One of the most important things you need when backpacking or hiking is fuel, and for humans, this can only be sourced through food.
Making a plan for the foods you’ll eat over your journey is one way to ensure sustenance but also save space in your bag and a bit of money.
How do you make a backpacking meal plan?
A backpacking meal plan should provide enough calories and the right types of food to sustain you on a trip, with factors like body weight, weather, and the length of the journey factored in.
With a meal plan, you can bring bulk supplies, save room in your backpack, and guarantee nutritious foods for the entire trip.
Preparation is key with most things in life, and this couldn’t be truer than when talking about backpacking.
With food being such a crucial part of our health and energy levels, you can go a lot further with a meal plan, so we’re here to help you tailor one to your needs.
How Much Food Do You Take Backpacking?
The food you take backpacking plays an important role in the journey, and whether you’re going on an overnight trip or spending days on the trails, you need to have it covered.
Before you can consider a standard amount of food to take along, ask yourself these questions to see if they’ll change the answer.
How strenuous is the daily activity I’ll be doing?
Someone spending the entire day hiking will burn more calories and need more fuel, compared to a person who is relaxing by their campsite for the day.
How many calories does my body burn each day without doing anything?
To calculate this, figure out your basal metabolic rate which is the rate that your body burns calories during rest.
From there, you can determine how many calories you’ll need if you’re active and how this differs depending on weight, height, and age.
What is my body weight and general size?
Those that have a higher BMI will need to eat more calories each day compared to a lighter person.
Think about your daily food requirements and what you eat to stay sustained.
How many days will I be backpacking for?
An overnight trip will differ from a multi-day trip and it will dictate how much food you need to bring and whether you can cook or pack in bulk to save money and space.
The standard amount of food to take backpacking is between 2,5000 and 4,5000 per person, which should be calculated using the above questions to see what’s required for you.
This should weigh between 1.5lbs and 2.5lbs for each day but you should be able to get that amount down with some careful meal planning.
The Best Types of Foods
Every backpacker has different tastes when it comes to foods, and they also have different raveling styles.
A lightweight backpacker will want to keep it simple, and others will be happy to take some extra weight if it means they can eat well on their journey.
The best types of foods for backpacking are those that don’t perish easily, including tinned foods, dehydrated ones, and those that are prepackaged.
Although this is the smartest option it shouldn’t be your only one, and if it’s possible to bring along a fresh baguette or banana on your trip, you should do so.
The main goal when packing food is to ensure that your caloric needs are being met.
Give yourself a good variety of food and choose things that are easy to prepare or grab out of your bag and go, with convenience being a huge factor.
Meal Planning for Backpacking
The best way to meal plan for backpacking is to look at how many days you’re traveling for, and what meals will be required each day.
Where possible, you can match up the meals to the activities of the day to ensure you have enough sustenance. Break everything down into these categories:
- Breakfast: The most important meal of the day is breakfast as it gives you the fuel to get started. For backpacking, some popular choices include oatmeal, pancakes, fresh fruit, powdered eggs, instant coffee, or a baguette with jam or honey. If there’s anywhere nearby to get a meal, take advantage of it for breakfast and see the difference it can make in your day.
- Lunch: Food that requires no refrigeration but will still taste good in the middle of the day is best for backpacking. Consider adding items like tortillas, tuna pouches, crackers with cheese and salami, and pita bread to your meal plan.
- Dinner: Depending on the amenities you have, you can pack dinner options like couscous, instant rice, tuna pouches, salami, and pre-packaged meals. If you’re able to cook using a skillet, your options become even greater.
- Snacks: A backpacking snack should be convenient and easy to grab out of your bag. Think about foods like energy bars, trail mix, single-serve fruit, dried mango, peanut butter pretzels, and anything else that will keep you going until your next meal.
- Dessert: Not everyone eats dessert but you may feel different after a long day hiking when your sweet tooth is looking for a hit. If you want to be prepared, you can add some small treats like candy bars, chocolate-coated almonds, or a small jar of Nutella to your backpack.
Cooking and Food Preparation Tips
Taking the advice of backpackers who have been before you is the best way to ensure success, whether it’s about planning meals or learning how to pack your bag correctly.
Here are some tips that others have shared about cooking and taking food along backpacking that can help you out.
- Now is not the time to give new foods a try or pack things that you don’t like the taste of, just because you think they’re good for backpacking. Stick to foods that you like and will find enjoyable, and your taste buds will thank you for it.
- Bring as much fresh food as possible given the situation. It’s not always possible to take a lot of fruits and vegetables but if you do, you can eat them at the beginning of the trip so they’re still fresh and not have to live entirely off packaged food.
- Mix things up when packing food and look for a variety of sweet, spicy, salty, and bland foods. You’ll find eating more enjoyable when you have a mixture of flavors and it’ll feel less like rationed food.
- Bring along some type of flavored drink that can boost your electrolytes or give yourself another option for staying hydrated like miso soup, chai tea, or beef broth. Drinking only water for an extended period can get boring fast.
- Consider using freeze-dried and dehydrated meals, and if you’re a regular backpacker, this is a valuable skill to learn. When you can it yourself, you save time and money, and guarantee whatever you create is going to taste good as well.
A Meal Plan on the Go
Backpacking can be full of unpredictable moments and one thing you have to be sure about when you have a meal plan is that you’ll never go hungry.
This budget-savvy, space-saving, and sustenance-giving approach to planning for backpacking is a must, no matter the location or distance you’re traveling.
The preparation stage of backpacking might not be the most fun, but it is the most important for your survival and success.
If you’ve never taken a backpacking trip before and aren’t sure what’s required, we’ve answered a few commonly asked questions that can give you a push in the right direction.
How Do You Carry Water While Backpacking?
The most common way to carry water while hiking or backpacking is to use a hydration bladder.
These are lightweight, durable, and remain inside of the backpack with a straw extending out for easy access.
What Size Bag Do I Need for Backpacking?
A backpacking bag should be between 10 to 50 liters in capacity, and sometimes larger, depending on the length of your journey.
For an overnight trip, the smaller end of the scale will suffice but for days and weeks of backpacking, you’ll want something large enough to fit your gear, food, and water supplies.
How Much Money Should I Bring Backpacking?
The location you’re backpacking to and the type of trip will determine how much money is required, with travelers going to a European country needing a lot more than someone backpacking for a few days in the woods.
You’ll also want to have enough money to get yourself home again in an emergency, plus money needed for daily living expenses and accommodation