Backcountry Meal Planning

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Plan your adventure menu with this free meal planning worksheet

One of the most difficult aspects of preparing for a backpacking trip is planning your meals and snacks. There are so many things to consider! Your total calorie count, which needs to be exponentially increased in the backcountry, your protein intake, and most importantly the weight of the food you’ll be carrying and the ease of preparation. Most backpackers strive to consume 3,000-5,000 calories a day in the backcountry. It’s an artform figuring out how to consume all of those calories without weighing down your pack! It requires careful planning of each day’s menu. Below you’ll have the opportunity to download our meal planning worksheet, which will help you plan your daily backcountry menus for calories, nutritional value, and weight.

Backcountry Nutrition: Calories & Protein

Our bodies burn twice as many calories during an average day in the backcountry. Carrying a heavy pack, hiking from sunrise to sunset, navigating complicated terrain, all of these things impact our body’s fuel level. To find out how many calories you’ll likely burn in the backcountry, wear a Fitbit or smart watch to track the amount of calories you burn on an average day in the front county. Double that number for the backcountry.

Emphasize Protein Consumption to Maintain Healthy Muscle Mass

Our bodies need protein to maintain and build muscle mass. This is especially pertinent in the backcountry when we are burning extra calories and taxing our muscles on a daily basis. To calculate how many grams of protein you should consume in the backcountry to maintain healthy muscle mass, consume one gram of protein for every one pound of lean body mass. You’ll likely need to consume a source of protein with every meal and snack to hit your daily goal. This can be done by eating protein rich meals and snacks.

How much should one day of food weigh?

A reasonable weight to strive for is less than two pounds for a single day’s supply of meals and snacks. Ultralight backpackers may strive for substantially less.

What should I eat in the backcountry?

Start each morning with a hot breakfast and a hot drink. We recommend avoiding ‘lunch’, which will cause your energy levels to slump as your body works to digest the large meal. Instead, enjoy a regular gamut of snacks like Packaroons, jerky, cheese, dried fruit and nuts throughout your day. A good rule of thumb is that active hikers should consume 200 calories an hour on the trail. Keeping snacks in the pockets of your hip belt will help you accomplish this goal. Treat yourself to a delicious, protein packed dinner when you make it into camp at the end of the day. And enjoy some hot drinks and snacks throughout the evening before you hang your bear bag.

Meal planning worksheet

Are you ready to start planning your backcountry adventure menu? Click below to download our free meal planning worksheet. Plan 3-5 daily menu options that you can rotate between on longer trips. Need some inspiration? Click here to check out 3 complete backcountry menus. Want to learn more about the nitty gritty of backcountry nutrition? Click here to listen to Heather’s Choice founder, Heather Kelly, speak on the topic of meal planning and backcountry nutrition.

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