Food packing

The first real multi-day hike I did was the O-Circuit in the Torres del Paine National Park. It lasted around 9 days. I did it with a hiking buddy and we packed some really luxurious food. Sometimes when we cooked some of the other hikers would watch in wonder about what meal we would have that particular night. Most of them just packed essentials to keep the weight of their backpacks low. Most of them were way more experienced (and maybe a bit smarter) than us. Our backpacks were heavy as heck. Most of the weight coming from the kind of food we packed.

I’ve learned a lot since then and do pack different food now. But I still am a bit “unusual” when it comes to what I pack. Most of the people I’ve met during hikes keep it rather simple having dry fast cooked meals, no fresh fruit or veggies. Smart for the weight of the backpack because these definitely aren’t good to pack. As long as my back is strong and my motivation high enough I still hold on to my fresh fruits and veggies strategy, even during longer hikes. Let’s see for how long 😛

Sticking to the veggies/fruits

That said, when I write the food packing list for a hike, I always try to include some fresh thingies depending on what’s available in the current region. I’ll get more into what exactly in a bit. But before, yes, you heard right, I write a food packing list before each hike. I am usually one of the unorganized kind but I’ve learned that it is quite smart to think in advance about what food and how much is necessary before a hike. Mainly because I’ve had way too many times when I ended up super hungry. This happened due to little to no breakfast packed because I am usually not a breakfast person. When you’re walking in the mountains all day things get a little different though 🙂 Other times I would pack my coffee maker but forget the coffee itself. Nothing hurts more than carrying that thing around for a few days without being able to use it :/

Camping breakfast with banana bread + coffee
camping breakfast with banana bread + peanut butter+ coffee

In general, I always make sure I have one good breakfast, a filling dinner and enough snacks for each day with me. That suits my, so far pretty consistent, hiking habits:

Get up → Breakfast → Hike → Snack → Hike → Snack → … → Arrive + Set up camp → Dinner

So, technically a 5 full day hike would require 5 breakfasts, 5 dinners and 5 day snack portions. There is standards that always make the list:

  • coffee (not a whole pack, just an estimated amount sealed in a bag)
  • salt, pepper, some other preferred spices (also estimated amounts sealed in bag)
  • Yerba for maté

Some things to mention…

But before I start giving you more details about what foods I pack for each occasion, there’s a couple things worth mentioning:

  • I eat mostly vegan and gluten-free. Mostly as in: I have honey every once in a while. Other than that I avoid all animal products. I usually don’t like emphasizing nor even mentioning this for numerous reasons. But since this section is all about food I find it of importance. This also means that you won’t find any of those in my food inventory. Some people claim heavy sports aren’t possible for vegans, protein, blablabla. Have a look at my health nutrition section if you want more on that. For now, I’m going to keep it short and tell you it’s definitely possible.
  • I eat a lot. I mean, a lot lot.

Now that this is out of the way, let’s have a look at options for breaky:

  • The party hit are always oats. Super simple, light and stacked with nutrition. But I’ve had too many parties with those which is why I always look for alternatives.
  • Banana bread/nut bread/rice crackers with peanut butter or some other healthy and nutritious bread spread.
  • Couscous or quinoa (try to keep it local 😉 ) with peanuts (→ replace with other preferred nut/seed) and cucumber (→ replace with other preferred veggie). That’s a more savory breakfast.
  • Leftovers from dinner the night before. Again, for the ones who prefer savory breakfasts.

Keep in mind, that this is just to give you an idea. There is so much variety in hiking food without having to suffer from a heavy backpack. If you have something that you’ve had good experiences with, please pop me a message. I’m always keen on trying out new stuff to keep it interesting 🙂

So, what’s for dinner?

Prepping camping dinner in Hawdon Valley
prepping dinner in Hawdon Valley, New Zealand

When it comes to dinner I usually take something like noodles, rice, couscous, quinoa, polenta or similar and structure the rest of the ingredients around these. With each dinner I try to include some kind of vegetable and maybe something that has a bit of protein. But usually that is taken care of naturally by my favorite food choices anyways. I love lentils, beans, peas, etc. Standard veggies I try to include are carrots, really firm tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, green beans, so many more to choose from. Check out what is locally available and make sure the vegetable is somewhat firm, so you may worry less about it being crushed in your bag. A little tip is to pack garlic. It gives a lot of taste to any kind of meal, especially if you’re short on spices. Since you are out hiking, smells shouldn’t be an issue anyways, should they 😛

Dinner options I usually go for:

  • Couscous with veggies
  • Noodles with tomato sauce
  • Noodles with pesto (self-made and packaged in light container)
  • Noodles just fried with garlic, onion and some seeds/nuts
  • Lentils/peas soup with veggies
  • Rice with beans
  • Rice with veggies
  • In Peru and Bolivia, I would go for quinoa/noodles with avocado, tomatoes and onions (packing the avocado super safe). I love this dish, especially after a whole day of hiking.
  • In both of those countries you will also find a kind of potato, called Chuño. That might be one of the most effective trekking foods I’ve come across so far. It’s a freeze-dried potato from Quechua regions. The process makes it ridiculously light. That is why really small amounts are enough for whole meals. But you also have to soak it in water for a while, so it takes a bit more time than usual. I was told by locals to best eat it first boiled and then fried with butter and salt. A bit of oil, onion and garlic work as well if you’re also not too keen about the dairy stuff 😉

Always keep a snack at hand

Some ideas for snacks are:

  • Apples, pears, carrots, cucumber or any kind of fruit/veggie that is available in the region and gives you a short energy boost. Take firm ones, so they don’t get crushed in the bag.
  • When available, I take bananas for the first couple days of a hike and put them in the side pocket of my backpack.
  • Bag(s) of nut and dried fruit mix. This is also a perfect opportunity to check out some local markets or small shops for things like that. I always end up having a nut lady/guy everywhere I stop for longer to go on hikes 😛
  • Quantities of any kind of snack/energy bar. Also check out local markets for these. There might be local options, especially when you’re around a hiking area. In general, I really like flapjacks like the ones from Hafervoll. These particular ones might not be local for you but have a look at possible local alternatives. If you want to make 100% sure what your body is fueled with, you can always make energy bars or healthy cookies or bliss balls by yourself 🙂

Try to keep it local and organic

Generally said, I always do, and recommend doing, the shopping for a hike at local food markets or shops, rather than big supermarkets. You will not only give your money to people who might be more in need of it but your shopping gets a whole lot more personal. This might also include learning a foreign language 🙂 Also, you are more likely to get local products. Always be open for new introductions into your hiking menu.

Alrighty, I hope, this gave you some ideas for your next multi-day hiking adventure. Whatever you decide for and pack, make sure, your backpack doesn’t get too heavy for you. Also, pack everything safely to avoid annoying disasters like crushed veggies or fruits :/ If I take sensitive candidates with me, I always eat them within the first couple days.