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kevin winn
( - F
backpacking food on 09/18/2012 23:16:56 MDT Print View

Backpacking food

I’m unhappy with the food I bring to eat while backpacking. I mostly go to the sierra and hike around 8-12 miles a day. My trip lengths are 2-5 days. Here is my meal plan on my last couple trips.

Breakfast- dried fruit, lara bar

Lunch-top ramen, almonds

Dinner- a whole mountain house freeze dried meal, dried fruit, almonds

I just don’t get enough energy from this, does anyone have suggestions on anything else to bring?


Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: backpacking food on 09/18/2012 23:21:44 MDT Print View


Look around.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
backpacking food on 09/18/2012 23:28:05 MDT Print View 
Sarah (the owner) is my heroine! No-fuss meals, no dishes to wash, so much more appetizing and nourishing than Mountain House sawdust!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/18/2012 23:28:52 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: backpacking food on 09/18/2012 23:28:22 MDT Print View

Why don't you bring more high-calorie food?

Freeze dried meals are modestly nutritious, but generally not high in calories. Read the label. Ramen is not that nutritious, but has lots of calories. Dried fruit is good for quick energy, but it is not huge on calories.

A friend of mine eats a big breakfast, eggs and bacon and all that, then a second breakfast halfway through the morning. That is some sort of full fat powdered milk drink.

Whatever you cook in the evening, add some olive oil to that. And cheese! A proper backpacker can't be expected to go for more than a couple of days without a good hard cheese or some salami.


Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: backpacking food on 09/19/2012 06:25:35 MDT Print View

Looking at your food list, and depending on how many nuts you are eating, it's probably not more than 2000 kcal total per day. You're probably burning 4000+ per day, so no wonder you're running out of gas.


I like flour tortillas with peanut butter or Nutella, sprinkled with high-fat granola for some crunch. And eat that high-fat, high protein homemade granola for breakfast, with some dried fruit, nuts, and powdered whole-fat milk (Nido.) Add olive oil to your ramen noodles and your dinner. Or, better yet make your own dinners so you can control the calories and the sodium content. The freezerbagcooking web site is excellent.

Harrison Carpenter
(carpenh) - M

Locale: St. Vrain River Valley
Do it yourself on 09/19/2012 06:57:28 MDT Print View

First: +1 for Sarah.

Second: my thoughts.

Looking at your list, the first thing that strikes me is that so much of it is pre-packaged, pre-made, stuff. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it never leads to good meals (in my experience). Why not make your own? You'd be surprised at how easy it is to find shelf-stable, lightweight ingredients at a supermarket. Look over a cookbook or two (or a... food blog), and adapt the recipes a little to what you have on hand. You can make your own freeze-dried dishes, too, using staples available from online sources. My favorite is

If you have a dehydrator, you can dry your own fruits/vegetables (fresh or canned), as well as sauces, condiments, noodles and rice you've cooked at home. A solid investment, IMO.

Make up your dishes at home, and you can use freezer-bag cooking techniques, saving fuel, cleaning time/soap carried in your pack, reducing the size of your cook pot since all you'd do is boil water, etc.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Trail meals on 09/19/2012 07:34:02 MDT Print View

Some of my favorite DIY meals on the trail are: peanut butter, crackers, salmon in a foil packet, oatmeal, salami, dried potatoes, cous cous, nuts, chocolate. Most of those are pretty calorie dense. The salmon is not that high in calories, but I just like it on the trail. It doesn't take long for MH meals to start tasting like their ingredient list reads.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Trail meals on 09/19/2012 08:36:39 MDT Print View

Salmon packets might not be high in calories but they are good dense protein and really good for us (all those healthy oils!). I am a firm believer in them and also oil packed tuna (you can get it in packets as well now)
Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Ground nuts. All things I love in meals! Full fat Nido milk in the morning in my breakfasts or coconut cream powder.....
I have been dehydrating like crazy the past few weeks - been focusing on it on the blog as well!

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Trail meals on 09/19/2012 08:52:29 MDT Print View

Sarah, last time I was out, I packed salmon and virtually (not literally) inhaled it as soon as I opened it after about 5 days out. Sometimes your body just knows what it needs.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Dehydrate, baby! on 09/19/2012 10:06:16 MDT Print View

I packed a bunch of commercially sold dehydrated meals my first backpacking trip out and knew right away something had to change. I bought a dehydrator and now just dehydrate my favorite meals for my lunches (Chili Mac and White Chicken Chili are awesome) by just adding boiling water to the freezer bag I packed them in. Quick, no fuss, delicious. I used to save the hot meal for dinner but switching to lunch made for a nice mid-day break and great calories to keep going farther than I would have otherwise.

It looks like you need to snack more throughout the day. I eat my favorite GORP (raisons, M&M's, peanuts, dried cranberries) all day long for instant carbs and energy. Also be sure to add carbs to one of your bottles, like powdered Gatorade. That made a big difference for me as well. Lastly, stop and get your feet up in the air 2-3 times a day. Sometimes its not your food but your need to just get off your feet a bit. I pack the Nano 7 hammock for rest stops. Its up in seconds and it relieves pressure off of my back (I'm old and rusty) and rejuvinates my feet.

kevin winn
( - F
more choices on 09/19/2012 11:11:24 MDT Print View

Thanks for the suggestion! I think ill give up on the mountain house meal, look into dehydrating food. The online dehydrating and freezer bag references have a lot of information.

Thanks for a pushing in the right direction.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
not enough fat or complex carbs on 09/19/2012 12:43:22 MDT Print View

Most of the stuff you are eating is going to give you a quick spike then fade.

oatmeal for breakfast will last you til noon. Milk powder in the oatmeal will add protein. Olive oil has 250 calories per ounce, nothing you carry can give you more calories per ounce, and it's fat, which your body really likes, doesn't give you that sugar spike thing. I've never found anything better than oatmeal for long lasting energy and quality. Toss in whatever else you are already eating as well and it will taste better, I use dried apples, tastes good.

John Muir brought dried, whole wheat (I'm sure it was whole wheat, probably was no real other option then) bread, that is very good, as long as you pick very heavy breads, not the wonder bread stuff that is lightly tan colored. That's very good.

I used to decades ago bring one pouch of freeze dried food with me as an emergency extra day food, after some years I tossed realizing I hated that stuff, never ate it.

I basically just dry all the ingredients on a dehydrator then bring them all as bulk foods, works great, make a sort of thick stew every night, it tastes good, it's real ingredients, it's not oversalted like that commmercial stuff, and it actually tastes pretty much like real food. Just costs whatever the food costs to make, plus the time to dehydrate it.

Fats are key though, very easy to forget when thinking dry, but they, as liquid, hold the most caloric value of anything you can bring, 1 oz for breakfast, maybe some on dried bread or mixed in, for lunch, and 1 oz for dinner, or more, that's probably right there almost 1/2 of what you are currently eating per day, plus the real food.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: more choices on 09/19/2012 13:10:54 MDT Print View

"the mountain house meal"

What I do sometimes is to start with a Mountain House package meal. Then I augment it with instant rice, dehydrated quinoa, or couscous. Add a dollop of olive oil and a touch of dehydrated barbecue sauce for flavor. After a while, I may have doubled the calorie count. It is hard to go wrong with olive oil.

Air dehydrated fruit cocktail is good. I can eat it right out of the bag or add it to GORP as a snack. I can simmer it with water, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and it becomes a dessert. I can spoon it hot into the middle of a pancake or egg crepe for breakfast.

Multiple-use, you know.


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Fat the convenient way on 09/19/2012 20:24:32 MDT Print View

I carry 1 ounce packets of coconut oil, walnut butter, macadamia butter, and pecan butter, all from Artisana. A bit more expensive, but VERY convenient. Also, chocolate, Nido full fat milk powder, and crushed nuts like almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios, etc, make great, high calorie additions to a backpacking diet.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
spice on 09/23/2012 20:02:19 MDT Print View

If you find that boredom hits you, try spices.

Mexican and Indian food recipes work. Some are somewhat basic.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: backpacking food on 09/23/2012 20:39:58 MDT Print View

For the past few trips I have used Packit Gourmet meal kits for all meals, they are far better than Mountian House manure.
I also pack gorp, breakfast bars, crackers, summer sausage, cheese and some chocolate.

Edited by stephenm on 09/23/2012 20:41:06 MDT.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: backpacking food on 09/23/2012 20:41:00 MDT Print View

Not to beat a dead horse, but adding olive oil is an easy, easy way to bump up the energy. Works in lunches and dinners especially well, and in a few breakfasts, thought I don't like it in my oatmeal.

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
forget the olive oil... on 09/23/2012 21:01:38 MDT Print View

I'm ALL about the butter- bring a stick of butter with you and add it whenever you can. I love it in my oatmeal in the morning- a whole daggon' tablespoon of it.

Yah, that's right, grandma taught me well.

Seems like adding more fats is the way to go.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: forget the olive oil... on 09/23/2012 21:05:26 MDT Print View

I love both butter and olive oil......and I like my oats either with butter and something sweet, or with olive oil and salt and pepper. Lately ( over a month now) I have been eating the latter every day!

Raquel Rascal

Locale: Rocky Mtn. West
@ Kat on 09/23/2012 21:29:51 MDT Print View

ewwww... olive oil in your oatmeal? hmm. That's like eating a peanut butter and sardine sandwich. :P