by Diane Spicer
Backpackers make elaborate menu plans for high calorie backpacking food.
Why? To stay fueled up and strong for the trail, and to satisfy their demanding taste buds.
The rest of us?
Probably counting each tiny little calorie, or frowning at certain numbers on food labels.
If you’re here, you want the
skinny full meal deal on high calorie backpacking foods that travel well, are cost and weight effective, and can be scarfed down early in a hurry or enjoyed as a backpacking dinner!
You already know that food energy (hiking calories) are your best defense against sluggish energy levels, cold temperatures, a long stretch of endurance zapping rain and wind, and a dip in immunity levels from high exertion.
But you’re looking for options for high calorie backpacking food because it will save you weight, being more nutrient dense per ounce.
So let’s dig into those high calorie choices!
Specifically, let’s go by time of day you’ll need that fuel:
High calorie backpacking food
There are two mindsets for backpackers in the morning: get up and get going (which long trail hikers probably prefer), or slide into the day (those with less time pressure).
Let’s cover some nutrient dense food options for both types of hikers.
No cook, just swallow and get going
high calorie backpacking food
Screw the cook stove! Lace up the boots, grab a pouch of food, and hit the trail.
Then here are two high calorie food options for you:
The “hot water makes me smile” contingent
If you have no need to burn up the trail, take time to boil some water and rehydrate these backpacking breakfast options:
Add some heavy cream powder for more calories and a creamy mouth feel that really satisfies.
Don’t overlook a handful of these little lovelies to pump up the calories for staying power through the morning on the trail:
Or toss them together into one fantastic trail nourishment pouch!
High calorie backpacking food
choices for a fast, filling lunch
Why ruin a perfectly good day on the trail by stopping to boil water*?
Here is a fast, uncooked approach to a backpacking lunch with a hefty portion of calories:
Fast calories from carbohydrates
GreenBelly specializes in calorie dense food that can be eaten as you hike.
Here’s what 30 meals looks like, calorie and dollar wise:
GoMacro bars hover around 300 calories per bar.
They’re made with brown rice syrup, won’t go rock hard if they get cold, and have a wide variety of flavors to choose from.
This variety pack is the way to go if you don’t want your taste buds to fall asleep on a backpacking trip:
Load your lunch with protein and fat calories
Nut butters like these can be plopped right into your mouth, ignoring crackers.
Jerky (free of fillers and chemicals) makes a delicious lunch option.
Packets of olives, high in good oils and so very tasty? Yes, please!
High calorie backpacking food choices
for delicious dinners
Unless you’re going so fast and so light that a stove is a foreign concept to you, you’ll have a stove and some kitchen gear to make a backpacking dinner (tips above).
That means time to relax while the water boils and food re-hydrates.
Here’s how to get maximum calories into your gullet at dinner.
- Eat the entire pouch/packet/meal. Your hunger will thank you.
Additional calorie hacks
Carry a small plastic jar filled with some type of oil: coconut, olive, whatever makes your taste buds happy.
- Add a teaspoon to your evening meal to keep you feeling full longer.
- More satisfying backpacking meal hacks here.
Add powdered high calorie supplements to your food:
High calorie trail snacks
all through the day
Hunger is just another way to say you’re making good time on the trail, right?
So stash some of these hiking snacks in a conveniently placed pocket, and you don’t even have to break stride to get refueled.
Things to keep in mind when
selecting high calorie backpacking food
You want to see high calorie counts, but you don’t want to overload on sodium and weird fillers or preservatives. That’s why I recommend Backpackers Pantry and GoodToGo, two brands that are going to go easy on your kidneys.
Forget about that silly little phrase “serving size” when you’re a backpacker. You want to wolf down the entire meal, or at least most of it, at one go.
When you’re tallying up calories, keep in mind what your individual metabolism requires.
- If you’re a keto backpacker, you want few carbohydrates but love to see fats and protein.
- If you’re gluten free, you’re going to skip most grains.
So be prepared to scrutinize nutrition labels to select the food that agrees with your digestion and biochemistry.
Never take food on a trip that you aren’t familiar with and know will do your body good.
Calorie dense foods are your allies
as a backpacker
So glad you’re taking the time to think through your calorie needs for an upcoming trip!
It’s important to keep your strength and stamina on the trail, in addition to your sanity.
It also shores up your immune levels in the face of trail dirt, cuts and scrapes, and exposure to unfamiliar microorganisms in surface water sources.
So eat up, early and often with high calorie backpacking food, and laugh in the face of hunger pangs!
- That’s a direct order. Eat when you get that first little pang of hunger, or become the Hangry Hiker no one wants to be around.
One last tip:
Eating calorie dense foods after a training hike or other type of workout also pays benefits. This Mayo Clinic explanation is simple and straightforward.
Choosing High Calorie Backpacking Food
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