Sign up ×
The Great Outdoors Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who love outdoor activities, excursions, and outdoorsmanship. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In my opinion, the priorities when selecting trekking food are:

  • many calories per kilogram
  • not easily spoilable, especially in hot weather
  • not very very expensive
  • diverse.

Diverse. That is why I am posting this question. I would like to see as long a list as possible of food for long( * ) authonomous(**) treks. Also would appreciate some evaluation on the uplisted priorities.

(*) - between a week and a month

(**) - i.e. no resupply

share|improve this question
What sort of environment will you be hiking in? This could well impact on the type of food you need. – berry120 Jun 1 '12 at 12:22
I have no idea how could the environment affect the food choice. My only clue is that in hotter climates chosen foods should be extremely resilient to spoiling. Could you please tell me more? – Vorac Jun 1 '12 at 12:36
Yes, that was my exact thought - if I was hiking in a really hot climate, I wouldn't really take things like cheese for instance - in a colder one I'd be more likely to take such things. – berry120 Jun 1 '12 at 12:40
I modified my self-answer. Thank you. – Vorac Jun 1 '12 at 13:20
This question is closely related to/a duplicate of what-is-the-most-efficient-food-to-take-a-for-a-12-15-day-hiking-trip – Eyal Jun 18 '12 at 10:04

11 Answers 11

up vote 38 down vote accepted
  • Pate
  • Fish in tin cans

    (+) practically never spoils

    (+) can be warmed on the fire very conveniently, no additional dishes needed

    (-) tin can difficult to dispose of - smells of fish, cuts skin very nasty, does not degrade if thrown away in nature

    (-) quite heavy, considering the weight of the sauce and of the can

  • Dried meat

    (+) long-lasting - can last almost a month in the summer

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

  • Dried bread

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) cheap

    (+) good for your stomach (fibres)

    DIY: Put oil and toss bread chunks for 15 min on 150 degrees centigrade in the oven.

  • Small packages of cheese, vacuum

    (+) tasty

    (+) healthy food

    (-) not very long-lasting - at most a week in the sun

    Note: "Small" package means such that can be eaten up in one day. If the group eats together maybe even 1kg can be considered sufficiently small.

  • Chocolate

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) easy to eat on the go

    (+) rapid energy - chocolate is both psychologically stimulating and quick to give off energy (however, it is not a substitute for solid food)

  • Dried fruits and nuts

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) healthy food - especially those, containing Mn (apricots)

    (+) easy to eat on the go

    (+) diverse - get as many different types of dried fruits and nuts as possible

  • Couscous

    (+) high calories to weight ratio - it's much denser than most forms of pasta so takes up less space, and can be cooked using much less fuel

    (+) easy to cook - Mixed with a packet of dried soup or even just chilli powder it's reasonably palatable, or you can chuck in anything else you can find (meat, veg, etc).

    (-) needs to be cooked

  • Quinoa

    (+) Excellent nutritional value and high in protein

    (+) Easy to cook, goes with many types of food

    (+) Lightweight

    (-) Needs to be cooked

  • Tahini paste

    (+) healthy food

    (-) needs to be cooked - typically you'll want to eat it with something else, not on its own- and then you need bread, crackers, or something similar for it

  • Military Rations

    (+) long shelf life

    (-) bulky

  • Survival Energy Bars

    (+) compact

    (-) not good day to day food - they turn to powder very easily

  • Marmalade, Jam

    (+) tasty addition to the main food

    (-) problems with storage - usually sold in massive glass jars, other than that this food has very high calorie to weight ratio

  • Potato paste

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) can be cooked or just dissolved in cold water

    (-) not tasty unless mixed with something else and probably cooked

  • Potato Chips:

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) tasty: different flavours plus they use industrial taste enhancers to make the good more marketable

    (-) low in vitamins and micro nutrients

    (-) crumbles

  • Nido (dried whole milk)

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

  • Cookies:

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (-) good desert, especially combined with nido or tea

  • Sunflower/Olive Oil

    (+) can be eaten raw (with bread) or used for cooking virtually anything

Other ideas:

  • tea - not for eating, but a must nevertheless

  • smoked cheese

  • butter

  • honey

  • instant soups

  • dried soiled fish

  • rice: Very easy for digestion hence very light food, yet a great source of carbohydrates.

Some of those are not particularly unspoilable. I bring them, and even move spoilable food for the first couple of days for a hike. Eat fresh at the beginning, eat light at the end.

share|improve this answer
Dear fellow community members. This wiki is formed by copying all the answers here, in consistent way. However, these are mostly my subjective interpretations of other people's answers. Therefore, I encourage everyone to edit this wiki. Furthermore, the lack of references is overwhelming. – Vorac Jul 11 '12 at 5:33
@Vorac -- What kind of references are you looking for? – Russell Steen Jul 11 '12 at 13:07
@Russell Steen, Mostly about calories to weight ratio and the nutritional value (vitamins and others), but also small claims like "chocolate has immediate energizing effect, because ..." – Vorac Jul 12 '12 at 7:14
What is dried soiled fish? It is not available in Europe, or maybe it has a different name. – QuentinUK Jun 3 at 12:05

Couscous is one of the best sources of carbohydrate I've found. It's much denser than most forms of pasta so takes up less space, and can be cooked using much less fuel. Mixed with a packet of dried soup or even just chilli powder it's reasonably palatable, or you can chuck in anything else you can find (meat, veg, etc).

share|improve this answer

For pure calorific content, you cant beat Kendall Mint Cake. Its basically glucose, sugar and some mint essence, stores very well, is light, cheap and you can even make some yourself easily enough. There's a reason Edmund Hillary took it to Everest :-)

Id also take lots of beef jerky, which is great protein for the weight. Various flavours and substitutes exist such as turkey jerky. I had fish and squid jerky in ukraine recently, and they were great alternatives too.

Many people are suggesting canned goods, but I dont think Id want to be lugging these about personally, they're very heavy for what is essentially 1 can = 1 meal.

You mentioned finding water in the woods is easy, compared to finding food. That would make me think one of the best things you can take is a fishing rod, or maybe even a net. You could set this up in a river overnight and build a basic funnel/box from sticks. Even if it only worked on 2 nights, it would still be worth packing compared to 2 days food.

You could also spend some time reading up on various berries, plants and nuts growing in the woods. There are quite a few that are easy to identify, but obviously there are also some which are poisonous or best left to the experts to identify.

Finally Id want to be taking a lot of grains. Quinoa would be my choice, along with a few bags of herbs and spices (salt and pepper essential, garlic powder etc). These can make even the most boring meal a lot more tolerable.

share|improve this answer

Depends on where you are going? Some places/nations will not allow certain food types. However to answer your question:

Military Rations pricey but well known to be very shelf stable. However they are bulky and if you are hiking by yourself with no re-supply I assume space and weight are at a premium

Survival Energy Bars - They are usually pretty compact, however from my experience they don't really fill you up since they turn to powder very easily.

Canned Good, most shelf stable canned goods would work on a trek, however as with MRE's most are heavy and bulky.

Dried fruits, nuts and meats - very low cost, and if packed properly will not take up much space, however most dried fruit require more water to that may take the place of other items.

If you can get foodstuffs from the environment as you are hiking I would recommend it for the hike you have in question.

share|improve this answer
"however most dried fruit require more water to may up for things." I see this as a fundamental dilemma - either carry dried light food or carry normal heavy food, but with water inside (including, for example, canned food). Most of the time I prefer the dried variant, as finding water in the woods is much less difficult for me than finding food. – Vorac Jun 11 '12 at 8:46
Very true, however I was not sure of what environment you where going to be doing this long term hike in. – OrionDarkwood Jun 11 '12 at 13:39

I find tahini paste to be a useful trip food. According to wikipedia:

Tahini is an excellent source of copper, manganese and the amino acid methionine. Tahini is a source of the healthy fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.

Tahini made from raw sesame seeds is lower in fat than tahini made from roasted seeds.

Tahini's relatively high levels of calcium and protein make it a useful addition to vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as to raw food diets when eaten in its unroasted form. Compared to peanut butter, tahini has higher levels of fiber and calcium and lower levels of sugar and saturated fats

In the article, it says that it spoils easily, but I haven't encountered this problem while traveling in Israel (despite the relatively high temperatures). We carried the paste, and added water, garlic, lemon and a green vegetable like scallions or parsley. Most of these are small, aren't heavy, and can last for a while, too.

The downside of tahini is that typically you'll want to eat it with something else, not on its own- and then you need bread, crackers, or something similar for it.

share|improve this answer
  • Potato Chips: seriously good cal/weight ratio, come in a variety of flavors. Most will crumble quite easily but not too bad.
  • Nido: this is dried whole milk, often found in the Mexican/international aisle of US grocery stores. It actually tastes very good, I often have some in the evening or morning for an extra boost. You can pair this with some "instant breakfast" shakes for flavor and micro nutrients.
  • Cookies: there are a wide variety of Oreo cookies these days and they have a great cal/weight ratio. I typically have milk and cookies for desert on backpacking trips :)
  • Olive Oil: repackage some in a leak-proof bottle and add it to your other meals for a flavor/calorie boost.
share|improve this answer
+1 I am hungry now, after reading your answer. Should we copy/paste it to the wiki answer or should it remain here, where it can be upvoted? – Vorac Jul 10 '12 at 7:29
Feel free to add it to the wiki... I don't want to mess up formatting heh – Corey D Jul 10 '12 at 12:38
(I dunno. I have created a meta discussion - feel free to drop by and let me know what you think.)[… – Vorac Jul 10 '12 at 13:45
Nido has been difficult to find in some parts of the US, though I understand it has better distribution now. Most Wal-Mart Supercenter stores should have it. – Michael Hampton Oct 26 '13 at 5:16

For sustaining a person long term in extreme conditions such as walking daily 15-25 miles in varying conditions, the biggest problem after having enough energy to walk is the ability to properly recover every night to do that again and again. To be able to recover well you need a good amount of protein every day, especially during the night, to get good muscle recovery and reducing fatigue.

I just finished walking 250 miles over 11 days (roughly 23.5 miles a day), fully self sustained without too much weight loss or any muscle injuries. My menu consisted of:

Breakfast - self made mix of 1/4 cup semolina, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 1/4 cup of chopped nuts, 1/4 of dried fruit, 1 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt. The trick is to use different nuts and fruit for each breakfast for the variety. This breakfast is packed in slow release carbs, protein and fats.

Day food Here it is a combination of trail mix, protein bars and dried meat. In a single day I ate:

  • 3 oats based gluten free protein bars by "Battle Oats". 70g per bar offering around 300 calories and 22g protein.
  • 50g roasted cashews, slow release fats
  • 50g banana chips, natural carbs
  • 50g beef billtong, all organic meat packed with protein and a salty variation

Dinner This is where the recovery really come into play. My meal was a high energy freeze dried meal from Expedition Foods - gluten free, providing 800 calories per meal, 6 different flavours. For desert I made a hot chocolate drink using the SiS protein night release powder. The idea is to boost the recovery over night to allow better performance the day after. They recommend 3 scoops (42g) powder with 300ml of cold water, but I found that dissolving the 3 scoops with a 1/4 cup of cold water and adding boiling water after dissolved gave a nice, lightly sweetened desert drink.

Extras I also had 2 coffees a day, one with breakfast (around 7:00) and one at my mid day break (around 13:00). When I reached villages/towns I picked some cake and coffee as a booster to be consumed on the spot.

Nutrition This menu provided me with roughly 3400 calories per day out of 700g of food to carry per day. This translated to 8.5kg of food to carry for 11 days, plus and extra day.

All the food is gluten free (I'm intolerant) and provided around 147g (20%of total weight) of protein per day. Though it wasn't the most varied menu, it provided a good mix of textures and flavours that I wasn't sick of it by the end. Non of the meals required any cooking, only to add hot water and a little wait. i will note that I was in a mild environment (5-10 deg c) and for colder environment I'll add another 1000 calories - half in breakfast and half at dinner using extra meals. If you would like to read more about my menu choices for that trip, have a look here.

share|improve this answer

Not tested yet. Criteria lightweight, long shelf life, low bulk, no cook, easy and cheap resupply.

  • Oat meal [compressible]-amino acid: methionine, tryptophan.
  • Powered milk [compressible]- amino acid: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, valine; electrolyte: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium.
  • Almond- (due to gout, I can't eat peanuts which is much cheaper and more accessible at resupply) amino acid: lysine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine; electrolyte- potassium, calcium, magnesium.
  • Instant potato [compressible]- amino acid: histidine, methionine; electrolyte: sodium, potassium, chloride.
  • Wheat flour [compressible]- amino acid: histidine.
  • Olive oil- amino acid: isoleucine, leucine.
  • Honey- amino acid: proline, phenylalanine, tyrosine, lysine. Powdered milk contains all needed electrolytes, combined with oat meal and/or almond completes protein.

Nature provided fruit & vegetable: vitamin, fiber.

  • Dandelion- amino acid: histidine.
  • Lambsquarters- amino acid: isoleucine, leucine.
  • Amaranth- amino acid: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, valine.
  • Watercress- amino acid: threonine.

Cat tail, Miner's lettuce, Manzanita berry, Huckleberry, Oregon grape, Wild strawberry, Wild rose, Black berry leaf and root, Pine nuts, baby pine needles, Prickly pear, Beaver tail leaf, Agave.

Many plants found in meadows, beware of poisonous ones.

Berry, leaf, stalk, roots- raw, tea, mashed, cooked. Some plants have medicinal benefits also.

Fish are a definite bonus but require cooking.

share|improve this answer

Porridge is good for breakfast. The small packets of "golden syrup flavour" are the best, but a bit more expensive than regular porridge. (N.B. The more powdery it is the faster it cooks.)

Carbs: rice/pasta/ cous cous (I like "Moroccan medley", "tomato & chilli").

[aluminium bubble foil: DIY shops sell this in the insulation dept. Use this to make a wrapper for your pan. Once that water is boiled, the rice/pasta etc put in and the brought to boiling again, the heat can be turned off and the pan put in the insulating wrapper. The stored heat will be enough to cook the rice/pasta. [For larger paster shaped eg spirals the water can be left till it's cold then re-heated] Saves weight. For long hikes I use a petrol stove because it is easier to find petrol supplies.]

For faster pasta cooking use the very thin pasta (UK vermicelli, FR cheveux d'ange)

When cooking pasta there is no need to use a lot of water. When cooked, instant soup can be added (eg "East Indian mulligatawny", "Italian minestrone"), or tinned fish (sardines), or tinned meat (bully beef).

For all these for extra flavour squirt in some olive oil (high carbs) (transfer a glass bottle's oil to a plastic bottle), especially good with cous cous. Lumps of cheese can also be added and mixed in. Some butter is also good but melts easily in warm weather. (margarine is high in water and emulsifiers, it is not high in calories).

Do not throw away any hot water. Soak it up with instant mash. (Instant mash comes in two forms: 1) flakes added to water 2) lumps where the water is added to the lumps. You need (1) as you can add as many as needed to get it solid.)

Protein: tinned sardines, bully beef, soya ("wholefood soya mince" cooks a lot faster than the lumps). All sorts of dried meats and sausages on the continent. And cheese, harder varieties keep best.

If you can get eggs along the way these can be cooked by mixing the egg into the boiling water with the pasta etc.

Dried fruits, usually raisins, for flavoursome snacks. Biscuits, eg custard creams, and chocolate are also good snacks. On shorter hikes I also take fresh fruit, apples.

After a meal I like a cup of tea. With lots of sugar. This can be made in the same pan used above without washing. The tea gathers up the bits and cleans the pan. ps If you prefer real coffee this can also be made in an ordinary pan if you don't mind a few coffee grains in the last couple of sips.

share|improve this answer

Although I cannot provide numbers on the nutrition facts, I would still share my experience; before leaving to a week-long hike with three friends we prepared small bags of instant porridge:

  • some amount (1-2 spoons) of the above-mentioned whole milk power
  • 4-5 spoons of oatmeal (preferably the one which is already broken a bit)
  • some sugar, if you feel the need for it

These small packages (everything packed in the corner of a plastic bag, then tied firm with rubber band) were great for breakfast, a warm and nutritious food which keeps the digestion going. Sometimes we varied it with raspberries and blueberries picked from the forest.

Drawback: you need to cook it. Benefits: lightweight, filling, even tasty, needs only water to be prepared, doesn't produce a lot of heavy trash.

share|improve this answer
Prepacked small bags of instant porridge is a genius idea :) +1! – WedaPashi Apr 27 at 15:50

For an evening meal... this stuff is GOLD!... Batchelors Beanfest. Unfortunately, only on sale in the UK as far as I am aware. But I live in NZ and can get them shipped. One packet feeds 2. With couscous or rice. Light. Nutritious. Yum!

share|improve this answer
This post has acquired some accusations of being spam. In the future, you might want to be more careful about linking to particular products and locations to purchase them, especially along with such a glowing recommendation. – Kevin Apr 17 at 2:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.