Preparation for hiking is an essential part of hiking. Planning today brings you joy tomorrow. When we are talking about multiple–day hiking, then planning all about your equipment and gear is something that your future – self will be grateful for.
There are some questions that you want to answer for yourself so you can be ready for each day of your adventure.
First, and most important question is – how much food do you actually need on your hiking trip?
Hiking burns through so much energy that mealtimes become an obsession. Hiker hunger is real - and can feel insatiable and overwhelming at times. How many calories you need to consume depends on the trip. Are you climbing up mountains? Or walking on flat, easy terrain? Are you hiking for 5 or 15 hours every day? How heavy is your pack?
Calorie requirements will be different for everybody and on every trip. The general rule is to consume between 2500 and 4500 calories per day. Making sure you know what kind of trip you’re heading into will help you plan the right amount of food. Don’t forget to check the elevation profile of the hike you’re embarking on.
The answer to this question is to get an idea of how intensive your hike is and to plan accordingly to that.
The second question is – what kind of food should I be eating?
Your backpacking food needs to be calorie-dense, easily packable, and nutritious. It also needs to survive a few days out of a fridge. Food that can last for several days, that is not perishable and food that contains a lot of calories in small amounts is something that you need.
Peanut butter, dried fruit, dried vegetables, protein bars, soup mix, instant noodles – are examples of food that is rich in calories and easily packable. Also, consider packages, their weight, practicality, and, of course, their impact on the environment (reduce the usage of plastic).
So, when our thoughts are aware of everything that we should do, and carry with us, let's talk about something that we want to have. So, the next question is – what kind of hiking food do you really like?
Don’t just focus on weight and calories. Think about what kind of food you actually enjoy eating. If you don’t like peanut butter, don’t bring peanut butter on your hike - find something else that you’ll enjoy eating. Don’t eat the same food day in, day out. Even if you like it to begin with, by the end you’ll gag whenever you look at that sachet of sundried tomato tuna.
Think - salty, sweet, crunchy, soft. If something is starting to get too boring to eat, stop eating it and find a replacement. Even when starving, food that brings zero joy is hard to stomach.
Also, something that will save you time on your third day of hiking is to make a hiking food meal plan. This plan is something that is different for each one of us. Ask yourself questions like – how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will need? How many protein bars have you allowed yourself per day? How much of your trail mix is enough for the first, second, the third day?
By making this plan, you can divide your food into separate bags and you can even write on them (day 1, day 2, breakfast, snack). By doing this, you will know in each moment where you at with your food, and you will know how many more do you have or do not have.
Last thing to remember – be good to yourself. Be aware that you are a human being, and you cannot know how will you feel on the third or fourth day of your hiking adventure. It is wise to always carry an extra half day or full day's food in case of an emergency.
Going hungry is fine, we survive. Hunger is something that you get used to during hiking. But being too hungry can be dangerous, it impacts our energy levels and our hiking ability - and may lead us to make reckless decisions, to not be able to experience the whole adventure and the whole sensation of multiple–day hiking.
Everyone discovers their own diet and menu for the wilderness. Like everything – practice makes perfect, so answer those questions, listen to yourself and remember to enjoy each step of your next adventure. With your food.
Author: Matei Negovetić
Matei Negovetić is a HIGHLANDER ambassador, a fan of cooking, preparing food, playing with spices, and creating new dishes. He showed his love for cooking on the Croatian Masterchef, and alongside food, his other passion is trail running.