There are multiple, important elements to consider when packing food for a multi-day backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, or climbing trip. You will need to consider the food’s nutritional value, weight, mass, and self-stability. The foods you pack need to be high in protein, carbohydates (sugars for energy), vitamins, sodium, and calories. While on a backpacking or other outdoor trip, you will be expending more energy than your body is used to, and the food you pack must be able to replenish it adequately. Backpackers, on average, require about 480 calories per hour. You will also want to consider bringing food with as little weight and mass as possible, as this will lighten your load and allow you to bring a greater amount of food supplies. Lastly, consider whether or not the food you are carrying is perishable. It is unwise to pack foods that must be refrigerated as these foods will expire after a few days, and make you ill upon consumption. The following foods are nutritional, lightweight, compact, and long-lasting.
Beef Jerky: This camping classic will give you lots of protein as well as sodium, and takes up almost no space at all! Beef jerky has often been used by astronauts because of these same valuable qualities. It is available in most super markets and gas stations.
Trail Mix: Protein, sugar, sodium, and antioxidants! Trail mix is packed with nuts, fruit, and chocolate, all of which will give you some pep in your step. Also available in super markets and gas stations, in a wide variety.
Granola Bars: Compact and filling, these little bars can provide up to 200 calories each! They are available as a traditional bar made of pressed granola, or a chewy variety that is popular among kids.
Hard Candy: While providing no nutritional sustenance besides sugar, hard candy can give you the energy boost you need while taking up almost no space in your bag. Drop some into your backpack and let them fill up the cracks and extra space. You might encounter an unexpected roadbump in your adventure when you will be grateful for some extra calories, and something to chew on.
Dehydrated Foods: These foods are extremely popular among backpackers and can generally only be found in camping specific stores or warehouses (REI, Bass Pro Shops, Natural Food stores). Many dehydrated food options are available, from simple veggies such as chopped onions and tomatoes, to entire meals. The only negative aspect of dehydrated foods is that they sometimes lose some of their flavor in the dehydration process.
Freeze Dried Foods: Made through a process with heavy machinery, freeze dried foods are a wonderful option to pack for a trip, if you can find them at a camping or natural foods oriented store. These foods are lighter, easier to hydrate, and usually more flavorful than dehydrated foods, and are therefore preferred by many backpackers.
Pre-Cooked Foods: Ready to eat meals packaged in foil packets. It is like a space-considerate version of the can!
Tortillas: Corn or flour, both take up minimal space, are very lightweight, and are packed with carb-energy. Good with honey, peanut butter, jelly, or condiments (depending on how conventional your taste buds are.) Definitely a good twist on the traditional sandwich, because they don’t won’t crush like bread in your backpack!
Peanut Butter: Very high in good calories– in energizing sugars, proteins, fiber, sodium, and fats. It can be eaten by itself, mixed with honey or chocolate, or spread on tortillas or granola bars. If peanut butter is not your flavor of choice, almond, cashew, hazelnut, sesame or sunflower butters are also available in the organic or health section of many supermarkets.