OUTDOOR BASICS

Backpacking Food Tips: Staying Healthy on the Go

Backpacking Food Tips
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Being away from home means being fully prepared for anything. But you’re wholly ready for a week of camping, and you figure that since you’ve done it all before, you can pack the same essentials you’ve brought on previous trips. That would be a huge mistake, however, because you can find yourself without food.

And if you’re not an expert at trapping your own game, then you’ve set yourself up for failure. But with out backpacking food tips, you’ll know how to prepare for the future and have tasty meals outside of cold sandwiches and trail mix.

Not a lot of people are knowledgeable about the kind of food to bring backpacking. They decide that any food you can take on a picnic would suffice. And although they’re not completely wrong, there’s more to it than that, especially if you’re going to be camping for an extended period of time. Knowing what to pack without adding too much bulk to your gear is also very essential.

Backpacking Lunch

That’s why we’re going to show you what to bring, what will provide you with the most calories for your hiking excursions, and which foods are the easiest to prepare. So let’s not waste any more time and get started!

How Much Food to Pack

Planning your meals out is extremely essential, as you don’t want to run out in the middle of your trip. There are three important things to keep in mind when you’re trying to determine how much food you should bring with you:

  • How long your trip is: the longer your trip, the more food you’ll have to consider packing.
  • The time of year/season: colder seasons require foods that are heavier in calories and fat to help the body keep itself warm.
  • What kind of trip you’ll be taking: trips involving strenuous events suck as wall climbing and hiking require energy-rich foods as well as proteins.

Lunch in Lunchboxes

A good measure is to pack at least one to one and a half pounds of food per person during the summer months, and an extra half pound during the winter months. This is also dependent on the size of each person, specific caloric intakes, and dietary needs. After all, having a surplus of food is a lot more desirable situation than not having enough.

Also consider adding dried foods to lessen the burden of the weight. Consider adding packs of dried soups, pasta, dried fruits and vegetables, cheese, sausage, and jerky. These ingredients become very versatile and can create flavorful meals when you’re too tired to cook something from scratch.

Don’t forget the spices, either. Small dispensers for salt, pepper, or your favorite seasonings can definitely improve upon any meal, so why not bring them along if you have the room?

Lastly, don’t forget to bring some olive oil with you. It remains stable, even with your long travels, and is great for frying up some meats and eggs in a pan when you don’t have any butter on hand.

Olive Oil

And, as always, don’t forget about hydration. It can be your worst enemy, no matter the season. Ensure that you have the means to have a steady supply of drinking water every day, whether it’s lugging around bottles of water with you, melting fresh snow against your body, or bringing chlorinating tablets to use in water you get from rivers or lakes.

Other Considerations

Although the three bullet points are the essentials on meal planning, there are some other considerations you should definitely keep in mind when choosing which food to bring with you.

Flavor

Always bring what you enjoy eating. There’s no reason you should make your tastebuds suffer with tastes you don’t enjoy. This will only making your trip less enjoyable, and you’ll dread one meal to the next.

Nutrition

Eating a chocolate bar is quick and simple, and requires absolutely no preparation, but you have to keep your body’s dietary needs in mind. Chocolate is good as a pick-me-up when you need a boost of energy, but it’s not the only thing you should carry with you.

Chocolate Bar

You’ll need all of the vitamins and minerals you’d need if you were back home, only doubly so because of all the work you’ll be putting your body through.

Weight

As mentioned before, you don’t want to overburden yourself with foods that are too heavy, so put back the store-bought watermelon and consider packs of dehydrated fruit to prove you with vitamin C. It’s much easier to carry your dried foods in resealable bags as well, rather than carrying them in their boxes and containers. You’d be surprised just how much more food you can fit into your backpack.

Ease of preparation

You don’t want to spend a lot of time over your campfire, trying to make a three-course meal. Instead, look for things that are easy and simple to make. Pasta can be mixed and added with just about any of your dried foods: sausage, cheese, pre-cooked bacon, or just a can of tomato sauce, for example.

Pasta with Bacon

You can spend more time eating and relaxing than having to slave over your meals.

Fuel

If you’re bringing a camping stove with you, consider how much fuel you’ll need to bring with you to cook all your meals. Getting a campfire going and having hot coals to cook on does take a lot more time, but not everyone is adept at getting a fire going.

Cost

Dehydrated foods can be a little more pricey than you expect, but can be very beneficial when you need a boost of energy but don’t have the time to stop and make an entire meal. Focus on the cheaper food items that are easy to make, but consider the more expensive ones for snacks in between.

Dehydrated Fruit

Or if you happen to have a dehydrator at home, you can save money and bring your own dried fruits and vegetables.

Breakfast

Breakfasts can either be hot and filling, or fast and basic. It all depends on how you want to start your day. For those who are really on the go and don’t have the time to cook, an energy bar while you’re hiking is a great way to go. They’re packed with nuts, granola, and fruit to provide you with a quick meal of all your essentials.

However, they can be a little disenchanting on a cold morning, so there’s nothing wrong with spending some time to make a hot meal. Packets of instant oatmeal works wonders, as it’s hot, it’s filling, and will keep you feeling full for a while.

Strawberry Oatmeal

Other great options to consider are:

  • Pancake mix: Just mix with a little water or milk, and pour into your cast iron pan. You’ll have a stack of delicious pancakes in no time, and they’re extremely filling.
  • Eggs: We’re not talking about a carton of a dozen eggs; powdered and liquid eggs are great alternatives, and although they may not taste exactly the same, they’re close enough. They’re also versatile enough to use with any meal.
  • Pre-cooked bacon: Cooking your bacon beforehand will actually preserve it longer, as the salt and fat will extend its life for a few days while you travel. The salty, crisp flavor of the bacon is also great to have, and the fat will give you some extra energy to work with throughout the day.
  • Dry cereal: Easy to pack and can be eaten on the go. Also serves as a great snack between meals.
  • Instant tea/coffee: Having a hot drink at the beginning of the day can definitely motivate you to get going. Coffee will perk you up, while a variety of tea can provide you with energy, calm you down, or take care of a stomach ailment. And what’s great about these is that you can brew them on the go. Add some hot water to a thermos, drop in your teabag or coffee, and you can take a sip whenever you feel the need.

Lunch

At the middle of the day, you’re going to need to recharge all those calories you spent waking your body up, and that means focusing on replenishing your energy. Energy bars are an easy resort, and will get the job done. The same can be said for trail mix containing nuts, and strips of jerky.

Granola Bars

But if you do have the time to sit down and make a meal, you may want to consider the following:

Canned meat

Cans of tuna, salmon, or chicken are great sources of protein that you need to face the rest of your day. The salt content will also help with your electrolytes, just as long as you don’t overdo it and remember to stay hydrated. You can eat them by themselves, or smear some between two pieces of bread to make a tasty sandwich.

Cheese

The fat content of cheese is much needed to help you regain your energy. It can be used on anything, such as any of the sandwiches mentioned above, or eaten on its own. Or if you’re looking to stay quick on your feet, bring along a box of crackers, slice your cheese beforehand, and pair them together.

Granola Bars

You want to go for harder cheeses, such as gouda and sharp cheddar, as they have longer shelf lives. In winter, however, you can choose soft cheeses, since they’re easier to spread and won’t spoil.

Tortillas

The great thing about tortillas is that you can put anything on them. Forget about your slices of bread getting squished or taking up too much space in your backpack. Tortillas can do the same job as sandwich bread. Smear peanut butter and jelly across one, roll it up and enjoy.

Tortillas

Or you can add some meat, some grilled peppers, and a little salsa to create a tasty warm lunch. They’re extremely versatile, so it would be a good idea to consider taking these with you.

Bagels

Another great alternative to bread. You can choose to go plain and eat them right out of the bag, toast them lightly over a campfire, or smear any of your meats, cheeses, or spreads across them. They can be very filling, and are available in a wide range of flavours if you want a variety of tastes throughout your trip.

Dinner

At the end of your hard day, you want to be rewarded with a hearty meal to take the edge off. Something warm and comforting that will make you feel as if everything you’ve done up to that point has been worth it.

Backpacking Dinner

Image credit: veganhightechmom.com

Dinner is usually where one’s camping cooking skills will shine, so you should definitely get a fire or your camping stove going.

Pasta

A great carb to have because it’s easy to make, and can be enjoyed with just a pat of butter or mixed with a variety of other foods to make a delectable meal. It’s extremely easy to transport and won’t spoil. You can exchange pasta for dried Asian noodles for a different texture and flavor to your meals (also a good choice for those who have gluten allergies).

Instant rice

Just like pasta, instant rice is easy to cook and can be paired with just about anything. Also very filling, you can just throw some seasoning onto it and have it by yourself, if you don’t have a protein to pair it with.

Instant Rice

Potatoes

Never underestimate how valuable potatoes can be on your camping trip. They can be a little heavy, but they’re the easiest thing to cook and will provide you with a lot of energy. Wrap them in foil and throw them into the fire. Or cut them up and make some breakfast fries. Potatoes also have an extremely long shelf life, so you don’t have to worry at all about them spoiling.

Don’t have room for them? You can take some instant mashed potatoes in a ziplock bag and just add water to have some hot mashed potatoes to eat with the rest of your dinner.

Lentils

Beans, peanuts, and peas possess a lot of vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy and regular. A great source of protein, fibre and iron, dried beans can last forever and are extremely easy to pack.

Lentils

Cook them with your rice, or if you brought canned beans, just eat them with a spoon. Like potatoes, they’re very versatile when it comes to methods of preparation.

Snacks

Although it’s been said that snacking throughout the day is the easiest way to gain unnecessary weight, it’s essential to have snacks while you’re hiking or engaging in strenuous activities during your camping trip. You’re going to be burning a lot of calories, and having a snack every now and again can keep you motivated and energized.

Eating Snacks

Stick with simple ingredients, such as trail mix, which you can make yourself. Just mix together granola, peanuts, some dried fruit, and dark chocolate chips, and you’re ready to go. Other choices for snacks include:

Nut butter

Either peanut or almond will do; it’s filled with calories, sodium, fat and protein, which your body will need in the days to come. Just scoop a few tablespoons of it into an easy to carry container, and you can spread some on your bagels.

Honey

This sweet, nutritious treat has a lot going for it. It’s rich in vitamins, works as an antioxidant, and can be used to sweeten any of your teas or coffees. You can even drizzle a little onto your crackers for a quick snack.

Hummus

Made from chickpeas, this serves the same purpose as any nut butter, and can be eaten with just about anything.

Hummus

The flavor is much milder, and there are even different varieties of hummus for you to choose from, according to your tastes.

Drinks

When all else fails, stick to water. But if you do need something a little different, there are flavor pouches you can carry with you on your trip to make your water more interesting. Many of these flavor packets contain electrolytes to give you a boost of energy as well as provide any vitamins and minerals you may be missing from your diet.

As mentioned before, you can also take along instant coffee, tea, and cider for you to have hot drinks during the colder times of the day.

A Cup of Coffee on Desk

They not only warm you up from the inside out, but they can be a soothing and comforting asset to have when your trip isn’t going as well as you want it to.

Last Resort

When it comes down to it, however, you may have to live off the land. Wild berries and plants are an easy way to stay fed when your supplies have run out. Be sure that you know what to look for, and learn the differences between beneficial and harmful plants. The last thing you want is to make yourself sick when you’re nowhere close to a hospital.

Wild Berries

You could also learn how to make small traps to catch game, such as squirrels and rabbits. You’ll have to know how to skin them properly and remove their intestines, so packing a sharp knife wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Overview

Next to eating, preparing meals can seem like a chore, and deciding what to pack can be an even more daunting task. But we hope that with the tips we’ve provided, you’ll never have to worry ever again about what kind of meals to make on your next camping trip.

Do you have a favorite or personalized camping meal you’d like to share with us? Know of a better way to pack and bring essential foods with you? Don’t be afraid to share your stories and comments with us in the section below, as we’re sure our other readers will find your contributions very beneficial in their own planning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Foster

Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.