I still remember my first real multi-day trek. It was with my father on the beautiful Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia. We didn’t really prepare and looking back on it it could have been a lot more comfortable than it was. Especially concerning the food! We brought heavy cans and didn’t consider the weight and that we had to carry it around for a few days. There was also a lot of trash afterwards that also needed to be brought back. Since then I got a lot better in planning what food to take and how to pack it and deal with it on the trail. It is actually not all that difficult. I will only discuss vegetarian options because I don’t eat meat or fish. Here’s a few tips and tricks that can come in handy!
When you are hiking all day for a few days in a row with a heavy pack you are burning about 2500 – 3000 calories per day on average. Even more when you like to go fast and the terrain is mountainous or difficult (mud, swamp, rocks, cold, wet, vegetation..) with lots of ups and downs. This means you will need to eat at least the same amount of calories to stay strong for the whole trip. I noticed that if I don’t eat well for one day I feel it the next day. I’ll have less energy and end up being more exhausted in the evening. Also before you leave make sure you build a nice base to burn during your adventure. Pasta, rice, avocado, lentils will do the trick.
Carbohydrates are broken down in your body to release energy. They will give you the fuel to keep going. They come in simple forms such as sugars and in complex forms such as starches and fiber. Starches are mostly derived from plants. Oats are a great source of carbohydrates.
One function of protein is to repair damaged tissue and muscles. This actually means they can help you recover after a long day out. They don’t release their powers straight away. It takes a bit of time before proteins do their job. I mostly start eating protein loaded foods halfway the day so I am preparing my body for recovery after the hike. Nuts are full of protein and I bring freeze dried food that contains soy instead of meat.
Sugar and fat
Sugar will give you boosts of energy and will help you to keep going. I will mostly eat a sugar packed snack if I feel low on energy or during a short break (2-3 times per day)
Fat is more difficult to burn by your body and the energy created will be released slowly. Fat will give you the energy to keep going for the long run. Dark chocolate and nuts contain quite a lot of fat.
The key is to take compact food that contains a lot of calories. In the beginning I took way to much food that was low on calories so I didn’t get the energy I needed. Technically you can split your meals in breakfast, lunch and dinner but after a few days out in the wild you will eat the first thing that you can grab out of your backpack and everything will taste good!
- 2 packages Oatmeal (carbs and proteins)
- Chia seeds / hemp seeds (proteins, fats)
- Muesli mixed with nuts and dried fruits
- Breakfast options from Mountain house or Globetrotter.
- Dried fruits and nuts mix (carbs, sugar, fat, proteins)
- Milk powder
- Coffee / Tea
- Dark Chocolate (carbs, fats)
- Tortilla’s or crackers with nutella / peanut butter / jam (carbs, fat, sugar, proteins)
- Powder soup
- Babybel cheese
I mostly switch it up every other day so I don’t need to eat the same thing every day.
- Freeze dried food pack
I choose for meals that are rich in proteins and carbs. Lentils, beans and couscous are a great option and they are full of energy. Make sure these meals are really what you are craving for. Having a nice and tasty meal in the evening will keep your spirit up and it is something to look forward to when the last mile seems neverending.
There are many different brands to choose from. Here are a few websites to give you an idea what’s out there:
- Flapjack (high calories! 450 kcal per flapjack)
- Snickers / Twix / M&M’s
- Mixed nuts and dried fruits
- Gatorade powder or similar.
To make the water taste a bit better if you prefer that. These powders also contain electrolytes like for example sodium, potassium and calcium. These are needed to make sure your muscles and nervous system keep functioning in the right way.
Bring a thermos so you can have some warm tea during the day with a piece of chocolate.
Ziplock bags are the best solution for packing your food. You can put foods like nuts, milk powder, dried fruits and Gatorade powder in it so you don’t need to take the full box or carton they are in. Make sure you use two ziplock bags in case it spills. When you pack them just make sure you push all it air out. It also saves up a lot of space like this. Take a few spare ziplock bags as well. They will come in handy for putting your garbage or toilet paper in. Or maybe those smelly socks or boxers!
There are so many options out there and it might seem a difficult to decide what to take on your hikes. But in the end when you are out there you will eat anything. Keep it light and rich in calories and you will be fine. Bring some of your favourite snacks and if you really feel like it 1 or 2 cans of beer as a treat when things get rough. Keep yourself hydrated as well. But most of all enjoy the ride!