The most valuable commodity for a backpacker is space. The more you pack, the heavier your load will be, so it's vitally important to conserve space by carefully planning everything you'll bring. Food is one of the necessities you'll have to plan to bring with you. This list will help you to decide what to bring, and save you a few headaches as you pack your bag for the trip.
1. Grab and Go Foods
For speed and convenience, you'll want to bring a few pre-made foods in your bag for nights when you're too tired to cook, or you get to the camp site too late to build a proper two-zone fire. Granola bars are always a safe bet, but make sure they're high in protein and aren't just candy bars disguised as health food. Cliff and other high-protein bars will help you get a nutrient-dense meal replacement. Small packs of nut butter and trail mix are also favorites for a good reason.
A good protein powder is also a practical thing to bring that will take up minimal space, while providing a meal replacement that can power you to the next camp site. Mixed with plain water, it may not be the most delicious drink in the world, but it'll certainly do the trick and can fit in a small sandwich bag between everything else in the pack. Electrolyte powders and hydration boosters are also a great thing to have, especially if you're traveling in the heat.
2. Instant Foods
Much like the last category, these foods are intended to be made quickly, but are more of a meal than a nutritious snack. Grains, like couscous and instant rice, are a great way to pack light and still get plenty of nutrients on the trail. The best way to pack such foods is to re-package them in sandwich or ZipLoc bags. Taking entire containers or boxes will take up space and won't be able to conform to your pack, plus you'll be able to decide how many servings to bring rather than having too much of one thing.
Tuna fish and chicken are also a good option for a quick protein fix, and can be found in foil packets that are easy to tuck in where there is available space. There are also slightly more expensive but delicious freeze-dried meal pouches that are an easy way for a food-lover to get their fix quickly and conveniently, and you can even try making your own. Having something you like to eat is an important part of staying positive on the trail, so invest in what you think will keep your spirits up without taking up too much space.
3. Fresh Foods
These foods will take up the most room in your pack, so you won't be able to bring a lot, but having a few will break up the monotony of campfire food and are worth the trouble. Fruits like apples and citrus travel well, while bananas and pears can get old and make a huge mess in your pack and should probably be avoided. Veggies like carrots, peas, and small peppers are also long-lasting snacks, but might go bad more quickly if you're traveling in hot weather.
4. Fun Foods
You may not categorize a lot of these, such as coffee or tea, as "fun" foods, but when you're packing you'll quickly find that making space for unnecessary additions requires some sacrifice. Consider carefully what additions you want to make, and if they're really worth it. Things like hot sauce and spices aren't an essential part of a nutritious diet, but might be necessary for your sense of wellbeing, so don't deprive yourself of things that will make a big difference to you in the end. If you need chocolate, find space for it somewhere.
Once you're out on the trail, you're guaranteed to find something you missed in your packing, or discover that you brought something you never needed once. Backpacking is all about learning from your mistakes and thinking on your feet, so just pack as intelligently as you can and learn what to do better next time.
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