Backcountry camping seems intimidating. No bathrooms, no shower, no bed, and most terrifyingly, no fridge. When you trek out into the woods, you have to bring everything you need with you and account for any possible emergency while also streamlining your packing to avoid carrying excess weight.

While it's pretty easy to choose what to bring (a sleeping bag, hiking boots, and a tent are pretty much givens), packing food for a few days in the wilderness can be hard to puzzle out. 

Having been on several backcountry hikes, I know the basic necessities and have picked up a few tips and tricks for how to best pack food for a few days off the grid. The key is to plan strategically and prioritize what you really need (yes, candy is included on that list).  

Disclaimer: this list probably includes foods you don't normally eat and meals you wouldn't come up with on your own. Packing to maximize efficiency and minimize risk tends to have this downfall. It's important to keep in mind that you are packing food for fuel first, enjoyment second. However, it is also true that literally anything tastes good after a long day of hiking — trust me.


Molly Gallagher

As any meal-prepper will tell you, planning out everything that you're going to eat for a number of days is no easy task. You have to calculate how much you'll need, consider every necessary ingredient, and make sure that you're planning food you want to eat. For a backcountry hike, there's the added consideration of bag space, weight, and the perishability of your food.

For me, the best way to approach planning meals is to follow a simple formula for each breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Doing this ensures that you'll have enough food for each meal and streamline your life on-trail by having an eating schedule to follow. 

Molly Gallagher

Breakfast-wise, your options are basically granola bars or oatmeal. This decision boils down to whether or not you want to boil water for oatmeal every morning. Tortillas, peanut butter, jelly, and nutella are lunchtime staples, but if you prefer savory sandwiches you could go for salami and cheese as well. You can also throw in some vegetables to balance out your meals. 

For dinner, you have slightly more options. The optimal formula is a grain, protein, and vegetable, but you can customize to your liking. Some of my favorites are pizzadillas, quinoa with sautéed veggies, and burrito bowls. Try to plan meals with ingredients that can stretch for several nights — multiple rice or quinoa-based meals will save you a lot of time, space, and weight.


coffee, tea, beer
Molly Gallagher

Ok, so Cheerios probably aren't the best backpacking snack, but you can totally bring them if you want to. The most important consideration for packing snacks for the backcountry if nutrient density. To get the most bang for your buck, you'll want to pack high-calorie (yes, I said it), high-protein foods that will give you the energy you need. 

sweet, candy
Becky Hughes

The best backcountry snacks are granola bars and GORP. GORP, or good ol' raisins and peanuts, is the backbone of a hiker's diet. You can put whatever you want in there and eat it all day — I like to add peanut butter pretzels and Reese's Pieces, but do what you feel is right. Make sure to pack according to your snacking habits, and remember: better to have extra than not enough.

If you're used to snacking on raw veggies and fruit, that's awesome, but not a super effective way to pack for the backcountry. Those types of food will get crushed or spoil in your bag, and can't fill you up the way nuts or granola bars can. Even if it feels less healthy to eat heavier snacks, you need to do it to fuel your body for hiking.


Molly Gallagher

Treats are by far the most important component in a balanced diet. Even though you're looking to minimize weight, you simply cannot cut treats out of your backcountry packing list.

First of all, peak candy is an absolute need. If your trail takes you over any summits, you need a bag of candy to reward yourself with when you get to the top. Even if you aren't bagging any peaks, bring candy to celebrate the mileage you crush all day on trail — you absolutely deserve it

Molly Gallagher

If you have room in your bag, bring a box of cake or brownie mix and treat yourself to cake/brownie scramble. Combine the cake/brownie mix with water, and move around in a skillet until it forms an gooey ball of cake/brownie goodness. It seems really weird, but tastes like heaven. Don't knock it until you try it. 

Other Necessities

hot sauce, liquor, alcohol, juice, soda, beer
Stephanie DeVaux

Hot sauce and a spice wheel are absolutely non-negotiable in the backcountry. A lot of the food you'll bring will be totally bland on it's own, and the way to feel #gourmet in the woods is to load up on spices and hot sauce. 

Bring your favorite hot sauce and a spice wheel from a gear store, and thank me later.

With these tips in mind, packing for the backcountry doesn't seem as intimidating. I highly recommend taking a few days off the grid to enjoy the beauty of nature. Backpacking with friends is an unforgettable experience that will bring your group closer. Try it, even if it's totally outside of your comfort zone — you'll be surprised by the amazing things you are capable of.