As I was planning for my inaugural backpacking trip with my six-year old twins, I spent a lot of time planning what our meals would be.
There are lots of options when choosing what kind of food to take backpacking, and let’s be honest, food can definitely make or break a trip. So what should you take?
Now that depends…
What to eat is another one of those highly personal decisions that really only you can make, but hopefully by giving you a peak into the process I used to decide what we were going to take, I can help make your decisions easier.
While planning for our trip I broke the food into SIX CATEGORIES:
- Snack/energy for hike
- “Campfire” food (or an evening snack if we couldn’t have a campfire)
SNACK/ENERGY FOR HIKE:
When choosing snacks to give us energy during a hike, I try to choose things that have a reasonable amount of sugar – the sugar is what gives you the ready to use energy – and are easy to carry.
Ideally, I would’ve made homemade power bars where I could control all the ingredients and avoid all the extra things that get put into commercial bars. Of course, my life is never in a state where things are happening ideally, so I had to go with commercially made. I just simply didn’t have the time (or maybe it was the energy) to make them myself – there is always next time.
In the case of our hike to Mystic Beach, we didn’t really need extra energy in our snack. The hike just wasn’t long enough. But, it’s a treat for my kids, and it really motivates them, so I just took a hit on the sugar karma for this one.
- Made Good Chocolate Chip Granola Minis (for the hike in)
- “Simply Delicious” Protein Cookie (for the hike out)
- “Simply Delicious” Protein Cookie (for the hike in)
- Simply Protein Bar (for the hike out)
- Luna bar (both hiking in and out) – I prefer the lemon one.
My process for choosing snacks was basically the same as that for hiking except that I really tried to choose lower sugar options (trying to keep our sugar intake low is something I think is important).
Once again, I didn’t have enough time to make our snacks. I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s a challenge to find pre-packaged food that isn’t full of sugar. Even the products that are marketed as ‘healthy,’ ‘natural,’ and/or ‘organic’ are often chocked full of sugar – so check labels if sugar intake is important to you.
The following are the snacks that we had for the trip:
- Dried apples
- Made Good Clusters x 2
- Simply Protein Bar x 1
- Homemade moose jerky
- Dried apples
- Made Good Clusters (chocolate chip granola and strawberry granola) x 2
- Homemade moose jerky
- Simply Protein Bar (Lemon coconut) x 2
When it comes to your main meals, one of the main decisions is whether to take dehydrated food or not.
DEHYDRATED OR NOT? Things to consider:
- What do you like to eat?!
- Pretty self-explanatory I think.
- Will your kids eat the rehydrated food?
- If your kids are picky, it might be a good idea to either avoid the dehydrated food or at least have them try some before you go. The reality is that dehydrated food tastes and feels different no matter how good of a product it is.
- Availability of freshwater.
- Mystic beach has a freshwater stream where we could get water, so I didn’t have to carry all of our water – WATER IS HEAVY!
- If there isn’t water available on site dehydrated food might not be the best option as the lighter weight of the dehydrated food is offset by having to carry the water to prepare it.
I chose dehydrated because I could get the water on site, thus it really lessened the weight of the food.
The dehydrated meals made especially for backpacking are one option; however, a quick search on the internet gives lots of ideas for how to make your own. Plus there are lots of ‘instant’ foods available at the regular grocery store – things like Lipton Side Kicks.
Due to the time constraints I was under, I chose to go with ready-made. I decided to go all out and buy the dehydrated foods that are marketed for backpacking. There are some really interesting meals, plus there is the bonus that you can prepare the meal right in the packaging which makes washing up much easier.
WHAT WE ATE:
- TWINS: Alpine Air 3 Cheese Lasagna (they shared one package)
- Me: Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai
- Instant Oatmeal – 2 packs per person (watch the sugar content here, it really varies between brands)
- TWINS: Backpackers Pantry 3 Cheese Mac and Cheese (they shared one package)
- ME: Backpackers Cuban Coconut Black Beans and Rice
- TWINS: Backpackers Mango Sticky Rice (they shared one package)
- ME: Leftovers from lunch
- Instant Oatmeal – 2 packs per person
- TWINS: Alpine Aire Chicken and Vegetable Gravy with Mashed Potatoes
- ME: Mountain House Beef Stew
I wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to have a fire. It is permissible to use the driftwood, but Mystic Beach is a very popular spot, and I was pretty sure that the driftwood would be very picked over (I was right).
Another consideration is that when it’s nice and hot out, a campfire is really just a luxury that has a heavy impact on the environment.
BUT, my twins LOVE MARSHMALLOWS.
In fact I’m pretty sure that they don’t really consider it camping if there aren’t any marshmallows involved – yes this makes my heart hurt a little or is that my conscience?
Marshmallows present two problems
- They are basically just sugar, and I don’t even want to know what else.
- They need to be roasted, so a fire of some kind is necessary. Yes, you can roast them over the camp stove, but it really isn’t the same thing at all.
I found a solution by accident – it worked for us, it might not work for you. I was trying the Coconut flavoured Whey Bar by Simply Protein, and I realized that they kind of tasted like Rice Krispie squares. So, I told my kids they were Rice Krispie squares specially designed for backpacking. They didn’t even question it.
The Simply Protein bars are high protein and low sugar.
- Except I forgot the tea strainer so couldn’t actually make tea because I brought loose leaf tea.
- Kool-Aid Liquids
- Sometimes the water that comes available at backpacking sites doesn’t taste super great, so I always bring some kind of flavouring just in case.
- It worked out well this time because even though the water tasted fine, I couldn’t make the tea, so I just made heated up flavoured water.
- ME: I carried 2 liters of water from home.
- TWINS: They each carried about 500 ml water from home.
When heading into the back country, it’s good practice to take more food than you think you’ll need. You never know what kind of emergencies could come up. And even though you can go a very long time without food, kids get cranky really fast when they are hungry, so…
In addition to the above listed food, we took the following:
- An extra dehydrated meal
- An extra protein cookie
- An extra Simply Protein Bar for each person
SUMMING IT ALL UP
Choosing your food for a backpacking trip doesn’t have to be complicated. There are just a few decisions to make, and then you are off.
You probably noticed that there weren’t any fresh fruits and veggies listed. Fresh fruits and veggies are heavy because they contain a lot of water, and they don’t keep very well if it’s hot. I figured that we eat ample fruits and veggies in our day to day life, so I wasn’t worried about their absence in our backpacking cuisine.
If you choose to go with the backpacker meals, remember that if the backpacker meal is the only thing you will be eating for that meal, you might need two servings versus one. Most of the backpacker meals will say if they are for two or four people. I find that two-person size is just right for one adult. My kids very happily shared the two-person size.
I’m hoping to spend some time over the winter figuring out the DIY backpacking meal – I will definitely share that process with you.
I would love to hear about your favourite backpacking meals.
If you are interested in what gear we took with us, you can find it here.
If you enjoyed reading, please help me out by ‘sharing’ with your friends on your favourite social media sites 🙂