Best Backpacking Food Ideas for Beginners

Having a solid meal arrangement is undoubtedly one of the top concerns of any backpacker. Whether you are a seasoned backpacker or an amateur hiker, your success is highly dependent on the type and amount of food your carry on your hike. This is especially true if you are going on a long backpacking expedition.

Things to Consider When Packing Food for a Backpacking Trip

Your nutritional needs when backpacking is significantly different from your regular diet. You are likely to spend considerable amounts of time hiking through rough terrain while carrying heavy backpacking luggage. Therefore, you must ensure that you are well fed in order to have enough energy to accomplish your backpacking objective. High-calorie foods are the best to carry during your backpacking trip, as they provide the body with the much-needed energy during long, arduous hikes.

Apart from your personal dietary needs, there are several other considerations to make when choosing the right food to carry for your backpacking expedition. These include:

i. First of all, if you are backpacking in a remote area, you will probably not be able to access food stores or restaurants to replenish food supplies. It is, therefore, necessary to stock enough food that can sustain you throughout the entire journey. 

ii. You probably won’t be able to access your refrigerator during your backpacking trip. As a result, it is necessary to choose foods that have a long shelf life, and cooking ingredients that can be stored at room temperature. 

iii. When going on a long backpacking trip, you will probably have to carry a bulky luggage. It is advisable to choose lightweight foods so as not to increase the bulk of your luggage. Otherwise, you will have a difficult time carrying it around.

iv. Another thing you must keep in mind when choosing the right food to carry on your backpacking trip is proper storage of your food. Make sure you have a water-tight cask or container to carry all your foodstuffs when you go on a multi-day hike. This will keep your food safe for consumption throughout the duration of your trip. 

v. During your backpacking expedition, you also want to conserve fuel as much as possible. If you prefer cooking when hiking outdoors, select foods that cook relatively quickly. The ideal backpacking meal should cook in less than 10 minutes. There are also times when you won’t want to cook an elaborate meal or clean dishes after an exhausting day of hiking. In such instances, it is crucial to carry canned foods or foods that don’t involve intensive preparation methods.

vi. It is also absolutely necessary to ensure that you have a clean water supply throughout the duration of your backpacking trip. One great option is to cook your meals near a water source such as a river or lake. I would however recommend carrying your own water, since you may end up camping in a place with no natural water source. The last thing you want during a multi-day hike is to be stuck in the wild with no clean water to drink or cook. This will greatly inconvenience you and may result in cutting short your backpacking expedition. To have an easy camping, it is advisable to carry enough water.

vii. Your food preparation or serving techniques shouldn’t change just because you are away from home. You can always bring your kitchen magic with you even when backpacking. Carry some of your favorite spices and ingredients with you during your backpacking trip so that you and your friends can still enjoy your tasty recipes away from home.

What Should You Eat Before Backpacking? 

It is absolutely crucial for you to be properly fed before embarking on your backpacking expedition. In essence, for you to navigate your hiking trails like a pro, you need to consume adequate calories and nutrients. Here are some of the recommended foods to consume before your journey.

– Oatmeal

Oatmeal is very rich in carbohydrate and fiber, which is why many people prefer to have it for breakfast before embarking on their regular day activities. Eating a bowl of oatmeal before setting off on your hike will keep you energized throughout the backpacking expedition. You can even mix in some fruit, nuts, and milk for that extra nutritional value.

– Lean Meat

Non-fatty meat is an excellent choice for your protein fix right before you set off on your backpacking trip. Having a nice lean steak before going on your hike will help repair your muscle tissue and increase your metabolism.

– Eggs

Eggs have considerably high protein content, which helps to repair worn out muscle tissue. Eat an egg or two before your hiking trip to replenish your muscles.

– Pasta

If you are backpacking in an energy-intensive terrain, I would highly recommend eating pasta beforehand. Pasta contains carbohydrate, which will keep your energy levels high during your hike.

– Vegetables \

Vegetables provide the body with a good supply of complex carbohydrates and vitamins, which are essential in keeping your energy at its peak during your hike. Carrots and lettuce are great for a pre-backpacking diet. You can make a great salad to go with your pasta just before you set off on your trip.

– Water

Yes, water should form an essential part of the pre-backpacking diet. It helps to increase your body’s metabolism while also keeping you hydrated. Ensure you drink lots of water before setting off on your backpacking trip.

There are several other highly nutritious foods that you can consume before embarking on your hike. These include, bread, nutrition bars, and fruits. You should try and avoid greasy fast foods as much as possible before backpacking. These foods are broken down less efficiently, so they probably won’t provide you with the energy you need for your hiking expedition.

How Much Food Should You Pack For Each Day?

Figuring out the amount of food to carry for each day is very crucial to a successful, multi-day backpacking. The amount of food you decide to carry obviously depends on a number of factors, including your personal dietary requirements, your weight, the number of days you will be backpacking and the amount of luggage you have. Nevertheless, you should try keeping things at a minimum.

A reasonable amount to carry when backpacking for 3 to 5 days is between 2 to 3 lbs per person, per day. Be careful not to pack too much food since the weight will slow you down considerably. You shouldn’t worry too much about running out of food if you are backpacking for a few days, say 2-4 days. You can always replenish at a food stand, grocery shop or kiosk when you go off trail.

Different Meal Options for Backpacking

There are various meal options you can choose from when packing food for your backpacking expedition. These include free-dried foods, fresh foods and canned foods.

i. Freeze-Dried Foods
Freeze-dried foods are usually processed to become as shelf-stable as possible, while retaining the maximum amount of nutrients. Due to their long shelf life, freeze-dried foods are commonly used by soldiers and astronauts since the situations in which they work often make it impossible to access or store regular food. Contrary to popular notion, many freeze-dried foods actually taste very good. 

If you are planning to go on a long backpacking trip lasting a couple of days, packing freeze-dried food may be the most convenient meal option for you. The process of freeze-drying food is fairly simple, and you can easily do it at home with your regular freezer or dry ice if you do not have a freeze-drying machine. 

You can freeze dry most foods, including pasta, meat, vegetables and fruits. Just remember to seal the food properly with a water-and-air tight packaging to prevent it from going bad.

ii. Fresh Foods 
Whereas fresh foods are best for nearly any kind of situation, they are not particularly great to bring to a backpacking trip for obvious reasons. Fresh foods are highly perishable, and since you won’t have access to your refrigerator, most fresh foods will go bad quite easily.

However, there are several kinds of fruits and vegetables which may be appropriate for your multi-day hiking expedition due to their slow perishability. If you are thinking of carrying some fresh foods to your backpacking trip, here are a couple of foods I’d recommend according to the duration of your hike:

– 1 to 2 days: bananas, broccoli, cucumbers, green onions, and asparagus

– 3 to 5 days: pears, avocados, cauliflower and broccoli

– Over 6 days: cabbage, beets, turnips, apples, onions, potatoes

iii. Canned Foods
Canned foods are very ideal for backpacking situations for a variety of reasons. First of all, canned foods are convenient to carry around. They are typically packed in a compact, tightly sealed cans which you can fit in your backpacking luggage without worrying about spills. Canned foods also typically take a very short time to prepare, and you can whip yourself a tasty meal in a matter of minutes. 

Moreover, canned foods have a significantly longer shelf life. Some can survive up to one year without going bad. If you are going on a several-days backpacking trip, you can never go wrong with canned food. Some of the essential canned foods you should consider carrying include, white light tuna, diced tomatoes, chick-peas, corn, and coconut milk.

Meal Ideas for a Backpacking Trip 

Keeping yourself well-fed over the duration of your backpacking trip is highly crucial. Try and maintain a three meal regimen for each day with snacks in between the meals to keep your energy levels high all day long. Here are some of the meal ideas to consider during your multi-day hiking expedition:

Breakfast:Oatmeal, vegetable salad, eggs, peanut butter sandwich, dried nuts and seeds, salamis and sausages are good for breakfast. You should have a sumptuous and highly nutritional breakfast rich in carbohydrates and nutrients in order to raise your energy levels in preparation for a long day of backpacking. 

Lunch:Dried meat, salmon, tuna, tortillas, bagels, and crackers. You can mix them around to ensure you have balanced lunches with the proper nutritional value.

Dinner:Replenish your energy with a carbohydrate-rich meal after a long day of hiking. Some of the foods you can have for dinner include instant noodles, pasta, rice, couscous, instant potatoes and dried vegetables.

Snacks:You will need to keep your energy levels high throughout the day with snacks such as granola bars, hummus, peanut butter and dried fruit.

The Importance of Having a Backpacking Meal Plan

Having a meal plan is absolutely vital to the success of a multi-day backpacking expedition. A meal plan outlines the number of meals you are going to eat throughout your hike, the kind of meal you will prepare and the ingredients you will use to fix your meals.

A meal plan is an important part of your backpacking experience because it allows you to keep track of the food you have carried on your hiking retreat. You can keep track of how much food you are spending and tweak your plan to stretch out your food for the entire duration of your hike. Additionally, it allows you to plan out your meals in a way that ensures you get the highest nutritional value out of the foodstuffs you have carried on your hike. 

By making a meal plan and sticking to it, you eliminate the possibility of overfeeding or wasting food. This can be a much needed important lesson in self-discipline and will help you learn how to survive in an outdoor environment without the usual comforts of home. 

A Final Word on Backpacking Food

Packing the right amount and type of food can make all the difference between a great backpacking experience and a bad hiking trip. It is therefore very important that you plan what to carry weeks in advance. Having enough nutritional food throughout your multi-day hike will go a long way in ensuring you have the best backpacking experience of your life. Make sure you plan early and have an elaborate meal plan for you to have a truly memorable backpacking experience.

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