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Favorite Backpacking Foods | Average Hiker

big sur bars

Favorite Backpacking Foods

My favorite backpacking foods are not always what is best for me from a nutrition perspective. I’ve tried to improve on my diet, but it can be tough on long hikes.

When asked what my favorite things are about long distance hiking, right up there in the Top 5 is FOOD.  It’s not just the fact that I can eat WHATEVER I want in town and still loose weight (a huge plus), but I can also justify the food I eat while I hike – at least to my own horrified inner voice.

On my next hike I’ve decided to cook , and I reviewed my cooking kit in a previous post.  I use the word “cooking” rather loosely though since the meals will consist largely of re-hydration of dehydrated meals .  There is very little actual “cooking” involved.  This may change on future hikes though, as I’ve decided to get a dehydrator, and start “experimenting.”


The meal I spend the least amount of time on is breakfast.  I’ve just never been hungry first thing in the morning.  The act of eating breakfast for me has always been fuel for the engine. 

When I have eaten though, my favorite breakfast has always been Big Sur Bars.   They are like desert bars, not at all similar to protein bars or other typical hiking bars, most of which I now avoid.  They have three flavors – Original, White Zest, and Blind Date.  At 600 calories and 3 servings per bar, they are perfect for a long hike, and a chronic sweat tooth!

Favorite Backpacking Foods - Big Sur Bars

The only catch, due to the fresh ingredients, is that their shelf life is not that long.  You also have to order them on-line.  I usually keep them in the freezer, and then mail them to myself at different points along the trails.  They are usually in the priority box for about a week, and then I carry them for about a week. I’m still alive, so this is working.

Cereal is another common breakfast food for me. I mix in Nido, powdered whole milk made by Nestle.  I just poor in a little water and it is good to eat. Nido lasts forever, so I pre-pack it in my priority boxes, that I then have mailed to me.  In the mornings, I sometimes hike until my first water source, and then stop to make my cereal for breakfast.

Other breakfast foods for me have included bars (yuck), Pop-tarts (love them but am starving 30 minutes later), Bagels, Peanut Butter, Cheese, Oatmeal, Tea, Coffee, nuts, dried fruit, and Muscle Milk.  On some longer, faster hikes, I’ve mixed Nido and Muscle Milk Powder to make protein drinks in the morning.  I mix Vanilla and Chocolate Muscle Milk with Nido and water, and its like a milkshake.  I don’t really like the Vanilla, and the Chocolate is too bitter, so I combine the powders.  I’ve also mailed these to myself, after mixing them ahead of time.


Snacks have always varied. I LOVE chocolate, and Snickers, and most any other candy bars.  I’ve always found that the energy from those was short lived, so I’ve mixed them up with other bars and protein bars.  I smiled as I read this old post. Candy bars are no longer in my list of foods. They are still very common on the trails though.

Over the years, I have over indulged on protein bars and now I pretty much hate them.  An exception is of course Big Sur Bars, and a recent, little known upstart called “Greenbelly.” 

Greenbelly makes their original “Meal2Go” meals, and their most recent product – “Mud Meals,” which is a powder you mix with water.  The Meals2Go are, for me, really a bar in a bag, and they are pretty good.  I’ll sometimes munch on them as I hike.  They stick to my belly, and last a long time!  The Plain Mud Meals are good also, with great natural ingredients, but if drinking a powdered meal it is still Nido and Muscle Milk that I drink.

Related Posts:  Greenbelly Mud Meals ReviewGreenbelly Food Bar Review

My snack of choice is Teriyaki beef jerky.  I always keep a bag in my pocket, and snack on it throughout the day.  I also never eat the same brand, because I’m on a hunt for the perfect jerky.  In addition to jerky, I like dried fruit, CANDY, mixed nuts, trail mix (although it is close to bars now), and most any cookie.

Another smile for me. I no longer eat jerky. There was just too much salt, and I found I feel better with the lighter plant based proteins during the day, along with other more healthy fats. Jerky is still very popular on the trail, and a great source of protein.


Lunch is pretty simple.  I mail myself peanut butter cups and jelly packs, that I typically purchase from  I usually use two cups of peanut butter on a tortilla, and four packs of jelly.  I make sure I get the jelly pack and not the jelly cup.  The cup easily breaks open, and causes a MESS.  The jelly pack is a lot tougher.  I’ve never had any issues with the peanut butter cup.

I do still make PB&J sometimes, but I mostly stick to hummus and Justin’s Honey Almond Butter now. is great because I can purchase most any tiny, single helping size condiment I need.  I like their tiny Tabasco sauces, and mustard packs also, and have often gotten good deals on pouch tuna and chickenSalt and Pepper packets are also a must have for me.

I still use Minimus for all things tiny, but have moved to Sriracha Sauces instead of Tabasco. I’ve also not eaten pouch chicken since 2013, and rarely eat pouch Tuna anymore.

I’ve eaten other things for lunch – tortillas, sausage, cheese, avocado, onion (fresh veggies the day out of town), bagels, rehydrated ramen, beans, tuna packs, etc., but PB&J is by far my favorite.  I’ve never gotten tired of it.  I’ve also carried Pringles.  I love the can since the chips don’t break and it is light.  I’ve used the Pringle cans to carry other “breakable” foods also, especially the day out of town when I might carry fresh vegetables or fruit.

No more sausage and processed meats, but I do still love to bring fresh veggies out of town.


In the past I’ve both cooked and gone “stoveless” on long distance hikes.  Since this is a shorter hike, I’m going to cook.  I’ve always kept my food simple, and have used dehydrated meals

There are a LOT of manufacturers now – organic, Paleo, etc., but my main go to brands have always been MaryJanesFarm, Alpine Aire, Harmony House, Backpackers Pantry, and Mountain House Meals.  Those are also in my order of preference, and offer a much shorter opinion if you don’t want to read through lengthy articles.  I’m kind of like the “cliff notes” version reviewers.

I’ve tried a lot of other dehydrated foods since this article. You can check them out, and how I rank the meals, at the download below.

In the hike before this article, I bought pasta and rice meals as I hiked, and used my new cozy.  I would mail ahead my tuna packets since was already mailing boxes, and got a really good deal buying them in bulk.  I didn’t actually have to mail anything though as every town I went through had a grocery store, except for one resort stop, and you could purchase everything you needed.

Related Post:  Backpacking Cooking Kit Review

I added Tuna to every meal, unless it was beans and rice.  In those, I often cut up some summer sausage or other spicy sausage if I could find it at a deli.  I liked to make sure I was getting plenty of protein.  I don’t carry mashed potatoes, although I know a lot of people like these, and have often seen people mix them with their pasta sides.

No more sausage, but I did discover the fully loaded mashed potatoes, and butter buds. Yogi mentions these in her guides also. These are even good cold. I like to them with hot water though, and add lots of cheese.

A last note on my boxes.  Some people use them and some people don’t.  I use them for some items and not others.  I typically put my maps, batteries, condiments, guide pages, and limited food in them.  The bulk of the food on that trip I bought as I went through towns.  I use Priority boxes from the Post Office, and mail them ahead with my ETA information and name.  Post Offices will typically hold them for 30 days, and I pick them up when I get to town.

Final Thoughts

My eating habits have changed over the last couple of years. I eat less junk and animal proteins, and try to think about my nutrition. I eat more grains, nuts and plant based meals. I do still eat proteins at dinner though, since I still feel like I need it for recovery, and mixing together the right plant based proteins to get a complete protein is beyond me at this point. I’ve a feeling this may also evolve over time though.

Related Post:  Arizona Trail Planning Resources

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