This post discusses a sample backpacking meal plan. The fourth priority on our Rules of Three list is food. While you can survive for about three weeks without eating, you won’t be able to travel very far. In order to keep up a strong traveling pace, a backpacker must consume anywhere from three to five thousand calories per day. Calories are energy and energy is what keeps you moving.
Sample Backpacking Meal Plan
In this post, I will lay out a sample backpacking meal plan for a three day backpacking trip to the Mahoosuc Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine. For this trip, we plan to get our Saturday Morning breakfast while we’re shuttling cars. We will need trail meals and snacks for the rest of the day Saturday through Monday afternoon. Monday evening we will have dinner at a restaurant on our way home.
Sample Backpacking Meal Plan: Breakfast
Every morning when I wake up, I drink a liter of water mixed with a packet of Spark. Spark is a caffeine and amino acid energy drink that really gets me going and isn’t as acidic as coffee. For breakfast, I generally have home made backpacking meal consisting of oatmeal, granola, dried fruits, and powdered maple syrup, honey, or brown sugar and a pack of Justin’s Almond Butter. I get the packets for my meals, as well as the dried honey and maple syrup, from Packit Gourmet. I round out breakfast with a cup of Trader Joes Hot Chocolate.
Sample Backpacking Meal Plan: Lunch and Snacks
When I’m backpacking, I don’t always eat a proper lunch. Instead, I take a series of short snack & water breaks though out the day. For these, I carry an assortment of high calorie snacks including trail mix and protein bars. I make my trail mix from supermarket dried fruits and nuts. I mostly eat RX Bars because they’re made from whole foods and have no junk in them. Don’t worry, I get my junk from my Advocare Spark Caffeine & Amino Acid supplements. I usually carry 2-3 protein bars and 2-3 cups of trail mix in a zip lock bag, as well several of the Spark mix packets. In addition to the snacks, I sometimes carry a packet of tuna or salmon and a few gluten free tortilla wraps.
Sample Backpacking Meal Plan: Dinner
There are a variety of dinner meals that I like to make. These usually consist of dehydrated mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, rice, or quinoa. While rice and quinoa are already dry, I cook them at home and then dehydrate them. Cooking them in the field takes too long and uses too much fuel! I usually supplement these carbs with two cups of dehydrated for freeze-dried veggies. I can dehydrate veggies myself or buy them freeze dried from the store. Protein and fat in my dinner comes from tuna with olive oil or salami. Tuna packets and salami are both great for backpacking because they stay fresh without refrigeration. For extra calories, I usually have a large chocolate bar for each night, which I share with the members of my group
Sample Backpacking Meal Plan: Meal Prep
I highly recommend that everyone tries to make their own meals at home. Not only does it save money, but home made meals are tastier, healthier, and more rewarding to eat. Making your own meals also lets you chose exactly how much food you’re going to get. I often find that store-bought meals are either too large or too small. Packit Gourmet and Trader Joes are both great resources for backpackers.
It might take a few trips for you to figure out exactly how much food you need, but planning a good menu will help make sure backpacking success. I don’t find that I need a lot of variety in my food, but I usually only backpack for a few days at a time. Those going on trips that are several weeks or more may wish for greater options. A recent thruhiker friend of mine, such as, now hates trail mix! The amount of food you need is dependent on mileage, elevation gain, trail conditions, and weather. Make sure to study ahead and pack a few extra calories for a difficult trip. I love the feeling of walking out of the woods at the end of a hike with no food left, but I recognize the danger of packing too little “extra” food. Always be sure to leave yourself a reserve for when something goes wrong.