Showing results for 
Show  only  | Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
REI is actively reviewing its policies and procedures per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidance for COVID-19.
As we have since the start of the pandemic, we’ll continue to prioritize the health and safety of our employees, customers and communities.

Food for backpacking

Hey guys, I'm going on my first backpacking trip. It will be about a month and a half on the appalachian trail. The biggest problem I'm having is deciding what food I should pack. I will hot a city or town about every week. Any suggestions would be appreciated




6 Replies

@Ceceliastaab here are a few of my favorites, recognizing some/all of these may not be the "best" things you can take backpacking!

  • Ramen noodles - lightweight, plus the salt!
  • Freeze-dried backpacking meals - salt, plus lightweight, plus protein!
  • Oatmeal - add nuts, dried coconut, dried fruit, dried peanut butter powder, protein powder, et.
  • Nuts - although heavy, great protein
  • Meat sticks, granola bars, trail mix
  • Salt water taffy - totally impractical, except they're yummy!

Here are a couple of earlier threads in the community about food and backpacking: favorite trail mix and 12 days with no resupply.

Looking forward to everyone else's suggestions!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

some random thoughts...

Choose food you like to eat but try to get a nutritional balance of calories, fiber, protein. You need to have a good idea of the calories you require.  A rule of thumb for 18 to 35 active males is 2lb a day based on 3200 cal per day at 100cal per oz. ymmv.  People report wanting less the first two weeks or so and then you want more in the following weeks so bear that in mind.

With some careful choosing you can be more efficient and carry 150cal per oz meaning you can carry less food weight for the same calories.  Foods with high calorie density are things like oils and nuts which are often 200cal+ per oz.  You can add these generously to other less calorie dense foods so you need to carry less of those. Nuts give you protein also.  Peanut butter is the obvious and easy one if you like it.  You can get some brands like Skippy in lighter plastic jars...or repackage in to a plastic jar you take.  Not that jellies and jams are not that nutritious or calorie rich and most good for flavor only so minimized the quantities of these

Remember that you must pack out all you packaging and unused food and dispose of it properly. People often repackage stuff into ziplock bags when they resupply disposing of the original packaging in town before they leave. This reduces the weight and volume of packaging they have to carry. Avoid canned stuff or pre-made stuff that contains a lot of liquid since these are basically a lot of water weight.

You can do a lot of creative things with cous-cous as a base.  It cooks in a few minute with hot water so doesn't take much fuel.  You can even "cook" it with cold water.

Take your favorite hot sauce to spice up bland meals.  You can repackaging it in to a dropper bottle or similar and keep it in a zip lock in case of leakage.

Another convenient source of protein although they are not that weight efficient are "Chicken of the Sea" chicken and tuna salad pack. They can add some taste and variety either eaten cold in a Pita bread or mixed into hot noodles or cous-cous

Pita and other flat breads have the advantage of being somewhat crush resistant if rolled or folded. They can stick together though. They provide a way to make a wrap. Easier to manage if you carry some kind of plate or cutting board but you can use a plastic bag if you are more minimalist.

Cheese can keep remarkably well if wrapped... fresh stuff while heavy can keep for a two or three days. You can mix in smaller amounts for a few days after a resupply for some variety.

You can order dried cheese which you can add for calories protein and flavor.  You can order full fat dried milk (eg Nido) to add to granola tea coffee whatever.   These probably works better if you use a bounce box or occasional resupply boxes for some foods.

You can buy individual instant coffee sachets . Via is good but there are others...or repackage a small jar into a zip will need a spoon but a free disposable one works.


The truth is, you can bring any food that doesn't require refrigeration-- boxed wine, watermelons, eggs -- you name it I've seen it on a backpacking trip 

The thing is, whatever you pack you are going to have to carry it on your back for days. So considerations are weight, bulk, fragility and how much fuel it takes to cook.  

The reason many backpackers (including me) eat those awful freeze dried meals is that they are light to carry, hard to crush and take minimal cooking to prepare.  You wouldn't want to eat one every night, but they help lighten the load.  One tip is, the breakfasts are tasty at dinner, too.  

You can add calories by taking along butter, olive oil and/or milk powder to add to your food. 

I usually take a few extra energy bars in case I misjudge the food supply.  Sometimes I even eat them.

Also, energy drinks are a miracle when you feel tired at the end of the day.  I like Gatorade powder or Prince of Peace Honey Ginger Crystals. 

“Meat stick” sounds like a good trail name!

REI Member Since 1979

Take some yummy perishables for the first day. I love to get a large deli sandwich. Eat half at the trailhead and the other half after I've set up my tent (even done pizza a few times). I generally bring one or two of the freeze dried meals. They are light and hard to damage, though I can't eat them back to back to back, they get old quick. I always bring a fair amount of butter or olive oil, add these to the freeze dried meals or to your coffee. Fat has the best calorie to weight ratio, by far. Of course trail mix, cheese and beef jerky/ beef stick for quick lunches on the go. Also, apples pack well and are a nice treat. 


Freeze dried foods from Good to Go, Mountain House, Packit Gourmet, etc. Ramen, Mac and cheese, instant potatoes, instant soups, and tortillas with tuna or chicken packets. Fruit and peanut butter, beef jerky, trail mix (make your own), crackers, salami, cheese, bars, peanut butter m&ms, chips, dried fruit, etc.