There are a lot of things that make me happy in life, and similar to many other people, food is one of them. Hiking and backpacking also makes me very happy... so combining the two just puts a giant smile on my face.
When I gear up for a backpacking trip, I can't help but be excited about the journey, the views and... the food. It's important to plan your snacks and meals out ahead of time and to make sure you bring things you'll actually enjoy, because if you don't enjoy it, you may not eat it... and then you're just packing around extra weight. Eating in the backcountry doesn't have to be boring or bland. So from snacks to MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat), here's a list of some of my favorite things to bring while I'm out in the backcountry. Please note, I don't have any dietary restrictions, so if you're gluten free or vegan/vegetarian... or just a healthy person in general, my list may not work for you. Also, I will be calling out some of my favorite brands and items, but please note that this is not a sponsored blog post. These are just my personal preferences!
Keeping snacks on hand is essential when you're out hiking. Often times you don't really know you're hungry until you're close to being hangry. So, just like staying hydrated and not waiting until you're parched, I think it's equally important to stop for a snack every hour or two when you're exerting yourself. Some of my go-to snack items are:
1. Jerky or meat sticks. I always bring jerky with me. Always. It's lightweight, savory and offers a pretty good balance of fat, protein and carbs. There are some really great grass-fed and/or lower fat options (like salmon or turkey jerky), but I'm a complete and utter sucker for Oh Boy! OBerto Classic Thin Style Beef Jerky. Hmmm, salty goodness. Jack Links is pretty good too, but at the end of the day... I'll pretty much eat just about any kind and think it's delicious.
2. Nuts. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts - yum. Nuts are relatively lightweight as well (assuming you aren't bringing a giant bag with you) and are impressively high in nutrients. They are a very satisfying and fulfilling trail snack. I'm currently digging Blue Diamond Oven-Roasted Sea Salt Almonds. They are like the Goldilocks of flavored almonds... not too much salt, and not too little. I'm also a huge fan of marcona almonds. If you haven't tried them, you should! The grocery store by my apartment has these incredible herbed marcona almonds and they are AMAZING. And amazingly expensive.
3. Dried fruit, fruit leather, fruit snacks. I bounce between dried mangos and banana chips to going full blown 5-year-old and bringing packs of Gushers with me. Dried fruit can be a good source of fiber, calories and energy, while Gushers are just ridiculously tasty.
4. Bars. There are SO many options here, there are entire aisles dedicated to granola and protein/energy bars. Right now a couple of my favorites are KIND Caramel, Almond and Sea Salt, as well as Perfect Bar's Coconut Peanut Butter flavor. I'm pretty picky when it comes to eating protein or granola bars, but I've finally found a couple that I truly enjoy.
5. Fresh fruit or veggies. Sometimes I bring real fruit or vegetables! Crazy, right? Usually it's just an apple or some little satsuma oranges. Oh and just because these are natural foods, please please please pack your orange peels and apple cores out. Other fruits or veggies that I may have on hand would be baby carrots, celery (with peanut butter) or cherries. Word to the wise, it's usually smart to leave bananas at home, unless you can ensure they won't get squished. Squished or not, that banana peel best be going home with you. I mean it.
8. Energy chews. These are great because generally speaking, they are tasty and can really help keep you going on the trail. They can help keep your electrolyte levels balanced and some have caffeine as well. I really like Jelly Belly Sport Beans and Clifbar Bloks. I also recently tried a couple PROBAR Bolt chews and liked those a lot.
7. Candy. Haribo Gummy Bears. Enough said. Although... Swedish Fish aren't bad either.
So when you move from day-hiking to backpacking sometimes people struggle with what to bring. First and foremost, dehydrated meals have come a long way and there are many delicious brands out there. My personal favorite is Mountain House, but they are known to be a bit higher in their sodium content. If you are a vegetarian, vegan or gluten free, you might look into Good-To-Go meals.
1. Breakfast. Well most of my day hikes or backpacking trips start in the early a.m., so I usually just hit the store on the way out of town. It's sort of become tradition for me. I stop at the store and start my pre-hike day with coffee, a toasted bagel and cream cheese or a breakfast sandwich, as well as a protein drink for the trailhead.
For breakfast in the mountains, my absolute favorite is Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. It's delicious by itself, but if you pack some small tortillas you can make little breakfast burritos! You can even spice things up by bringing a packet of hot sauce. I'll usually bring oatmeal along too for a quick breakfast, but I won't lie... I never get excited about oatmeal. Sometimes I'll bring Mountain House's Granola and Blueberries and eat it hot or cold depending on how chilly it is outside.
2. Lunch. Lunch isn't always something I always plan out, because most of the time snacks are perfectly adequate. But when I know I'll need something more, a pre-made peanut butter & honey (or jelly) sandwich is a great option. Other than usually getting squished and being a little messy, they are a pretty great and simple lunch option. On my most recent backpacking trip, I brought leftover pizza for lunch on day one, and it... was... amazing. So put that in your back pocket.
3. Dinner. My favorite backcountry meal, and hands-down my favorite meal to cook is the Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl. A previously discontinued item, they've brought it back and made some changes for 2017. I couldn't have been more ecstatic when I discovered this. It's pretty darn good on it's own, but there's a few things you can do to enhance the experience. 1) Bring an avocado (and a small switchblade knife to dice it up). Adding an avocado to the meal (after it's cooked) is SO GOOD. It's definitely worth the added weight if you ask me. 2) Pack little tortillas! As I mentioned above for the breakfast burritos, I usually bring a pack of 8 small tortillas and enjoy chicken fajitas with a friend. With the added avocado and tortillas, one chicken fajita bowl pouch is plenty for two people. 3) Want it spicier? Bring a packet of hot sauce!
A few of my other go-to Mountain House meals are Beef Stroganoff, Pasta Primavera with an added packet of tuna fish or salmon, or the Chicken & Rice + an avocado. I'm excited to try the Mountain House Mac and Cheese (not the Chili Mac) and add a sliced up hotdog to the mix. Yes, I eat like a child sometimes and I'm ok with it, and no I don't really care to know exactly what is in a hotdog. As Cypher said in The Matrix... "Ignorance is bliss."
4. Dessert. There are quite a few dehydrated desserts out there, from ice cream to apple crisp, and I've tried just about all of them. They are all pretty tasty, but... my favorite backcountry dessert is homemade rice crispy treats. They are lightweight and regardless of getting squished they are still ridiculously delicious. Plus, it's not a "heavy on the tummy" treat.
Post-hike "replenishment" is always something that I look forward to. I love freezing some water and/or coconut water prior to the trip and leaving it in a cooler in the car. Even on multi-day trips, I've been pleasantly surprised to find beverages that are still pretty cold. Sometimes I'll throw a good-ol' Twix bar in there as well. Aside from that, dried snap peas are tasty or I'll indulge with my favorite chip... White Cheddar Cheeto puffs. Throw on Pearl Jam's "Alive", roll the windows down and head back on the forest road towards civilization... feeling exhausted, dirty, hopefully not hungry, and extremely rejunvinated.
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite snacks or meals that you bring with you! Happy eating and happy trails everyone!