Backpacking Food

It can be difficult coming up with backpacking food ideas and it’s surprising how many extra calories you will need for a backpacking trip. The table below shows approximately the extra calories you will need per hour of backpacking, depending on your body weight:

The problem is, that extra food means extra weight to carry, so you need to think about getting as many calories as possible for as little weight as possible. You might think that chocolate bars would fit the bill, but they have a tendency to melt and they also contain a lot of fat and sugar. The sugar will give you a temporary energy boost, but you will soon lose that boost and the fat takes a long time to digest. The best foods to have are ones high in carbohydrates that release their energy slowly but surely over a longer period. I’m not suggesting you avoid chocolate altogether; Snickers bars are a good idea as they contain peanuts, which is a perfect food for a long hike.

For your backpacking meals, you can buy dehydrated foods such as the Wayfayrer meals. They are excellent and perfect for the job. They are specially prepared for their lightweight properties, they last a long time and won’t spoil under different weather conditions. Another useful addition to your pack, although a little expensive, are these full-day ready to eat meals. They contain 2500 calories with 3 full meals and some snacks. How about trying some Space Food – I’m not joking, they are selling it on Amazon! Fancy some neapolitan ice cream? Oh, and don’t forget your spork and collapsible mug.

Making your own backpacking menu


You can pre-pack into single portion plastic bags – oats, milk powder, sugar and perhaps some dried fruit such as raisins. It’s actually better to have a high carb breakfast than your traditional English fry-up because carbs break down faster than fats.

Think weight and space all the time. If you buy a pot noodle or two, transfer the contents to plastic bags instead of taking that huge pot with you. The foil lid can become damaged as well after being stuffed in your rucksack. Don’t take the coffee jar with you, transfer the coffee from the jar to a plastic bag instead.


You can take crackers instead of bread if you prefer, and slap some decent slices of hard cheese such as cheddar between them. Peanut butter is a great alternative too. I have taken pre-packed cheddar with me and even in the hottest weather, it hasn’t turned bad, it just goes a bit oily! I also take long-life bread with me, because I prefer bread to crackers. It gets a bit squashed over the days but lasts a long time. One thing I don’t take with me is margarine or butter, as I’m not sure how this would fair during hot weather.


Your main meal in the evening is the most difficult to cater for. There are lightweight meals found in supermarkets – usually of the pot noodle variety, but there is also quick cook rice, or noodles and pasta, even couscous. You could add parmesan cheese and packet soup to make a tasty meal. Instant mash potatoes and cheese is a good standby too. If you are lucky, you can come across tuna in foil packets instead of tins (I’ve seen a small selection in Waitrose) these are great to add to your evening meal for extra protein. For pudding, try Angel Delight and add your own milk powder. Avoid taking tins of any kind as they will just weight you down and take up extra space.


Supplement your tea and coffee with some hot chocolate drinks made with powdered milk.

Good foods to take

Oats, museli, cereals
Crackers, long-life bread
Hard cheese (cheddar), parmesan, cheese strings
Peanut butter
Pot Noodle
Quick cook rice
Instant mash potatoes
Packet soups
Tuna in foil packets
Angel Delight
Dried milk powder
Coffee, tea, hot chocolate
Nuts, dried fruit
Beef jerky
Snickers bars
Seasonings if you want to add more flavour to your meal

Emergency food

Marzipan, Kendal mint cake, nuts and dried fruit