Plan for half a kilogram of food per day**** plus 2 kg of water in cool climates. Everything hotter or dangerous requires more of both.

In my opinion the priorities when selecting trekking food are:

  • max calories* per kilogram
  • not easily spoilable, especially in hot weather
  • reasonably priced
  • variety throughout the trip

I'm posting to help build a wider variety of ideas. I would like to see as long a list as possible of food for long** autonomous*** treks. Would also appreciate evaluation of the uplisted priorities.

* - plus macro- and micro- nutrients. I've tried going on bread and sugar. On the third morning I blacked out.
** - between a week and a month
*** - i.e. no resupply
**** - 5 * 330 Kcal/hundred-grams -> insufficient so bring various snacks as well
5 * 450 == 2250 so dried meat should work for light hikes
nuts are king

Quote from someone from a humorous website(sections deleted by me as deemed irrelevant):

There are only 2 essential fatty acids, α-Linolenic acid and Linoleic acid, and seed oils are the best source for them.


  • What sort of environment will you be hiking in? This could well impact on the type of food you need.
    – berry120
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 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
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 12:40
  • I modified my self-answer. Thank you.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 13:20
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 10:04

11 Answers 11


To remedy the lack of sources (and hard numbers), I've started to write down here (for easier references) what is given for caloric values here: USDA Food Composition Databases.


  • Pâté

  • Fish/meat in tin cans

    (+) practically never spoils

    (+) can be warmed on the fire very conveniently, no additional dishes needed Cooking/heating in cans is not recommended; they are not designed to be heated and tend to leach metals such as chromium and the plastic liners leach BPAs when heated. You can now get cans which have "natural" liners made from plant oils that are BPA free, which may be better, but the (scientific) jury is still out on this one.

    (-) tin can difficult to dispose of - smells of fish, cuts skin very nasty, does not degrade if thrown away in nature (this can be remedied somewhat - tin cans can be transfered to sealed plastic bag using a vaccum machine and wouldn't spoil the product if done soon before leaving and under clean conditions) Also don't do this - you run the risk of severe food poisoning from a range of anaerobic bacteria (particularly Clostridium species) unless the food is kept below 4 C/39 F.

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

    Caloric values: 198 for tuna in oil

  • Dried meat

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

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    Caloric value: varies depending. For beef jerky, 288 kcal show up in a few different products.

  • Salami

    (+) long lasting

    (+) small quantities add taste to bland ingredients

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) can be used cold or cooked

    (+) high quality artisan products are easily available in continental Europe

    Caloric value: about 420 for artisan Italian Salami. Varies.

  • 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

    (-) Freezes in winter. Lasts longer but not as convenient.

    Caloric value: about 400 for cheddar cheese. Varies.

    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

    Caloric value: Regular trail mix weights in at 462 kcal/100g.

  • 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).

    (+) Requires less water than many other cooked meals.

    (-) needs to be cooked

    Caloric value: 376 for regular, dry couscous.

  • Quinoa

    (+) Excellent nutritional value and high in protein

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

    (+) Lightweight

    (+) Requires less water than many other cooked meals.

    (-) 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

    Caloric value: 368

  • Military Rations

    (+) long shelf life

    (-) bulky

    (-) More expensive than DIY

  • 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

    Caloric value: 884

  • Lentils

    (+) Do not spoil

    (+) Good ratio of nutrition to weight - beside calories, they provide much protein and micronutrients

    (+) Easily cooked, just like rice (unlike beans, don't need to be soaked)

    (+) They pair well with the concentrated tastes of preserved food (e.g. salted meat) and with foraged stuff (thyme, sorrel, etc.). Less bland than typical carb food (rice, couscous) when eaten alone.

    (-) need cooking (watch out for the type: some, usually orange/yellow ones, are quite fast, while others may need an hour)

    (-) the tent will smell

    Caloric value: 180

  • Whole wheat pasta

    (+) Do not spoil

    (+) Good caloric value for weight

    (+) Easy to cook (preferably go for thinner & compact varieties, such as thin spaghetinni)

    (-) Needs to be cooked. For winter camping, you can either make it a soup or else you have to waste the water.

    Caloric value: 352

  • Instant mashed potatoes

    (+) Do not spoil

    (+) Pre-packaged

    (+) No cooking needed, generally just add hot water, stir and let it sit for a minute.

    (-) Generally not as calorically dense for the packing volume, e.g. compared to pasta.

  • Oatcakes

    (+) long lasting

    (+) high calories to weight ratio

    (+) go well with cheese, spreads, salami etc

    Caloric value: about 430.

  • Peanuts (or other nuts)

    (+) long lasting

    (+) Extremely calorically dense per weight and volume

    (+) Easy to snack, easy to package

    (+) No cooking needed

    (+) Come in all varieties of unflavoured, salted, sweet, ...

  • Peanut Butter

    (+) long lasting (not the 100% kind, though)

    (+) highly caloric

    (+) small volume

    (+) comes in many package sizes, usually light but strong plastic jars with screw lid

    (-) Usually requires something to spread it on

    (-) Hardens in cold weather

    Caloric value: 588

  • Honey

    (+) does not spoil. (apparently literally never)

    (+) small volume

    (+) comes in many package sizes, including light but strong plastic jars with screw lid

    (+) also serves as sweetener for tea/coffee

    (-) Usually requires something to spread it on

    Caloric value: 304

  • Boiled eggs
    (-) spoil after 5 days or fewer
    (-) not too caloric(estimates range from 75 to 135 kcal/100g)
    (+) extremely healthy - ask any Sumo fighter

Other ideas:

  • tea - not for eating, but a must nevertheless

  • Powdered juices

  • smoked cheese

  • butter

  • instant soups & powdered sauces: you can add a bit of flavor a little cost

  • 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.

Regardless of what you bring, you should never keep them in original packaging. It is better to portion out everything while at home, rather than having to do it in the bush (easy to do when the sun shines, not as fun when it's raining cows). You also save the weight. The objective should be that every "package" is in its own ziploc bag or such. You just need to take it out & cook it or eat it.

  • 4
    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
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 5:33
  • 2
    @Vorac -- What kind of references are you looking for? Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:07
  • 1
    @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
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 7:14
  • What is dried soiled fish? It is not available in Europe, or maybe it has a different name.
    – QuentinUK
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 12:05
  • 1
    Added link to the USDA data for caloric values. I only listed caloric values here because that's mostly what we care about, but they also show all sorts of info.
    – Francky_V
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 3:13

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).

  • Not sure if couscous is much denser than pasta - if you compare to spaguettis they can be pretty compact, for a given volume I'm not sure it's much of a difference.
    – Francky_V
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 20:10
  • Couscous is a kind of pasta. Just one of many different sizes and shapes.
    – Willeke
    Commented May 22 at 10:22
  • Couscous is not a type of pasta. Pasta originates from Italy, couscous is from North Africa. Whilst both can be made from wheat flour, they are not the same. Commented Jun 30 at 13:08

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.


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.


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.


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.

  • "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
    Commented Jun 11, 2012 at 8:46
  • Very true, however I was not sure of what environment you where going to be doing this long term hike in. Commented Jun 11, 2012 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.
  • 1
    +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
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 7:29
  • Feel free to add it to the wiki... I don't want to mess up formatting heh
    – Corey D
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 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. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 5:16

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.


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.


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.

  • Prepacked small bags of instant porridge is a genius idea :) +1!
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 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!

  • 1
    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
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 2:58

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