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How Much Food Should You Carry When Backpacking

How Much Food Should You Carry When Backpacking?

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced hiker, preparing for a backpacking trip can be a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. With the amount of items you already have, bringing food that doesn’t add too much more weight can seem impossible. Thankfully, there are lightweight meal options available, along with strategies you can use to reduce food weight. Here’s a definitive guide on backpacking food storage and how much you’ll need for your trip. 

How Much Food Should You Bring When Backpacking?

Simply put, there is no definitive answer. How much food you’ll need depends on your personal preferences, the area’s climate, and intensity of your trip. Generally speaking, the average hiker should bring at least 1.5 pounds of food a day for trips that are 12 miles and under. Even so, this number may not be sufficient for everyone.

Everyone’s appetite needs are different. Thus, to get a better idea of how much food you’ll need to bring, try to break your meal planning down into calories per day. For example, the average hiker should plan to pack at least 25-30 calories worth of food per pound of body weight for every day you’re traveling. 

Selecting Your Meals

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating packaged meals for backpacking trips, especially if you’re a beginner. Many grocery stores and outdoor sports outlets provide specialized food packages for backpacking trips. Intermediate and advanced backpackers can dehydrate and package their own backpacking meals if they’re up for the challenge. 

Also, Instead of trying to consistently eat three meals a day, aim for carbohydrate heavy foods that pack a lot of punch and keep your energy up (specifically 30-60 grams of carbs per hour). Focus on selecting snacks that contain a lot of calories. This will keep your blood sugar up and prevent dangerous nutrition emergencies on the trail. 

Backpacking Food

When selecting meals, follow a general guideline that helps you pack energizing, appetizing, and convenient food. Try to pack food that’s lightweight, non-perishable, calorie dense, and easy to cook. Some nutrient dense foods like hard cheese are fine to bring for the first few days, but you should try to avoid anything that’s perishable. 

If it’s possible, aim for food that’s lightweight. Anything dehydrated or freeze-dried should be fine, just make sure you choose food with lots of calories. Try to select foods that give you 125 calories or more for every ounce. Consider your experience and patience with outdoor cooking to figure out how much time you’d like to spend making your meals. 

Backpacking Food Ideas


Snacks are an essential part of backpacking. You’ll be burning a lot of calories on the trail, so it’s important to ingest calorie dense snacks every hour. For warmer climates, avoid snacks with ingredients that melt. 

  • Bars (Clif bars, Larabar, Kind, e.t.c.)
  • Dried fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Jerky
  • Nuts and Seeds (Peanuts, Almonds, Sunflower, e.t.c.)
  • Candy (preferably candy that doesn’t melt) 
  • Crackers (Ritz, Goldfish, Triscuits, e.t.c.)


Your first meal of the day will give you energy and fuel to embark on your adventures. Like snacks, it’s best to choose foods that are calorically dense. If you and your hiking party prefer to relax before hitting the trail, simple but enjoyable breakfasts are a wonderful way to take in your surroundings. 

  • Coffee and tea
  • Pop Tarts
  • Powdered Milk
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Bars
  • Cereal and/or Granola
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Trail Mix
  • Almond and Peanut Butter Packets


Lunchtime is a great opportunity to utilize sandwiches and cold tortillas. Having a well rounded but simple meal paired with a calorie dense snack can help re-energize your body, especially if it’s during the middle of your trek. 

  • Tortillas
  • Bagels
  • Almond and Peanut Butter Packets
  • Hard Cheeses; shelf stability can vary by hiking climate (Romano, Parmesan, e.t.c.)
  • Hard Meats; shelf stability can vary by hiking climate (Summer sausage, Salami, e.t.c.)
  • Honey or Jelly
  • Condiment Packets
  • Chicken or Tuna in foil packets


Backpacking dinners should be your most nutritious meal of the day. Since you’ll most likely have the camp set up and a fire going, it’s much easier to make a hot meal. Fully utilize freeze dried meals, especially if they only require water for cooking. 

  • Freeze dried dinners
  • Ramen
  • Stuffing
  • Instant soups
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Chicken and Tuna Packets
  • Dehydrated Veggies
  • Pasta and Rice
  • Instant Mac and Cheese

Backpacking Food Storage

Before exploring nature, remember to respect it. It’s always important to leave no trace and make sure the wilderness stays wild. Wild animals develop a dependency on food when people fail to clean up their campsites. 

This leads to dangerous encounters with aggressive wildlife, leading to euthanizations of important animals and fatal backpacking trips if people’s campsites are disrupted. Always remember that you’ll be in their territory, so always pack up what you bring in. For backpacking, make sure to take the following precautions when storing food:

  • Invest in a water repellant food storage containers 
  • Use a scent proof, bear proof bag
  • Invest in a hard bear canister
  • Hang your food up on a tall tree or object where wild animals can’t get to it
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