How to Make a Quick & Easy Backpacking Meal Plan

By Amelia Guinn, MS, RDN • Updated September 16, 2022

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Backcountry Foodie Blog How to Make a Quick and Easy Backpacking Meal Plan Backpacking Nutrition image

“Help! I’m leaving for my thru-hike in a week and don’t know what food I’m bringing. Where do I start??”

Sound familiar? You’re in the right place! At Backcountry Foodie, we hear this question all the time. Meal planning for any backpacking trip can be a task. Thru-hikers face the added challenge of planning backpacking meals for an extended period of time and resupplying at unfamiliar grocery stores. Luckily, Backcountry Foodie has all the tools to relieve your meal planning anxiety. This post describes how you can use our personal meal planner to do most of the prep work for you.

Why make a backpacking meal plan?

First of all, pat yourself on the back for considering your diet ahead of time. Many hikers don’t plan at all, and this often gets them into trouble when hiker hunger kicks in. Making a meal plan ahead of your departure date is well worth the effort. Here’s why:

✔️ You save time and energy in the long run.

Planning ahead saves you from figuring it out later when you’re exhausted and starving.

✔️ You can ensure that you’re getting enough nutrition.

For thru-hikers especially, adequate nutrition is a must. Hikers who eat poorly are at greater risk of injury and malnutrition, both of which lower your odds of finishing the trek.

✔️ You’ll save weight.

Sometimes you can optimize your nutrition in less weight than you would expect. A backpacking meal plan eliminates the guessing and allows you to gauge total weight and nutrition simultaneously.

✔️ You’ll save money.

When you know exactly what you need, you can buy just enough. This saves money and prevents you from having a million little bags of leftover ingredients lying around that you might never use at home. Planning ahead also means you don’t have to resort to commercial backpacking meals (which can cost as much as eating out) if you don’t want to.

✔️ You can easily troubleshoot and customize during your trek.

Below we’ll talk about how the meal planner allows you to easily make substitutions. This comes in handy if you need to increase or decrease calories or if you get sick of certain foods.

So, what is this meal planner, and how can it help?

Backcountry Foodie Recipe Membership Platform screen shot
  • The meal planning tool allows you to plan all your backpacking food with a few mouse clicks.
  • It will automatically calculate the nutrition information to ensure you’re planning adequately.
  • It also calculates dry weight, water required, and the amount of oil you’ll need to pack separately.

Plan your meals in 2 easy steps:

STEP 1: Choose your favorite backpacking foods and add them to your meal plan.

⬇️ Add any of the 200+ Backcountry Foodie recipes with a click of a mouse or manually add your favorite recipes from home.

⬇️ To make finding your favorite recipes quick and easy, recipes can be sorted by course, meal prep method, and diet preference. Thru-hikers planning to resupply locally can sort by “grocery friendly” recipes, which only use widely available grocery store ingredients. Sorting by “4 ingredients or less” allows you to simplify even further.

backcountry foodie recipe grid sorting filters screen shot

⬇️ Choose from 800+ commercial backpacking meals and snacks. If your favorite commercial foods aren’t included in our database, just let us know. We’ll add them for you.

Backcountry Foodie membership site commercial foods screen shot

OR

Choose from one of our sample dietitian-created backpacking meal plans weighing less than 2 pounds per day.

Backcountry Foodie autmoated meal planning tool sample meal plans

Our backpacking meal plans are available to our Basic and Premium tier members. They include 3000 calorie, 4000 calorie, 5000 calorie, mega calorie thru-hiker, no-repeat, and no-cook options. New sample meal plans are added as Aaron completes her long-distance hikes. You can easily modify these to fit dietary restrictions or personal tastes.

STEP 2: Click the shopping cart button to autogenerate your shopping list.

backcountry foodie membership site shopping list
  • Download or print your shopping list with everything you’ll need at the store, including the required amounts.

If you like to plan ahead, make your entire meal plan before leaving. If you’d rather make it up as you go along, create plans for each trail segment on your phone before you resupply.

How do I know if I’m eating the right amount?

Use our other resources to educate yourself before you go!

Tapping into our dietitian-led masterclasses will teach you the ins and outs of backcountry nutrition. Masterclass topics include Backpacking Food 101, Ultralight Meal Planning, High Altitude & Cold Weather Nutrition, and more!

Take a look at our Fueling Farther Using the Goldilocks Approach blog post and How Many Calories Should You Pack? YouTube video to determine which calorie, protein, and carbohydrate levels are right for you!

What if I don’t have time to research how many calories, grams of protein, and carbs I need??

Use one of our sample meal plans. This way, you know you’ll be getting a balanced diet with a variety of tasty meals. Start with MORE calories than you think you’ll need. It’s better to carry a little extra weight for a few days than to be hungry and miserable!

You can also schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with Aaron (aka Backcountry Foodie) to discuss your nutrition needs.

Pro Tips:

  • Save PDFs of Backcountry Foodie recipes you plan to use to your phone. This way, you don’t have to write instructions on each bag of food.
  • Go with the flow. If you’re thru-hiking, sometimes you’ll need to adapt your plans. Depending on what is available in town, you may not be able to find every food and ingredient. But that is an opportunity to get creative. Look for substitutes. You may find you enjoy new and unique flavors you hadn’t considered before.
  • If you plan to use rare hiker foods (freeze-dried veggies, coconut milk powder, cheese powder, etc.), order them online ahead of time. This saves you from being disappointed if you can’t find them in stores as you go. Share extras with your trail family, donate to the hiker box, or ship ahead of you to use with the next resupply. Check out the Backcountry Foodie Pantry for quick links to our favorite trail foods.

Ready to learn more about backpacking nutrition and meal planning?

Backcountry Foodie is your go-to resource for over 200 ultralight backpacking recipes, an automated meal planning tool, sample ultralight backpacking meal plans, virtual masterclasses, YouTube videos, and podcast interviews.

Check out this video to see where all the magic happens.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
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    Amelia Guinn, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and backpacker. She has a master’s degree in Food Science & Nutrition from Colorado State University and over 10 years of experience with nutrition for sports, chronic diseases, and weight management. In her free time, she enjoys competitive swimming, baking, and training hikes with her toddler.  She’s also a regular contributor to the Backcountry Foodie blog.   

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