How to Pack Food for Backpacking

How to Pack Food for Backpacking
Planning your food for a backpacking trip isn't as simple as loading up your favorite snacks and meals. There are a lot of variables to consider, including the weight of the food, the space in your backpack and the area you will be traveling through. There are several kinds of foods that are popular among seasoned backpackers because they are compact and full of calories and nutrients. However, even with these, you need to plan out your meals to make sure you only carry what you need.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bear container (optional)
Step 1
Decide whether you need the bear container. If you are traveling through areas inhabited by bears, you might have to worry about these large animals smelling your food and coming to forage in the middle of the night. A bear food container features a tight seal that makes it difficult for bears to smell your food, and the container is strong enough that a bear can't easily break it open. The downside to these containers is that they add weight to your pack and limit the space you have to work with.
Step 2
Determine how many days you will be gone and what kind of cooking options you have. It's preferred to have a butane stove with you because of the added options you have as far as cooking hot meals. Hot meals are also effective at warming your body in the evening and/or morning, particularly on longer hikes at high altitudes. On longer trips, you will have to decide whether you can carry all your food at once of if you will need to pick up extra food later in your trip.
Step 3
Plan out three meals each day with two snacks. These meals should provide you with at least 1,500 to 2,000 calories each day. With any leftover space, you can add in extra snacks or meal supplements. Unless you are very familiar with the terrain you are covering, you should not plan on finding any food along the way through hunting or foraging.
Step 4
Try to find dried foods that can be prepared by adding water. Good examples include oatmeal, dry noodles and fruit. These foods are ideal because they don't develop bacteria that can make you sick, since water is absent, and they also take up minimal space in your backpack, although they cost more than regular foods.
Step 5
Use tortillas instead of breads. They provide the same nutrients but are much thinner.
Step 6
Pack plenty of protein. These can be found in dry beans, nuts and certain kinds of meats, such as smoked meats. The protein is essential to nutrition when you are exerting yourself and wearing out your muscles. If you are carrying meat in country with animals such as bears and wolves, be sure to pack these meats in the bear container.
Step 7
Use dense foods, such as granola bars, for snacks. They take up very little space but provide sugars for quick energy and healthy carbohydrates for the long run.
Step 8
Cook ramen noodles for supper, when possible. These noodles serve to warm up your body and are loaded with valuable carbohydrates to help your body reload for the next day.

Tips & Warnings

Pack light on fruits and vegetables, since these take up a lot of space and don't provide the fuel needed to help you perform on your hike.

Article Written By Jonathan Croswell

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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