Backpacking Food

My food requirements have evolved over my years of hiking, along with the methods I used to cook.  Those who follow my travels know that food is a primary focus for me on these journeys.  They also know that it is a focus I have a hard time shifting once I finish a long hike.  It is a vicious cycle.  I hike and eat, and then stop hiking and don’t quit eating, so I have to hike again to offset the times I’m not hiking and still eating.

The foods I have eaten while I hike have really not varied all that much.  What has changed is whether the food is cold or hot.  I look forward to a hot meal at the end of the day, but not the hassle of clean up and carrying the stove.  The search for fuel can also be a headache too, especially in small rural towns.

On my last hike on the Appalachian Trail, I carried an empty P-nut butter jar.  Around lunch time, I would fill it with ramen noodles, some dried veggies, and spices.  I would stop around 5PM each day for dinner.  Late afternoon is my favorite time to hike.  I love dusk and sunsets.  I often stop just before dark, set up camp, and journal for an hour before falling to sleep.  If it is cold, this works well for me also because I am still warm from hiking, and my bag warms up quickly.

Anyway, I would stop around 5PM, open the large P-nut butter jar of rehydrated noodles, and add a foiled package of tuna or chicken.  I prefer chicken, but it has become more difficult to find.  Salmon, anchovies, and other sources of protein can also be found, along with many types of dried beans, lentils, etc.  For me, the protein each day is very important for muscle maintenance.  I would try to stop at a nice overlook or view if possible.  This is possible on western trails, but sometimes not as easy in the long green tunnel of the Appalachian trail.

Along with rehydrating what equated to cold pasta salad, I carried nuts, bars, a LOT of peanut butter and jelly with tortilla wraps.  I also enjoyed hard sausage and hard cheeses.  Soft cheeses and sausages are kind of gross, and just dissolve into an oily mess over warm summer days, so if I could find them, I targeted small town deli’s.  Breakfast usually consisted of bagels and peanut butter and jelly.  Bagels are great because you can squash them flat without ruining them.  I’m also a big fan of the BIG SUR bar.  With it’s nuts, granola, dates, chocolate, etc., it is more like a dessert bar than a breakfast bar, and it packs quite a caloric punch.

Let’s also not forget one of the most important parts of any meal, the condiments.  Before most of my hikes, I purchase bulk quantities from  I buy my jelly in packs, my peanut butter in cups, and tobacco in itsy bitsy tobacco bottles.  I also purchase my packs of tuna and chicken, although they did not have chicken the time I looked.  I’ve not purchased many spices, but it is worth checking them out.  The best thing about is that everything comes in individual serving sizes, so I don’t have to carry a giant, heavy bottle of jelly or peanut butter.

To Be Continued….

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