What to Eat When Backpacking
Eating on an adventure can be tough! You have limited space and you really do NOT want to carry around extra unnecessary weight... But, in these times we are challenging our bodies and we actually need a lot more nutrition. Plus, who can say no to a delicious plate of food after a hard day's hiking!?
Whether you're hiking, cycling or on some other expedition where you need to carry all of your own food and drinks - we need to make the best choices to fuel our journey. In this blog, I will discuss some options I've found useful when hiking or while on a "backpacking cycling tour". So read on to be inspired for your next trip, adventure, travel or whatever you want to call it!
The most important considerations are related to getting the most punch of nutrition for the least amount of weight. You can use the following tips as a guideline when planning your trip's foodies:
1. Lightweight & Dry Food
Firstly, pack smart! If you buy it in large packages, you can divide it into smaller servings. Dehydrated food items are the winner in this category. Think products like:
- Dried potato mash (instant mash)
- Soup powder
- Lentils or other legumes
- Other nice options are nuts, dried sausages; noodles; dried fruit.
I like to store it in freezer bags that can tightly zip closed to prevent it from pouring out into my bags. Depending on the duration of your trip, if it is a long trip of more than one week, I would advise you to take a variety of different items to prevent food boredom and to make sure you can get a variety of nutrients in as well. On our latest adventure, we packed lentils, rice, quinoa AND soup packets! When we got creative, we actually added the soup packet to our quinoa to make a deliciously flavoured meal... YUM!
2. PROTEIN - Not just noodles!
Once again, depending on the type and duration as well as intensity of your trip, it's highly likely that you'll need to up your protein intake. This is to protect your muscles and assist in recovery after the long day's physical activity. We also need the protein to fuel our bodies for the next stretch of the tour. I call this point out specifically as most people make the mistake to only think of the WEIGHT of items - being convinced to pack only dried starches (rice, noodles etc!). REMEMBER to feed your muscles!
Good options to regulate protein intake include:
- Nuts and nut butter
- If possible, you can pack some boiled eggs (they can be kept not refrigerated for about 2 days if you're not in extreme hot conditions)
- Packets/ sachets tuna
- Dried sausages
- Legumes like peas, lentils, beans - good option to make sure you get fiber in as well!
3. Lots of energy required!
In two words: BALANCED INTAKE. That is all I can say! Our bodies need all macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein)... Always! This is a requirement for sustained energy throughout your journey. It will help you to keep going, recover quicker and keep you in good spirits... No one likes a "hangry" fellow-traveler! (I'm joking, not judging, but please keep eating balanced!).
Why? It can be explained in a quick nutshell:
- CARBOHYDRATES: Excellent, easy source of energy for our bodies; and can help to protect your muscles from being damaged too severely to supply all the energy! Options include: noodles, instant mash, fruit (fresh or dried fruit) and vegetables and rice
- PROTEIN: As mentioned above, but also: To restore and replenish muscles after intensive physical exertion. Prevents high muscle breakdown to protect your muscle stores. Without our muscles being in tip-top shape, the hiking or other adventure will be increasingly difficult. Good options are legumes, eggs, dried sausages, tuna sachets, if you can get to a market: yogurt or milk
- FAT: Most simply put, we need adequate fat intake for ENERGY! Fat is very energy-dense so we can easily meet our higher energy requirements with small amounts of fat. Options: Nuts, nut butter; seeds: Make a trail mix!
REPLENISH fluid losses! This is especially a crucial point if our journey is in warm weather. Obviously, if we hike, cycle or move around actively, we build up a sweat. With some adventures or backpacking trips, we are also carrying a heavy load which increases or physical effort - leading to more fluid losses. We need to replace these losses. For usual function and daily activities our bodies also require water. So, the requirement doubles! Make sure to drink enough water prior to the day's activity, during AND AFTERWARDS! This can assist to keep your energy levels up, prevent headaches or muscle cramps related to dehydration.
Good options include:
- WATER. Fill up your water bottles wherever you can. If you have the facilities: Freeze a bottle or two overnight to have a refreshingly ice cold beverage on the road the next day! This tip is GOLDEN on summer trips/in warm weather.
- Sports drinks to replace electrolytes
- Sachets of electrolyte-replacements can be carried with you and mixed with water (usually used when you have diarrhoea or after vomiting)
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: It can help to increase fluid intake and keep you hydrated
- Try not to OVERLOAD on the beers or alcoholic beverages at the end of the day: This can lead to worsened dehydration and make your following day's hike/cycle/travel MUCH harder...
5. Fresh fruit & vegetables
Fresh produce is very important in terms of nutrients to get enough vitamins and minerals into your diet. Especially if you're on a longer trek. I try to stock up on some items that are easy to transport and quite easy to eat: Think of fruit like bananas, apples, grapes.
In terms of vegetables, good options include carrots as they are also easy to travel with and won't spoil as easily.
If you're not on an extremely rural or isolated trail, I would suggest that you hop over to a market or store, to load up on your fresh items. You can also buy some eggs again to boil for your protein-punch.
Pack light, pack well and always remember to enjoy the journey! Take it all in, take tons of photos and nourish your body!