What I Eat on a Backpacking Trip [Full Breakdown]
Figuring out what to bring on a backpacking trip can be a challenge, especially if you’re first starting out.
Not only do most people not know what to bring, but they usually end up bringing the wrong thing. I was on a backpacking trip with someone who claimed they had gone on a few backpacking trips, but they brought apples and celery as snacks.
Apples and celery are fantastic for you, but both are heavy in weight, and they are very low in calorie count. Making them terrible to bring on backpacking trips. Because on backpacking trips, every ounce matters, otherwise you’ll be lugging a pretty heavy backpack up a mountain wondering why on Earth you decided to bring heavy celery sticks.
Not only are foods like celery sticks and apples heavy, but they’re low in calories. Because backpacking is very strenuous physical exercise, calories equal fuel on trips. This is not the place you want to worry about a diet and low calorie. Sure you can eat healthier while backpacking (I do it all the time), but you still need the calories so your body can function properly.
Another mistake I see people making is not understanding how your body processes different macronutrients. Now you don’t need to start counting calories and macros. That’s a waste of everyone’s time. But you do need to be aware of how your body uses different types of macronutrients – fats, carbs, and proteins to understand what type of food you should be eating when backpacking. Each macronutrient plays a vital role in ensuring you have enough energy for your trip.
If you’re don’t understand which macronutrient does what in terms of how it helps your body, you’re not going to bring enough of the right kinds of foods. This is a mistake I see hikers make all the time! They either bring nothing but carbs and end up leaving out fats and proteins without truly understanding why they’re essential for your body on a hike. Because your body needs things like enough protein to help with muscle recovery. Especially if you’re on a backpacking trip, and going for multiple days. Physical exercise tears muscle fibers. It’s protein and rest that help to rebuild them. This is why understanding how carbs, fats, and protein work with your body is essential when it comes to planning your backpacking meals.
Finally, most people don’t pack enough food, or they over pack food. Which means you’ll either be starving or you’ll be lugging extra weight. Which you already know is something you don’t want to be doing on a backpacking trip. There is an art to understanding how much food to bring with you.
These are all mistakes that Nervous Hikers make.
Because the last thing you want is either lugging a heavy pack that just wears your energy down all while carrying the wrong foods that will do nothing to replenish your energy stores. Or just all together be starving because you didn’t pack enough.
Honestly, this is a mistake I made when I was starting out, and it’s not fun. Think about when you’re hangry at home, now throw on a 45 pound backpack and a 16 mile day. That was me on one backpacking trip when I was a Nervous Hiker.
Vs a Limitless Hiker, understands what kind of foods to bring with you on a backpacking trip without adding extra weight, making sure you’re fueling your body, and understands how much food to bring with you.
I want you to start being a Limitless Hiker, not a Nervous Hiker. Which is why in this blog post, I’m going to break down what I eat on a backpacking trip to give you some ideas of what to pack.
Breakfast When Backpacking
For breakfast, I either do a freeze dried meal, like a Backpacker Pantry scrambled eggs one. Mountain House is also a good freeze dried meal brand. Their breakfasts usually have bacon or sausage, and I only eat seafood and chicken, so I can’t really have those. Backpacker Pantry has more of a vegetarian friendly selection (even though I’m not vegetarian anymore). Or I’ll do a packet of ramen.
In the past, I used to do oatmeal or some sort of grains, but I’m just not a fan of them anymore. If you are, those are a great option. Either bring your favorite brand or Patagonia Provisions is a good option.
Lunch When Backpacking
Next we have lunch! When backpacking, I usually never do a freeze dried meal because that involves cooking and boiling water, and it’s a whole thing. Sometimes if I didn’t have breakfast because I started hiking before sunrise or at sunrise, I’ll take a longer lunch and cook then. But generally, for lunch I keep things simple.
Tortilla wrap with tuna packets. Or you can do a nut butter and jam, spam, or chicken packet on a tortilla. Or even make a tortilla pizza with some tomato paste, sausage and cheese.
Dinner When Backpacking
For dinner, I’ll break out the freeze dried meals. Something like the Backpacker Pantry Pad Thai, a Mountain House meal, Patagonia Provisions, or a Good-to-Go meal are great options. Honestly, there are so many, pick what you like to eat.
You can also warm up with a cup of apple cider or tea.
Snacks For Backpacking
Throughout the day I’ll eat snacks! These are things like jerky, cheese, fruit snacks, bars, nut butters, and beef sticks.
Storing Your Food Correctly While Backpacking
When you’re backpacking, always make sure you store your food correctly so wildlife doesn’t get into it. If you’re around bears, please always use a bear canister. Yes they’re bulk. No one likes them but they’re essential at not only making sure you don’t have an unwanted bear encounter, but they’re also essential to protect our ecosystem.
When a bear gets into human food, that’s when they become aggressive towards humans. When they attack, they need to be put down. So to protect yourself, other people, and bears, use a bear canister. For more on why you need a bear canister, read through this blog post.
For weekend backpacking trips, I recommend getting the BV450. For longer backpacking trips, I recommend the BV500 (I’ve stored 8 days of food in one of these).
Please don’t hang your food from trees, just use a bear canister. Not only is hanging not allowed in most places because bears can climb trees (I’ve seen them in trees). But also truly hanging food correctly is an art, most do it incorrectly, so to be safe, use a canister.
Then put it 100 feet away from your tent/sleeping area between some rocks so a bear doesn’t roll it off a cliff or into a lake or river and there goes your food.
If you’re around smaller animals like mice, marmots, chipmunks, squirrels, and so forth, use a rat sack. This is basically a metal mesh sack. Because they will chew holes in your gear to get to food. So not only will you spend all night chasing the mice in your tent, but you’ll now have holes in your expensive tent, and it’s terrible for the ecosystem.
See how everyone loses when food is not stored correctly?
As a general rule, don’t feed wildlife and store food correctly. This includes all scented items including your trash and toiletries.
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