Since food is the main energy source for both exercise and maintaining body temperature, it is important to eat often and wisely when hiking, particularly on extended or physically demanding trips.
On overnight hikes, food and its preparation also contribute significantly to morale, providing a pleasant social end to a physically hard day.
A day spent hiking generally expends more energy than a typical one at home. So don’t skip breakfast, eat a little more than usual and have frequent snacks of high energy, easily digestible food. On overnight hikes, have a generous serving of carbohydrates such as rice or pasta for the evening meal. Hot soup replaces lost salts and is an excellent starter to warm the tired body and the morale whilst preparing the main meal.
Popular quick acting high energy snacks include dried fruit, nuts and chocolate which, when mixed together, acquire the colourful hiking name of “scroggin”. Simple but adequate lunches include bread or biscuits and cheese, with a little fresh fruit or salad vegetable.
Evening meals are generally prepared from dehydrated ingredients because of weight considerations. However, a little fresh capsicum, snow peas or bean shoots are also light and can add a certain edibility to the dish.
Although today there is a substantial range in price and variety of commercial dehydrated food on the market, there is an increasing number of overnight bushwalkers who enjoy the challenge of producing their own creations with home food dehydrators. You would be amazed at what you can actually dehydrate for your hikes.
For short hikes, food is more of a ‘nice to have’ rather than a necessity. But, on long hikes, an adequate food supply is critical to success and safety.
Whether you are going on a 5km walk or a 500km long-distance trek, you should always have some food along. If for no other reason than just-in-case. Having a good idea about how much food will be required to provide the energy to complete the hike is part of good planning.
Food for Day Hikes
A day hike requires simple, tasty, cold snacks. Pausing for a rest, munching on a handful of fruit or trail mix, and then continuing your hike is all it takes. Food that packs well and tastes good is the goal.
Food for Trekking
Multi-day hikes require much more planning and preparation than a simple day hike. Planning food needs and a diverse menu is important to ensure adequate energy is available for your body. Running out of food 30km into a 70km trek is not a good thing.
Carrying all your food for shorter hikes makes sense, but as the distance increases the food weighs more. For long hikes, resupplying food along the way becomes a necessity. Depending on your style and discipline, there are many options for planning food along the way.
Sure, you can live for days and weeks eating crackers and cheese and jerky, but at some point, you’ll be ready to kill for a hot, steaming meal. On long-distance hikes, there are quite a few options for cooking your food so you can choose which works best for your trek.
Planning your Menu
Oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter for lunch, and Mac-n-Cheese for dinner – now that’s a good outdoors menu. But, not five days in a row. It’s not that hard, and certainly not expensive, to create a tasty, easy, nutritious, diverse menu for any length hiking trip. Use this menu planner to plug in your food items, figure the calories, and even print a shopping list.