Nutrition & Health
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Date Posted: 17 February 2023
In reviewer Steph's experience, there are three main things you need to consider when you’re pondering the best backcountry food for your trip.
There’s nothing quite like backcountry hiking. Relative solitude, physical challenges matched only by the scenery - there’s a lot to enjoy. Backcountry food used to be more of an annoyance than something I looked forward to - but after many trips (and many failures), I’ve managed to dial it in.
In my experience, these are the top three things you need to consider when you’re pondering the best backcountry food for your trip:
You want to jam as many calories as possible into the kilograms you’re carrying. This takes planning. Work out about how many calories you’ll need per day, then work out which backcountry foods will help you achieve that. Shop accordingly - and err on the side of having a few extra calories. Hiking is hungry work.
I’ll be a little sneaky and slide space into this category too. There are so many easy swaps to make when considering space. Think tortillas, not bread; powdered milk; and seaweed for snacking (more nutrients than calories, but those are important too).
I didn’t prioritise this on my first multi-day hike and I regretted it. Saving the salty, starchy water we cooked pasta in for my drinking pleasure hadn’t been on our meal plan, but it quickly made its way onto it. I’ve been a strong advocate for flavour diversity ever since.
Why did this happen? Well, I relied heavily on sugary snacks. Think trail mix laden with dried fruit, CLIF bars, and the occasional chocolate bar. Don’t get me wrong - these are excellent snacks to bring, but I clearly needed salt. I recommend packing a range of salty and sugary snacks to keep your cravings in check. Your body will tell you what it needs.
You probably won’t want to spend heaps of time preparing your food after a long day hiking. Having access to easy-to-prepare or ready meals saves heartache.
For breakfast, I love mixing up overnight oats. Throw some chia seeds, oats, jam/peanut butter, milk and protein powder into a bowl and cover it up overnight - voila, breakfast is served come morning. For dinner or cooked lunches, think instant potatoes, couscous, instant noodles or dehydrated meals.
I was a bit skeptical of freeze-dried meals for a while but I’ve come around in a big way. I was coaxed into getting some as a treat ‘if I needed it after a hard day’, now I insist on them for longer hikes. Brands like Back Country Cuisine and Outdoor Gourmet offer 2 servings for $15-$18, meaning you get a convenient and delicious dinner plus lunch for the next day for about $8 per serve.
As for how you’ll be preparing or eating your backcountry cuisine, check out Wildfire’s range of camping stoves, camping cookware and outdoor tableware. There are heaps of durable, packable and lightweight options on the market that make backcountry food preparation a breeze.