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Spend Some Time To Make Smart Choices

by Diane Spicer

Meet Hiking For Her’s Diane

On the topic of best trail food selection, here’s a great general
question from the Hiking For Her mailbag that covers a lot of ground:

“Why is it important to carefully select your food while hiking?”

Right up there with:

“What should I eat on a hike?”

Where to begin?

At first, when I read this question, I was stumped for a place to begin.

This is a huge question for any hiker, trail food selection, and it has many layers.

I’ve been hiking a long time, and I’ve worked through several health issues to arrive at hiking food which gives me strength and endurance WITHOUT giving me stomach aches.

Going gluten free, for example.

So I had to sit down and really think about this question.

And I realized that you can take the answer in several directions.

So here is my “final” answer, in seven part harmony.

  • Consider each factor separately.
  • Then blend them into the perfect backpacking food for your hiking trip.

Before we even get started, here’s something no one talks about: trail food and your mood on the trail.

Your mood on a hike is tied to the amount and type of hiking food you select. For more tips on trail food selection, go to Hiking For Her.#hiking #hikingfood #trailsnacks

Weight & bulk of backpacking food

If you are going on a multi-day trip, you
need to be careful about how much each meal will weigh.

  • And whether it will all fit into your pack (and bear cannister, if needed).

Even freeze dried backpacking
gets heavy, if you are carrying 3 meals plus snacks for each day.

On a day hike, weight probably isn’t a worry unless you have a
knee or back injury
that you need to be mindful of


you will be carrying other gear
such as a heavy
camera lens, tripod, field guides, water filter, etc.

As for bulkiness, the less packaging around your food, the better. You will need to spend some hours un-packaging, and re-packaging, all of it into the smallest possible footprint.

It’s worth it!


If you are planning lots of elevation
gain and lots of distance on your hike, your body will ask for a slow
steady release of energy throughout the day.

That’s when you want an
appropriate balance
between complex carbohydrates, protein, and good fats.

If you’re
facing a flat, slow hike, you can get away with less planning and make
up your
calorie deficit with a hearty dinner.

Underlying all of this is
how well you digest your food.

Some hikers get cramps if they eat a
heavy lunch and get back on the trail right away.

Eating small meals
more frequently might be easier on the digestive system, which needs to

keep supplying glucose
and other nutrients to the skeletal muscles as
they contract and relax.

Sometimes the best hiking food comes in small bites, spaced several hours apart.


If you don’t do careful planning or order food ahead of time online, you are at
the mercy of whatever is on the grocery store shelf, in terms of trail food selection.

the other hand, if you take time to
find good recipes you can prepare
from low cost ingredients, and prepare your own
trail snacks, you can
save a bundle over a hiking season.

Sometimes paying more for convenience is worth it. Other times, you’re willing to put in the time to save the dime (and dollars).

Calculate the value of your time and decide if you’d rather put your attention on planning the hiking destinations rather than the menu.


In the middle of a hiking trip is NOT the
best place to try new foods, or new flavors of old favorites.

I have
done this a couple of times, and regretted it every time.

Being hungry
due to unpalatable (or downright inedible) food robs you of hiking

But more importantly, it deprives you of much needed
nutrients for your hard working body.

Keep records of what you really, really like and bring it along to make your backpacking trip enjoyable.


Read all of the labels on your backpacking food, or the ingredients that go into your own creations.

Avoid preservatives, excessive
amounts of sugar
(which masquerades under many names including glucose, fructose,
sucrose, corn syrup, and many more), and artificial coloring.

If you
know you’re allergic to an ingredient, you might not even see it listed
on the label, because in the U.S. the label can use vague terms such as

Again, don’t try a new food out on the trail if you have
food sensitivities, because you don’t want to trigger a reaction when
you’re away from help.

If you prefer organic backpacking food, read this.

If you’re a paleo backpacker, read this.

For more detailed information about planning a menu for hiking trips, go here.

If someone else is in charge of the menu, communicate carefully with her/him so that your expectations and requirements are met.


A savvy hiker is conscious of the importance of planning carefully for a hiking trip, which includes

But  it
also includes carrying proper amounts of food and water.

Food safety tips

Clean hands, clean food prep, and a clean camp keep bears and bacteria away.

attention to detail during trail food selection separates a casual hiker
from a veteran hiker.

If you want to do the job right, here’s some help.

Preparation of your trail food selection

Now that you’ve got a menu all lined up, how are you going to prepare it?

You’ll need recipes, tips and techniques, right?

Here’s a great book to get you started on the ins and outs of choosing the best backpacking food, by folks who take all sorts of people into the backcountry: National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

Hiking trail heading into the mountainsBe sure you’ve made the right trail food selection for your trip!

Trail food selection

So there you have it:

Seven different directions to an answer about how to accomplish trail
food selection.

Let me know if you have other questions
about the best hiking and backpacking food, I’d be glad to help.

You might like to read these next

Home page > Hiking Nutrition >

Trail Food Selection

About the author

Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.

She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.

Hiking For Her: Hiking tips you can trust!

As an Amazon Associate Hiking For Her earns from qualifying purchases.

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