The food that you bring on the trail is going to be a largely personal decision based on your own tastes, the nutritional value you’re seeking, and also the ease to cook it. Some hikers choose a food as fuel mentality, where they choose food strictly for calories, lightweight and convenience. While other hikers are willing to prepare a little bit more ahead of time, maybe even make their own recipes, and dehydrate them to get that extra nutritional value.
For ease, and convenience, most lightweight back packers tend to lean towards the food is fuel mentality. If you want to get really light with your trail food, what you need to measure is the amount of calories per ounce in the food that you’re bringing, which is simply a measure of the amount of energy the food is going to give you for the weight it’s going to cost to carry. To calculate the calories per ounce of the food that you’re bringing, simply tally up the calories on the back of your packages, and divide by the total amount of weight.
Foods like nuts, peanut butter, chocolate, and olive oil, tend to have very high calories per ounce ratio. Where foods like fresh fruit, and vegetables tend to have very low calories per ounce. So, you can see that if you bulk up only on foods with high calories per ounce, you’re not going to have a very balanced diet. So, what you’re looking for is a range of maybe 120 to 130 calories per ounce.
The goal is to get as much nutrition, calories and taste out of your food, while keeping weight as low as possible. Good trail nutrition is just like good nutrition at home. You want a balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates while giving as much fiber, fruits, and vegetables in your diet as possible.
The ease of cooking should be another important consideration for trial food. It’s going to take more than boiling water, and pouring it into a bag, then it’s probably a little too much work. So, when you’re choosing dehydrated meals, make sure you look for ones with shorter cooking times. The amount of cooking, and also the amount of food are other important considerations. Are you really going to want to wake up, and cook breakfast every morning? Most people find that if they’re hiking long miles, they usually want to cram a bar, and get walking in the morning.
Also, make sure you know how much food you’re going to bring. On long days of hiking, you’re probably going to use a lot more calories than you think. Some through hikers find that they actually expend four to six thousand calories a day. So, you might want to bring a little bit more food, depending on how strenuous your hike is going to be.
You’re going to want to avoid all canned food, because they tend to be low in calories, very heavy, and then you’re also going to have to pack out the trash. You’re also going to want to repackage all your trail food in a zip lock bag to save weight, and also volume.
For breakfast, make sure to think about if you’re going to want to cook or not. If you do, things like oatmeal, coffee, and tea can be nice. If you’re not going to want to cook, bars, Pop Tarts, granola, milk, and a breakfast mix can all be really nice options. You can also sprinkle in snacks. Things like nuts, and trail mix tend to be good in the morning.
Snacks are a very important part of a good trail diet. You find that you’re going to be burning lots of calories. So keeping snacks in the easily accessible place in your hip belt pocket to have every hour, or two is a good idea. Some common quick and easy trail snacks are bars, crackers and chips, trail mix, nuts, beef jerky, various dried fruits, or fruit leather strips, and many hikers also bring candy.
For lunch a sandwich is a pretty quick convenient option. They can easily be made with bagels or whole wheat tortillas, which tend to hold up well on the trail. They can be made with peanut butter, honey, jam, pretty common options. As well as hard meats and cheeses which’ll keep well.
Freeze dried back packing dinners can be a pretty convenient option, but they’re also going to be pretty costly at around seven to ten dollars a piece. You can find some pretty common options in most super markets, that’s going to cost a fraction of the price, and they’ll cook up just as nicely.
So, things like pasta sides, and rice sides, and couscous tend to cook up really well. As well as mashed potatoes which don’t even need boiling water. Ramen noodles, and other dry soups are great. Stuffing is a pretty convenient meal as well as Easy Mac. Those are pretty common lightweight back packer choices. If you want to add a little protein, you can add chicken or tuna to your meal.
[inaudible 00:04:46] some great light weight options to spice up your meals on the trail. Things like fast food condiment packets are going to be really light, and help add flavor. Olive oil is a fantastic thing for adding flavor, and calories. Small spice packets can add a lot to your meal as well as hot sauce. Things like drink flavors can do into your water to change it up during the day while you hike. You can make hot cocoa, or apple cider at night after your meal for a nice warm treat.
For some personal recommendations, fresh fruit might have a poor calories per ounce ratio but I generally bring a couple because it’s a really nice treat. Also make sure you practice leave no trace camping. If you pack it in, make sure you pack it out.
So, that should give you an idea of some of the most common long distance back packing meals and ultralight backpacking foods. Your choices are obviously very personal, so, choose what’s right for you. When you’re considering food make sure you choose food with good nutritional value while keeping weight low.