Backpacking Food-Tips for Beginners

Several folks have asked about easy backpacking food ideas.   Figuring out how to eat on the trail has been one of the most challenging things for me, but has ended up making the biggest difference for how much energy I have on the trail.  I hope these tips can help you out.

Here are a few of my principles and thoughts on backpacking food:

-The most important thing is to bring food that you know makes your tummy happy.  Sometimes you may not have much of an appetite, but you need to eat anyway to get energy, so it helps to bring foods that you find appealing.

-Figure out what works best for YOU. There are many approaches to backpacking food.  Find one that works for you, depending on what type of person you are.   Do you like to cook and experiment? Do you want to spend more time relaxing and not worry about it?  Some people need to eat a lot on the trail (like me), while others like to refuel after they get off the trail.  Some people like powerbars. Some like packaged dehydrated meals.  Don’t worry about what other people do– they may eat more or less than you, or eat at completely different times.  Stay in tune with your body, and pay attention to your energy levels.  Everyone is different, do what works for you.

-Think about food as your fuel. Choose foods that give long-lasting energy (with lots of complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein). You will burn a ton of calories out backpacking, and while many of us want to loose weight, you still need to eat or you’ll “boink” (which is crash and have no energy and feel terrible).

Eating right out of the bag saves on cleanup

-Choose foods that are easy to prepare.  While I love to cook at home, on the trail I prefer food that I can eat instantly and that require no cleanup, things I can eat right out of a bag. If I cook (which I rarely do anymore), I boil water and add it to a bag of food– I don’t like to cook anything other than water in my pot so I don’t have a pot to clean up afterward.

-Eat like a hobbit on the trail!  This will help you maintain constant energy and prevents stomach upset.  When you backpack, you are asking your body to work hard for long periods of time, so it may have more trouble digesting large meals. So when you backpack, have a bunch of small meals and snacks.  I eat every two hours when I’m backpacking.  I think of it as breakfast, second breakfast, tea time snack, lunch, afternoon snack, pre-dinner snack, dinner, and dessert.

-Weather changes your metabolism.  Many people get really hungry when it’s cold.  Feeling queasy or have a headache on a hot day?  It could be because you are dehydrated and/or not getting enough electrolytes. In the heat, salty foods, electrolyte replacements, or fruit help replace what your body looses in sweat.

Tortillas, cheese, instant black beans, and peppers make a fast and easy lunch.

Here are some websites to get you started:

One Pan Wonders  – lots of great recipes.

Trail Cooking and the Outdoors– more easy recipes

Food in the backcountry  -another viewpoint on how to eat in the outdoors

Freezer bag cooking information

Going stoveless

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