off and see what you can find to augment whatever meal you packed in, kudos - doing so will not only help you stretch out whatever food you brought with you, but will also allow you to get your eye in at finding wild edibles without being under the pressure of *having* to find wild edibles. Practice makes perfect, after all, and even moreso when that practice is done for fun.
Knowing the habitat of certain forage items helps increase your pop out effect (funky name I just made up). For example I knew the type of habitat the onion grass prefers so dialed in my sense for those when the location was appropriate. Near as I can tell many people just keep walking in the hopes the road will be over the next rise etc etc etc . They don't want to come to terms that an unexpected night in the woods is going to happen. The decision to setup camp is finally made for them.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by majorhavoc » Wed Apr 27, 2016 2:14 pm

Woods Walker wrote: On a side note it turns out people had more free time than one might expect back in the day though again who knows.
Yeah, now that you mention it, that's another of those semi-useless things I've retained. That and hunts actually served social and cultural purposes quite aside from merely obtaining food. So relative success in bringing home the bacon, isn't the whole analysis of why it was done.

I think anthropologists based some of their food source theories on examination of tooth wear and bone development and who knows what else they can divine nowadays from ancient human remains. That and perhaps field studies of modern day undeveloped societal analogues. As I recall, Legesse spent a hell of a lot of time in the bush living with some of these societies. He's certainly the guy that inspired me to study in Kenya.

At any rate, it's tangential to your point about food foraging in a modern survival situation. Didn't mean to derail or divert the topic.

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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Maeklos » Thu Apr 28, 2016 12:25 am

Woods Walker wrote: Knowing the habitat of certain forage items helps increase your pop out effect (funky name I just made up). For example I knew the type of habitat the onion grass prefers so dialed in my sense for those when the location was appropriate. Near as I can tell many people just keep walking in the hopes the road will be over the next rise etc etc etc . They don't want to come to terms that an unexpected night in the woods is going to happen. The decision to setup camp is finally made for them.
I think that's one of the most telling differences between a woodsman and someone who doesn't spend much time alone in the wilderness. Even if getting lost isn't something that happens much to them, a woodsman can pretty much shrug it off - they've generally got the preparation, knowledge, and experience to ride out a night with little to no downside. But someone who's not used to being out there, they're going to be relying mostly on their gear to see them through - and that includes food. Spending time in the woods, doing research, even spending time with tree hippies that forage gribblies for their kale smoothies can all be worthwhile endeavors for learning how to spot and identify good forage. Then, it becomes second nature to keep an eye out as you're trekking for obvious wild edibles. I wind up cataloging them in my brain the same way I do distinguishing landscape features and trail markers for navigating. That way, even if I'm not actively foraging as I travel, I have an idea in my mental map of where I can local various nommage if I need to.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by RoneKiln » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:32 pm

We used to have trouble hiking with my Ex cause she'd constantly graze on plants and berries as we hiked and she always fell way behind and then wandered off other directions as she kept following plants instead of the trail. So I had to constantly backtrack and find her. I suspect a lot of ancient man's foraging and travel was very similar. If they weren't in a hurry to get somewhere for a specific event, they probably slowly meandered in the general direction they were heading and picked up a lot of food on the way.
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by bacpacjac » Sun Dec 18, 2016 8:07 am

Great post, Walker! Is there any chance you got some video of that step into the river? The stealthiness of river and creek banks is something I try to teach my kids, but so far, the only way they've learned is by actually falling in. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess, because I did the same when I was six or seven. We haven't lost anyone yet, but I still have faint hope that Backpackgirl will be the first to buck this and I need all the help I can get. ;)
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Re: How much does a foraged meal really cost?

Post by Woods Walker » Sun Dec 18, 2016 10:59 pm

bacpacjac wrote:Great post, Walker! Is there any chance you got some video of that step into the river? The stealthiness of river and creek banks is something I try to teach my kids, but so far, the only way they've learned is by actually falling in. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, I guess, because I did the same when I was six or seven. We haven't lost anyone yet, but I still have faint hope that Backpackgirl will be the first to buck this and I need all the help I can get. ;)
No video. Was lucky to get the photo. Actually on my back when taking the pic. LOL!
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