The Lightest Backpacking Food

The Lightest Backpacking Food
Cross-country, overnight backpacking means taking everything with you. Just getting to many of the more remote and worthwhile trekking destinations requires humping it out for 15 or more miles a day over demanding terrain, and that requires a lot of calories. If a trekker skimps on his rations, he won't have the energy to get the most out of his day on the trail. Thus trekkers should have the lightest, yet most nourishing food possible.

Trail Mix

One of the best ways to minimize the load is to carry foods that are available off the shelf, require no refrigeration and pack a high calorie-to-weight-and-volume ratio. The big winner in this category is nuts. Nuts have 50 percent more calories by weight than table sugar. A plastic bag or jar of mixed nuts will pack an average of 2,700 calories per pound. It is a good idea to mix in some raisins, dried cherries, apricots and cranberries for variety. There is a reason why the mix of nuts and dried fruits is called "trail mix" in the first place, and it remains the classic backpacker food.


Preserved Meat

Backpackers need protein, especially if they want to gain muscle on the trek. The best choice is a dried meat like beef jerky As a rule, canned items should be avoided because they weigh too much. But some canned meats pack such a wallop of calories in fat and oil that they counterbalance the weight of the can. Even after accounting for the weight of the can, Spam packs 80 calories per ounce, even though most of the Spam is actually fat. A can or two of Spam or something similar can add a little variety to the backpacker's meat course. But as it's mostly fat and not protein, it should not be a diet staple.

Pasta and Noodles

These dried items carry between 110 and 150 calories per ounce, and can be boiled with little more than a campfire and a clean water source. This makes Ramen packets a great food choice. They are cheap, durable, portable, high in calories and come with their own flavor packet. Olive oil packs a mammoth 240 calories an ounce, so another way to go is to combine elbow macaroni with some olive oil and a little oregano and garlic powder.

MREs and Dehydrated Foods

Pre-packaged standard rations are designed to combine the virtues of variety with portability and a high calorie-to-weight ration. Each MRE weighs approximately 1.5 pounds and contains an estimated 1,250 calories, or 52 calories an ounce. That is a pretty low ratio, and each MRE (meal, ready-to-eat) includes tea, sporks, packet sugar, moist towelettes and other items that a backpacker looking to get down to the minimum weight can easily discard. The basic entree portions of MREs are dehydrated food packs, so you can either buy these dehydrated food packs straight from a vendor or buy a case of MREs, then pick and choose among the pre-packaged components.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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