Backpacking Meal Planning & Food Ideas: Fuel Your Adventure!

Backpacking Meal Planning & Food Ideas

Backpacking meal plan for your next trip is about nourishing your body and spirit – it’s about fueling your adventure with deliciousness and efficiency.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and tools to optimize your backpacking food ideas and meal planning, whether you’re a seasoned trekker or a first-time explorer.

Ready to pack your appetite and conquer the trail? Let’s dive in!

How Much Food Should You Pack For Backpacking?

Before hitting the trail, understand your daily calorie requirements. Experts recommend 1½ to 2½ lbs (2,500 to 4,500 calories) per person per day for backpackers.

Calculating Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

When planning your backpacking meals, it’s crucial to take into account your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and the phenomenon known as “hiker hunger.”

Shakedown hikes can also provide valuable insights into your actual calorie consumption and help you optimize your meal planning.

Here’s how you can calculate your BMR using the Harris-Benedict equation that was revised by Roza and Shizgal in 1984:

  • For Men: BMR = (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) – (5.677 × age in years) + 88.362
  • For Women: (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) – (4.330 × age in years) + 447.593

Activity Factors:

Multiply your BMR by:

  • Sedentary (little to no exercise): BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercise or sports 1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise or sports 3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise or sports 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
  • Extra active (very hard exercise or a physically demanding job): BMR x 1.9

Hiker Hunger

During intense activities like long-distance hiking, hiker hunger increases your calorie needs beyondMR. Hiker hunger refers to the heightened appetite and higher calorie demands that arise from sustained physical exertion on the trail.

Shakedown hikes, or practice hikes, allow you to understand your actual calorie consumption.

  • Pay close attention to your body’s signals and energy levels during these shorter trips.
  • Take note of the amount of food you consume to maintain stamina and keep hunger at bay.

By observing and adjusting your calorie intake during shakedown hikes, you can gain insights into your individual caloric requirements. This information will help you optimize your meal planning and ensure you have enough food to fuel your body during your main backpacking trip.

Incorporating shakedown hikes into your preparation process helps you gauge your calorie needs accurately. It also allows you to fine-tune your gear, test different meal options, and make adjustments to your overall backpacking plan.

BMR Calculator

Backpacking Food Ideas: What Kind of Food Should you Take?

When packing your backpacking meals, prioritizing portability, weight, and nutrition is crucial. Opt for lightweight and shelf-stable options that won’t weigh down your pack or spoil easily.

Dehydrated meals, like macaroni and cheese, risotto, or pasta with pesto, are great staples due to their compactness and long shelf life. Instant soups and ramen noodles also offer quick and convenient hot meals.

While fresh fruits and vegetables are ideal for adding variety and vitamins to your diet, regulations and availability can vary depending on your location. Consider these alternative options:

  1. Dried fruits and vegetables: Dried berries, mango, pineapple, and banana chips offer a concentrated burst of sweetness and nutrients. Dehydrated mushrooms and bell peppers add flavor and texture to meals.
  2. Canned vegetables: Opt for BPA-free options like corn, beans, and tomatoes for a quick and easy way to add vitamins and fiber.
  3. Pickled vegetables: Olives, kimchi, and sauerkraut provide a tangy boost of flavor and probiotics.
  4. Nut butters and seeds: Packed with protein, healthy fats, and minerals, nut butters like almond and peanut butter are versatile and satisfying. Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and chia add crunch and extra nutrients.

Remember, variety is key! Experiment with different combinations of these options to create delicious and nutritious meals that will keep you fueled for your adventure.

Crafting Your Perfect Backpacking Meal Plan

Plan your meals for each day, considering activities and energy needs. Label each meal for every day and decide whether to eat “on the go” or have a “sit-down dinner”, allowing flexibility and convenience.

Sample 3 Day Backpacking Meal Plan (2500-4500 Calories)

MealDay 1Day 2Day 3
BreakfastCoconut Granola (1/2 cup) + milk powder (1/3 cup) + dried mango (1/4 cup) + Instant CoffeePancakes (2 small) + Instant Coffee + Coconut Granola (1/4 cup) toppingEnergy bar (1 bar) + Instant Coffee + Tea
LunchTortilla with tuna pouch (1 pouch), mayo condiment (1 tbsp), hot sauce (to taste) + Sesame sticks (1/4 cup) & TeaPita with hummus (1/2 cup), fresh bell peppers (1/2 cup) + Crackers with cheese (1 oz) & Salmon jerky (1 oz)Crackers with salami (1 oz), bell peppers (1/2 cup) + Coconut Curry Ramen (1 pouch)
SnackBanana chips (1/2 cup) & Peanut butter pretzels (1/4 cup)Protein bar (1 bar) & M&Ms (1/4 cup)Peanut butter pretzels (1/4 cup) & Chocolate-covered cashews (1/4 cup)
DinnerTacos: Instant rice (1/2 cup), instant refried black beans (1/2 cup), taco seasoning (1 tsp), cheddar cheese (1/4 cup), leftover bell peppers + Apple crisp (1/2 cup)Mushroom Pasta Alfredo (1 pouch) + Sesame sticks (1/4 cup) & TeaTacos: Package of cooked rice (1 cup), instant refried black beans (1/2 cup), taco seasoning (1 tsp), cheddar cheese (1/4 cup), bell peppers + Apple crisp (1/2 cup)
DessertChocolate bar (1 oz)Tortilla with Nutella (1 tbsp) & dried mango (1/4 cup)Tortilla with Nutella (1 tbsp) & M&Ms (1/4 cup)


  • Calorie counts are approximate, adjust based on specific brands and portions.
  • Adapt choices to your dietary needs and preferences.
  • Pack spices and sauces for flavor.
  • Don’t forget water – hydration is key!

Pro Backpacking Meal Tips and Tricks

Additional Meal Tips and Tricks To enhance your backpacking food experience, here are some valuable tips and tricks:

  • Repackage foods into smaller, lightweight containers or bags for convenience and minimal waste.
  • Test backpacking recipes at home before your trip to ensure they meet your taste preferences and dietary needs.
  • Consider factors such as water access, fuel needs, and cook times when planning your meals to ensure a smooth cooking process on the trail.

General Tips for Easy Backpacking Food

General Tips for Backpacking Food To make your backpacking food experience even better, here are some general tips:

  • Save a special treat for the end of the day to boost morale and provide a sense of reward.
  • Take a class or explore recipes from various sources for inspiration, helping you expand your culinary horizons.
  • Repackage foods for convenience and minimal waste, allowing you to optimize space and reduce unnecessary weight.


Backpacking food planning is an exciting part of the adventure. By understanding your needs, choosing the right foods, crafting a flexible meal plan, and utilizing helpful tips, you can fuel your body and savor the culinary delights of the trail.

So, pack your appetite, choose your path, and embark on a journey of taste and adventure! If you have any questions or additional tips, don’t hesitate to share them with us in the comments below!

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