Figuring out what you’re going to eat on the trail can be tricky, especially if you’re health-conscious.
Depending on your diet, there are plenty of choices available as “trail food”, including non-cook items. If you’re not super worried about what you consume to fuel your body, your choices are basically endless.
I believe the majority of backpackers and hikers are advocates for high-calorie, highly-processed, easy food… In other words: carby junk food. Snickers, quick-cook noodles, trail mix, Spam, Clif bars and other sugar-laden “protein” bars, tortillas, oatmeal, and freeze-dried meals like Mountain House.
I’m a big supporter of not cooking on the trail. Cooking leads to burning fuel, and then doing the clean-up. All of which I think is unnecessary and something I don’t want to deal with after hiking all day. The only thing I “cook” is hot water in the morning for coffee, which is absolutely a necessity.
I eat a low carb, ketogenic diet and stick to this on the trail as well. This means my options are quite limited, especially if I don’t want to cook. I could make my own dehydrated meals, but in all honesty, I’m too lazy to put in that effort. Maybe one day I will give it a try.
After some trial and error, here are my go-to’s on the trail:
- Chicken and tuna in a pouch (grab mayo packets at the deli counter to squeeze into the pouch = chicken/tuna salad!)
- Raw veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots). These last 2-3 days on the trail if you keep them in a Ziploc. They may get a little wilty, but they’re still good. I grab a few ranch packets near the pre-made salads in the grocery store to dip the veggies in.
- Moon cheese. This is my trail-treat! The only place I’ve been able to find this is at Starbucks. They’re a bit pricey, but it’s worth it to be able to stick to my normal way of eating.
- Quest bars. These are pretty processed, but they are low carb and contain a sufficient amount of protein.
- Coffee creamer! I’m a bit picky about my coffee and think it’s totally worth it to carry little cups of creamer.
I don’t eat breakfast when I’m backpacking. I just have a few cups of coffee and get on my way. Being keto-adapted, I don’t need carbs or much fuel to keep me going, and I never bonk because of lack of carbs. In fact, I run half marathons on just a cup of coffee.
I would recommend not using backpacking as an excuse to eat crap. If you normally eat pretty well, and then go on a free-for-all on the trail, you may end up with tummy issues… and no one wants that.
There are a ton of resources on the interwebs for backpacking food. Even blogs dedicated to solely backpacking meals. Do some research and some experimenting and see what works for you!