Backpacking Food | Ideas, Tips and Essential Information
If you are an experienced backpacker then you will already know the importance of carrying ample backpacking food for your trek. If you are new to backpacking then you need to understand the importance of not only carrying the right amount of food but also the right food. By the right food I mean food with good nutritional content, something that will give you enough calories and have all the nutritional requirements that you will need. The amount of walking you will be doing and the number of days you will be backpacking will determine the quantity of backpacking food you will need to carry.
You want your food to provide all the essential nutrients and most of all to give you that all important energy. This is where it pays to plan what you are going to take on your trip. It is no good deciding the day or even the week before what you will carry with you. Not only are some of the different foods not readily available but you need to ensure that the foods are the right weight and also are easy to cook or prepare. You will find some backpacking foods ideas and also recipes on this site.
Types of Backpacking Food
Dried Foods – These come in the form of pastas, rice, noodles, crackers etc. They are generally light in weight (depending on the packaging) and pasta is especially good for providing a high number of calories which typically means high in energy.
Chilled Items – This is normally fresh fruit and vegetable and dairy. These are really only suitable for very short trips and for cold climates. They may last a day or so in your pack but these are normally very good backpacking food items. They are considered to be luxuries and on the trail there is no room for luxury.
Canned Food – Although food that comes in cans has a great shelf life, unfortunately the weight of the can itself doesn’t lend itself ideal hiking food. Maybe a short trip will allow you to take a couple of small cans of tuna, however I would steer clear of canned items.
Freeze Dried – These are most often used by backpackers. In the last decade they have improved considerably and with more and more manufacturers now catering to the backpacker they are getting better all the time. They normally come in light packaging by way of plastic and are the preferred choice of backpacking food for many. They come in a variety of meals, normally one pot meals which make them quick and easy.
How Much Do I need?
The amount of food you take with you will depend on the level of activity and of course your physiology. Typically the average hiker will burn anywhere between 2,500 and 4,500 calories per day. Now turn that into food and you have roughly around 2lbs of food to consume! Sounds like a lot hey? However you need to look upon your food and calorie consumption as fuel for your body and for a successful trip and more importantly an enjoyable one you need to ensure you eat appropriately. If you are concerned about the amount of backpacking food to take I would always recommend you take a little extra than you think you may need. There is nothing worse after a hard days hike to find you cannot fill your stomach it will take a lot of the pleasure out of your trip.
As a backup or in cases of emergency I would probably take an extra day’s worth of food. There are instances where you will not be able to do this, for example if you are looking for ultralight backpacking food then you will obviously not want to weigh down your pack more than necessary. We will get onto ultralight backpacking in another article.
Don’t Over Do It
Needless to say, you also want to ensure you don’t take too much. Lugging extra weight is no fun and you will be silently cursing yourself every step of the way, and you will end up trying to off load it which is not easy if you are out in the wilderness, unless of course you want to attract a family of grizzlies!
What You Need to Consider
Fluids – Any hiker will tell you that you need to ensure you stay properly hydrated when out on the trail. However carrying loads and loads of bottled water in your backpack is neither fun nor ideal. Many now carry filtering systems to allow them to clean water from natural water sources they find while on the trail. To add a bit of taste to your water it is worth carrying some flavored powders which can not only offer some much needed flavour, especially if you are hiking for several days but also they can come in special re-hydration formulations to give you an extra boost. Why make backpacking food boring! Try to steer clear of tea and coffee, as good as it may sound to have a nice hot brew, they do contain caffeine which acts as a diuretic which can counteract your hydration efforts (Tip: Try some herbal tea as a replacement). A good replacement for these type of drinks is a hot soup, you not only get a nice tasty hot drink but you get some nutritional gain as well.
Nutrition – You need to ensure you have a good mix of all the recommended nutrients, especially as you will not be eating a lot of fresh foods. Therefore ensure your backpacking food contains carbs, proteins and essential fats. Nuts are especially good for providing energy and essential fats. Good sources of protein are tofu and quorn, which come in dried form and are a great alternative to meat. Take along some dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins which will provide vitamins to your backpacking diet.
Breakfast – Dry cereal, instant hot oats, dried fruit and dehydrated eggs are all ideal for breakfast time. They are quick and easy and minimal fuss. Trying adding some dried fruit and some chopped nuts to your cereal to give you an easy but nutritional breakfast.
Lunch – A complete dehydrated meal will be best, I try to make this one of the bigger meals of the day for a few reasons. Many people tend to have a larger meal at night, however it would be more useful to eat larger throughout the day when you are actually walking than prior to bedding down for the night. Have it with some jerky or a trail bar, or if you need something sweet stew some dried fruits and pour over pancakes for a quick dessert. Buy dried pancake mixes which are light and easy to use.
Dinner – An Instant soup or meal where you just add boiling water. You will be tired after your long day, so make it quick and easy but satisfying.
Snacks – Snack throughout the day on dried fruit or trail mixes or energy bars. All these are great for when you are on the move.
If you plan and prepare your backpacking food, it will pay dividends when you are backpacking over the mountains, you will be energized and most importantly you won’t go hungry.
Take a look at this video which gives you a great idea of what you would need for 4 days or so, if you don’t have the time or equipment to make your own meals then just replace them with a good ready made dehydrated meal like Hungry Hikers or Mountain House supply. You can check out the website The Camping Trail for a review of Hungry Hikers.
“If adventure has a final and all-embracing motive, it is surely this: we go out because it is our nature to go out, to climb mountains, and to paddle rivers, to fly to the planets and plunge into the depths of the oceans… When man ceases to do these things, he is no longer man.”
– Wilfrid Noyce
Whatever way you choose to supply yourself with backpacking food you need to make sure that it will keep you well feed and supplied with plenty of energy, If anyone has some nice recipes or ideas please share below in the comment box and Happy Hiking