Bag a Peak, Eat from a Bag: Trail Food

Photo courtesy John Reid.

After a long day of trekking when you’’ve got your tent set up, feet out of your boots and the fire starting to crackle, the last step to total trail bliss is a delicious, hot dinner in your belly. But, if you’’ve ever tried it, a meal of protein bars and trail mix just doesn’’t cut it.

That left me wondering, what sort of food do people pack on a long trek?

I asked a friend of mine which mouth-watering meals she brought on her 7-day West Coast Trail hike last summer. She said she had tried a few store bought dehydrated meals that Oliver Twist would turn his nose at! Despite all the stunning views and the multitude of wildlife, she mostly remembered being painfully hungry.

In order to keep you (and me!) from ever having to experience that kind of gut-wrenching situation, I lay out your best bets for snacks and meals to pack the next time you’re on an overnighter.

Store Bought Meals

There is a wide selection of dehydrated food that can be cooked and eaten from its own pouch. Most brands are careful to forgo artificial preservatives or excess sugar. My experience was that none of them would make me race back for seconds but none had me racing to the composting toilet either!

My choice? Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House (Buffalo Style Chicken mmmm…) are two brands even Gordon Ramsey would enjoy.

Homemade Meals

The best and healthiest option is to dehydrate your meals at home. That way you know exactly what’’s going into them and ultimately what’’s going into you. Dehydrated meals are easily packed, light and only require boiling water for cooking. The downside? A good food dehydrator will set you back about (at least) $150 and they do require a little more prep work. But, many dehydrators come with recipes to kickstart your backcountry cooking ventures. If you’’re serious about hiking hard and eating well, a dehydrator is worth its weight in trail mix.

Neat Ideas

These are some of my favourite trail munch’ems that you may not have thought of yet! Try them out:

-  Chia seeds (yes, you can grow a grassy pet, but you can also eat them!)

-  Hemp seeds

-  Baby Bel Cheese (created your own wax figurine for added entertainment)

-  Rip ‘‘n Ready Tuna in a pouch

-  Turkey pepperoni

-  Chocolate, of course

The Bottom Line

Good meals can make or break a hike. Whether you choose to buy or build your own, don’’t let it be the defining point in your nature ramble. Take a little extra time to prepare your food ahead of time so you can focus on why you’’re really out there. Then scramble back down and hit the local brewery for a fresh cold one, instead of clawing your way to the closest fast food joint to quickly fill your aching, hungry belly.

Author Image

John Reid

John Reid is a University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology graduate and Precision Nutrition Certified Sports Nutritionist. When he’s not rowing for the Calgary Row Club you’ll find him enjoying every possible second in the mountains hiking, trail running and road cycling.

Outside of sports, John is involved with the Branch Out Neurological Foundation, a local non-profit charitable organization dedicated to fundraising for new and alternative forms of treatment for neurological disorders.