Backpacking Food Tips

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Backpacking Food Tips

  Planning Your Food Allowance
  Keep it Light & Simple
  Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
  One Person's Method


In general, when planning your "lightweight" trip, figure about 2 lbs of food per day, more or less, depending on your needs, the type of food you will carry, the weather conditions (cooler weather necessitates more food - possibly with higher fat content - to keep you warm), and the length of time you'll be out there.

Typically, for short duration outings - 6 days or less - you can get by with less food. For longer duration treks - say a week or more - like doing the AT or PCT - you may need progressively more nourishment. You may be able to get by with 1 1/4 pounds per day for awhile, but find you require 2 1/4 pounds within a couple of weeks.

Before embarking on a long backcountry expedition, experiment in your kitchen, on overnight hikes, and on multi-day hikes. For you, more strenuous hikes may require more food. It's good to understand your needs before leaving on a ten day hike. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Carry foods that require little or no cooking. It is important, however, to have at least one hot meal per day, preferably in the evening. A hot meal will help you keep warmer on cold nights, help you sleep more soundly and, in general, help maintain your psychological and physiological well-being.

For your hot meals, try to bring food that can be prepared in its own package (like many of the freeze-dried meals on the market) or remove them from their own packaging and put into heavy-duty freezer bags which can tolerate boiling water. Also, when measuring out meals, err on the "too much" side. You'll probably get hungry enough to eat it all.

Important rules to remember: Carry extra food for emergencies, at a minimum, one good, high-fat-content meal. Also, when exhausted after a hard day's climb, make yourself eat, even though you are "too tired". Your body really needs the nourishment, no matter what your mind says.


I like to keep it light and simple, with the convenience of no dirty pots. I don't like leaving food scraps in streams, lakes, or on the ground. Anyway, don't get me wrong, nothing against those of us that like creative cooking in the outdoors. I've just found a method that works best for me. Maybe I'm lazy.

Anyway, I like a lot of dried soups and cereals, measuring out just enough for each meal and putting it into small zip-loc freezer bags. All I have to do is boil water and pour it into the freezer bag, close the bag, which retains heat rather well, and let sit for several minutes before feasting. I also really enjoy many Mary Janes Farm dried meals which are made from 100 percent organic ingredients. These meals like -- Organic Alfredo Pasta, Organic Chilimac, Organic Cheesy B.N.T. Pasta (bacon bits, noodles, tomatoes), Organic Kettle Chili (and too many more to mention) plus desserts like Organic Bavarian Chocolate Mousse - yum!


Supplemental vitamins and minerals are very important for our health and well-being in the woods, especially, if we're out for a long duration. There are various powdered energy drinks (e.g. gatorade) that are rich in vitamins, minerals, electrolytes in each packet. I typically consume two per day on average - one in the morning and one in the evening. Each packet is relatively lightweight to carry and they make a huge difference for me. Helps keep me energetic, properly hydrated and with a positive attitude !


My method requires boiling one quart of water in the morning for oatmeal, cereal, or granola with fruit, and a 12 ounce cup of delicious Caffe d' Amore cappuccino (purchased packets at REI) and/or Singlebrew gourmet coffee (from a large tea-style bag). I also boil one quart of water in the evening for an instant-soup or freeze-dried feast along with a 12 ounce cup of licorice-root tea, other herbal concoction, or hot cocoa. I don't use a stove during the day but take a number of snack type foods to eat.

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