T Nation

Backpacking Nutrition

Before I had any interest in bodybuilding, I was an avid hiker/backpacker. I’ve been on many challenging hikes involving climbing, long distances, high altitudes…etc.

I am currently planning a backpacking trip that will last about 6 days and be a relatively easy hike, but we intend to incorporate some more intense distractions.

We’ll each have ~60 pound packs and will be hiking ~10 miles a day with one, possibly two layovers that will be occupied by climbing.

I’ve made decent gains size/strength wise in the passed few months(about 8-10 pounds of mostly muscle), My diet has been pretty much perfect, save for perhaps a little bit too much fat sometimes. My workouts aren’t as intense as they could be due largely to not having a barbell+really heavy weights, but I make the most of what I have, and I certainly push myself hard.

Now, however, I am worried that my gains will vanish pretty readily as I’m out in the woods sustaining on a much more restricted diet(by necessity).

Any backpackers here that have any suggestions of foodstuff that I can bring to keep my diet relatively in shape, whilst not adding considerable size and weight to our packs.

Already, we’re likely to need bear canisters for parts of this trip, so that will provide something of an inconvenience.

I go camping in summer quite a bit and go hiking myself.
I usually stay out there for a week,sometimes two.

I usually pack foods that are healthy and are high in calories so I don’t have to fish 60 times a day.

Here is my nutrition plan of when I’m camping/hiking.

Lots of bottled spring water(duh)

Coconut milk

Protein powder and BCAA’s

Dried mixed nuts

All natural peanut butter(two tbl spoons has 200 calories!)

Red organic apples,mixed fruits,bananas and berries(don’t need the fridge for these babies-besides,I need to keep up on my fruit intake when I am out there)

Odwalla all natural power/protein bars(made with real fruit and vegetables)

Sprouted grain bread(make a peanut butter sandwhich)

Organic beef jerky(this is probably the BEST thing to bring while on long trips.Cowboys often brought beef jerky on long trips.It’s high in protein,no carbs-for those watching them-and has no crap added to it)
You can buy organic beef jerky from here: http://www.fingerlakesgourmet.com/catalog.asp?prodid=506011

I also dish when I am buy a lake/river.
Just think dried foods.
Thats what you want to bring.
I think you should check out the organic beef jerky ,though.
It’s better tasting than any jerky you’ll find in the stores.


No Bottled water, this is backpacking, not just camping. Protein Powder… probably not, but if I can find a way to take enough for the trip and not make it a big impact on the packs, maybe so. BCAAs. Maybe so… would they really aid in preventing muscle catabolism? That’s my primary concern really. Since I know I won’t be able to maintain a < 3500 calorie intake everyday, and would hate to lose my hard earned progress thus far.

Hiking around with a 60 pound backpack will be a strain on my muscles for sure, So if I can just keep them from being eaten away. that’d be ideal.

Ideally, I wish we didn’t even really need a pot or dishes, but it’s always good to be able to boil water. Morning Oatmeal and stuff.

Yeah… I think I’ll be able to figure it all out. All said and done, my diet as is doesn’t involve a lot of cooking, I mostly eat sandwiches, fruit, veggies and meat at restaurants. It should be easy enough to transfer that stuff over.

Jerky is a good idea, that and nuts will be the main protein sources I guess. Get some salami maybe, that keeps well in the woods.

I wonder if I could make a powder blend of powdered milk and metabolic drive… thoughts? That would make things a lot more convenient, and it would make our milk more useful.

Fortunately, neither of my partners really cares if they lose some weight on the trip, so that means I can eat whatever leftovers we have.

First question: Where ya going???
I’m bummed. I missed my spring backpacking trip because of bad scheduling differences with my hiking buddy. Hopefully I’ll make it up in the fall.

I never really worry about what I eat when I go backpacking. Carrying 50-60 pounds up and down mountains at altitude burns all kinds of calories and I eat all kinds of food. Plus think of the great volume work your legs are getting! Of course, I come at this from somewhat of an FFB perspective. I gain easy and lose hard.

Anywho, I usually get those prepackaged, dehydrated meals they sell at REI or wherever for around $7 apiece. So easy, so yummy. I’ll get some whole grain cereal with fruit and dehydrated milk for breakfast and stuff like lasagna or whatever sounds good for dinner. They say there are two servings per package. WHATEVA! For lunch I usually snack on jerky (low sodium as possible) trail mix and cheese throughout the day.

If you’re worried about losing weight, definitely take some cheese. It’s calorie dense and doesn’t need refridgeration. Sure, it’s a little heavy, but as you eat it, your pack gets lighter!! And as I’m sure you know, everything tastes better out in the woods.

Happy trails! I’m jealous.

I used to backpack alot in Colorado and New Mexico, and the first dinner of the trip was always my favorite. I’ld freeze a big steak and cook it after the first day’s hike. There is nothing better than a good steak after a long hike. (I’m assuming y’all are allowed open camp fires.) After that its back to eating dehydrated meals or MRE’s.

A couple tips for the steak. One year I packed the steak and my buddy carried a steel lattice to serve as the grill. We stached the grill under a log and picked it up on the return trip. Another option is to fold the steak in half and stab a long stick thru it. Spread out the meat then roast it over the fire. Or you can cut the steak into smaller pieces, put the steak on one end of the stick and poke the stick into the ground. It should stand up and cook the meat as you relax. Just watch out for folks walking around the fire as they may kick dirt and dust onto your meal.

We also used to make homemade granola mixes and beef or turkey jerky to take with us.

I’ve heard unsweetened chocolate is a good hiking food. Lighweight, doesn’t melt as easily as regular chocolate, and calorically dense.

Whole grain bagels are a perfect hiking food. Calorie dense and they keep well.

If you are cooking look for(whole grain)Kraft supermac, it is light and 500 calories per box. Add a packet of tuna or Salmon and it is a perfect meal.

Pre packaged rice and beans.

A great snack for me when out in the bush is walnuts, Goji berries and jerky. It contains all of your macro nutrients as well as some micro-nutrients.


I went camping and packing last week. Didn’t carry any more than your 60 lbs, and managed to bring nuts, nut butter, olives, dried fruits, condensed soups, canned salmon and sardines.

Canned salmon is the shit! You can get 15 oz (that’s almost a pound) in a can for only $2. That one can contains 7 grams of sustaining and partitioning Omega-3’s. Not to mention meeting the “1 lbs of meat per a day” suggested bodybuilding requirement. I only lost two pounds after a week (seven days), and it was fat.

I did also lose a lot of water though, due to not having a steady source and sweating up a storm. My arms were 1/2" smaller, measured when I’d just returned, but quickly regained their size as I’d rehydrated. Muscle is 70% water. No wonder why even 2% dehydration causes a noticable loss of strength.

Make sure you have continuous access to water. Good luck.

Yeah,BCAA’s will come in handy,but you might use the whole bottle or half of it during the whole time you’re there,lol.

Mixed nuts,beef jerky,cheese, all good stuff to bring.

beef jerky is the best though.
It’s high in protein and can go anywhere.

Hey there, I am jealous you are prepping for a trip, I am sure it will be fun. I just got back from a 4-day trip with lots of climbing & will do a few more this month. I’m not sure what you meant by your group not wanting prepared meals. But, if you don’t have a dehydrator- GET ONE! I always make elaborate meals on the trail by dehydrating it before-hand. It takes a while but is damn good when you are out there- you can really make anything.

Snacks: fruit leather, dried apples & bananas, home-made jerky, Berardi’s Precision Nutrition has great “protein bar” recipes that I always take (if you have that cookbook). Cheese, salami & crackers (you can freeze the cheese & salami if needed). Nuts: make your own healthy trail mix.

Meals: you can dehydrate anything. Keep in mind that even if you don’t eat a lot of carbs in your daily training, it isn’t bad to have some extras on the trail (unless you are in contest prep): whole wheat pasta is great. You can make your own sauce & dehydrate it or just get some Lipton noodles. If I go the Lipton route, I always dehydrate something like ham to go in it. You can dehydrate hamburger & make tacos, stroganoff, etc. d

I think the extra weight of a stove & some fuel bottles (less than 2 pounds) is worth it so you can cook some food!

You could get the tuna in pouches too. I have taken protein powder on lots of trips- put it in your oats, mix it with powdered milk, etc. It will at least keep your levels up.
I always sacrifice the extra pound & bring a no-bake cheesecake for 1 night: you can make it in a pan & then put it in a snowbank or river- definately worth it.

Bring your water filter & keep in mind you will eat about twice as much as you would normally, especially if trying to maintain serious muscle mass!

Hey, guys;

How reliable and timely (amounts of fresh water they deliver in a certain period of time) are those pump/filters that are supposed to allow you to pump and filter water out of things like lakes and streams?



[quote]Mufasa wrote:
Hey, guys;

How reliable and timely (amounts of fresh water they deliver in a certain period of time) are those pump/filters that are supposed to allow you to pump and filter water out of things like lakes and streams?



If you get a good filter, they are actually quite fast. You want to filter out of running water if you can & then they are very reliable. I have a “Katadyn” filter & it fills a Nalgene (32 oz.) in about 15 pumps.

'm an experienced mountaineer and a 1 week trip isn’t going to hurt your training. Sure, you’ll loose some weight since it is nearly impossible to carry the number of calories you’ll be burning. You?ll be back to where you were in a week or 2 no problem. I would go for the most calorie dense foods you can find along with foods you enjoy. This is a time to emphasize quantity of quality.

When I’m buying dehydrated meals I’ll check the number of calories per ounce. If you can get 200 calories per ounce of food you are doing well. Also, mixing a carb powder with you water can help keep the energy levels up by making sure you getting calories throughout the day. As people mentioned before nuts, cheese, sausage and jerky are all good. I do like the tuna in a pouch to carry on a trip. The packing is light and it keeps as long as you need it.

Another trick I like to use is to try to eat as much food and drink as many calories as possible the morning before I hit the trail. If I?m driving that morning to the trailhead I may have 3-4 hours from waking before starting. I eat as much as possible since I won?t have to carry this food in my pack. Of course you need to balance this with what you are comfortable hiking on.

Good luck

Seattle and Others:

What Backpacks are you using?

Also; if you have the time and don’t mind…could you give a “rough” list of the foods you throw in your pack for your “average” hike?

Thanks, guys!

This is great!


The main pack I use is a frameless Golite Trek pack. It’s only a little over 2 pounds with good capacity. This type of pack requires a person to be of the “lightweight” mindset. It does not have a lot of padding but if you go with light weight choices in the other areas it should work well. For example I used to use a heavy padded pack of nearly 8 pounds. With my heavy gear my trip weight on my first Mt Rainier climb was about 55 pounds. Now, with light weight choices all around my last Rainier pack weight was 32 pounds.

Most of my outings are 2-3 days. On a trip like that I usually take several bagel, chicken and cream cheese sandwiches. High protein and high calories. I like to take Cytomax powder to mix in my water for additional calories while on the move. For snacks I like mini mounds, cheese, sausage, Ritz and sometimes Pringles (in their crush resistant can). For dinners one of my favorites is dehydrated mashed potatoes with cheese. I?ll take a pouch of tuna along and mix that up. This meal works well for me when camping at altitude when my stomach is a little more sensitive. After writing my common foods above it sounds like I?m a junk food attic. The funny thing is that in the city I follow a Berardi diet pretty closely.

Back at the car I always have 2 liters of Gatorade and a bag of chips. The salt cravings are usually pretty severe when arriving back at the car. I usually drink one liter in one continuous drink and then sip the other while driving to a restaurant (usually 1-2 hours away from the trailhead) to get more regular food. Then I might devour a burger, fries and milkshake at a home-style restaurant. After this, it is back to normal eating. Even on a 2 day trip like this I can?t gain weight because of the extreme calories exertion. Traveling 10-15 miles a day with 3-5,000 feet elevation gain and a good sized pack burns a ton of calories. My main goals with my food choices on a trip are provide enough energy to keep going and minimize any weight loss.


Thanks, Seattle!

Water? (I would guess that on a Mountain like Ranier you would simply melt snow? Bad “newbie” thought? You can tell I’m new at this!)

What do you use for boiling/melting your water?

One last thing; you mentioned “think light” (but I would guess you also have to “think warm”!)

I know its a nutrition thread, but what are you carrying as a sleeping bag and tent?




Don?t worry about being a ?newbie? everyone starts out that way.

Beware, if you ask 5 people about outdoor gear you?ll probably get 5 different opinions. Here are some my preferences. A great site read reviews about outdoor equipment is http://www.backpackgeartest.org/

For my gear I usually think in terms of systems or gear that works together for a common purpose like sleeping or cooking.

When you are traveling and camping in snow most of the time you melt snow for water. To kill bacteria it is recommended to boil water for 3 minutes however I usually filter the water right from the pot as soon as it melts to save on stove fuel. I use a small canister stove. The fuel comes in a sealed compressed gas canister and you simply screw the stove part on the top, open the gas and light it. The particular one I use is called the Pocket Rocket. The stove is only 3-4 ounces. I used to use a white gas stove where the stove was much heavier as well as the fuel bottle. I find this setup is quicker to use and saves a lot of weight (about a pound between stove and fuel for 3 days). The pot I use is also use to boil water for dehydrated dinners. Dinners many times come it a bag that you can just pour boiling water in and let them set about 10 minutes until you food is hot and ready to eat. I rarely bring containers to put my food in that I eat. I find no need. The only thing I might carry is a light weight plastic cup for things like hot chocolate, soup or oatmeal.

For your sleeping system you need to consider a few factors such what surface you will be camping on (snow, dirt, hut). What is the expected weather? On a mountain like Rainier your camp will be exposed to potential wind. I?ve seen tent shredded by high winds. I usually take a 4 season (the fourth season means wind and usually a 4 season tent is rated to about 100 miles per hour wind) tent on Rainier. Tent weight and price is inversely proportional, meaning a $150 tent is going to weight a lot more than a $600 tent. A use a Hilleberg Nallo 2. It?s expensive but it sleep 2 plus all their gear and weight just over 4 pounds. When sleeping on snow I usually take a little more ground insulation since the sleeping bag will do no good if the cold from the ground is coming through. I like to use a ultra light thermarest (3/4 length about 14oz) plus a 3/4 z-rest closed cell pad. This system is about 1 pound lighter than the regular thermarest I used to carry.

For sleeping bags you really need to think about what temperature the night will get down too plus whether or not you tend to sleep cold or not. Sleeping in a tent tends to raise the temp about 10-15 degree right away. I use a 30 degree down bag from Western Mountaineering. It is only 1 pound 9 ounces. I used to carry a zero degree bag that was cheaper and was nearly 3 pounds. I find I am comfortable in this bag easily down to 20 degrees at night.

A site you can go to that has some decent information about clothing and sleeping systems is http://www.promountainsports.com/

Also, I have a site that has a lot of information on mountaineering, climbing and backpacking. The focus of the site is on the physical conditioning but there is plenty other general information on the outdoors. The site is http://www.bodyresults.com


Is Underarmour good to wear for cold-weather hiking?


The diversity and knowledge of people on this site will never cease to amaze me.

One of the things I hate to do is to begin a new endeavor “blind” so that I buy (or are sold) things that either I don’t need OR are insufficient. I’ve found that when I throw out ideas on this site, there will almost always be a knowledgable person on the subject to get you started. (I recently did this for Camcorders and actually got a producer of movies and documentaries to get me on the right track! Amazing…)

So…I can’t thank you enough!

In order to avoid a “highjack” of this particular thread, I’ll start a new one in the “Off Topic” area in the next day or so.

Thanks, Brother!