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How Much Food and Water Should I Take on a Backpacking Trip? What Should I Eat?

If you are new to backpacking, you most likely have questions about how much food and water to take along. You probably know the amount of nutritious provisions needed for a short trek,  yet packing the right type and amount of food and drink for a longer trip can be difficult to figure out. The tricky aspect is determining how much food per day you will need to stay well fueled. The next question is how you can avoid carrying too much weight.

You also need to remember that good hydration while hiking and camping is just as essential as adequate nutrition. Remember, too, that water weighs more than 2 lbs. per liter. You need to carry at least 2 lbs. of food for every day of your trek. For this reason, packing an excess of water can make your adventures on the trail stressful and tiring. You can stay healthy and enjoy trekking by carrying a sensible supply of water and replenishing it at water sources along the way.

Learning How Much Water to Carry When Backpacking

Most reliable health sources recommend that we all consume about 2 liters of water each day, just for a normal lifestyle. When you are out on the trail, your body needs much more hydration than that. You should pre-hydrate before starting out on a backpacking trip. This can help you limit how much water you will carry. Trekking pros suggest drinking about one liter of water near the time of your departure. This prepares your system for the fluid loss that you experience while trekking. It also enables you to avoid carrying the excess weight of extra water supplies on your back.
Experienced trekkers recommend sipping water frequently throughout each day on the trail. This is crucial when backpacking in warm climates or during hot seasonal weather. You should keep your body hydrated by consuming one liter of water every hour on sweltering days or at high altitudes. Also, take breaks frequently to maintain good hydration. Even in cold winter weather, your body loses significant amounts of fluids as you hike. After your evening meal each night, drink one more liter of water to revitalize your entire system.

Do You Need to Pack More Than 2 Lbs. of Food?

Will packing 2 lbs. of food be sufficient to keep you well-fed on your next backpacking trip? To be sure that your food supply will last for the duration of your trekking adventure, consider several basic factors: If trekking during hot, humid weather or during the heat of summer, you will need plenty of light, nutritional snacks and meal foods. These will be lighter in weight than the more hearty food needed for autumn or early winter mountainside hikes. Cold-weather foods usually weigh more and can require more packing space. The overall weight of your rations can vary depending on the climate and season. 

Although it is good planning to carry a few extra snacks when backpacking, you should refrain from over-packing rations. If you take along an extra 25 to 30 percent of food, you are destined to haul significant extra weight. The problem often begins if you pack rations for one extra day of trekking and then decide to take more. After all, you may end up on the trail for longer than you think. Now you are definitely going to carry too heavy a load. You need to determine how much food per day is enough.  

Some experienced hikers and campers suggest taking a one-day trek as a trial trip. Fill your backpack with all of the gear that you may need for a longer trip. Then add enough rations to keep you well-fed for three or four days. You may be amazed at how heavy your backpack feels after just a short time on the trail. Hauling the extra weight also makes you feel tired and hungry more frequently than usual. In fact, most trekkers find that packing extra rations only makes them experience energy depletion. In addition, they eat and drink water more often, which also reduces their supply of extra rations, which defeats the purpose of packing extra.  

To determine good trail nutritional goals, try eating your trekking diet at home the week before your next backpacking excursion. Exercise to burn calories and use energy, and then see how you feel. If you get hungry quickly or feel less than energetic, you need to backpack with higher energy foods. Pack more natural foods and snacks that contain higher counts of protein, vitamins and minerals. These rations will supply you with fast and lasting energy boosts. Then take another short trek and see how you feel and perform.

What Types of Food to Eat While Backpacking

The amount of calories needed for healthy backpacking varies from trekker to trekker. Sports nutrition experts estimate that the average backpacker burns from 300 to 600 calories every hour. At that rate, you can burn 2,000 to 6,000 calories daily while on the trail. When hiking over flat, gently rolling or sloping terrain, your caloric use is most likely around 2,000 calories per day. However, if you trek over rugged terrain or rocky, steep ground, the count is much higher. Hiking in this type of terrain, you can easily burn 6,000 calories daily. So, how much food per day will fill this need?   

Your best plan is to take foods that are lightweight and calorie-dense. You can cook an easy and nutritious dinner starting with a packet of feather-weight noodles. Use natural ingredients like freeze-dried chicken, nuts, coconut, berries and fresh ginger, garlic, turmeric, olive oil and lemon. With the use of a Jetboil, you can prepare a fast, healthy meal within five minutes.

Folks with other tastes in food can enjoy a variety of freeze-dried dinners. Prepare your favorites like Beef Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin or Mediterranean-style fish or lamb with olives and herbs. Just add steaming hot water to the mix and cool slightly. As you gain experience, you will know how much food per day to pack.   

By combining many of your lightweight ingredients in plastic containers, you can pack them easily  and save space. You will have room to include extra light, energizing snacks like nuts, seeds, dried fruits and granola or muesli bars. Chocolate bars are also tasty and good for energy. 

Breakfast for Champion Trekkers

Combine oats, walnuts, cashews, almonds, chia seeds, goji berries, cranberries, peanut butter, organic cacao powder and honey for a super-breakfast. Just by adding a cup or more of boiling water, you can enjoy a powerhouse, energizing and satisfying meal. You can start your day with some healthy nutrition and be ready for the trail, without stress, fuss or muss. For convenience and to save space, pack ingredients for each morning’s meal in a separate zip-lock baggie. A nutrient-rich breakfast and a cup of coffee, herb tea or matcha green tea is a combo not to be surpassed.

Simple, Nutritious Lunch on the Trail

Wraps make excellent lunches for your hiking and camping trips. When you backpack in warm or hot climates, peanut butter and jelly, jam or honey make safe and energizing wraps. In cold weather, you can safely pack ham, salami, cheeses and spinach for making wraps without worries about spoilage. Ingredients for wraps are easy to pack, require small amounts of space and are lightweight. Dehydrated soups are also good choices for backpacking lunches. They can help reduce weight and help you determine how much food per day you need. Since soups help to keep you hydrated, they also enable you to limit how much water to carry when hiking.

Nutrient-Rich Foods for Healthy Backpacking Adventures

Natural foods that are easy to carry in your backpack and contain high nutritional counts include the following:

• Oats. When you include oats in your diet, you benefit from a healthy intake of numerous vitamins and antioxidants. Oats are very high in magnesium content, which is ideal for good muscle recovery after a long day on the trail. 

• Nuts. By eating nuts daily while trekking, you gain good energy reserves. Your system also benefits from healthy protein and fats that enable you to hike up slopes or over rough terrain. You can engage in a strenuous hike without experiencing fatigue. 

• Chia Seeds. These seeds are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which your body thrives on. When you eat chia seeds regularly on backpacking trips, your blood will have lower fat counts. This keeps your heart healthy. Consuming chia seeds also supports good joint health and promotes general anti-inflammatory activity for your body. These nutritious seeds are also among the most lightweight foods that you can carry in your pack.
• Cacao. This amazing food has more than 40 times the number of antioxidants found in blueberries. It also has a vast amount of magnesium for muscular comfort and strength. Its light chocolate fragrance and flavor are also a pleasant perk. This food is an excellent choice for long backpacking excursions.  

• Goji Berries. Adding dried goji berries to your daily diet will keep your body’s supplies of Vitamins A and C high. These two vitamins will keep your immune system healthy while you enjoy the outdoor lifestyle of a trekker. 
• Dates. These delicious natural treats are high in many vitamins and minerals. In addition, their high levels of natural sugar give you a fast and lasting energy boost for life on the trail. Eating dates can help keep you from dehydrating on strenuous treks. Since they are nutrient-rich, dates are the perfect choice for long backpacking trip adventures.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backpacking Foods

1. Should You Freeze-Dry Foods for Backpacking Trips?

You can freeze-dry your foods for backpacking trips, if you like. This helps you determine how much food per day you can pack in smaller containers. However, you must buy a device and practice until you perfect your technique. Most hikers and campers find that purchasing freeze-dried foods from leading commercial sources can be best. These prepared freeze-dried foods can help you pack lighter.   

2. How Much Food Repackaging Should You Do When Packing?

Do as much practical repackaging of food items as possible before your next backpacking excursion. By repacking foods in lightweight plastic containers and zip-lock bags, you can carry more rations without overloading your backpack.            

Questions Asked Most Often About Water Supplies for Trekking

1. Are Bottles or Bladders Better for Carrying Water for Backpacking?

This choice is based on individual preference. When using a bladder, you can hydrate along the trail without stopping, since the bladder refills via a reservoir system. You will be better able to determine how much water to carry while hiking since you will stay well hydrated on the trail. However, bladders are not as durable as bottles and can puncture. Water bladders are also more difficult to clean than bottles.   

2. What Are the Best Water Purifying Methods for Hiking?

Most experts agree that regardless of what type of water purification system you favor, you need a backup system. If you use a water bladder, it may leak. This possibility can influence how much water you carry while hiking. A bottle may become brittle and crack. If you use a UV pen to purify water, its batteries may give out. If you prefer to use water purification tablets, you may lose them, or they may be damaged during trekking and camping.  It is best to plan ahead.

Foods to Buy for Your Backpacking Excursions

Healthy meals and snack foods to buy and pack for your next trekking and camping trips include the following: 

B07QTKLN4Y - Heather's Choice, Buckwheat Breakfast Variety Pack

1. Heather’s Choice, Buckwheat Breakfast Variety Pack. This wholesome variety of backpacking breakfast foods contains dehydrated foods that are allergen-friendly. It includes delicious combinations of natural apples, cherries, bananas, strawberries and blueberries for high-energy trekking. These fruits also help you stay hydrated and can help you limit how much water you carry. This product is an ideal choice for what to eat while backpacking.

B07M959L1S - A Dozen Cousins Chickpeas Ready to Eat, Vegan and Seasoned Beans Made with Avocado Oil

2. A Dozen Cousins Meals Ready to Eat. These flavorful meals contain vegan and non-GMO seasoned beans with avocado oil (Trini Chickpea Curry, 6-Pack). They contain 100 percent plant-sourced protein. This is an excellent example of what to eat when backpacking. Just heat and eat. 

B00E1XPYB2 - Justin's Honey Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs

3. Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs. These packs contain pure peanut butter that is gluten-free and non-GMO. It is an ideal choice for backpacking. It is responsibly sourced and is sold in 10-packs of 1.15 ounces each. This healthy snack is convenient to carry on the trail for fast energy. It keeps your system hydrated, and it can also limit how much water you carry.

B07D1CFS8Z - Kate’s Real Food Granola Bars 12 Pack

4. Kate’s Real Food Granola Bars 12 Pack. These lemon coconut Bivy bars contain only organic ingredients. They are gluten-free and non-GMO for clean, health energy and stamina while trekking. 

Rations Gear for Your Next Trekking Adventure

B07PRB4DLM - SurviMate Filtered Water Bottle

1. SurviMate Filtered Water Bottle BPA Free. This water bottle design, with a 4-stage integrated filter straw, is ideal for camping, hiking and backpacking. Lightweight and easy to use on the trail, both the bottle and its filter have a guaranteed long life. There is also a convenient compass on the bottle top to keep you trekking in the right direction. You can replenish you water supply at healthy sources during your trek. Using this safe water bottle and filtering system, you can reduce how much water you carry. 

B00FA2RLX2 - Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System

2. Sawyer Products MINI Water Filtration System. This mini-filtration system can remove 99.9999 percent of all bacteria and protozoa from water. Compact and lightweight, it is perfect for using on trekking and camping trips. This system includes one mini-filter, a reusable squeeze pouch (16-ounce) and a 7-inch drinking straw. Also included is a convenient plunger for cleaning. 

B019GPK0X6 - Jetboil MiniMo Camping Stove Cooking System

3. Jetboil MiniMo Camping Stove Cooking System. This small, lightweight cooking system uses FluxRing technology. It can reach a high boiling point in a little more than two minutes. This system is sold with a fuel canister stabilizer and pot support. It provides the perfect cooking system for backpackers. 


For beginning backpackers, getting advice from trekking pros and listening to their personal experiences will help you understand rations quantities and help you determine how much food and water to take on treks. You will better understand what to eat when backpacking to stay healthy and strong. By experimenting on 1-day trial hikes, you can determine the quantity of rations that you need for longer trips. With this expert advice, and by shopping around, you can find favorite food choices for meals and snacks on the trail,, and learn about water purification systems and popular choices for cooking systems.

Ultimately, these decisions will be yours to make. While becoming a backpacking pro yourself, you will also gain expertise in selecting your ideal foods, beverages and rations gear.

Best wishes for happy trekking and many exciting adventures along the trail.

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