Guide to Meal Planning & Eating Well
Meal preparation is an important step in planning a backpacking trip. When you’re in the wilderness, you want to eat food that tastes good and nourishes you. You want to make sure you pack out foods that can withstand the conditions of outdoor travel and require minimal cooking effort. These tips will help you with your meals and snacks for the trail.
What Foods to Pack
Freeze-dried/dehydrated meals can be pricey, however they are lightweight, convenient, and deliver on sustenance and taste. Some foods from the grocery store will also work for the trail. When purchasing grocery store food, look for items with cook times of 10 minutes or less. Check the nutritional panel to determine if the food contains enough calories. A good rule is to look for meals containing at least 100 calories per ounce. You can also boost the calorie content of foods by adding healthy fats such as nuts and seeds.
Backpacking Food Preparation Tips
Everyday Grocery Items for Backpacking
How Much Food to Pack
Pack a little more food than you think you might need. Instead of packing extra meals, pack extra snacks or no-cook meals. This way if you run out of fuel or are too tired to fire up the stove, you can still eat. A general guide is to pack 1.5 - 2 pounds of food per person per day for normal body weight and exertion; otherwise, pack a little more.
Backpacking Food Packing Tips
Food Considerations: Cold Weather
Winter backpacking can require an additional 500 – 1,000 calories per day. You will need to focus on high-fat foods to meet your energy demands. Eating nutritionally sound foods will make the difference in your ability to stay warm and energized.
Food for Winter Backpacking
Food Considerations: Hot Weather
Besides staying hydrated in hot weather, you need to consume foods that are high in electrolytes to replace that which is lost by heaving sweating.
Food for Summer Backpacking
Cooking the Right Way
Running out of fuel mid-hike with a backpack full of freeze-dried entrées is a common concern. The boil-soak method of backcountry cooking is extremely efficient because it uses less fuel and water. Here are a few strategies to conserve stove fuel.
Tips for Cooking on the Trail
Cooking at High Altitude
When you are hiking at altitudes above 5,000 feet and your trail food come out too watery, the most likely cause is that you didn’t allow the meal to soak long enough to absorb the water. Soaking longer is necessary. The general guide is to add 1 minute of cook (soak) time for each 1,000 feet of elevation gain above 5,000 feet.
Tips for Cooking Backpacking Foods at High Altitude
Washing Dishes in the Backcountry
Don’t risk your health by consuming hot meals that are heated inside of plastic bags. We always encourage backpackers to use the proper cooking equipment for handling boiling water and hydrating food. This list of tips should help you with the chore of cleaning up while backpacking.
Doing Dishes on the Trail