Eating on the Trail

Hint: it’s not s’mores. I just had an urge to use that cover photo…

Usually, when you mention dining in nature, people either assume you’re eating really shitty foods (or even nothing) or that you’re breaking out the cast iron skillet and going glamping. I am a bit of a camp foodie, I once made my campers savory crepes on a propane stove. But that was camping, not backpacking. People sometimes confuse the two and think that I will be making dutch oven lasagna while hiking on the trail. The best way to handle this is to explain that everything you eat, you have to carry. While I would love to assume I can make a fire everywhere I camp, that will not be the case. I am stuck with my tiny backpacker stove that has room for one meal at a time. I have to be smart, efficient, cheap and healthy (as far as caloric intake) while eating on a backpacking trip. Below is what I ate on the trail on my past trips and my menu for the upcoming one.

On my first backpacking trip, we were just a group of teenage girls from the Girl Scout camp with outdated packs and oversized tents. There were seventeen of us, fourteen campers and three counselors. I think because we were such a large group or because of minimal camp supplies, we took a two burner propane stove on the trail. Several of us had large pots hanging from our packs. And so, because this was my first and only backpacking trip, I thought that bringing a propane stove on the trail was totally normal and people did it all the time. Since that trip, the only other group I have seen do this were a bunch of Boy Scouts.

We cooked rice and mac and cheese, only we did it in giant pots to feed almost twenty. For lunch, we dined on pd and j wraps (everyone was going crazy for wraps in 2007) and for breakfast, we were given two Nature Valley bars. Oh, and there were mega bags of GORP being passed around continuously and one bag of Jolly Ranchers where all the reds were being fought over. Pretty basic food menu that worked.

Seven years later, when my boyfriend, Steve, and I hiked a tiny backpacking trip, we immediately ixnayed bringing any kind of a stove. Since it was just an overnight, we got some deli subs and granola bars and called it a day.

On the last backpacking trip, Jess and I planned out our meals pretty efficiently. I finally learned about this awesome thing called a backpacking stove and bought a really intense one. For breakfast, we decided on granola bars and oatmeal. I even brought coffee which I didn’t even end up drinking. For lunch, we ate more granola bars, GORP, and jerky. We also were in a National Park which meant two of the days we were there, we were able to stop and get burgers, cheese fries, and sandwiches. And for dinner, we mainly stuck to Rice Roni assorted flavors. We over packed a bit, especially with the GORP (stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts…with some chocolate). We were so use to making it for camper groups that we over shot how much we needed. Thankfully, we were in the park at peak thru hiking season and we’re able to give it a good home.

My Menu for the Upcoming Trip

Again, I will be stopping in a town on day six of my trail. As explained in my packing post, I estimate that I should bring 8.5 pounds a food for my first six days. I also need around 2000 calories a day. My food has to be light in weight but heavy in calories, which is a bit of a struggle. Also, I want to spend less than thirty dollars on all of it. I work at a non profit and this vacation has cost me a little. I don’t have the funds to go REI and buy those really cool looking backpacker meals (though it was really tempting). 

Here goes, every meal starts with…


For breakfast, I am alternating between almond blueberry oatmeal or chocolate raspberry oatmeal.

Each bag has:

1 Cup of Oatmeal

A jumbo handful of fruit/nuts

and a sprinkle of chocolate chips if its a raspberry one!

I used freeze dried fruit instead of dried because its tastier and lighter. We’ll see how tired of oats I am by the end of the trip.


Literally, just a rainbow of KIND bars. I realized I need more protean too, so I also have ready to eat salmon and salmon jerky. I’ve never been into canned or dried meats and couldn’t get into tuna either. If you’re like me, I highly recommend the Trader Joe’s salmon jerky.



I have some Velveeta (my camping guilty pleasure) and Rice Roni packets in there. Its assorted flavors and I tried to avoid the ones that require milk or oil (a benefit of Velveeta).

And for snack….well…when I was packing my pack, I realized my snack food was a little too heavy and too big. Now I am on the fence about whether or not I should bring my GORP baby on the trail. Hence the confused/sad/serious look on my face in the photo below.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset
A confused girl with her GORP the size of a small animal.

I’m sure my food when I resupply will look a lot different. It will probably be junkier and cheaper. I made the mistake last year where I packed too much food. This time around I only packed one extra meal. My tips for any first time backpacker is to set a budget and while you can plan for the worst, be realistic about your surroundings. Bring an extra bar or two, but don’t pack two huge extra meals unless you’ve accepted that your worrisome self is going to cost you weight/space. I know for a fact that I will be walking past two grocery stores. I’m not going to panic over food if there’s somewhere to stop along the way.

I hope this post gave some guidance on what to eat while it’s on your back! I’m sure when I am actually hiking, I will be cursing myself on my choices and dreaming about pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Happy cooking (or really just unwrapping and boiling water)!


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