Backpacking Meals Made Simple

Find your inner balance with the help of a few effortless modifications to your mountainside meals.

Photo by Adobe Stock/mooshny

The wonder of a backpacking trip can’t be beat — a running stream tumbling over rocks, fresh air, scenic beauty, and the opportunity to get away from life’s stresses. What better way to add to the day’s adventure than enjoying tasty food out in the woods?

Oddly, many hikers spend a fair amount of time planning their upcoming hike and gathering the necessary gear, but give little time or thought to food preparation for the big trip. Many grab what’s quick and convenient while unaware that prepackaged food choices can adversely affect health and performance during and after a backpacking trip. If we put poor nutrition into our bodies while on the trail, we’ll get poor performance out of our bodies, resulting in a lack of energy, fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, and weakened immune systems. An inadequate nutritional and caloric intake can also lead to weight loss and decreased muscle mass on long-distance hikes, or rapid weight gain post-hike.

Photo by Adobe Stock/kaninstudio

After backpacking for many years and experiencing similar symptoms, I learned that these issues stemmed from poor food choices and inadequate water intake. Because of the ill effects I suffered on trips fueled by prepackaged foodstuffs, I endeavored to create new meal options and change the way I eat while backpacking. This reboot offered better food variety, along with a balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and vitamins for better wellness on and off the trail.

Breakfast: Rise and Grind

This important get-up-and-go meal needs to deliver staying power to start your hiking day. Common foods that hikers use are toaster pastries, glazed doughnut rolls, and oatmeal packets — all sugar, with little nutrition and staying power (see “What to Avoid and Why” below). A more wholesome start can be your favorite organic granola cereal and dried milk, supplemented with your preference of nuts and dried fruits. Premade bars from brands such as GoMacro, Clif, Luna, Kind, and Nature Valley will keep you full and energized. Even bagels and peanut butter (or other nut butters) work well.

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