How to Eat Well on Trail

When you are spending an entire day transporting everything you need to survive up and over mountains, food becomes amplified in importance. It is no longer just three meals a day;  it is the gasoline that fuels us forward; it is a currency; it is a reward as precious as a pot of gold for a long, hard day’s work! Thankfully for backpackers, you can’t over eat on the trail and, while some foods will take you farther than others, “unhealthy” foods hardly exist. If it has calories, you should eat it. The trick is maintaining enough creativity to keep you munching despite the limitations of a full kitchen. When on trail, there is no wrong way to eat. At the same time, it can be hard to get it right. The key is to simply keep eating!!


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day they say. This is even more true when backpacking. Getting a good breakfast in you before a day of hiking will set a good tone for the day. It is easy to turn to quick fixes like Pop Tarts, Honey Buns and other pastries for quick energy but be prepared to snack often or struggle with low energy. Smothering your granola bar in peanut butter or adding a few spoonfuls into your oatmeal will provide you with a little more sustenance for big climbs.


Breakfast Sampling: Honey Bun, Pop Tart, Cinnamon Roll Pastry, Instant Grits, Instant Oatmeal, Clif Bar, Clif Protein Bar


Some hikers simply snack all day and never have a clean cut lunch. Others enjoy the extended, mid day break and the ability to whip up something a little bit more substantial than a snack allows. By taking a longer break, not only are you able to rejuvenate yourself more, you are also able to add more variety of foods into your diet. Meats and cheeses with sauces or condiments on some sort of bread are an easy way to add in a new food type into your hiking diet.


Lunch Sampling: Tortillas, Salmon, Tuna, Cheese, Mayo, Peanut Butter


Dinner is the best meal of the day when hiking! You’ve spent all day working up an appetite and all day thinking of eating food! This is the easiest meal to get creative with and help keep your meal rotation fresh and tasty. No one likes eating the same old thing and you shouldn’t have to, even while backpacking. Freeze Dried meals are a simple way to have a complete meal without doing much work. Macaroni and Cheese, Instant Mashed Potatoes and Knorr’s Pasta and Rice Sides make an excellent base for spicing up a meal with all sorts of additions. Adding in chicken, tuna, salmon or precooked ground beef brings more protein and flavor to a meal. Wrapping it in a tortilla and adding on a few slices of cheese transforms it into a whole different type of meal. Carrying a small amount of your favorite spices is a great way to get more flavor in a meal and a wider variety of flavor.


Dinner Sampling: Mac and Cheese, Rice/Pasta Side, Instant Mashed Potatoes, Ramen, Freeze Dried Meal


Snacking is a universal past time for hikers. Sometimes hikers don’t even stop in order to snack. What do you think those hip belt pockets are meant to hold, after all? Snacks are THE way to keep your fuel levels up when hiking. Whenever you begin cursing the mountain you are climbing, just stopping to take a quick snack break and bringing those energy levels back up, can change your entire outlook on the situation.


Snack Sampling: Beef Jerky, Crackers, Peanuts, Granola Bar, Summer Sausage, Peanut Butter, Little Debbie/Hostess Pastry, Candy

Trail Recipes

If there is one thing all thru hikers and long distance backpackers always think about, it is food. We dream of it at night. We plan our our next resupply as our hitch rides us into town. We tease ourselves throughout a day of hiking by thinking of food we can’t have. So there is no wonder that so many crazy and interesting recipes have been thought up by hikers. You’ve surely made a few of your own and probably seen a few combinations out there made by others.

Check out this book of Lip Smackin’ Backpackin’ recipes.


Check out this collection of trail recipes compiled by AT thru hikers.

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