top of page

When it comes to food, it is better to have a little extra, than to run out. Again, try to take into consideration you have to carry all of this on your back, so you want to take plenty but don’t overdo it. You will want to select foods that are lightweight, high-calorie, and rich in nutrients. A general rule of thumb is to consume 25-30 calories per pound of bodyweight while backpacking (this is a general guideline, you need to know yourself and your individual needs). For instance, while on the trail I typically do not take in many more calories than Angela, who is less than half my size.  She has a faster metabolism and fewer fat reserves. That, combined with the fact that I typically just don’t feel much like eating until we are done for the day results in her needing a higher caloric intake per pound than me. I would recommend eating small meals along with snacks throughout the day and have a larger meal at the end of the day (this can also help you stay warmer if it's cold at night as the digestion process generates heat). Having a big, bulky meal with miles left to go can make you feel sluggish rather than energized and that energy is the whole reason for the food you take on the trail. Food=energy…or at least it does if you choose the right foods. Oatmeal, dried fruit, granola, granola bars, as well as freeze-dried meals make for good breakfast items. I’ve found that most single-serve oatmeal packets can be cooked in the packet. Just place the packet in a stable, upright position (between rocks, in a cup, between logs, in a hole…) and pour hot water right into the pouch. You’ll need to handle them carefully, but it can be done. As I mentioned earlier, I’d recommend keeping lunch light and supplement it with snacks as needed. In fact, I typically will just have a couple of light snacks (trail mix, granola bar, dried fruit, jerky) along the way and not stop for lunch. I also often carry vitamin C drops which can both combat a dry throat as well as give a little sugar boost. Tuna or chicken packets also make a great quick, light protein-rich lunch. Wraps are another good option for shorter hikes. I will often take a peanut butter wrap and some snacks if I’m going on a long day hike. Prepared freeze-dried meals make a great dinner option because as I mentioned in the stove section, it is nice to have a hot meal at the end of a long day on the trail. Mountain House meals are plentiful. They can usually be found at Walmart, your local sporting goods store, and any number of places online. Admittedly they are not the most nutrient-rich meals on the market, but they will work, and they are easy to find and reasonably priced comparatively speaking. When comparing prepared meals pay attention to if they will require additional cookware or ingredients. Not all of them can be prepared in the pouch. Read the packaging. Knorr rice sides are another great option as they are light and cheap. They are another one that can be cooked in the pouch. It will not say so on the packaging, but you can improvise and just pour boiling water into the packet leaving enough room to fold the top over and clip it shut to hold in the heat. This will be less water than the packaging suggests but it still works. Add a chicken or tuna packet and voila you’re a backpacking gourmet. MREs are another option. They are a little bulky but you can make one last all day. Other good food items for backpacking include nuts, dried fruit, granola, granola bars, cereal bars, peanut butter packets (or other nut butter), oil packets, jerky, and single-serving tuna or chicken packets. Avoid canned items and items with high moisture content.


Remember leave no trace, if you pack it in pack it out. This includes not only all your wrappers but also any food scraps. I usually pack a large 1.5-gallon freezer bag to put all my trash in.

It is also very important to pack a bear bag kit and or bear canister. Even if you are not in bear country, it is a good idea to use a bear bag as it will also help keep other critters out of your tent, or at least it won't attract them to your tent. A bear bag kit is simply a bag that you keep your food, food wrappers and waste in, and some rope (about 50ft) to hang it from a tree. I use paracord and a large carabiner. The carabiner is not only a convenient attachment point, it also works a weight for throwing the rope over a tree branch. It is recommended that when in bear country you hang it 10 feet out from the trunk of the tree and 15 feet off the ground. I typically just grab a few items that may need/want in the tent with me like my electronics, headlamp, potty kit and water then hang my whole pack wrapped in a contractor bag. 

There is also a Backpacking Recipe group on FaceBook with a lot of great recipes and ideas for what to eat in the backcountry. 


bottom of page