One of the most important things to keep you going during a multi-day trek is food. In certain places in the world you can buy your food along the way, such as in the mountain huts in Austria or in the refugios in Patagonia. Even though I consider it a total luxury when I don’t have to cook my own meals during a trekking, I also like experimenting with food on multi-day treks. In New Zealand we became pretty creative in carrying as little food as possible so we could even bring some beer or wine occasionally. Life is all about priorities after all.
Why not to eat dehydrated meals
It’s a fact that you won’t make it to the top of the mountain without eating. Your body needs the fuel in order to make it and unless you want to survive in nature Bear Grylls style, you will often have to carry your own food. Although I am a big eater, I can easily limit myself to just the necessary while on a multi-day trek. Each gram counts, especially while going up.
After experimenting with food for trekking for nearly fifteen years now, we always end up bringing more or less the same food on a trek. A lot of carbs, nuts and calories. You will notice that, when you visit outdoor stores, you will have to pay a lot for dehydrated meals. Most times they are extremely disgusting. Each year we at least try them once and end up disappointed because all they taste like is salt. We had a great discussion about this with a bunch of Australians on the Overland Track in Tasmania. They had brought nothing but food from bags for the duration of six days, three meals a day. Needless to say that they were fed up with the food after two days already.
It’s totally unnecessary to eat freeze dried meals on multi-day treks. They are not healthy and even though they are easy to prepare, they are overpriced and not worth your pennies, in my humble opinion.
Food on multi-day treks: our tips
Luckily you don’t necessarily have to eat out of expensive food to get some kind of decent food on your multi-day treks. We will give you an overview of what we generally carry.
When on a trekking, we limit ourselves to taking only the necessary hiking food. Each day we have a set supply of food. Years of experience has learned us that a certain amount of food is generally enough to get me through the day and that the amount of food I’m mentioning below, works for me. However, you should really try for yourself because everyone is different and needs either more or less food than below. It took us quite a few years to find the perfect amount. Our menu for the day usually looks more or less as follows:
Forget the expensive breakfast from bags from the outdoor store. You can easily make it yourself.
Ingredients for 2 people:
– 75 grams of oatmeal
– 1 bag of milkpowder
– 500 ml of water
– 50 gram nuts and raisins
– optional: dried fruits, M&M’s, chias seeds, linseed, goji berries
Snack moment 1:
After breakfast I’m usually hungry again within two hours. As I once wrote in my confessions of a hiking travel blogger, my body just works like this. As a first snack I usually take a muesli bar. My favorites are those of Eat Natural, however they are pretty expensive so when travelling a longer period of time, those of the homebrand will do. Sometimes I buy chocolate bars such as Mars or Snickers, the latter one works best for me as it also contains nuts. If it’s super warm, I try to avoid chocolate and if I buy it, then I try to eat it at the start of the day.
For the first day we usually carry fresh bread with cheese or peanut butter. However it tends to get moldy quickly and so for the rest of the day we bring biscuits. In The Netherlands we have really strong ones called Hartkeks which can be bought at Bever, a Dutch outdoor store. They have twelve biscuits in one package and we always carry them when abroad. We usually cover them with jam or peanut butter. We try to buy tiny packages of them, if they are not available we bring a small jar. Usually we share one packet of biscuits, which is more than enough for the two of us for lunch.
Snack moment 2:
By the end of the afternoon you may have already reached your final destination for the day, but sometimes it happens you still have to go for a while. For the last bit of the walk, I generally prepare our homepacked trailmix. I got the idea when I found it in Alaska but a small bag of about 100 grams was three dollars. Now I just buy a set of zip lock bags, a few packages of homebrand M&M’s, peanuts and raisins and I make my own trailmix. Sometimes we eat all of it with our afternoon tea, sometimes we have some left and use it for our breakfast for the next morning.
Even though we carry everything, we always eat three courses at night. You need to take care of yourself when you have worked hard so by then, I always feel like I earned a good meal. We always start with some soup from a bag (chicken, veggie or tomato) and then we share a bag of pasta. We like to vary in tastes but our favorites are bolognese, carbonara and pesto.
We always make sure to add some veggies such as tomatoes, mushrooms or peppers, especially since I usually crave fresh food after a couple of days. Plus they don’t leave you with any rubbish which, in most cases, you will also have to carry out. As a desert we have chocolate, we usually take a 500 gram piece with us which we’ll eat over the days. One night I’ll eat more and one night I’ll eat none, however I always make sure to have some left until the very last day. This last part of our dinner is a real treat as I’m a total choc-a-holic!
Backpacking food ideas
This is basically the trek food that we carry up the mountain when we are hiking and have to take care of our own meals. Of course it also depends on the number of days we’re walking and whether we are also carrying our tent or not. On a short trek we’ll usually bring some more food, if it’s a longer trek we stick to the above. However we always make sure to bring one extra day of food, just in case you may not be able to continue your trek. It happened to us once we took too little with us and we ended up being really hungry, which is not something you want to happen, trust me on that!
How to know how much backcountry food you’ll need?
Well I’d say it’s best to just go ahead and try how much you’ll need when it concerns food on a multi day hike. It all depends on your own energy level. During my most recent treks in New Zealand I backpacked from hut to hut and as I didn’t have to bring a tent and sleeping mat. So instead I brought a little extra food, such as boiled eggs which are a great source of energy.
Conclusion and disclaimer for this multi day hike food blog
This article about food on multi-day treks was first published in June 2016 and updated in February 2020. I hope you found my tips useful, let me know if you have any questions! This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through those links, I may earn a small commission at no extra fee to you!
Also make sure to check out my article with the best 24 multi-day hikes in the world, I’m sure you’ll find some new trails to add to your bucket list. Enjoy!