How to Pack Food for Backpacking

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One of the major challenges of backpacking is how to pack food so it won’t take up too much weight and space, survive the distresses of the hike, and still be the most delicious, nutritious meals to enjoy outdoors. You can certainly bring your favorite food and dishes on a backpacking trip; all it takes is a little strategic preparation and some room for contingency and innovation. Here are some tips on how to plan and pack your backpacking meals.

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Plan for the Unexpected

Always have a Plan B. When you’re just too tired to cook after a long and agonizing trek, or when the weather makes cooking impossible, or worse, when your cooking gear fails or runs out of fuel, you can’t just sit there suffering hunger pangs. Your Plan B meals should include pre-cooked, dried or canned food, cookies, breads, fruits or vegetables.

Be ready to eat more than your usual intake. Hiking will make you hungry, so be sure you have enough food to last through the whole trip, plus an extra day or two, just in case.

Plan meals around your water supply. If you plan to cook your food, or if you are carrying mostly dried or dehydrated foodstuff, determine how much liquid you will need. Even if you are sure you will have a water source on camp or along the trail, consider that you might have to cook before you reach the water source.

Know how to use natural resources to prepare food; you might require those survival skills on this particular trip.

Always have an energy bar or two tucked in your backpack for emergency situations.

Pack Food Like a Pro

Protect foods that could get squeezed, squashed or squished. Put breads, sandwiches and delicate fruits and vegetables in sturdy but lightweight packaging like plastic food containers.

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Prevent accidental spills in your backpack. Put pre-cooked meals in tight-seal containers and slip the containers in zipper lock plastic bags to catch spills in case the container pops open during the hike. The constant motion of walking can jiggle the container covers loose; and high altitude can cause containers to pressurize and pop open.

Pack condiments, herbs and spices in small plastic bags. Bring only what you will need for the trip, and don’t forget to label them clearly.

When packing raw meats or cold cuts, keep them frozen and take them out of the freezer just before the hike. Wrap them in several layers of newspaper to delay thawing, and slip them inside durable zipper lock plastic bags.

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Put foods that could get crushed or pulverized inside hard-sided lightweight containers like chips canisters. Raw spaghetti noodles will also be safe inside an empty water bottle.

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Pack oils and other liquids securely. Small lightweight plastic vials with tight-seal screw-on caps are ideal. Place them inside zipper lock bags for extra protection. Consider bringing margarine instead of cooking oil.