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Are there any foods that should be off-limits when backpacking because they have a negative impact on performance or well-being? I am thinking that candy-bars and very greasy foods might be candidates?

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I avoid dehydrating foods, like power bars. I focus on carbs from whole grain products like wheat pasta, protein from meat (tuna packets and the like) and fats (cheese, for example). These supply you with short-, medium-, and long-term energy. – Don Branson Sep 13 '13 at 23:28
Personally, I tend to avoid foods that are messy and require all sorts of extra gear to eat. I mean, I suppose Lobster would be fine on a hike, but it'd probably slow me down as I brought out the tools... – Affable Geek Sep 19 '13 at 3:08
In all seriousness, the duration of your backpack is a factor. Short-term, lots of carbs are good. But over several days, your body eventually says, "STOP!!!" – Affable Geek Sep 19 '13 at 3:08
Folks, please try to avoid using comments for answers. Anyone finding this question from the Internet has no need to provide a proper answer. This mini discussion pretty much seem to take care of it. It will only hurt this site in the long term. – Robert Cartaino Sep 23 '13 at 16:35
If you only care about the health aspects I think the answers to this question will apply to you, even though the titles are quite different:… – Kate Gregory Sep 28 '13 at 14:34

I try to avoid the following:

  • Carrying water (i.e., food that has lots of water in it). The exception is fresh fruits and vegetables, which are worth the weight in my opinion.

  • Pre-made dehydrated backpacking crap. Overpriced and unappetizing.

The key thing is that being in the backcountry shouldn't really change how you think about eating. You cook food like you make at home. Don't expect that if you aren't a good cook at home you'll suddenly be a master backcountry chef. So, practice good cooking at home.

My bible on cooking and eating outside is the NOLS Backcountry Cookery Book. Just buy it. But the key ideas are:

  • Bring nuts and dried fruit (trail mix) for quick, fatty calories that you need to keep going during the day.

  • Bring tea, coffee, etc. to make hot drinks in the night and morning.

  • Bring dried grains (the book has a nice formula for deciding how much) for the staples.

  • Bring a bunch of interesting and interchangable things to help jazz up the grains. Your trail mix is the first one. Others are: tomato paste, salt, pepper, fresh veggies, garam masala, etc.


  • Baking mix and some margarine ("Earth Balance" has a nice flavor) are good to have. You can make pancakes, biscuits, savory fry breads, etc. that fulfill cravings.

  • Know the edible plants (and animals, like fish) in your area. REALLY KNOW THEM if you are going to eat...and enjoy.

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It depends on the kind of hike. But some of my 50 cents:

  • If you don't want to take tools to cook, use food that comes self-supportive.
  • If you don't have water, don't eat food that needs a lot of water (or dehydrating)
  • If space is important, use dryfrozen food.
  • If space is important, don't use food with lots of empty space in it, like normal bread, candy bars which are crunchy etc.
  • If the hike is longer than some days or in hot weather, don't use food that degenerates fast (like meat).

Some of my favorite food is: - Warm food: complete meals (well minimal complete) in a metal case ... to be used on a mini cooker without the necessity of other tools (except a fork to eat) - Biscuits which are concentrated, with cheese or ham (latter only in case of not hot weather/short hikes) - In case of a short hike, I take an apple/banana (banana also good for short energy)

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