(Photo: Ontario Parks)
Staying energized on the trail is of critical importance to keep you going when the miles get long. What it all comes down to when trying to refuel your body is eating, continually fueling your body by consuming calories as you go. Consuming the right kind of foods and calories will help you recover and power through your most challenging hikes.
The best foods to take on a backpacking trip are those that taste good and can provide you ample energy without leaving your body feeling sluggish. Choose foods that are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats rather than sugary foods that will give you a crash.
You can take most foods backpacking, but its best to stick with something that is portable and easy to make. Every individual is different, so choose what works best for you when planning your next backpacking trip.
Backpacking Day Trips
When planning for a day trip, you’re not restricted to only bringing non-perishables and can have some leeway with weight. When deciding to pack food for a day trip consider these tips:
Bring fresh foods: Preparing for a day hike allows you to bring foods you wouldn’t normally lug around during a multi-day backpacking trip—think meats, cheeses, fruit, and vegetables. It’s best to also take into account whether you plan to cook or bring ready-to-eat meals. Bagel sandwiches or burritos/wraps are calorie rich and a great choice to prepare for a day trip.
(Photo: Exploring Wild)
Have snacks: You’ll most likely be exerting a lot of energy, so bring snacks to keep you refueled. Energy bars, protein bars, trail mix, jerky, dried fruit, and granola are out favorite snacks to bring on a hike. Have variety so you’re not stuck eating the same thing over and over.
Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated will allow you to stay energized. Pack enough water to last the entire day.
Multi-day Backpacking Trips
For multi-day hiking trips, choosing foods that are compact, lightweight, easy to cook, and provide the most calories/ounce is critical. When you are trekking through miles on the trail each day, every bit of weight added will make a difference. Here are some tips for planning food for a multi-day backpacking trip:
Choose lightweight foods: While opting in for lightweight food options, bring food that you’ll enjoy. Eating enjoyable foods will help lift spirits up and provide energy to push through the hike. Instant noodles and rice, pasta, and stuffing are easy to cook and are backcountry staples. Fish, chicken, and spam are great proteins to bring and can be bought vacuumed sealed in foil packages. Energy bars or nut butters can also be a good snack and protein source.
Pack in conjunction to your comfort and hike: Knowing how much to food to bring is important. When deciding how much food to bring on your backpacking trip, consider the intensity of your hike, size and weight of your pack, how many calories you’ll be burning per day, and the season(your body needs more calories to stay warm when it’s cold). Depending on the person, a good range is about 2-2.5lbs of food with 3000-5000 calories per day. Keep in mind that, more strenuous hikes will burn more calories thus needing more food. It’s always good to pack a little extra just in case weather sets you back, or you’re faced with a longer trail than expected.
Be health conscious: Although you’ll be actively exercising and burning tons of calories throughout the trip, it’s important to focus on good and nutritious foods that will keep you energized without crashing or have you feeling lethargic.
Prepare dehydrated or ready-to-eat meals: Prepare meals that require the least amount of cooking equipment and tools. Dehydrated meals, freeze-dried, or instant rice and noodles are fast, filling, and require minimal clean up. You can purchase ready-to-eat meals of your favorite foods at almost any grocery outlet or outdoor retail store; however, these will run from about $7-$10 dollars per package.
Bring condiments and spices: Conveniently packaged sauces like hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, relish, and jams are lightweight and packable. Red pepper flakes, grated parmesan, pepper, salt, etc. can also add some zing to your meals.
Hydrate with flavored beverages: It’s much easier to stay hydrated with drinks that are flavored and to your liking. Consider bringing instant coffee or tea, powered energy drinks/juices, hot chocolate, or even soup mixes.
Create a meal plan: Sketching out a meal plan can help organize and make meal prepping a lot easier. Try to figure out the meals you’ll be eating throughout each day. This would also help you get a better idea of how much cooking fuel to bring.
When it comes to food, the possibilities are endless. So, here are some of our top choices sorted out by breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner(Caution: You’ll start to get hungry reading this list).
You know as they say, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, this holds true even in the backcountry. Make sure to consume lots of complex carbs and protein. Some ideas for breakfast are:
-Granola or Cereal with powdered milk
Don’t forget you can add things like peanut butter or cheese to any of your sweet or savory breakfast choices.
Snacking in between meals is what’s going to refuel your body. These foods should consist of high energy, fats, and carbs. Our favorite snacks are:
-ParmCrisps(new favorite discovery)
-High energy bars(ProBars, RXBAR, Clif Bars, LÄRABAR, etc.)
When you got miles to hit, most backpackers tend to overlook lunch and snack throughout the hike until dinner. But if you’re planning to sit down and prepare lunch, here are some great ideas:
-Bagel with cream cheese and lox
-Peanut butter and jelly sandwich/wrap
After a gratifying hike and you’ve set up camp, prepare to reward yourself with a warm and hearty meal. Most backpackers like to keep it simple with dehydrated meals that are cooked by pouring hot water, or they cook simple dishes like noodles or pasta. Here’s what we would recommend as good dinner options:
-Mac and cheese with bacon
-Stuffing with chicken
-Couscous with choice of protein
What’s most important is to bring what you like to eat. Hiking long miles takes a toll on your mood, leaving you mentally exhausted. Be sure to take along what you consider as your comfort food and browse for recipes online.
Remember to practice the Leave No Trace 7 Principles in the backcountry, whatever you bring in make sure it is brought out. See ya’ll out there.