Have you ever found yourself laying in your sleeping bag at the end of a grueling day, overjoyed about the sights you were able to see, wishing your stomach would stop growling?
Hiker hunger is no joke! Plenty of thru-hikers will recall stories of falling asleep hungry, rationing their last Snickers bar, and even weekenders have experienced at least one trip where the trail mix ran dry too soon.
Figuring out exactly what and how much food to pack for the backcountry is just as important as packing propper rain gear and water filtration supplies. In this post, we’ll take a look at one systematic approach to backcountry meal planning that will ensure you’re satiated and nourished when you finally zip the rain fly and start counting sheep.
What to Consider Before Creating Your Meal Plan
Calories: Most backpackers try to consume as many calories as possible in the backcountry. We recommend attempting to consume nearly twice the amount of calories you would consume during a normal day in the front country.
Weight: Consider how much weight you’re willing to carry. 1-2 pounds of food per day is average.
- Macronutrients: Backpackers need to be mindful of consuming a substantial amount of protein and fat on a daily basis to prevent muscle waste and maintain athletic endurance. Make sure your backcountry diet isn’t predominantly carbohydrates. Learn more here!
Step One: Plan Your Meals
Step Two: Plan Your Snacks
Once you’ve planned your main course meals, it’s time for the fun part; planning snacks! Use something like this backcountry meal planning document to help you count your calories and satisfy your nutritional goals.
Not sure where to start? Go to the grocery store and browse all of the protein bars, jerky options, dried fruits, trail mixes, etc. and see what really gets your taste buds going! Take a variety of things home to try, and if you like them, add their nutritional breakdowns to your meal plan.
Step Three: Add it All Up!
Add up the total number of calories you’ll be consuming each day. Does this correspond with your goal? (Heather's Choice provides a free meal planning worksheet).
You may need to add more nutrient dense meals or snacks to your meal plan to consume an adequate number of calories in the backcountry. (1.5-2X what you would normally consume!)
How about weight? Are you going to be comfortable carrying all of this food? Last, but certainly not least, check those macronutrients to make sure you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein and fat.
Mix up the Menu for Multi-Day Trips
Experiment with creating different menus for every day you’re in the backcountry. You’ll thank yourself for incorporating some variety into your routine, especially if you’re out for longer than 5 days. Write down your feedback for each menu when you get home so you can reuse that meal plan in the future or make adjustments.
Pack for Easy Rationing
Lastly, pack all of your food so it’s easily managed throughout your trip. Pack each daily allotment into its own gallon-sized ziplock bag or any other plastic bag you can recycle from around the kitchen. Each day you’ll open your requisite bag and enjoy snacks and meals only from this bag. This way you ensure you aren’t eating into your snacks for later in the trip!