March 19, 2018

My backpacking food plan

I’m super excited for backpacking season to begin this year! I have a lot of trips that I’m planning to do, including several longer four night trips to the Wallowas, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the Enchantments.

In order for these trips to be successful, I need to work on eating enough to fully replenish my body. At home, I don’t have any problem eating enough, but when I’ve been exerting a lot, especially during prime alpine backpacking season when it’s hot and my energy is easily depleted, I have a hard time wanting to eat. And I’m a picky eater, so that makes it even harder!

This is what I came up with for trips for four nights, three nights, and two nights:

backpacking food plan for a four night trip

backpacking food plan for a four night trip // weight: 5 lbs 8 oz // View larger photo


backpacking food plan for a three night trip

backpacking food plan for a three night trip // weight: 4 lbs 2 oz // View larger photo


backpacking food plan for a two night trip

backpacking food plan for a two night trip // weight: 2 lbs 12 oz // View larger photo



Surprisingly, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every day. For backpacking, I love instant oatmeal. By itself, though, it’s not enough to sustain me for long so I add sliced almonds, hemp seed, milk powder, and freeze-dried berries.

For coffee, I like Trader Joe’s instant coffee with creamer and sugar. I can’t drink coffee without creamer and sugar, so these are perfect. They aren’t very strong, so I use two to make one mug of coffee to have with breakfast.


Lunch is usually snacks to be eaten while hiking:

  • pita crackers (tend to not get smashed as easily as other crackers)
  • beef or cheese sticks
  • home made trail bars (similar to Kind Bars)
  • gummy bears (organic and without food coloring, these gummies keep me going when I need a quick energy burst)
  • home made roasted & seasoned chickpeas (a great protein source in a salty snack)
  • Trail Butter (besides the great flavor, I love the easy to dispense and easy to close container)


These are the new dinner recipes I’ve been working on:

Night time snack

  • chia pudding with matcha (chia is super nutrient rich, and it makes a great pudding with coconut milk powder, maple sugar, and the green tea flavor of matcha)

Make your own dehydrated meals + trail bars

So far, I’ve only tried a couple of commercial freeze-dried meals but haven’t found anything I like. Plus, I’m not used to eating much of anything with preservatives or additives, so I’ve been making my own food for backpacking dinners. When I first started, I made curries, ramen, and other spicy Asian dishes. But my stomach doesn’t like anything even slightly spicy when I’m backpacking, and my taste buds crave something simple and home style. Especially starchy foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes.

To prep for this year’s trips, I’ve been working on several new recipes over the winter months. I’ve been taking my backpacking stove on hikes and cooking a hot lunch to test the recipes. So far, I’m really liking these meals and think that I’ll want to gobble them down each night instead of pawning them off to my campmates. I’ll be adding a few of these recipes to this website after a bit more testing and tweaking (and remembering to take photos before I finish eating). : )

trail bars for backpacking trail bars for backpacking

I’ve also been trying out recipes for trail bars from the Power Hungry cookbook. I especially like the recipes that replicate Kind Bars and Larabars. While they take time to make, they cost much less than purchasing from the store. Plus I get to customize the flavor for exactly what I like. My favorite so far is a recipe I modified by adding candied ginger, ground ginger, and cardamon to a crunchy nut bar. Mmmm. I also made a PB&J bar using dates, almonds, and dried cherries. These bars aren’t too sweet and they stay soft, which is a nice change from crunchy bars.

Food Storage

To help keep track of how much I’m eating, I like to package all of the food for each day into a separate gallon-size plastic bag. I pack all of my snacks for lunches into individual serving bags, then place one days worth into a quart-size bag. This way, I can find all of the snacks that I intend to take on a day hike and know that I still have enough for the remaining days on a trip. And I can easily track to make sure I’m eating enough each day.

backpacking food bag

backpacking food bag with food for a four night trip

On most trips, I take a waterproof sack for hanging food from a tree, but I also take a bear canister on trips where bears are more likely. When using the food sack, I place all of the food in an odor-proof plastic bag and then put that in the food sack. This helps to keep animals from smelling your food and messing with it. Bears aren’t the major concern… it’s the small critters like mice and chipmunks and marmots that are much more frequently trying to get into backpacker’s food.

Backpacking food cookbook

I’m currently working on a “How to Get Started” backpacking book, and after it is published, I’m starting on a backpacking cookbook. I’m teaming with a friend who is a great cook, so look for more info coming soon.

I’d love to hear about backpacking recipes you’ve tried and liked!

Tags:      Category: ,