Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
1. WHAT IS BACKPACKING MEAL PLANNING?
Are you planning on going for a hike or camping for a few days? Backpacking meal planning is one of the main factors to consider as the top priority of your to-do-list. Backpacking meal planning is a menu that you need to organize before setting on your journey and should be sufficient for the time you will be away from home.
2. WHAT TYPES OF MEALS ARE GOOD FOR BACKPACKING?
While planning on what to carry for your venture, there are various types of meals that you need to consider. The activities of your day and the time that you will spend away from home will significantly determine the variety of foods that you should include on your menu.
Choose the food types that you like without trying to convert your taste buds to foods which you do not want. While going for a hike, foods rich in calories and water are essential to fight headaches and fatigue. The nutritional value of your meals should be adequate to give you the required energy for the muscles. Although a candy bar could give you the needed nutrients, you may consider substituting it with dried fruits and nuts for more stable energy.
For your backpacking meal plan, you need foods which are less bulky and lightweight to provide as much room as possible to carry more food. The backpacked meals should be easy to prepare or do not require any cooking, just to me on the safe side if your stove malfunctions.
3. WHAT ARE THE BEST FOODS TO TAKE WHEN BACKPACKING?
While backpacking meal planning, you need to consider minimizing the number of fresh foods. These foods are convenient for only a day or two, although others, like carrots, may have a longer shelf life.
Dry foods like instant rice, drink mixes, noodles and pasta occupy minimal space in your bag and are light, especially when walking for a long journey.
Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods are especially lightweight although they are relatively costly. These meals are high in sodium and protein, which your body needs while you are out on the trail.
Canned foods in vacuum-sealed pouches are convenient as they have a long shelf life. However, you should avoid foods that come in packages of 15 ounces or more. These cans and packages are heavy, and you will need to carry them out with you. Packing out garbage is an unwritten rule of backpacking.
4. WHAT IS A GOOD IDEA FOR BREAKFAST?
Backpacking breakfasts can come with a simple menu or a sumptuous spread which include coffee, meat, pancakes and eggs.
You may avoid a lavish meal depending on the amount of time that you will be spending away from home by going for a lighter option of dry cereals, powdered milk or instant tea or coffee.
Many backpackers prefer a light, easy breakfast so that they can pack up camp quickly and make the most of the early hours of the day. Some will even shun cooking entirely, opting instead for granola bars or trail mix.
5. WHAT IS A GOOD IDEA FOR LUNCH?
Instead of taking prolonged lunch breaks for unpacking, cooking, and cleaning up and repacking, you might consider energy-boosting snacks which will keep you rejuvenated throughout the day. Popular choices you can backpack are energy bars and nuts, fig bars, dried fruits and jerky.
6. WHAT IS A GOOD IDEA FOR DINNER?
The best time when you have adequate time to prepare a substantial meal is in the evening. Take time to think of some creative backpacking meals with your favorite foods. Really. That might seem counterintuitive but many foods can be dehydrated – or modified to become dehydrated!
Your backpacked dehydrated, pre-packaged freeze-dried meals or pasta should just require boiling water to cook. Dehydrated meals should never lack flavor! Make sure to add your favourite spices to bring out the best taste of the meal. You’ll be hungry and you’ll be so glad you’ve thought ahead to prepare a warm meal for yourself.
Pre-made foods like frozen chili or soup can also work for the first few days of your backpacking trip.
7. I WOULD LOVE SODA, A GLASS OF WINE OR A PIECE OF CHOCOLATE… IS IT PRACTICAL?
Your backpacking meal plan should avoid a lot of unnecessary beverages which may increase the weight of your bag. Sodas and wine could be substituted with water, or carried in lighter bottles, as opposed to the conventional glass packages. You can also carry powdered electrolyte drink mixes to spice up your water and ensure you are refuelling properly.
A piece of chocolate might not be a bad idea for the much-needed nutrients and energy when travelling. The best thing about eating while backpacking is that everything tastes better! Dark chocolate is a backpacking favourite, since its compact size holds a ton of flavor!
8. DO I NEED TO CONSIDER THE SEASONS IN MY BACKPACKING MEAL PLAN?
When planning for the perfect menu for your backpacking plan, you need to consider the season. During the cold season, you need to carry more foods rich in carbohydrates to help you stay warm.
Hydration during summer is a major concern. You need to backpack more water and packets of electrolytes to keep you hydrated all day. You should also consider checking with the local authority on the use of stoves during summer to avoid the risk of fires.
9. IS A MULTI-DAY HIKE A GOOD TIME TO START A NEW DIET?
When going for long hikes, it wouldn’t be advisable to start a new diet. Your body will need a lot of energy to keep you active on minimal food. Consider completing your hike first before switching up your eating habits. You may, however, consider consulting your doctor for the best advice.
10. CAN I MAKE MY OWN MEALS FOR BACKPACKING?
While backpacking meal planning, preparing your food is a good idea to cut costs while ensuring that you make your favorite food. You may, however, need to spend a lot of time before your trip to dry and dehydrate foods.
Learning to dehydrate your own food is easy and only requires an oven. You can mix and match to create your own meals that are to your taste and much more cost effective.
11. CAN I BUY MEALS FOR PACKAGING?
Pre-packaged meals are a more comfortable option for new backpackers who would rather not have to worry about this element. They also come in various types and shelf life is taking a lot of guesswork out as well. While choosing your preferred meals, ensure that you check the expiring date of the premade foods to ensure that they will not go bad while still on a hike.
12. WILL I NEED TO BRING MY OWN WATER?
Your backpacking meal plan will need to take the trail into consideration. Knowing the path to follow will help in determining the amount of water that you will carry on your trip.
If you discover that you will be crossing rivers which have clear water, you may consider bringing little drinking water and empty containers for fetching water on your hike.
Always bring a water filter or purification tablets for drinking water throughout the day. Even if a stream appears clear and glacier-fed, it can carry microscopic organisms that make you sick.
You can boil any water to make it appropriate for cooking, but always remember to strain it first to remove any particulate matter.
In some hotter regions, you will need to plan well ahead to ensure you keep enough water on hand and ration it in between stops where you can boil or filter more.
13. I LOVE A HOT MEAL BUT IS THIS POSSIBLE WHEN BACKPACKING?
While backpacking meal planning, including a lightweight stove, will ensure that you can enjoy hot meals whenever you need. There are various stoves and cookware sets which are specially designed for backpacking. Always remember to check with the local authorities whether stoves are allowed during summer hiking.
14. HOW MUCH FOOD WILL I NEED?
The amount of food needed during a hike largely depends on an individual. Your fitness, height, weight, sex and muscle mass are some of the determinants of the amount of food that you are capable of carrying.
The period that you will be away from home also plays a significant role in determining the amount of food that you will backpack. The longer the stay, translates to more backpacked food, and vice versa.
15. IS FORAGING FOR FOOD A GOOD IDEA?
While on your hike or camping, you may consider collecting food as part of your daily activities.
Unless you have extensive experience foraging for food in the region, you should NOT experiment with foraging. Many wild edibles look similar to their toxic cousins. The best case scenario of ill-informed foraging is an upset stomach, while the worst case scenario is a full-blown medical emergency on the side of the trail.
16. HOW SHOULD I STORE MY FOOD?
While backpacking your food, you need to label your containers and bags to make it possible for you to identify them. Perishable foods and those that can be spoiled by excessive weight need to be packed at the top of the bag.
You may also consider arranging your food in a way that you access the food you need first at the top to avoid repackaging the whole bag.
17. HOW CAN I CUT DOWN ON THE WEIGHT OF MY FOOD?
Weight is a major concern when backpacking meal planning. You can, however, make use of simple tricks to have a light bag.
Glass bottles and jars contribute to a significant weight increase and should be substituted with plastic ones. Dehydrated and free-dried foods also lower the weight of the food and can be transferred from heavy and bulky packets to light, plastic bags.
A good ultralight backpacking meal plan leans heavily on nutrient-dense foods with minimal packaging. Rice, beans, and smoked meats offer great nutritional value at a minimal weight.
18. WILL WILD ANIMALS BE ATTRACTED TO MY FOOD?
While camping, you will realize that animals are very attracted to your food. Animals can smell right through airtight containers, and will claw and chew right through your bag to access your food.
Store your food in food caches or hang it high from a tree. If it seems like an animal has rooted through your food, you will need to dispose of all of it. Rodents and other animals carry diseases, which can easily be transmitted to you if you eat contaminated food.
Never sleep with food inside your tent, especially when in regions where bears and other large mammals are around.
These basics will help you prep a backpacking meal plan and get out started on your next adventure! Want more backpacking tips? Check out our Ultimate Backpacking Gear List!