Food is one of the most important parts of a great outdoor adventure. Whether you are doing some gentle hiking around Portland or packing for a multi-day trail journey, proper nutrition and sustenance is vital.
The right food can be the difference between having fun and hating your experience, but it is also a key part of actually completing your challenge! Food is fuel, after all, and getting to the end of a hike often requires more refueling moments than you might imagine.
So regardless of how strenuous your adventure is, eating right is important. You want to plan your meals to make sure that they provide the right nutrition, will give you the strength you need to carry on, without making you feel heavy, sluggish, or bloated. Plus, they should taste good! Nutrition on a hike doesn’t have to be dull or utilitarian. With the right meal plan, you can enjoy every bite.
So for your next outdoor adventure, here are a few hints, tips, and ideas for the perfect meal plan, to take you all the way to your goal.
How much food will I need?
When packing food for an outdoor adventure, people usually either pack too little, or get carried away and stuff their bag with more food than necessary. Both tendencies come with problems, either hunger and lack of energy, or a far heavier pack than needed. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need somewhere between 2,500 and 4,500 calories per day, depending on the level of exertion you are planning. This usually means between 1.5 and 2.5 pounds of food. The best way to work out what you need is to add up the meals you’ll be on the trail for, and add some snacks, not forgetting something to eat at the end!
What sort of food should I take?
It is worth bringing a variety of different foods, so you don’t get bored, particularly on longer hikes. Similarly, bring food you enjoy eating, as well as some fresh fruit and vegetables. Try and find lightweight versions of your favorite meals, and don’t hesitate to dehydrate your own food, as this helps save space and weight!
Nuts, trail mix, jerky, and dried fruit all make great hiking snacks. But don’t forget to treat yourself with some sweet options too! Candy bars might seem like an indulgence, but it is always worth having a few tucked away for tough moments.
Granola and cereal bars are superb breakfast options. If you can fit a thermos of coffee into your pack then go for it, but if not then energy drinks or caffeine pills will give you something to get you up and at ‘em first thing too.
Sandwiches are the hiker’s friend, with a good mix of carbs, protein, and fresh veg. Think ham and cheese, tuna mayo, or even PB&J!
Some explorers like to bring a full camping stove or portable grill along for longer hikes, so they can cook up proper meals, but this does mean adding a significant amount of weight. Dehydrated noodles, freeze-dried curries or stews, and instant pastas are an easy way to get a great feed without quite as much kit required.
It is always worth repackaging food, to avoid having to carry around unnecessary cardboard or plastic packaging. Freeze-dried and dehydrated options are lighter and smaller, so are always a great idea. And finally, don’t forget that whatever you bring on your adventures needs to come home with you, so always pick up your litter!
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