This page presents some basic information and suggestions on what foods are best for consumption in the backcountry.
For day trips, bring lots of high-energy snacks. For overnight trips, bring enough food, including high-energy snacks, but don't overburden yourself with too much food. Freeze-dried foods are the lightest and safest. Don't forget hot and cold drinks. Try to minimize food that requires extra water to prepare.
When camping, pack food frozen, when possible, so it acts like ice and keeps fresh longer. Plan meals carefully, bringing just enough food, plus some emergency rations.
A great deal of specialty dehydrated food is made for backpacking and lightweight camping, but it is very expensive. Many items found in supermarkets make good backpacking food at a lower cost.
On trips spanning several days when you have to carry water for dry camps, plan to use minimum water foods. These include noodle and rice meals that use only enough water to hydrate the food, with no extra to pour off, and are easy to clean up.
Buy in small packages. Bulk just means more to lug. Before leaving home, remove excess packaging, such as cardboard boxes. Plastic bags with zipper closures (Ziploc bags) make excellent food repackaging bags. Double-bag messy items.
Buy meat vacuum-sealed when you can to prevent leaks, or use zip-lock plastic bags. Extra zip-lock bags are also useful during the trip for double-bagging messy trash, such as tuna cans, etc. Zip-lock bags make good trash bags because the airtight seal minimizes food odors that attract wildlife.
Dedicate one or more stuff sacks to food storage and don't use them for anything else during the trip. This confines food odors and helps to avoid attracting rodents and other animals. Hang food bags from poles or thing tree branches for a little extra protection. Bears are not usually a problem in the plateau region, but mice can wreak havoc with your food supply.
Remember plastic bags for leftovers.
On a day hike you can carry fresh fruit, like oranges, apples, grapes, pears, or whatever suits your fancy. Small canned items, such as fruit, puddings, or sardines also work well, as do sandwiches, most cheeses, or anything you'd carry in a typical brown bag lunch.
For camping, choose "sturdy" produce. Cabbage stays fresh longer than lettuce; apples keep better than strawberries. Buy bagged vegetables. Buying them prepped saves time. Place fragile greens and herbs at the top of the ice chest, not next to the ice. Greens may freeze.
Nearly everything tastes great on the trail, but a few extra spices can add that extra zest that turns an adequate meal into something special, especially if you're eating dehydrated foods for a long period.
Depending upon what you've selected for your meals, take along a little sugar or honey, some packets of lemon juice or vinegar, table salt, black pepper, unsweetened cocoa and some Tabasco sauce or crushed red pepper. These items can make almost anything palatable.
Empty film cans (washed, of course) make excellent containers for salt, pepper and whatever other spices you'd like to add to your evening's meal. Just take what you need, and leave the rest at home.
Always keep energy bars, jerky, granola bars, Guru Chews or something similar in your pack so that you always have something to eat to keep your strength up.
Experts are finding that a lack of food on strenuous hikes is almost as devastating to the body as a lack of water. (See Hyponatremia.)
Chewing gum is also handy to help keep your mouth moist.
Avoid chocolate, which melts easily, and perishable foods, such as soft cheeses and butter.
- For a treat, take along a pan of Jiffypop popcorn. After snacking, you can use the tin as a sink, mixing bowl, or a frying pan.
On warmer trips or when you'll have to carry a lot of water, consider leaving the weight of your stove behind and eating trail munchies and other food that doesn't require cooking. Remember, though, to always carry emergency fire-starting material and eat plenty of high energy foods.
One desert-hiking myth is that since you have to carry water anyway, why not save a step and carry hydrated food. This means either fresh food, which doesn't keep, or canned food, which is heavy and leaves you carrying the empty cans for the entire trip. Many desert hikes have enough springs and other water sources so that you don't have to carry a huge load of water all the time. To add some variety and a more pleasing flavor to sometimes nasty tasting water, take along electrolyte replacement drinks (like Gatorade), hot tea or coffee, instant ice tea, or powdered fruit drink.
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- Green Consumer Supermarket Guide
- Hungry Hiker's Book of Good Cooking
- More Backcountry Cooking
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- Wild Edible Plants of Western North America
- World Championship Dutch Oven Cookbook
- Byron's Dutch Oven Recipes
A Dutch oven cooking resource site full of outdoors and camp cooking recipes, tips, and links to other Dutch oven sites.
- Campfire Cafe
- Campfire Cooking Tips
- Enertia Trail Foods
- Food Safety While Hiking, Camping, and Boating
- Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Trail Foods
- Recipes and Trail Foods
- Some Favorite Trail Foods
- Supermarket Trail Foods
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