The Best Backpacking Foods for a Long Journey

Bring Plenty of Protein

On a backpacking trip, it's important to choose foods that provide fuel for an extended amount of time. Protein and complex carbohydrates should make up the bulk of food items present.

Empty calories—like those that come in the form of cookies and candy—should be included in very small quantities (if at all), as they take up valuable space without actually providing any nutritional benefits.

For protein, salami and tuna are excellent choices. They take up little space, can be kept at room temperature, and provide a ton of protein. Beef jerky is another suitable choice—just try to find minimally processed jerky.

For vegetarians and vegans, some of the best protein sources include nuts, seeds, peanut butter, and protein shake mix—particularly soy or hemp protein. Before your journey, divide individual servings of protein powder into sandwich bags. This will minimize the amount of space used in the backpack and eliminate the need for measuring servings while on the go.

Don't Forget the Carbs

Carbs are essential for energy on long backpacking trips. As with protein, you need carbs that can hold up for long periods without refrigeration.

Bring plenty of dried fruit, granola, and energy bars. Canned foods—like canned fruits and veggies—should be a kept to a minimum, as they take up a lot of room and can weigh you down. If you do need cans, pack only those that are essential and try to find the smallest cans possible.

For breakfast, oatmeal packets should be on your list. Just add a bit of hot water, and you have a delicious instant breakfast. Be sure to bring along a portable kettle or another heating device. With this tool on hand, you can also bring dense, carb-rich foods like ramen noodles, instant rice, and pasta.

If you can't live without bread, consider packing whole wheat tortillas. The slow-digesting whole wheat is an excellent carb source, and tortillas hardly take up any room.

Freeze-dried foods are also worth considering. While they can be a bit costly, they are worth their weight. They last a very long time, provide a wealth of nutrients, and weigh next to nothing.

Stay Hydrated

Of course, hydration is absolutely essential, so make sure to bring water, water, and more water. Pack no less than two liters per day for leisurely trips and as much as one liter per hour for long, arduous hikes. Powdered drinks can break up the monotony of drinking water all day. Consider bringing powdered milk and powdered electrolyte drinks.

Can't decide on the best place to go hiking? See our list of the best destinations for solo travelers.