Backpacking should be a fun and worry-free experience. It is a time to enjoy the great outdoors and reconnect with nature, and a good backpacking trip deserves good food. In this series we will share tips on how to plan your meals in the backcountry. This will make your trips a whole lot better. Let’s start off with breakfast. It is the most important meal of the day and it's always good to start your day right.
To Cook Or Not To Cook
One of the first things to consider when planning your camping food is your ability to cook at the site. Check if campfires are allowed or if you would need to bring a small stove. Also consider how long the hike will be. For short one to two day trips; bringing ready to eat or pre-cooked meals would be great. This way you have more time to enjoy the trail rather than having to spend time preparing food. For longer trips, being able to cook something fresh can be rejuvenating, so bringing a stove and fuel may be the way to go.
Next, check for the forecasted weather during the hike. This could also be a factor in what type of food to bring. If the weather will be cold, something warm would be great, and should the weather get a bit warm; something refreshing would do the trick. It is also nice to note that some foods tend to spoil faster in the heat (ie. cheese, summer sausage).
What To Bring
Compact and convenient are the things you need to look for in choosing what to bring. This is where calorie count and reading the label will help. Checking the calories per gram count on the label will tell you if it is worth its weight in energy. Everyone is different, but most people will need an average of 3,000 calories per day for an regular hike and up to 4,000 calories for those with difficult terrains. Calorie dense food would be ideal because they will give you the energy you need without packing more weight or volume to your bag. To compute this, simply check the total calories and divide them by the food’s total weight. If you intend to keep the food in its original packaging; it would be best to include the packaging weight as well.
Dehydrated food fits the bill with regards to packing the most amounts of calories per gram. Anything from fruits, berries, grains, meat, noodles, juice, coffee or milk comes in dehydrated form. Some you could eat as is while you may need to cook or add water to others. There is also the option of dehydrating your own food so that you are sure about what goes into what you eat.
Drinking plenty of water is a must while backpacking. However, there may be times when water is just not enough. Instant powder juice mixes or chocolate drinks will add not just flavor but also some energy boost without having to consume solid food. If you are like me and cannot start the day without that cup of coffee, instant coffee packs are great and convenient. When it comes to milk, powdered form is best because it is lighter and would not spoil as quick.
Make sure to consume foods that tend to spoil quicker on the couple days. It is also advisable to try out the food before deciding to bring it with you. You don’t want to spend a week on the trail eating something that you just don’t like.
Here are some of the breakfast foods that we recommend, but as previously mentioned, try them out and make sure you like them before deciding to bring them.
- Instant oatmeal
- Dried fruits or berries
- Pop tarts
- Energy bars
- Breakfast mix
- Milk powder
- Instant coffee / tea packs
- Chocolate drink powder
- Dehydrated breakfasts from Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry
How To Pack
How your food is packed makes a big difference on the weight and volume that you need to carry. Here are some tips on how to pack your backpacking breakfast.
- Repack items that are too bulky. You could use zip lock bags to keep your food airtight and waterproof.
- Pack per meal, per day. Group the foods by serving. For example, when packing instant oatmeal; you could mix the powdered milk and dried fruits or nuts into the same bag so that you would not have to bring individual packaging for all of them.
- Remember that when packing items into a bag / container, what goes in first – goes out last. So pack meals that you intend to consume during the latter part of the hike first, and put in meals you plan on eating first on top.
- Re-purpose containers. Try to look for food in containers or packaging that will be easy to open and if possible, could also be the container that you eat from. This will save you time and the need to carry separate dishes and have to wash them afterwards.
- Always practice leave no trace backpacking, if you pack it in - pack it out. Let’s help to preserve the beauty of nature so that other people could experience the same adventure in the future. Bring trash bags and carry out any trash that you bring in. Be responsible.
- Always bring a larger, waterproof stuff sack to store and hang your food for the night. This will prevent bears, critters, etc. from eating your food while you sleep.