What Food Should I Pack For a Backpacking Trip

Planning meals for backpacking and camping requires a bit of thought. A few snacks and a couple of meals would be enough for a day trip. Backpacking or hiking for a long time implies a necessity to pay close attention to the food and its quantity. Food items can decay or be swallowed by the animals around your camp. Mice, ants and even bears pose threat to food containers. Consumption of spoilt food can cause diseases and threat to health, which is an unwelcome souvenir during any backpacking trip. Hence, careful planning and food packing are mandatory to have a convenient backpacking or hiking experience.

Packing Food

Start packing food well in advance before hitting the trail to have enough time for planning the items you actually need. Pack all the foods well in airtight containers. By sticking to them, you prevent food from spoiling. It is better to get food in single-serving packs, instead of packing and unpacking repeatedly. While it is a good idea to carry yummy food for a trip, make sure to include high-calorie food too. Adequate nutrition is a must while backpacking. Carry enough high-calorie snacks so that you can refill your energy at frequent intervals.

What Food Should I Pack For a Backpacking Trip

The food you need to bring greatly depends on how many days you will be outdoors. You can carry water-based food for the first days, but planning food for subsequent days is tricky. While using canned food may sound like a good idea, these are heavy and usually cause an overweight backpack. Bring preserves like peanut butter and fruit jams since they can last for a long time. Powdered milk is better than raw milk since it is lightweight. Dehydrated food and dried fruits are other lightweight and quick food options for a backpacking trip.

For cooking at the campsite, get instant food like pasta, pancake mix, noodles etc. You can also get powdered sauce mixes than can be made easily to accompany your pasta.

what food should I pack for a backpacking trip

Cooking at the Campsite

A bit of cooking outside of a tent can give you hot and fresh food. Carry a stove and few utensils for the same. Try to avoid food items that require long cooking; it is always convenient to have food that can be cooked easily. After a day of hiking, I rarely have enough energy and patience to cook long meals.

Aluminum foil is a good option to use in cooking instead of carrying many vessels. Digital thermometers will help you to measure the temperature, especially when cooking on a grill or portable stove.

The thermometer is a must if you plan to cook beef because ground beef may contain dangerous bacteria. Cooking meat items at high temperatures provides safety and delicious meals. 155 degree F is a safe temperature for cooking meat. You can find digital thermometers anywhere. Since color is not a reliable way to determine whether meat is cooked well or not, a cooking thermometer is your best bet in case of cooking meat meals.

For cooking food, you can either bring a stove or use a campfire. This depends on the location you’re hiking in. Campfires are ideal for people who backpack in larger groups. However, stoves are useful in providing steady heat for a fast cooking experience.

Bringing Water

Drinking water from rivers and lakes may seem an interesting thing to do. However, the water might contain dangerous pathogens. Rivers and lakes are organic systems; animals and plants die in them and decay. Drinking of such water is not a safe option. Carry enough drinking water with you for your trip.

If you are on a long-term backpacking trip, carrying ample amount of water might be difficult. In such cases, you can take water from streams and boil it to a high temperature to kill all the microorganisms. During my last backpacking trip, I also used filters and water purification tablets to make river water safe to drink.

cooking food on a hiking trip

Carrying Coolers

Food exposed to direct sunlight and warm temperature attracts bacteria. Portable coolers are helpful in keeping drinks cold and for storing perishable food items. Do not expose the cooler to sunlight and always try to keep it closed. Pack extra ice cubes in your cooler. Try to separate perishable food and the drinks. Once the ice in the cooler melts, the food can get mixed with the water. Pack food in separate waterproof containers to prevent this.
Try to store perishable food in cooler; otherwise, spoiled food can cause food poisoning on those who consume them. This includes fried food as well. All meat items should be stored in coolers for food safety.

Things Not To Miss During Backpacking Trip

Novice backpackers often make mistakes in handling food during their trip. I heard a lot of stories when hikers set their tents on fire while cooking food inside them. As a precaution do not cook you food inside the tent! Carrying too much or too less is another frequent mistake. It is important to remember that any backpacking trip requires a significant amount of energy. Frequent snacks and hydration are required while backpacking compared to any other day. If carrying more food adds to the weight of your backpack, carrying too less can cause mild nutrient starvation. Hence, the food you pack on a backpacking trip should correlate with your requirements.

Avoid feeding any animals that come around to your tent. Don’t leave traces of food and plastics in a campsite. This will convey the presence of food in your tent and attract animals, which can cause a potential threat to your campsite.

Compromising on the food availability and food safety is not a safe thing to do while backpacking trip. Once you hit the wilderness, your options for getting more food are slim to none. Packing and carrying food properly and hygienically is as important as picking the appropriate food items. Food can perish or become infested with bacteria.

I hiked many times in various parts of the world and know that there are a lot of nuances about climate, equipment, and location. The tips I have mentioned above worked perfectly for me in a temperate climate. Desert or tropical climate will certainly require more water and heat protection, while regions with polar climate require appropriate clothing. I’m planning to continue a series of hiking related articles, so stay in touch! If you have any questions, feel free to leave comments!

What are your secrets for keeping food fresh?

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