One of the most challenging aspects of overnight hiking is finding the right food for you. When it comes to overnight hiking, you’re carrying everything on your back. That means clothing, cooking supplies, a table, tents, sleeping bags, pillows, and food. Usually, once you buy the most lightweight and hike friendly camping gear, you can’t get much smaller. The items that vary the most will be the food that you are packing.
Food is also one of the most important but varying components to your packing list. You’ll need food that is lightweight but packs a lot of calories. You’ll want to make sure that it doesn’t take up too much room and it is easy to cook. And, you’ll want to make sure it’s delicious and you’ll actually be able to finish the meal.
Hiking is generally an extremely tiring but rewarding activity that will leave you hungry throughout the day and at the end of the night. It is important to be getting the correct amount of calories (sometimes more is better). Walking an extra 5km on an empty stomach is not pleasant. Neither is going to sleep with a rumble in your stomach. So how do you ensure you’re getting the right food for your overnight camping trip? Here are a few tips and some examples of good food to take with you on overnight hiking trips.
As we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to pack as light as possible when it comes to your hiking food. Remember, you’re carrying everything on your back, and an extra few pounds makes a big difference over a 10-hour hiking day. You’ll want to look for calorie dense foods like nuts, cheese, oatmeal, power bars, rice, and pasta. These foods will carry really light but give you that extra amount of energy when it is really important.
An overnight hiking diet is dissimilar to your regular weekly diet. While many of us live a fairly sedentary lifestyle and need to watch the amount we eat, you won’t need to think this way on a hiking trip.
You’re going to be burning copious amounts of calories, and therefore need to make up for it somewhere. The larger the person, the more calories you will need. But if you are generally taking in 2000 calories per day, you may want to prepare to eat closer to 2500 calories on a hiking day. You will know how much you usually eat, and just make sure to increase that number for the hike you are taking.
It is always better to have too much food than not enough. Even if that means adding a few pounds to your back. Being hungry and calorie deficient is much worse than the discomfort you’ll feel from a heavier bag.
Foods that you may typically strive to avoid due to their high carbs or fats are really great for hiking trips. Healthy carbs and fats give you that extra energy your body will need in order to get over the next peak. And hey, you’ll always burn more calories on a hike. Pasta, rice, bread, chocolate, cheese, sugar, and others are all good to go for overnight hiking trips based on their high-calorie content and the level of ease they employ in the cooking process.
Types of Foods
So what exactly are some types of food you should take with you? Here are some specific examples.
Breakfast is going to kickstart your day. It’ll get you out of bed, and will push you through the most productive point of your hike. The morning is when you gain the most ground during your hikes and it is important to be fully fueled for it. Here are some good breakfast options. You’ll want to eat a little lighter to avoid getting your early morning stomach upset with you.
We know, it tastes awful. At least for many of us. But, if you can find a way to stomach it, oatmeal will make one of the best types of foods for breakfast. Oatmeal is extremely calorie dense, provides a lot of energy, is quite healthy overall, and is super easy to pack. If you’re having trouble with the taste, adding things like brown sugar, raisins, or chocolate can help out a lot. One of the other benefits of oatmeal is that it is easy to cook by just adding hot water.
A more favorable option to oatmeal is muesli. Muesli comes in many forms but is generally comprised of types of oats, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, and other grains. Muesli is basically just a healthy type of cereal and can be eaten with cold milk or water. This is generally a more palatable option for breakfast food than oatmeal and will provide the type of nutrition and caloric value you need. All the while, it is super light and easy to pack.
This will depend on the length of hike you are doing, how much room you have, and if you have an egg protector. For shorter overnight trips (1-3 nights) eggs can be great. They taste good, you’re probably used to them, and they provide lots of energy. As long as you have a safe way to keep them protected, and you have the extra room for them in your bag, eggs will be a great breakfast option.
Bread and Butter/Jam/Peanut Butter
This will also be a large dependant on the length of the hike you are doing. The shorter the hike, the more options you have. But if you have enough space for some fresh small baguettes or a small loaf of bread, simply starting off with a couple of slices of bread with some jam or peanut butter can give you that high-performance energy you need.
For obvious reasons.
But also because it will give you energy, will help you out of bed, and is basically unnoticeable in your bag.
Snacks are going to bridge the gap between your meals. Generally, on hiking trips, snacks will be something you pick out of your pocket or bag quickly while still walking, or while taking a short rest. When you’re doing long hiking days (15-30 km), the last thing you want to do is sit down too long. Taking too long of a break can really make the next leg of your journey tough. That’s why it’s important to have snack foods that you do not need to cook at all, and can be eaten on the go, or quickly. Here are some examples.
Basically the holy grail of hiking snack food. Nuts are super light, are packed with nutritious calories, and are one of the easiest types of foods to eat. They require no cooking time and can be pulled easily out of a pocket or accessible compartment of your bag. You can get all types of nuts, including peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, and more. Pick your poison when it comes to nuts because you basically can’t go wrong.
As opposed to wet fruit, Dried fruit is dehydrated and therefore weighs much less. The beauty is, you still get all of the nutrient content you need. Dried fruit helps you satisfy that sweet tooth and gives you energy. Dried fruit is also very lightweight, similar to nuts. You can mix things like raisins, cranberries, mangos, and others into your muesli or oatmeal in the morning. Or, make a medley of dried fruit and nuts to modify your other snacks.
Protein bars are built for the trail. They generally come with the number of calories you’ll need in order to get through to the next meal. Many of them are created using more natural ingredients and can provide good nutrition as well. Of course, there is a ton of variation involved. With power bars, you get what you pay for. Cheaper power bars will not pack the calories or nutrients into them that you may need.
If you spend a little extra and buy a box of something like a Cliff Bar, you will get the content you need with the highest level of ease and convenience. The only downfall is the plastic packaging.
Chocolate can be an absolute favorite for many frequent overnight hikers. What many people don’t realize is that our bodies get used to certain diets with ingredients we sometimes don’t even know are there. Unless you are already eating a diet of mostly nuts, rice, and vegetables, you’ll have cravings on the trail. Chocolate can seriously alleviate those cravings and give you that satisfaction you need.
Try to go with dark chocolate, as it is healthier. Chocolate is easy to pack and really makes you look forward to the end of the day. One absolute favorite after the dinnertime meal is a few pieces of chocolate with a chamomile tea to really put you into a slumber.
The foods you pack for lunch will be very similar to the ones to pack for dinner. This is where you will load up on calories to finish off the day or get you to sleep soundly. Whereas with breakfast you want to go light, lunch and dinner are the carbs and fat heavy meals. Here are some examples of lunch and dinner foods to get your appetite going
Rice and pasta are staples for a hikers diet due to their high calorie content, their versatility, and how light they are to pack. With rice and pasta, you can basically do anything you want to them to create a meal that will satisfy. If you’re bringing vegetables, eggs, nuts, meat, or veggie protein, you’ll have a plethora of options in terms of meals you can cook.
Pasta and rice are super easy to prepare by just boiling some water and adding the necessary spices as well. You can go from plain Jane to a gourmet meal in a hurry depending on how many toppings you have room for in your bag.
You can insert your favorite type of veggie protein here. These are the foods that are high in calories, do not go bad generally, and are really light to pack. These are the kinds of foods that are going to give you that extra energy without being too heavy. Making salads with any type of legume is very easy as well. They are a fantastic meat substitute, as meat is generally not the best thing to bring on a long hiking trip due to the lack of refrigeration. You will be able to enjoy the nutritious versatility of these types of foods at any meal.
Vegetables will depend on the amount of room you have and the length of the hike you are doing. It may not be so simple to pack vegetables, but if you have the room for them, they can make all the difference. Adding veggies to your pasta or rice can turn your high-calorie meal into a tasty nutritious treat. Veggies are versatile and generally quite light. If you have the time, chop up some peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, and whatever else your favorites are to add easily to any meal you’re working on.
Freeze Dried Meals
If you’ve never experienced the ease of freeze-dried meals, now might be the time to try them. Freeze-dried meals are prepackaged with lots of things like meats, vegetables, rice, pasta, chili, spices, and more. They are foods that are super light to pack and do not need to be refrigerated. They have been specifically designed to be taken on a hiking trip. You can find many varieties of freeze-dried meals which have different calorie levels, ingredients, and prices.
It can be a great way to have a delicious nutritious meal on the trail. Some people are not huge fans of the taste of many freeze-dried meals. Other absolutely love them. If you’re going with freeze-dried meals and you’re a picky eater, maybe try out some different ones before you go on your hike to ensure that you’ll enjoy them on the trail as well. You can find freeze-dried meals online or at many outdoor sports stores.
Hopefully, this will give you a basic idea of easy foods to pack for an overnight hiking trip. There are many packing lists available through outdoor sports online stores and hiking bloggers. In the end, it comes down to your preference. Just remember to pack light, go calorie dense, and curb those cravings.
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