Backpacking Food Ideas For Beginners – DIY Guide!

The first thing I wondered before my first 4-days backpacking trip was backpacking food ideas, not the gears!

Backpacking is a calorie consuming activity. The more you walk, the more calories you waste. It's intensive and in itself is a workout. You need food to keep your body strong, healthy and active.

The problems will start to transpire as soon as your body gets into calories deficit. To stay on the safer side, you've to be in calories surplus, or you've to hit your maintained calories goals.

So, this article will help you to know about the food you to bring backpacking or hiking trip.

Recommended: Best Hiking Apps For Hiking, Backpacking, and Campfinding 

How much should I take on a backpacking trip?

hiking food ideas

There is no particular calories intake number; you've to figure it out yourself. The goal is to take anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 of food per person, depending on the goals of an individual.

​If you're bulking up or don't want to lose the weight, then the preferred number would be 2.0 to 2.5 depending on your size, height, and exertion level.

​Make sure to don't overload your backpack with unnecessary food which will add up weight to the backpack and make the whole trip unpleasant.

​Here is a simplified excerpt from and informative article published on adventurealan.

  • A 160 lb person has a base metabolism of approx. 2,200 cal/day.
  • 10 miles hiking with a 30 lb backpack at 120 cal/mi, is another 1,200 calories.
  • Assume 3,000 elevation gain is another 600 calories.Total caloric expenditure: 4,000 cal/day.
  • 1.5 pounds of food at 125 cal/oz = 3,000 calories. Caloric deficit = 1,000 cal/per day. Or around 1/3 lb of hiker per day (this is fat metabolized/burned)

Meal Planning Circumstances

backpacking food ideas

Source - Gavin kroeker 

Taste: Taste is definitely the priority. If you bring the food on backpacking just for the sake of its nutrition value, then you wouldn't get the feel good factor which will spoil your mood.

Nutrition: Though it's good to have yourself a tasty snack like candy but keep the balance in your backpack with nutritious food like dried fruits and peanut butter which have great nutrition value along taste.

Calories: Try to find calories rich food for multi-day hiking to make sure your body doesn't feel fatigue and unenergetic.

Preparation: If you're not a good cook then don't bring any cookable item/food with you. Keep the things simple with good alternatives.

Less Bulk: Don't over pack your bag with the food, keep the things simple. You don't want to waste extra calories just to consume few calories, hope it does make sense.

Water Availability: It depends on where you're going and what type of food you're taking with you. However, a good hydration bladder comes in handy as compared to water bottles.

Backpacking Meal Options

Fresh Food: Don't leave behind the fresh food before you hit the trails. You have plenty of options, dry food like nuts, seeds, nut-based bars or nut butter packs and vegetables like Broccoli, cabbage, and carrot.

Dehydrated Food: It is a good option. Though this food can be expensive, they bring the taste with good nutrition value. Example: dried tortellini, soup packets, dehydrated chili mix, noodles, sun-dried tomatoes, oatmeal, couscous, minute rice.

Canned Food: Canned food is the most efficient when going backpacking; however, it also makes it a suitable source of food the lazy days around the campsite. Example: Tuna, Soup, Ham or Spam.

Flavored Drinks: Flavored beverages are tasty and refreshing when you're drinking plain water for a multi-day backpacking trip.

Spice: If you're foody then don't forget to take spices with you because spices enhance the appeal toward the food and taste buds. And, it makes the food tastier.

Backpacking Meal Ideas For Beginner Backpackers

Backpacking Breakfast

It's very chilly in the morning, and you warm up quickly once you start hiking. Most hikers like to consume lightweight and fast breakfast that doesn't require any cooking and clean up the process.

Fast breakfast options: Granola with powdered milk Peanut butter, almond butter or Nutella on Crackers, Pop Tarts, Hot Chocolate and Coffee.

Slow Breakfast options: Oatmeal with milk, raisins, and cinnamon. Veggie Scramble.

Backpacking Lunch

You've two option, either make a proper meal or eat snacks while you're walking on trails. Energy packs snacks like fruits and nuts are the great selection if you pick up the second option.

Snacking on the trail options: Dried Fruit, Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Pistachios, Apples, Raisins, Granola Bars, Beef Jerky, Apricots, Cranberries, Nuts, Walnuts, biscuits.

Sit down lunch options: canned/packed fish like tuna and salmon, crackers, Peanut butter on crackers.

Backpacking Dinner

​This is the end meal of the day. It should be tasty and nutrition rich so that you feel like getting a reward for a long day hike. It's an important meal to recover from all the fatigue you've got from trekking. Dehydrated meals are excellent options.

Backpacking Dinner Options: Vegetarian Chili, Pesto Pasta with Spinach, instant rice, instant soups and sauces, instant stuffing, ramen noodles, instant potatoes and tuna with your favorite spices.

High-Calories Hiking Food (Additional Guide)

​The other tip for backpacking food ideas is very simple: You've to keep it lightweight, and nutritious. Food selection becomes convenient because you don't want to spend a lot of time cooking your meal and thinking about it. So, it becomes necessary to understand what to take or not.

​Below is the list of high-calorie foods that will provide you extra energy during backpacking.

​1. Fats & Oils

​Fats and Oils are essential for energy. These are very rich in calories, yielding 9 calories per gram. Fats have essential amino acids and Vitamin which are required to stay healthy.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Coconut Oil – 929 Cal, Sesame Oil – 857 Cal, Olive Oil – 800 Cal

2. Nuts & Seeds

​Nuts and Seeds have good nutrition value. Nuts and Seeds come power packed with the protein, fat, vitamin, mineral, and fiber. These are easy to digest and considered to be best hiking snack.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Peanut Butter – 594Cal, Tahini (Sesame Butter) – 594Cal, Almond Butter – 563 Cal

​3. Chocolate

​Chocolate is a very popular choice. Chocolates are a high-calories product which can help you to revive your energy after a long day hike. On top of that, it's delicious to eat.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Dark Chocolate, 85% Cacao – 625Cal, White Chocolate – 482Cal, Milk Chocolate – 458Cal

​4. Dried Fruit

​We listed dried fruit in our list of food ideas for backpacker. Dried fruits have good nutrition value with fiber. These are great as a snack and works well as an energy fuel on the trail.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Dried Banana Chips – 516Cal, Dates – 350Cal, Dried Cranberries – 345Cal, Apricots – 250Cal, Prunes – 240Cal

5. Dairy Products and Milk

​The majority of people know about the value of the Dairy products and especially Milk. Milk is packed with protein, calcium, and vitamin D. You can mix it with your nuts, cereals, ghee or granola at home. It tastes delicious, don't forget to try.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Ghee (clarified butter) – 884Cal, Whole Milk Powder (Nestle Nido) – 503Cal, Parmesan Cheese, grated – 321Cal

​6. Oily Fish

​Oily fish are easily available. These are not just calories rich but have great nutrition value overall. The fishes have Omega-3 in them which is necessary for your heart, eyes, brain.

​Calorie density (per 100g): Mackerel in Oil- 268Cal, Smoked Salmon Jerky – 257Cal, Canned Sardines in Oil – 204Cal, Tuna in Oil – 198Cal

​7. Pasta & Grains

​Pasta is already very popular. It's a delicious meal at dinner time. It takes few minutes for cook it up. Pasta and oats both have complex carbohydrates that digest which provides sustainable energy for backpacker. 

These are also an excellent source of proteins and minerals.

Calorie density (per 100g): Quacker Oats (rolled) – 375Cal, Pasta, cooked – 158Cal, Rice – 130Cal