Backpacking and hiking trips can be an exhilarating way to escape into nature for a day or for longer periods. Stamina is necessary for these long-winded trips and can be dependent on the foodstuffs we pack.
When engaging in strenuous activities such as backpacking, it is essential to pack small but powerful foods — ultralight, shelf-stable, and high-nutrient food should be part of every backpacker’s pantry.
Carrying food that won’t weigh you down is vital when hiking long distances. Heavy backpacks can cause back pain and slow down your pace. Search for foods that are filling and calorie-dense, and if all possible, totally delicious.
How Food Fuels or Drains Us
Food is fuel. It’s imperative that we give our bodies nutritious food with the vitamins and minerals we need. Our bodies digest the food we eat, taking carbohydrates and turning them into glucose. The glucose is then absorbed by our stomachs and small intestines and released into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, glucose can be used for energy or stored.
Foods that are high in fiber and protein are best for providing long-lasting energy. This is because these foods take longer to digest, offering a steady energy boost.
Processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats may be tasty and provide an initial spike in energy; however, they will lead to larger crashes later. Why? Well, foods with high sugar contents give off glucose quicker, leading to an initial increase in energy levels.
This peak in energy levels is soon followed by fatigue as your body works hard to break down unhealthy foods. The sugar crash we attribute to toddlers can happen to anyone.
Activities such as backpacking and hiking require steady bursts of energy over longer stretches; choosing backpacking foods wisely is a crucial part of trip planning.
How To Preserve Food While Backpacking
When backpacking, you’re limited in what you can bring because everything for your trip must fit on your back. Therefore, you want to consider how you’ll store your food and drinks and your other backpacking essentials. Softpacks are the perfect way to store and preserve all your trip essentials.
Our Backpack Cooler keeps your ice chilled for long periods of time, ensuring that your perishables stay fresh for the duration of your trip. They also include pockets for your other outdoor essentials, such as sunscreen and bug spray.
Portable coolers eliminate the heavy lifting and give you the freedom to carry only what you need. Follow the packing rule and use a 2:1 ratio for ice to cooler contents to ensure optimum freshness.
Top 7 Snacks For Backpacking
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of how we choose to fuel our body and food preservation and safety, let’s look at the best foods and backpacking meals for any backpacking trip.
1. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is an ideal camping or backpacking snack because it is lightweight and doesn’t take up much room in your pack. Dried meats such as beef jerky also provide hikers and backpackers with essential protein and sodium that refuels the body and keeps you fuller longer.
2. Peanut Butter and Other Nut Butters
Peanut butter and other nut butters are high in protein and fiber, which are both critical for keeping you full on the trail. Eat these with slices of apples or celery or on their own for a delicious backpacking snack.
3. Dried Fruit
Generally, dehydrated foods are easier to bring on hiking or backpacking trips because they are compact and more lightweight.
Dried fruit is an optimal dehydrated snack for refueling the body during a long excursion. This is because fruit has essential carbohydrates and natural sugars to boost energy levels and stamina.
Vegetables have essential vitamins and minerals for a balanced and healthy diet, making these an excellent choice for hiking and backpacking. Veggies are an easy snack and take up little room. Baby carrots, celery, and sliced bell peppers are quick and easy snacks for your trip.
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a delicious and energy-boosting food — fantastic for any outdoor adventure. Dark chocolate is an energy-dense snack that is great for providing the boost that we need.
This chocolate type is high in calories, keeping you full and replenishing calories that were burned throughout your trek. It also contains caffeine as well as essential electrolytes that promote a healthy and balanced body.
6. Energy Bars
Energy bars such as cliff bars and Larabars are small and lightweight snacks that are high in protein and quality ingredients. Most energy bars also offer essential carbohydrates to fuel your body. Look for energy bars with the fewest artificial ingredients or additives.
7. Trail Mix
Trail mix is a handheld smorgasbord, offering a variety of flavors and nutritional benefits in one lightweight snack. Trail mix supplies your body with natural sugars and carbohydrates from the dried fruit while providing healthy fats from the nuts.
Some trail mixes also include dark chocolate, which offers healthy fats and other essential nutrients for hiking or backpacking.
Top 3 Breakfast Ideas For Backpacking
Just because you’re in the backcountry, doesn’t mean that brunch is off the table. Discover our favorite backpacking breakfast menu must-haves.
1. Instant Coffee
For those who are used to starting their day with a cup of coffee, instant coffee is essential for your backpacking trip. Mix your instant coffee with some boiled water, and you’re set. Starting your day with a cup of coffee will jumpstart your body, give you energy, and provide you with beneficial antioxidants.
Soak in the morning with reusable coffee mugs to keep your hot water hot for a peak refuel. Depending on the size, your drink will stay toasty for three to six hours.
2. Powdered Milk
Bringing fresh dairy on your hiking or backpacking trip is typically not an option. Powdered milk is a handy alternative, providing vitamins such as vitamin D and calcium.
There are various ways you can use powdered milk on your backpacking trip. Mix it into your coffee or oatmeal for added nutrients and creaminess. You can also mix powdered milk with water, making it perfect for granola or other cereals.
3. Instant Oatmeal
Instant oatmeal is a great choice to start your day when backpacking. Instant oatmeal is easy to prepare, requiring only boiling water and oats. Instant oatmeal is filling and versatile, with countless flavor options.
Top 3 Lunch Ideas for Backpacking
You’re too far from the grocery store, so luckily, you brought your own meals.
Check out these lunch meal ideas that will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face:
1. Tortillas and Lunch Meat
Wraps are an easy lunch that provides protein and carbohydrates to refuel your journey. Tortillas are easy to store since they are flat and don’t take up much room. Pick from a variety of different lunch meats and bring some condiment packs along with you. If you have a packable backpacking stove, now’s the time to whip it out.
2. Hard Meats and Hard Cheeses
Hard meats such as salami or summer sausage are easy and quick lunchtime choices. They provide essential, high-calorie protein and sodium for your journey. Pair with some hard cheeses for added calcium and fat.
3. Packaged Tuna or Chicken
Seasoned tuna or chicken pouches are a simple and easy meal. These lean meats provide protein to keep you full for longer periods of time. Spread chicken or tuna on crackers for added carbohydrates, and you’re good-to-go.
Top 3 Dinner Ideas For Backpacking
It’s time to celebrate. Here are the ultimate camping meals after finishing a long day of exploring nature:
1. Dehydrated Meals
Dehydrated meals are the easiest choice for your backpacking trip. Simply add boiling water for a gourmet and filling meal. Dehydrated meals come in a range of tasty options, such as chili mac and cheese, beef stroganoff, and alfredo.
Dehydrating your own food is an awesome DIY challenge, but some prefer to purchase ready-made food and snacks.
Ramen makes our list of top backpacking dinners because it is affordable, lightweight, and easy to prepare. It’s a great single-serving dish for solo treks. Ramen is also high in carbs and sodium, replacing what was lost during our day of hiking.
Looking to spice it up? Try quinoa or couscous with your choice of seasonings.
3. Instant Mac and Cheese
Instant macaroni and cheese often only requires you to add water for quick and delicious trail food. Mac and cheese is a filling meal for the trail, packed with carbs and fats to replenish your body after a day on the trails.
The Best Backpacking Food Menu
When it comes to backpacking food ideas, you want to prioritize meals that are rich in essential nutrients and lightweight and compact. A heavy backpack can weigh you down and slow your momentum. Approach with the eye of a chef and an engineer.
There are dozens of trail food options when planning your backpacking trip. It is important to pick foods that are rich in carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. Foods that are also calorie-dense are important since hikers and backpackers may burn anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 calories a day.
Meal planning is an integral part of prepping for your next backpacking trip. It avoids the risk of overpacking while ensuring you won’t go hungry on the trail. Now it’s time to fuel up and head out!