When my friend and I had just started our backpacking group several years ago, we needed to brainstorm about the right food we would bring in our backpacking adventures. We had the initial food list that would surely make you chuckle, for the list contained foods that were not suited for backpacking. We’ve matured at a rapid clip as backpackers since then, and now we are in a better position to give you sound advice on which food to bring when backpacking.
Seriously, planning your backpacking meals is a crucial consideration for a hiking trip. It will help to consider several factors like the caloric density of every meal, nutritional value, taste preference, ease of cooking, and many more.
How To Plan Your Meals for a Day Trip
If you are going to engage in a day hike, it will be useful to bring nutrient-rich food and carbohydrates to replenish your energy supply. Start your day with a protein-packed meal. Then, supplement it with healthy snacks now and then. Avoid sugary or fatty foods that can weigh you down and make you feel lethargic.
You don’t want to bring weighty food that can add up to what you are carrying. As much as possible, you want to go light. You can bring nutritional bars for a large dose of carbohydrates and proteins, gels or energy chews, dried fruits or veggies, trail mix (classic hiking snacks), nuts, and seeds.
How To Plan Your Meals for a Long-distance Hike
If you intend to engage in a multi-day backpacking trip, you need to plan your meals for each day carefully. It will be useful to note that your dinner should include filling meals to replenish your body and rebuild your muscles. Dinner, of course, is the time when you can cook warm meals over a fire.
You can also bring instant noodles or rice. Instant noodles, of course, are easy to prepare. Moreover, you can spice up the rice with seasonings and vegetables for a good dinner. Rice and noodles are rich in carbohydrates and are easy to prepare and clean up.
You can also prepare a soup mix. Soup mix comes in many flavor options. The good thing about the soup mix is that you can also prepare it with hot water quickly.
Moreover, you can bring with you dried veggies for added minerals and vitamins. You can mix these dried vegetables with your soup. Besides, you can include lentils and dried beans. Lentils are protein-rich compact legumes. They are also rich in fiber and iron, and you can cook them with rice.
Dried beans, on the other hand, are also rich in nutrients and proteins. They are handy and not bulky. You can also bring freeze-dried meals that are convenient to carry around and come in different flavors.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Food for Backpacking
The right meals, snacks, and drinks can make your hiking or backpacking adventure bearable and more pleasant. Yet, with myriads of food choices, you may get confused in your choosing process. One sound advice I would give you is to know these succinct factors to consider when choosing food for your backpacking:
Seasoned backpackers will be meticulously watching their calorie intake before, during, and after the hike. The reason is evident—they will burn many calories during the walk. An average hiker will usually burn 3,000 to 4,000 calories/day. Yet, if you are a seasoned hiker who tackles more challenging trails, you will burn around 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day.
Thus, it’s critical to have an ample supply of nutrients in your backpack to replenish the lost calories. You can also factor in your weight, size, age, and the hiking challenge when calculating the possible calorie loss during the hike.
Most newbie backpackers tend to bring too much food that they could not consume during the trek. Consequently, they ended up overloading themselves during the hike, weighed by too much food on their backpack. Of course, it is understandable if you don’t want to go hungry during the walk.
Yet, to be overstuffing your backpack with too much food would be counterproductive to your desire to hike conveniently. So, it will be useful to calculate your calorie needs and bring only those food that could give you sufficient calories along the way.
Aside from proper nutrition, proper hydration is necessary when hiking or backpacking. You need to stay hydrated without overloading your pack with water. Of course, water can add up much weight. If you have a trail with unsure water sources, you need to stuff yourself with enough water.
When choosing food for backpacking, you need to consider convenience. You don’t want to bring food that requires elaborate cooking. Moreover, you want a meal that won’t make it difficult for you to clean up afterward.
The correct thing to do is to keep your meals simple. Breakfasts should be bare essentials like hot coffee, bars, and snacks. Dinners should also be simple yet nutritious and energizing. The easier the meals to prepare, the better.
When you go trekking or backpacking, you need to choose food rich in carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich food can provide you with enough energy during the hike. Carbohydrates consist of simple and complex sugars. Carbohydrates are abundant in food like cereals and processed food like bread, pasta, and pizza.
You can also replenish your supply of carbohydrates by eating candy bars and other sugary drinks and food. Candy bars would be a great source of carbohydrate during hiking. Aside from being handy, candy bars are easy to carry around and weigh less.
The longer and more challenging the trail is, the more you would like to lessen your weight load. If you are preparing food for your backpacking, you should go for food that will not add much weight to your pack. Thus, it will be useful to choose food that has greater caloric density but less weight.
You should choose food like olive oil, peanut butter, nuts, chocolate for these foods are high in fat. These foods come with greater calories per ounce. Fresh vegetables and fruits have a lower calorie-per-ounce ratio than high-in-fat food. It will be useful to note that the 120 to 130 calorie-per-ounce ratio is the ideal range.
The Most Recommended Food for Hiking
Many hikers opt for dehydrated meals for quick and easy preparation. However, some prefer DIY recipes for dinners. Many also have mixed approaches for meals. To help you select the appropriate food for backpacking, I am giving here the food that my backpacker team often includes in our food-to-bring list:
1) Nutrition Bars
Nutrition bars are compact energy bars. They can offer a large number of carbohydrates and protein for backpackers. It will be useful to choose bars with minerals and vitamins for refueling a backpacker’s body. You should also select nutrition bars with natural ingredients, sans added, or artificial sugars.
Jerky is perfect for long-distance hikes. It also takes up little space; yet, it is rich in protein. Moreover, it comes in various types of meat. You can buy salmon, turkey, venison, or beef jerky. Jerky also comes in different flavors.
3) Power Cookies
You can prepare powerful cookies before you engage in hiking. You can do it the night before your hike. Add a few chia seeds or cooked quinoa if you make oatmeal cookies to add energy-boosting protein to the cookies. You can also prepare peanut butter cookies with dried fruits, rolled oats, or protein-packed seeds. You can also add brown sugar or honey for additional sweetness.
4) Seasoned Fruit Bowl
A seasoned fruit bowl is easy to prepare. You need to slice your favorite fruits. Then, place the slices into a sealed plastic bag. You can also use a Tupperware container. You can add some cayenne, cinnamon, or a bit of salt to your fruit bowl.
This hodgepodge of fruit slices will be a great source of energy during your trek. However, refrain from too much salt to avoid getting dehydrated quickly.
5) Nutella and Pretzels
When nearing the end of your trek, you may find enlivening the taste of Nutella and pretzels. These foods awaken your tastebuds, provide you with enough sugar while making you feel good about yourself. It will be good to end your hike with these rewarding foods.
The usual problem you will encounter when you trek along challenging trails is leg cramp. Your calves and toes will be prone to cramps after continuous hiking. So, you would need potassium. Potassium helps in preventing cramps. Thus, with a dose of potassium from the banana, you can avoid the onset of cramps.
7) Avo Crackers
If you want a very replenishing snack, you can bring with you a ripe avocado and complement it with some crackers. You can likewise add a bit of lemon to season the avocado.
8) Roasted Chickpeas
You need to roast the chickpeas in your oven the night before you hike. Add a bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can also spruce your concoction with herbs. Roasted chickpeas will keep you alert along the way for they are loaded with protein. Yet, you will often find it boring to eat chickpeas.
9) Salmon Packets
An excellent alternative to canned fish would be salmon packets, and you can pack pouches of poultry salmon. These packets are lightweight and come in single servings. They can provide a quick and simple protein boost to your body.
Another energizing snack for backpackers is hummus. It is loaded with carbohydrates, calories, protein, and fiber. You can complement hummus with fresh veggies. You can also spread it on tortillas, bagels, or crackers.
Food Packing Rules
Knowing what you should bring with you during a hike is your first step to good meal planning. Yet, it will also be useful to know the following food packing rules:
1) Figure Out Your Daily Nutritional Needs In Calories
If you’re hiking for several days, you need to know your daily caloric intake. Your daily caloric intake will serve as an essential parameter to know your body’s ability to recover from a day of trekking to be in perfect shape for hiking the next day.
2) Use Ziplock Bags for Storing Your food
When repackaging food for hiking, it will be useful to note that repackaged food are best kept in ziplock bags to compress these foods. With the use of these ziplock bags, you can ensure that your food is sealed correctly. Ziplock bags can also help you avoid having your food exploding in your pack.
3) Bring Food That Doesn’t Get Spoiled Easily.
Some fresh foods may spoil quickly; hence, you should avoid bringing them with you when you go on several days of backpacking adventures. Instead, you should only take dehydrated or dry food on your hike. If you want to bring fresh foods, make sure they can last long before spoiling. Carrots and snap peas, for example, are healthy treats. Moreover, they can last for several days if the temperature isn’t scorching hot.
4) Avoid Canned Foods
If you are shedding some pack load, it will be best to avoid bringing canned foods. Of course, canned goods can come in handy as a quick meal along the trail. Yet, they are heavy and may add load to your pack. Plus, they don’t offer many calories. Besides, they make bulky trash that you need to pack out.
As mentioned above, when preparing your food stock for backpacking, it will be useful to know how to maximize your meals’ nutritional efficiency relative to your calorie intake. It also helps to minimize the volume and weight of your food stocks. Guided by your dietary needs in calories, you can zero in on the right food with ease.
It will also help if you know the important factors to consider when choosing backpacking food. Plus, you should be cognizant of the different backpacking rules for choosing foods. Equipped with this know-how, you can effectively prepare your food stock without overburdening you with extra loads due to wrong food selection.