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Trail food, what you need to know

By Wild Chef Anders Klint on 2014.02.28 In Packing tips

There are basically two kinds of trail food. You could get freeze-dried trailmeals, available in many delicious varieties but at relatively higher prices. Or, you can get food at your local grocery store, also with a wide variety of tasty choices, for less cost.

Planning menus for a weekend trip isn’t difficult. You could get by with whatever you happen to have on hand that will keep unrefrigerated. You could even take some luxury items that normally would be too heavy or bulky.

But for trips much longer than a weekend, particularly if a week or longer, food becomes more important.

The Best Trail Foods
The best backpacking food is lightweight, tasty, calorie-packed and quick cooking. However, each meal type is different — lunch is usually heavier, more bulky, high energy, and no-cook. Cooked dinners are typically dehydrated so they are lighter. I’ve found that good backpacking food for breakfasts consists of about half no-cook and half quick-cook. Don’t forget to bring liquid flavorings (hot cocoa, etc).

A final critical characteristic of the “best” backpacking food is that you like it. On longer trips especially, food is important to your well-being psychologically. Tasty backpacking food helps keep the spirits up during physical stress, even improving the scenery!

Plan and Organize!
Food prepared for backpacking needs to be packaged and organized (rationed) out to balance weight against not having enough. Food and menus can easily become the most complicated and time-consuming part of trip planning!

Save yourself a lot of hassle in camp (and possibly running out of something), by measuring out and packaging individual meals in plastic bags. Get rid of the cardboard. Add labels with cooking instructions. Squeeze tubes or wide-mouth bottles of various sizes are good for portioning out exact amounts of syrup, peanut butter, and the like. It’s wise to double-bag powdered foods, such as potato flakes or bulk hot cocoa.

A flexible meal organization system that I’ve settled on is to put all dinners into one bag, all breakfasts into one bag and all lunches into one bag. This way, you can match the meal to the situation; for example, deciding on-the-fly when to use no-cook versus cooked breakfasts, instead of rummaging through sacks labeled by “day”.

Calories and Energy
Backpacking takes an amazing amount of energy (long trips are great weight-loss plan!). Backpacking food needs to supply your body with roughly 2,500 to 5,000 calories a day, the lower figure for easy summer hiking, the higher figure for cold-weather, intense mountaineering. The middle-ground, 3000 to 4000 calories, is right in line with the 1 ½ to 2 pounds of food guideline.

Good backpacking food for quick, short-term energy are carbohydrates, starches, and sugars — such as breads, cereals, pasta, crackers and the like. You also need long term energy, provided by proteins and fats, such as canned or dried meat, cheeses, dried eggs, dried milk, cheese, chocolate and nuts.

Good luck!!

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