Olive Oil is an excellent choice to take when backpacking. Not only is it healthy and contain a high calorie per ounce weight ratio, but it also has a multitude of non-cooking purposes.
In cooking, it can be used in place of butter to provide additional flavor and calorie in foods such as soups, pasta, rice, and bean dips. Adding just a teaspoon of olive oil is all you need to make dried food taste best. You can add it before cooking to prevent dishes (such as powdered eggs) from sticking. Olive oil also tastes great when dipped with pita or tortilla bread. Add dried garlic, paprika, or chili seasoning along with the oil to provide an even more robust flavor to dishes.
High in healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil is one of the healthiest fats you can consume. It also helps you sustain your endurance longer because it slows the absorption of carbohydrates in your body.
What else can I use Olive Oil for?
Many backpackers will only pack out products that have multiple uses. Fortunately, olive oil is one of them. What are some of the uses?
1. Soothe a Sunburn. Add to a sunburn to prevent peeling. The polyphenol compounds act as antioxidants to repair skin damage.
2. Cleanse your Skin. Dab on the skin to remove dirt and grime and rinse off with a small amount of water.
3. Moisturize the Skin. Add to dry areas instead of lotion. Apply to chapped lips to relieve soreness & dryness.
4. Shave. Acts as a lubricant in lieu of shaving cream and is an excellent moisturizer.
5. Insect repellent. Lather on skin to prevent bites from black flies.
6. Laxative. Consume a teaspoon to act as a natural purgative.
7. Snoring. Drink a teaspoon before going to bed to keep the throat hydrated and lessen snoring (the oil lubricates the throat muscles). Try this next time you or your tent/shelter mate is accused of being an obnoxious sleeper!
8. Warming Up. Consume a teaspoon to warm up quickly in cold weather. The lipids have a warm and soothing effect on the body.
9. Clean Dishes. Add a few drops, then scrub. More eco-friendly than soap.
10. Lubricant for Tools. Dab some of the oil on your camping knife to keep the mechanism in tip top shape. Also keeps stainless steel blades clean.
11. Lubricant for Zippers. Apply a small amount to the track of a stuck zipper.
12. Lubricant for Skin. Prevent chafing by applying to needed areas of the skin.
13. Blisters. Use moleskin during the day then remove the moleskin at night and apply to the blister. The vitamin E and polyphenols found in olive oil help expedite healing by repairing damaged skin.
Olive Oil: What to look for
Make sure you are getting 100% Extra-virgin Olive oil (EVOO) or Virgin Olive oil. Often you will find packets are labeled as “olive oil” but only contain a small fraction of olive oil. Many are diluted with an inferior oil, such as canola (rapeseed) oil, which is genetically engineered, highly processed, cheaper to produce, and less healthy.
- Purchase Extra-virgin Olive Oil and Virgin Olive Oil. They contain the lowest amount of acids, and no chemical treatment or additives are used in their production, resulting in a superior taste and aroma.
- Avoid “100% Pure Olive oil”, “Olive oil” ,”Extra light Olive oil” or “Refined Olive oil”. They contain high amounts of acids that require chemical treatment to produce an edible taste.
Backpacking with Olive Oil
Purchase the single serve “ketchup-style” foil packets you find in restaurants and stash a few in your food bag. Marconi sells a .5 ounce package, but they are difficult to find. Restaurants do not offer the 100% extra virgin olive oil as a free condiment. As a result, Outdoor Herbivore offers olive oil packets for sale. You may also find these from other online sources as well.
Purchase a large container and repackage your olive oil in a small plastic screw-top Nalgene or Lexan type travel bottle (even a small water bottle might work). The problem is invariably this method usually ends up leaking if you don’t enforce the seal. If you want to improve the sealing capability, try wrapping PTFE plumber’s tape around the bottle’s threads. Wrap the tape once or twice around the thread to make an air and watertight seal. Test the waterproofing capability by adding water and shaking several times. You can purchase thread seal tape (aka white plumber’s tape/Teflon tape) from a hardware store.
Keep olive oil sealed and do not expose the container directly to the sun. Olive oil will oxidize and eventually become rancid if over exposed to light/heat.