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

Posted  by 

Last But Not Least (Ten Essentials)

Last but not least…… (Ten Essentials #10)

The last thing on my personal list of Ten Essentials is a small ditty bag that I think of as my “McGuyver Bag”.  In addition to other Essentials like fire starter, a lighter, and a head lamp, I carry a small assortment of things that I might need to repair my gear and keep myself safe.

Number one in the bag is duct tape.  I wrap a long strip of it around a small pencil so that it is always accessible.  The pencil has come in handy many times when I have needed to leave messages for other hikers in my party, and unlike a pen, will always work.  If the tip breaks off? Well, that is just another use for my knife, right?  J  As for the duct tape, I use it to repair gear, cover hot spots on my feet and close up tears in my rain gear.  It really is true….you can do a million things with duct tape!!

The other thing that always lives in my backpack is dental floss.  I take it out of the plastic box that it comes in and throw it in the ditty bag, where it takes up no room and weighs next to nothing.  Why dental floss?  Because it is really, really strong and can be used to repair just about anything.  Add some duct tape and you might just be able to save the world!!  J

No emergency kit is complete without a space blanket.  We have talked about these before, but you truly cannot beat them for warmth and, in a pinch, extra shelter.  My tent site once flooded in on a cold November night, drenching everything I owned, (including my down sleeping bag).  I spent the night shivering wrapped in my black trash bags and space blanket.  Would I have actually died without them?  I have no idea, but they truly made a difference in my experience that night!

Finally, I always carry iodine tablets for an extra source of water purification.  I usually don’t believe in carrying more than one item for a particular purpose, but when it comes to starting a fire and making water safe to drink, I always carry backup.  Iodine tablets and fire starter are just too small and light to not carry.

You might want to extra medication that you are taking to your emergency bag, as well as small things that you personally find necessary.  The most important thing is that you carry these along with the other 10 Essentials each and every time you go out on a hiking trail.  Like they say, “an ounce of prevention” and all that.  Carrying these items and taking the extra precautions listed here go a long ways towards showing yourself and the rest of the hiking community that you belong out there and that you are doing everything in your power to be a responsible outdoors woman.

What did I leave out?  What else do you carry in your emergency bag?

Send me a message and let me know!

Anna aka mud butt

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials)

I.C.E. (Ten Essentials #9)


Most of you have probably received the email floating around out there asking you to add an ICE entry in your cell phone address book.  I.C.E. stands for “In Case Of Emergency” and gives emergency workers an idea of who to call if you are in trouble.

Well, in the back country it is always essential to have something in your pack that has your pertinent information on it.  What exactly is pertinent?  It should have your name and address to start, and a couple of people that you would want contacted in case you need help.  Also, put any known allergies you have, including medications that you are allergic to.  Finally, put any medical conditions that you have, including whether you wear contact lenses or not.

This card, like so many other things in your backpack, falls under the category of ‘karmic insurance’.  I mentioned this in the post regarding headlamps and flashlights and it is fairly self-explanatory.  If you carry it, you might not ever need it!  J  But it is definitely something that every responsible hiker should carry.  Assume that you cannot speak for yourself….this card needs to speak for you.

This card works in conjunction with the hike plan that you filed with someone back home. Between those two items, if you should become lost or injured on the trail, you will have the quickest chance of being located.  And finally, consider throwing your driver’s license, a little money and your insurance card in with your ICE card.

Here is to never needing a card like this, but to being a responsible hiker that does the right thing!!

Anna aka Mud Butt


We Can Start A Fire! (Ten Essentials)

We Can Start A Fire!!  (Ten Essentials #8)

Cloud Canyon Day 1 10-18-08 (20)

If you ever find yourself stranded in the woods at night, the one thing that will make the biggest difference in your comfort, and possibly survival, is warmth.  You must find a way to stay warm.  In other posts we have talked about using a black trash bag and extra clothes to stay warm.  These are very important, but your best bet will be to start a fire.  Not only will it keep you warm, it will raise your spirits greatly!

Unless you find yourself on some sort of reality TV show, gone are the days of rubbing two sticks together to make a fire.  You should always carry items in your pack to make starting a fire fairly easy.  The items that I always have with me are a lighter, waterproof matches, and fire-starter.  These are all items that you can find in your local outdoor store.  I started with an empty film canister and put fire-starter pellets and water-proof matches in it so that they were all in one place together and would stay dry.  There are also several different fire-starters that you can make yourself.  Dryer lint, itself, makes a great fire starter, as does cotton balls dunked in Vaseline.

Making the fire itself is a topic for another day,  but in the meantime, make sure you are carrying all of the right ingredients to make one!

What do you carry for emergency fire starting?  Comment below and let us know!

Anna aka Mud Butt

Being On The Cutting Edge (Ten Essentials)

Being on the Cutting Edge…..  (Ten Essentials #7)


While you are stocking up your backpack, don’t forget to throw in a knife of some sort.  When it comes to a knife, you only need one and I strongly suggest that you get one that folds into its handle……otherwise, reaching into your backpack could get very interesting!  For most hikers, a small Swiss-army knife or Leatherman does the trick. The idea is to have something that will meet all of your hiking needs without weighing too much or taking up too much space.

What kind of “knife needs” does your typical hiker have?  Well, I have used my knife to facilitate pack repairs in the field, trim off the bottoms of too-long hiking pants, slice through duct tape, and cut off hunks of beef jerky for lunch.  J  In short, I use my knife fairly regularly for all sorts of things.   What will you NOT need your knife for?  You will not need your knife for cutting branches off of living trees or carving your initials into anything.

I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to exercise all sorts of caution when you are using your knife.  It would be really nice if your use of a knife on a hiking trip did not also necessitate your use of your first aid kit! J  If you use your knife regularly to prep your food, make sure to clean it completely so that it doesn’t end up carrying all sorts of bacteria.

Finally, when shopping for a knife keep in mind your own particular needs.  For instance, I have used the scissors and tweezers on my knife many times, but never needed the file.  You don’t necessarily need “40 tools in one”.  Look at your own personal needs, the weight and size of knife you want to carry and purchase accordingly.  For me, anything longer than 2-3 inches is overkill.

Have fun knife shopping!

Anna aka Mud Butt