When you´re out on the trail, you probably have accepted that after a long day of physical exertion you’re not going to have the luxury of sitting down to a massive T-bone steak with a Caesar salad, mashed potatoes, and a cold brew. Being out in the wilderness is enough of treat in itself that most people willingly relinquish extravagant meals for the opportunity to escape the rat race of their everyday lives and find time to connect to what is truly important.
Being on the trail, however, doesn’t mean that you have to settle for nothing more than stale peanuts and Snickers bars. We learned from our friends from Live Once Live Wild, with a little bit of preparation and the right gear, you can sit down around the fire after a long, exhilarating day on the trail to a decent, nourishing meal. Below we explore seven simple foods that no hiker should go without.
The Importance of Eating Well in the Wild
Needless to say, eating when on the trail is quite different than when at home. Though your nutrition needs are essentially the same, the physical exertion that comes with hiking through the mountains changes the amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and other vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
Whereas most of us know that it´s a good idea to stay away from excessive oils, fats, and sugars during our normal, mostly sedentary lives, when you´re in the midst of a 20 mile day hike with several thousand feet of elevation gain, you can pretty much forget the traditional wisdom as it pertains to healthy eating.
Due to the extra exertion that comes with hiking, a little extra fats, oils, and sugars in what you eat will actually do you a load of good. The extra sugars will give you a needed boost of energy while the fats and oils replenish what you´ve burned off from hiking. Though many people in today´s society are switching to low carbohydrate diets, stocking up on carbs in the form of breads, pastas, and other high carb foods will also help you feel more energized and strengthened during the hike.
In summary, then, trail food essentially goes against some of the most common nutrition counsel that we hear. Carrying a couple pieces of fruit and a premade salad with you certainly isn´t a bad thing, but to get the maximum energy and vitality you need to finish your hike strong, you might want to consider throwing a good bit of olive oil and pine nuts on that salad and carrying along a jar of Nutella to eat with your fruit.
Below we offer seven of the best foods that are both lightweight enough for you to easily carry in your pack while still giving your body the nutrients it needs to get up and down the trail.
This classic hiking food has made its way into backpacks on virtually every type of trail around the world, and for good reason. The combination of nuts, dried fruits, pieces of chocolate, and other high carb snack foods like pretzels and crackers packs quite an energy punch. Trail mix is perhaps the lightest way to carry a complete meal with you. The fact that you can pull out a bag and get filled up without having to deal with fires, pots and pans makes it a great trail food for day hikers who don´t want to fool with carrying a stove and kitchen gear with them.
There is nothing quite so filling as peanut butter, and this classic breakfast food is relatively lightweight when compared to the amount of essential fats, oils and protein that it gives your body. Having an extra jar of peanut butter can give you a needed energy boost to help you get up and over that lingering 2,000 foot peak that awaits.
Whole Grain Tortillas
If you don´t like the idea of eating plain peanut butter straight out of the jar, consider bringing along some whole grain tortillas. These tortillas will give your body a boost of energy-giving carbs and they also perfectly complement any other food you bring along in your pack. They are extremely lightweight and will make a meal out of whatever you bring along.
The best way to get the protein you need to replenish the strength you´ve burned off during a long hike is through eating meat. Unfortunately, packing along a tenderloin steak in your bag probably isn’t a good idea. By the time you take out it to cook it, you´ll probably be looking at soggy, smelly thing that isn´t edible. Consider packing along some beef jerky, turkey jerky, or any other type of meat jerky. You can even make your own jerky ahead of time with the help of simple kitchen dehydrator.
Tuna Salad Pouches
Another way to bring along some meat protein on your hike is through stocking up on premade tuna salad pouches. These pouches are vacuum sealed meaning that they won´t spoil while in your bag. Combining some fresh tuna salad with a whole wheat tortilla makes for a luxurious meal on the trail.
Footnote: If you are going for a day hike, a regular Tuna sandwich will do the trick. Brownie points if you know how to toast bread over an open camp fire for overnight hikes.
Instant Hot Cereals
For backpackers on an overnighter or several day hike, nothing is quite so nice as waking up to birdsong on a cool morning. Enjoying a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of steaming oatmeal is about the best possible way to wake up while on the trail. Consider packing along some instant hot cereals for a quick breakfast option. Simply boil up some water and you have everything you need for coffee and oatmeal to get your day started right.
Needless to say, trying to carry a gallon of milk in your backpack isn´t going to end up well. Powdered milk, however, is a great way to give you some needed fats and calcium, the latter which is especially important for women and people who suffer from achy bones. Powdered milk is also an extremely versatile food that can be added to everything from your morning coffee to a late-night cream soup.
Where to go with a Full Pack?
If you have never gone for more than a couple hour hike because you´re not quite sure how to feed yourself while away from your kitchen, these seven simple foods will give you more than enough nutrition needs to stay well-fed and energized while hiking. Once you’ve filled up your pack with these foods, you´ll need to start planning the hikes of a lifetime.