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What food should I take hiking and backpacking?
Question: What food should I take when I go hiking & backpacking?

As a backpacker, hiking long distances over a long period of time, weight is an issue also cost and availability of products, I want to be able to get my supplies off the shelf anywhere, so this article includes items you will be able to find at your local supermarket and that are lightweight.

It's important to know that when we are backpacking firstly we have a weight on our backs making us heavier, this also extends to clothing, as we usually wear heavier clothing and footwear when backpacking, secondly we are walking with this heavy weight on our back over unpaved terrain, walking on grass is more difficult than walking on concrete, especially if the grass is long, also walking uphill on uneven terrain is more difficult again, all this expends energy and must be replaced.

Temperature is also a consideration, when we are in the extreme cold, -20c and colder we require a huge calorie boost, assuming the normal calorie intake for the average human is 2000 calories per day, when we are in the extreme cold, we require at least double what we would normally require as our body has to work harder to maintain itself.

We replace energy by consuming calories, all carbohydrates are calorie rich, pasta and potato for example, we also need protien to keep the muscles working properly, so meat or fish should be included, lentils and nuts are also a good source of protein.

So to answer the question 'What food should I take hiking & backpacking?' - You need to ask yourself how long are you planning to be doing actual walking before returning home?, assuming you have planned your route and know the terrain you will be encountering and temperature. Also assuming you will need to find and prepare fuel for cooking your meal.

For this article we'll assume a temperate climate and that you will be hiking for 8 hours with an overnight rest, followed by an 8 hour return hike. Also when referring to drinks below I am not referring to drinks for hydration, always remember to stay hydrated and take a drink when you need one. Lets split it up into 3 groups and I'll go through each one.

How Long Are You Walking?

  • 8+ hours
  • 5-7 hours
  • 3-4 hours


If you are hiking for 8 hours or more you should be taking in excess of 3000 calories per day, if the terrain is difficult or if you are working harder during times when you're not hiking then you should increase this to 4000 calories. When buying your supplies always check the calories and protein content. The lists below include more snacks than you need for emergencies and the return hike.

Foods for 8 hours or more

  • 2 main meals containing 1500cal
  • 2 puddings containing 600cal
  • 4 Drinks containing around 900cal
  • Snacks containing around 3000cal


Split Up Into:

  • Snacks up to the halfway point.
  • 1 main, pudding and 1 drink halfway through the hike.
  • 1 main, pudding, 2 drinks and snacks at your rest point.
  • Snacks and 1 Drink on the return journey.



Foods for 5-7 hours

  • 2 main meals containing 1500cal
  • 1 pudding containing 300cal
  • 2 Drinks containing around 450cal
  • Snacks containing around 3000cal


Split Up Into:

  • Snacks up to the halfway point.
  • 1 main and pudding halfway through the hike.
  • 1 main, pudding, 1 drink and snacks at your rest point.
  • Snacks and 1 Drink on the return journey.



Foods for 3-4 hours

  • 1 main meal containing 750cal
  • 1 pudding containing 300cal
  • 2 Drinks containing around 450cal
  • Snacks containing around 2000cal


Split Up Into:

  • Snacks up to the halfway point.
  • 1 main, pudding, 1 drink and snacks at your rest point.
  • Snacks and 1 Drink on the return journey.



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