How to Prepare for Your Next Adventure With the Best Backpacking Foods
Preparing for a backpacking trip? You probably have your routes and rest stops all mapped out. Maybe you even have some new gear coming in the mail. But have you thought about what you'll eat?
Nutrition is such a crucial part of your trip. The right foods can keep you going for miles, but the wrong foods can slow you down.
The Value of Sufficient Nutrients While Backpacking
When you’re hiking 12-20 miles per day, your body exerts tons of energy -- and it needs sustainable fuel to keep up! You need food that will nourish your body, repair exhausted muscles after a long day of hiking.
While the best foods for your body are whole, raw and fresh foods, those are tricky (and even dangerous) to haul in your pack. With limited room in your pack and wild animals sniffing our fruits and other snacks to eat, you have to be strategic when buying food.
So how do you ensure you're eating the right sources of macro nutrients during your hike? Create balanced meal and snack plans that contain foods with healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants and protein. You will also want to eat foods your body is familiar with, so you don't experience any digestive issues on the trail. Take care of your gut to ensure you're absorbing the nutrients your body needs to fuel and repair from your journey.
How Much Food Should You Pack?
There’s only so much you can carry while out on an expedition, so you’ll want to make sure you know what you need. You don’t want to overpack too many bulky meal items or heavy equipment and you certainly don’t want to short yourself on food.
Backpackers usually burn about 3000-4000 calories every day they’re out exploring nature. Of course, this depends on a person’s body weight, metabolism, age and how far they’re traveling each day, so make sure to know how many calories you’re likely to burn and plan accordingly.
A good thing to keep in mind when packing is the caloric density of your food. Consider foods that are calorically dense and light-weight -- oils, fats, seeds, nuts, and healthy protein bars are good choices when it comes to this. Also, take the size of packaging into account too. A resealable bag of almonds takes up less space in your pack than a bag of bagels and a bag of almonds contains more calories than a bagel.
Different Types of Backpacking Meal Options
Like we said before, it can be challenging to make healthy choices when packing for your backpacking trip. Fresh, healthy foods like bananas, carrots, apples or snap peas sound healthy and great for the trail, but they have to be eaten very early on in your journey so they don’t go bad (especially in hot weather). Other than these few types of fruits and vegetables, fresh foods aren’t usually the best option for long backpacking adventures.
Here are some great, non-perishable backpacking food options for your next trek:
Pasta, rice, and dry soups are perfect for the trail because they come in small packs and are lightweight. Just remember that you’ll have to cook these foods before eating them, so consider how long they take to cook and plan out the amount of fuel you’ll need to bring along with you.
Dehydrated foods are excellent for the outdoors because of their lightweight, small packaging. They also tend to have pretty great flavor. You can dehydrate your own food too if you have a food dehydrator at home. Just pre-package your dehydrated ingredients in resealable zip-lock bags so they're small, convenient and don’t create trash along the way.
Canned meats like tuna or chicken are great sources of tasty protein and will make it days into your journey because they don’t require refrigeration like fresh foods do. While small canned meats are useful, heavy and bulky canned foods aren’t worth it on the trail. Stay away from large cans of premade soup and canned vegetables.
Backpacking foods can certainly lack flavor and excitement. Bring along a few of your favorite spices in small bags or containers and spice up the flavor of your meals. We like to carry salt, pepper, garlic seasoning, cayenne and cinnamon with us on our adventures.
Adding a bit of flavor to your drink is quite refreshing after you’ve been sipping on only water all day. Carry single powdered drink packets with you to add to your water bottle after a long day of exploring.
Backpacking Meal Ideas
It’s critical that you keep your body full of nutrients regularly throughout your day. Don’t skip meals and make sure to fuel up on snacks in between breakfast, lunch and dinner stops.
You’ll want to start your day with plenty of water, a calorically-dense meal or protein-filled snack and maybe even a cup of coffee before you take off for your day ahead. Here are some backpacking breakfast essentials:
- Instant coffee packs
- Healthy protein bars
- Dehydrated eggs
- Fresh fruit
- Instant oatmeal
A quick mid-day meal is a great way to break up your day of hiking. You probably won’t want to have a meal that requires a lot of preparation and time to assemble for lunch, so stick to convenient, energy-boosting backpacking snacks or cold sandwiches that you can throw together quickly. Here are some tasty backpacking lunch ideas:
- Nut butter
- Hard meats (salami, summer sausage, prosciutto)
- Tortilla or bagel
- Dried fruit
Now that you’ve accomplished your distance for the day, you’re probably ready to take the long break you deserve and replenish your body with the calories it needs. Here are some flavorful meals for the end of your backpacking day:
- Canned chicken or tuna
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Dehydrated vegetables
It’s critical to get a few snacks in along the trail to keep your energy high and your body feeling ready to take on your next couple of miles. Choose backpacking snacks that are easily accessible, that you can munch on while continuing to hike and that require very little preparation. Here are some of our favorite on-the-go snacks:
- Healthy protein bars: Rowdy Bars
- Pumpkin seeds
- Trail mix
Leave No Trace
You must love nature adventures as much as we do, that’s why you’re preparing for your upcoming backpacking trip. Do the outdoors a favor and leave no trace. Here’s how you can help:
- Consider packing food in resealable bags to eliminate the amount of trash you have and make sure to pack up all the trash you do have.
- Take all leftover food, wrappers, and scraps with you, even including fruit rinds, coffee grounds, banana peels, and apple cores.
- Respect nature and leave what’s natural out in the wild. Minimize the amount of alterations you make to the locations you come across.
- Be considerate of other outdoor enthusiasts. Adventurers explore nature in different ways with different tools, technology, and preferences. Be respectful of anyone you come across and their way of enjoying the outdoors.
- Respect the wildlife in your area and observe from a distance. Let them be and they’ll do the same.
- Dispose of all waste properly once you return from your trip.
When’s Your Next Backpacking Adventure?
We hope these backpacking meal tips have prepared you for proper nutrition on your next backwoods exploration. And be sure to grab a few healthy protein bars from our shop to pack up before you take off on the trail.
Where’s your next adventure? We can’t wait to hear about it!