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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

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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

9 Answers 9

up vote 32 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.

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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

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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"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
  • 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.
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+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.)[meta.outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/257/… –  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

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.

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

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.

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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!

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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

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