These are some ideas for trail food you can take with you backpacking or on day hikes.
If you are out for more than a day hike you need to really consider weight, and perishability of your food. This means dehydrated / freeze dried food rules. You will be expending a lot of calories so you want to eat high calorie foods. You know, the stuff you are supposed to stay away from at home.
Eat a very big breakfast the day you leave and plan for a big dinner on the way home. This reduces what you carry
Pre portion your food use a combination of drysacks / plastic grocery bags / ziplock bags to portion your food. Splitting into a grocery bag for each day makes it easy to find your food, and keeps you from accidentally overeating early in the trip.
Don’t forget to hang your food & trash in a bear bag or bear canister.
Packets of olive oil or canola oil are a good way to add healthy calories to lunches or dinners.
You should focus on getting plenty of carbohydrates, they are the primary source of quick fuel. They will also help tired muscles replenish glycogen for the next day’s hiking. Fat is a good way to up the overall calories, eating fat before bed can help you stay warm at night.
In winter or shoulder seasons a warm breakfast is a good start to a day in the outdoors, it may be worth the time and effort to heat breakfast.
- Cliff Bars or granola bars make a great easy breakfast
- Bagel with cream cheese (set it on top of kettle while making coffee to get it warm)
- Instant Oatmeal (consider nuts, raisons / dried fruit to improve) [Also bring ziplock bag to line bowl with, then you can just throw away when done)
- Cereal with dehydrated milk
- Dehydrated breakfast meals from Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry
- Pop Tarts
- Honey Stinger Waffles
- Via instant coffee from star-bucks makes a great tasting cup of coffee in the morning. It is already pre-packaged in convenient single serving packs
A common lunch strategy is to simply graze on snacks all day long. This avoids the time and effort of unpacking and preparing lunch. I personally prefer an actual lunch, but I try to make it low fuss.
- Summer sausage and hard cheese (this will keep for a couple of days) Good with crackers
- Flatout wrap or tortilla with – (hummus, turkey, cucumber, tomato, cheese)
- Flatout wrap or tortilla with – chicken, avocado and smoked salmon cream cheese
- Flatout wrap or tortilla with– peanut butter and dried apples and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds (the green kind without the shell aka pepitas), some honey
- Flatout wrap or tortilla spread with Gnutella & then toss in some banana chips as a wrap
- Hot soup in a thermos (this is a real treat on a cold day)
- Cold Pizza (only good for a short day hike)
- PB&J on Pita bread (better than regular bread because it won’t squish. A good tip is to put your PB&J in a ziplock bag. You can then just cut the corner an squeeze onto your bread when you are ready to eat.
- PB&J bagel
- Savory bagel (onion / everything) with cucumbers tomatoes, and savory cream cheese
- whole grain bagel with thinly sliced apple and gouda cheese.
- Cold KFC (only good for a short day hike
- Lunchable – only good for day hike
- A pouch of tuna with crackers
- Mini-baguette sliced in half, drizzled in olive oil, plus sea salt, ground pepper and rosemary
- Sea Bear Smoked Salmon with crackers or chibata bread.
- Mountain house chicken salad (just add cold water) with a tortialla or bagel.
It is always good to have a mix of salty and sweet snacks. After a few days of trail mix, and candy sweet food starts to sound pretty disgusting. A good variety of flavors making sure you include some savory options can help avoid this.
- Bananas / coconut milk are a great pre hike snack. They will give you calories and electrolytes.
- Trail mix (there are tons of varieties in trail mix, it is a great choice because it is low weight high calorie and easy to eat)
- Nuts (there are lots of nut mixes that can vary the flavor and range from salty to sweet to spicy)
- Coconut Almonds and dried pineapple (yeah its just trail mix but yum!!)
- Nut butters (justins nut butter or pocket fuel) [Note these don’t do well in cold weather]
- Cheetos (these do much better in a pack than potato chips)
- Pringles (the can keeps them in good shape) (note they do sell short cans of these)
- Crackers (Tougher crackers such as triskets or wheat things survive better in the pack)
- Fruit Rollups, fruit leathers or cliff kids
- Dried fruit (bannana chips, dried apricots, dried mangos, dried apples)
- Cookies (the hard varieties do better in a pack)
- Candies such as gummy bears, orange slices, hot tamales, twizlers (these all do well in cold weather)
- Candy bars (snickers are great frozen)
- Jerky (I prefer the kinds that are not super chewy as they are faster to eat and don’t get stuck in the teeth as bad)
- Energy bars(Cliff, Luna, Laura are all popular) [some of these turn to real hard bricks in cold weather]
- Protein bars (these are a nice filling snack, again cold weather can turn these into a rock)
- Energy Gells / blocks (shot blocks are the best in my opinion)
- Stinger organic waffle. (available at REI and YUMMY especially vanilla!!) http://shop.honeystinger.com/categories/Organic-Stinger-Waffles/
- Cytomax / gatorade / hammer nutrition … (I keep a week solution of this in my camel back for a constant suply of energy and electroliytes) http://www.cytosport.com/products/cytomax. I prefer the powder kind because I can bring it in my pack and mix more on a multi day trip.
- Sharkies organic fruit chews
- Date balls- grind up dates and walnuts add cocoa and coconut
- yogurt or chocolate covered pretzels
For dinner you should consider dehydrated food. Many of these such as Backpackers Pantry, and Mountain house are cheep and really pretty darn good. If you want to reduce the sodium and the cost you could consider buying a deyhdrator and doing it your self.
Some other choices for dinner
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Ramen noodles
- Cup o soup
- MRE’s (available at military surplus stores and online)
- Fresh caught fish.
Thanks to the users at 14ers.com who provided some of these ideas.