Going on a backpacking trip means you don’t want to carry any unnecessary weight. Well, when it comes to food, there is much more to consider. According to REI, these are the things you need to be looking for.
Taste – Yeah, don’t try going out into the backcountry with food you can’t stomach. This isn’t the time to learn to like new foods. Do that at home. Don’t try to convince yourself that you’ll eat something if you know you can’t enjoy it. You need the….
Calories – There is no time for a diet in the woods. Calories will be burned anyways. This is the energy that is fueling your entire escapade. If you don’t have the energy to continue on, backpacking just won’t be the greatest experience for you. Energy, energy, energy. Keep that in mind as you go along!
Nutrition – While in the backcountry, you’ll want to make sure that you are staying filled up on complex carbohydrates and proteins. Having sugary treats with no return will only make you drag and feel heavy. Make sure to keep nuts and dried fruits on you. They will be able to provide you with the more stable and consistent energy you’ll need.
Weight & Bulk – Again, weight and bulk are huge concerns for backpacking. As miraculous as backpacking packs are, the less weight you have on you, the better it will feel, leaving you with more energy to go farther. It’s amazing the relief you feel taking off the pack after a day of backpacking and realizing how much weight you were actually just carrying. An easy way to do this is to reduce any unnecessary packaging. Just make sure to clearly label everything and include instructions if there are any included with the food. Another thing? Be aware of the equipment you’ll need to prepare everything…
Ease of Preparation – The ease and simplicity by which you can make a meal is a huge part of selecting the meal to be packed. The more complex, the more frivolous tools you’ll end up carrying. Again, that is just more unnecessary weight. Make sure that in case of any sort of malfunction with a stove you have non-cook items available for consumption. You also may not even have the energy to get through cooking a whole entire meal. Keep it simple. Sit back and relax. Hey, at least it isn’t a microwaveable dinner meal.
Availability of Water – If there isn’t all that much water available where you plan on setting camp up in or even just are hiking through, you will need to keep this in mind as you pack food. Things that don’t require water will be your best bet in these situations.
Fuel – If anything you bring needs a stove, you’re going to need to check the cook time. Depending on that, you’ll need to bring a certain amount of fuel. Make sure you have that amount available but also keep in mind, again, the more canisters you have, the more weight you’ll be carrying.
Cost – All that gear you find you’ll need for backpacking is expensive. And that’s without accounting for the price of food. The cost of food comes with many considerations of its own though. You have to take into account the utensils you need, pots and pans you may need, as well as the extra things you may need to accompany your may use to dress up your meal. That’s all without actually taking into account the food you’re bringing along, Don’t go overboard buying items that may break your bank, but don’t go too cheap either because you want to make sure you aren’t compromising on taste and nutrition especially.
So now you are probably wondering, what are some good examples of things that fit well into all of these considerations? Dehydrated packs are great. They are specifically meant for use in the outdoors so the nutrition benefits are high. Some allow you to use either hot or cold water for cooking so if there really is a malfunction with your stove, your option A, is also your option B. These packs are really light and include clear instructions for ease. As I mentioned before, nuts and dried fruits are great for snacking on throughout your trip for all the obvious reasons and then some. Make sure to have plenty of water on you. There’s never enough water when you’re out backpacking. That is weight that you won’t regret bringing along.
Canned foods are a good, quick option. Bringing some spices along may also make your meals much more worthwhile. Pack them up in mini Ziploc bags and they’ll weigh virtually nothing. Same goes for powdered drink mixes. It’ll be nice to have a refreshing, fruity drink in you. As you might imagine, coffee is a popular option, too. Eggs, oatmeal, and pancake mix are popular breakfast choices. Lunch is more often just a series of snacks throughout the hike such as granola, jerky, and dried fruit. As for dinners, those are often the reward to your day, and are meant to take more prep time for ultimate enjoyment. Pasta, soup, and a variety of “instant” foods are popular choices for that time of day.
Something you’ll need to keep in mind is wildlife. Bear bags, as they are called are meant to hold all of your food in one place away from your tent and other things. They’re meant to decrease the chances of being attacked for your food as well as for keeping your food supply safe. They are kept up in the air, usually between two trees. However, bear bags can’t be too close to one side. There’s a chance that an animal could climb up to them. Make sure you are aware of what kinds of animals you might find on your adventure so that you can tailor the way in which you hang your bear bag(s). For more information and for a how-to, checkout this video from Peak Survival!
If you’re going “car camping”, most of this won’t apply. Just make sure that you know how and what you’ll need to prepare the items that you’ve brought along and have enough fuel to keep your stove going. No matter where you’re eating though, make sure to keep the seven Leave No Trace principles in mind!
If you are a woman looking to get some hands on experience and knowledge, you should join us on our next beginner’s backpacking trip! We are teaming up with Team Film (see what I did there?) to unplug and embrace nature for an overnight backpacking trip to Charles C. Deam Wilderness which is located within the Hoosier National Forest. For more information and to sign up click here! We’re excited to see you all out there August 22-23rd, 2015.
In the end, just remember, you need food. It’s how you’ll survive. If you’re afraid you don’t have enough, food is the one thing you shouldn’t fear your supply of. Pack enough to make you feel comfortable but also keeps your pack at a decent weight, too. Bon Appetite and trust me on this: everything tastes good after a long excursion with a pack on your back.
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Danielle and Kate are certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR, Lead Climbing, and have years of experience, mountain biking, hiking, caving, camping and taking trips in the backcountry across the U.S. Their next private adventure is in Costa Rica, stay turned for updates on the website.
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