What to eat when hiking?

Hiking stove and hiking cooking food

If you haven’t read my blogpost about hiking and calories that teaches you to plan the amount of calories you need in a day, I suggest you do. Planning your meals is a lot easier when you understand the basics about nutritional values. You also need to be able to make an assessment about how long you will be on the trail and I have a blog post that will help you sort out how much distance you can cover in a day.

What I definitely won’t recommend is using al kinds of weird food ideas that “bushcraft” blogs and videos sometimes suggest. For instance, you can of course catch fish when you’re hiking but make sure you have food with you in case you won’t catch any fish. A healthy person can go for some time without food but it really sucks to be hungry, walk all day and carry a heavy backpack. I have a whole separate blog post about “bushcraft” and why I advise to ignore most of it.

You don’t need to make a fire to cook your food while hiking (it’s much easier to use a hiking stove) but in case you need to build a fire we have a great blog post with instructions, pictures and a video that teaches you how to make a fire while hiking.

You can divide your hiking food into four categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Let’s look at all of those meals.

Breakfast

Hiking food porridge breakfast

For breakfast I take some porridge which is made by adding hot water and if it’s a short trip – some jam.

The main tip is to add enough water, so the porridge isn’t too dry.

Porridge is easy to make and gives you a lot energy for the walk.

If you don’t know how to purify and boil water while hiking, I have a blog post about water purification. In short, the best way to purify water and cook your food is by using a hiking stove and boiling the water.

Lunch and dinner

Hiking food freeze dried

For lunch and dinner, I recommend freeze dried food for hikers. It’s hassle-free, you just need to add water. These days the food is very natural-tasting.

You “prepare” it by adding water, mixing and letting it wait for a few minutes – the instructions are on the pack.

As you wait, it makes sense to close the pack to prevent the food getting cold. In cold weather during Winter I usually pour the water, mix it and then stick it in my backpack so that the food won’t cool down too much.

Make sure to bring a separate trash bag for used packages. It’s even better to have two bags, in case one has a tear.

When you carry your rubbish with you for days, you don’t want it contaminating your bag.

Snacks

Water bottle chocolate snack

Some days you may need more calories (depending on how difficult the trail is, distance, how cold it is, etc). To regulate this, you need to bring snacks like nuts, protein bars or chocolate that you can eat between meals when you rest.

It makes sense to have some snacks within reach during sleeping. On cold nights, if you get a bit cold, you will need to eat something to get your metabolism to warm you up.

Be careful about protein bars – sometimes they claim to be “eco” and “healthy” but when you look at the ingredients, there’s a lot of sugar added.

You might also have ethical considerations – for instance you might want to avoid protein bars or chocolate with palm oil.

Chocolate is not a super healthy choice but for some reason and especially in cold weather, I bring a few bars as a reward after a long day of walking. I always lose weight when I hike, so I suppose I use up all the extra calories.

Food safety

Water bottle waterproof bag

Some areas have specific rules about food safety – especially if there are bears around. Make sure you check this and follow these rules. You should never leave food lying around because smaller animals or birds can eat it. Human food is not good for them.

In any case, make sure you don’t leave any leftovers or food packaging or even organic waste like banana and orange peels lying around in the nature. Please read my blog post about responsible hiking and “leave no trace” that covers this topic.

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