Packing for a long walk, hike of free camp is an art in itself. Almost any seasoned walker will tell you that one of the most important things you can do is to keep your pack weight down to a minimum, and a big part of this comes down to being smart about what food you pack.
The good news is that it really is not difficult to do, but when you are at your local supermarket, its good to know what foods to avoid! It is very easy to just reach for the cheap junk food, but generally these wont provide you with the long lasting energy and nutrients you need.
Below I have tried to pick my top 6 food tips for anyone looking at hiking or free camping.
1) Carbs and Proteins over Refined Sugar
Carbs and proteins are great because in general they will keep you feeling fuller for longer whilst slowly releasing energy over time. On the other hand refined sugars such as chocolate and energy drinks will give you only a short burst of energy and leave you feeling hungry very quickly. I tend to avoid packs of candies and biscuits for this reason.
Good quality cereal bars are a fantastic snack as they are usually made of rolled oats and nuts which will keep you feeling full and provide you with long lasting energy. Clif Bars and Battle Oats are usually my go to brands.
Another high protein snack that is low in weight is jerky or biltong. It also keeps for a long time and takes up very little space in your pack.
2) Calorie Density
Its handy to look for foods which are energy dense as it will help to keep your total pack weight down. If you are out hiking all day you will be burning calories like crazy so its important to make sure you are consuming enough to keep your energy levels up!
A personal favorite of mine is cheese and salami on crackers as it fills you up quickly, its very high in calories, light weight and takes up very little space in my pack.
A few examples of foods that fit this criteria are:
Nuts (see number 5)
I can't stress enough how important it is to carry enough water, if you are going for a days hike or it is warm outside you really should be carrying at LEAST 2 liters. If you are in a hot country or it is a very sunny day even up to 5L may be required. As water is 1kg/L, chances are that it will make up a large portion of your pack weight, but keeping hydrated plays a huge part in keeping your energy levels high, and becoming dehydrated can be very dangerous if you live in a hot country!
One way of making it easier to carry water is to purchase a Camelback water reservoir.
A lot of hiking bags will have a dedicated interior pouch for bags like these. Having the hose attached to your bag strap will let you drink without needing to take off your pack as well.
4) Minimize Waste and Rubbish
This is really for two reasons. The first is very simple in that it you should never ever leave any waste behind, wherever you go, leave it the way you found it! Secondly, the last thing you want is to be carrying around trash you don't need that will get all stinky in your pack.
Yogurts, banana skins, soda cans, crisp packets and pre-made sandwich boxes are prime offenders here.
Try if you can to pre-make and pack all your food into a Tupperware before you go! This will make it nice and easy to clean up afterwards!
5) Go Nuts!
Nuts are the daddy of hiking snacks because they cover items 1, 2 and 4 perfectly. They are very high in energy, and contain loads of protein and fat which will keep you feeling full! Most major supermarkets will carry trail mix which is usually a combo of nuts and dried fruits, or you can make your own very easily, Have a look though on the back of the packet because a lot of mixes will have added sugar/ salt which you may want to avoid.
Also they are Vegetarian/ Vegan friendly if that is your thing!!
6) Pre-packed Camp Meals
This last one is probably the easiest and simplest. "Camp food" or "Trek Food" are pre-made meals that only require you to add boiling water (So you will need a gas cooker of some type for these). They come in every possible flavour imaginable and are usually ready to cook in a couple of minutes. They are not to be eaten on-the-go so usually these are good for breakfast and dinner at your camp site.
Picking your favourite is a little bit of trial and error, but these are especially good for anyone free camping or wild camping as they create minimal mess and are usaully very calorie dense. They will also cater to almost any dietary requirement.
Anyway, I hope that is of some help to you. If you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to comment below of email me directly!
All the best