You have decided to go on a backpacking trip and spend some time in the outdoors! Back to basic in a natural environment, whether it’s the mountains or a forested area. But what are you going to eat? Leaves? You hope to catch a fish along the way?
No, food planning is an important stage in your backpacking trip planning. Planning your meals sounds easy, until you get into detail and notice you want a little more than just a loaf of bread and a slice of cheese. How much food should you take? How will you keep your taste buds excited after weeks on the trail?
So many questions. Fortunately, we’ve got answers for them all in this backpacking food planning FAQ.
What is backpacking food planning and is it important?
During your backpacking adventure you will burn lots of calories. Calories that will need to be replaced to have enough fuel to continue the next day. Whether it’s a day hike or a multi-day trek, keeping your energy levels up is vitally important.
Day hikes may require no more than a few energy bars and a few liters of water, but as the length of the trail increases, planning your meals becomes more important to ensure you stay in peak physical and mental condition.
What type of meals are good for backpacking?
When deciding what meals to bring on your outdoor adventure, there are two things to consider: ‘How much does it weigh? ‘ and ‘Does it contain a lot of energy?’
It is important to remember that you will have to carry every gram of food in your backpack before consuming it. Canned food or jars are not worth the effort, so it’s recommended to look for lightweight food. At the same time try to ensure they are as full of energy as well.
Another factor well worth considering is the preparation time. Don’t forget that you will be preparing it with limited equipment and maybe even in poor weather conditions. At the end of a long you will be happy that you brought quick to prepare meals (< 10 minutes). Anything that lasts longer will take too much fuel as well.
Lastly, don’t bring food you don’t like. If you don’t like it on day 1, just imagine how it’s going to look on day 14!
Can you give some examples?
Sure. Fresh foods is only acceptable on very short hikes, since it will start to spoil after two days. For this reason freeze-dried foods are highly popular amongst hikers. Pasta, noodles, soups and instant rice are perfect, as they pack down small and only need hot water to be brought back to life and flavor.
Spices are a great extra as they weigh close to nothing and will improve the taste greatly! Pack all your meals in zip-lock bags to decrease the total weight.
An outdoor adventure is an opportunity to enjoy the serenity of nature and connect deeply with creations. It can be beneficial to everyone, especially people withdrawing from alcohol, or ex-convicts who have been confined to a place. Get outdoor, get more of life!
What are good meal ideas?
Check our post about ‘10 best meals for your backpacking trip‘
I would love chocolate or candy while hiking but is it practical?
Yes! Chocolate, nuts and other snacks are ideal to eat while hiking. They have lots of energy and often replace lunch on long stages. Soda and alcohol are considered luxury, so only bring them if you can handle the extra weight.
Do I need to consider the seasons when meal planning?
Yes, temperatures make a huge difference on morale! Multi-day hikes in very cold weather will require more (hot) food for extra energy requirements. In subzero conditions, consider keeping essential food in your pockets to ensure it doesn’t freeze.
High temperatures means more hydration so you will need to carry more water. Risk of fire may prohibit you from making campfire.
Is backpacking a good way for dieting?
Intentionally? No! While you will probably end up loosing some weight by the end of your backpacking trip, it is not wise to skip on meals or ‘go on a diet’ during. Long hikes require energy and deliberately creating a calorie deficit could be dangerous.
Can I make my own meals?
Offcourse, be creative and buy ingredients in bulk. It is not only the cheapest option, but you will have a lot more options as well. Prepare your meals in advance by packing all dried ingredients in zip-lock bags.
Some hikers even freeze-dry there own food. This requires special techniques and equipment though.
I don’t like to cook. Can I buy prepared meals?
Definitely! While most people enjoy cooking their own meals during their outdoor trip, it is perfectly acceptable to buy freeze-dried meals in advance. These type of Adventure Food require no more than adding hot water.
When hiking in the mountains, mountain refuges often offer dinners and lunch packages on the go.
How do I get water?
Researching your trail for water sources beforehand is essential for a successful backpacking trip. Keep in mind that that in addition to drinking water, you will also need water for cooking and cleaning.
Since most water sources won’t be safe to drink, here is a quick guide on ‘The Best Ways to Treat Water‘
I love hot meals, but is this possible in the outdoors?
Not only possible, but essential as well! A cooking stove and gas canister is an essential piece of gear for preparing meals. The MSR Superfly Stove is a lightweight option.
Is foraging for food a good idea?
While catching your own fish for dinner is great experience, it is not recommended to count on it. Looking for wild berries, fruits and mushrooms is a great way of keeping the day interesting but making a meal of it should be viewed as a nice supplement.
Make sure to know which mushrooms and berries to pick though! You have seen ‘Into the Wild’ did you?
How should I store my food?
The best option is to pack your meals in zip-lock bags. This is not only a good way of keeping it dry, but it will keep you organized as well. This way you can leave excrescent packages at home as well.
Will wild animals be attracted to my food?
Yes. During our trip in the Alps, we had our cheese and saucages stolen by a fox who entered our front tent. Think about what could happen if you were in bear territory. When hiking in bear territory it is best to keep your food stored in bear canisters, and hang them in a tree, at least 50m away from your camp.
Read about how the lack of trees ended up on encountering polar bears in Spitsbergen.