Planning Menus

Laying out a trips worth of food can be a frustrating project. These are suggestions to help you do that planning and make it easier.

How To Plan:

This is where tables comes in handy.  How many meals do you really need? How do you make sure you don’t under or over pack?

By asking a few questions you can get an idea how much food you need to pack.

  • How much do I really eat in a day on trips?
  • Do I get hungrier or lose my appetite on trips?
  • Do I plan in advance or buy as I leave town?
  • How much prep am I willing to do?
  • Am I packing for myself or for the group?
  • Will my hiking partners mooch off of me? Do I want to have food to share?
  • Do I pack ultralight, normal weight or old school? This will determine if you carry everything dried or if you carry fresh and canned items.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinners:
Based on your personal likes (Do you like lazy mornings? Then plan a cooked breakfast. Like to rest midday? Have a lunch where you need to sit down and do prep.) – you can figure out what foods and recipes to plan for. Ask yourself how big of an appetite you have – do you need to cut recipes in half? Double them?

Snacks & Desserts:
As you can see we recommend a LOT of snacks. While at home you might be happy with 3 meals a day, something happens with all that exercise: you can get hungry. Vary your snacks. Carry different easy to eat items: single servings of potato chips, dried fruit, Gorp, nuts, cheese, crackers, candy bars, energy bars. Snacks tend to be something overlooked, have at least 3 snacks a day to choose from. Vary the snacks so you have choices. Yes, you might be able to eat 3 energy bars a day because it makes easy packing, but why not live it up?

Pack gorp, trail mix and other bulk items into single serving bags. You can use ‘snack’ or sandwich size bags to do this. It will keep your items fresher and also prevent you from not noticing that you have eaten 6 servings in one 5 mile section as you mindlessly graze.

Every morning as I eat breakfast in camp I pack a small bag of food in a silnylon stuff sack that goes in a easy to reach pocket on my pack. This bag has 6 or so easy to eat items in it – items I can open while hiking and munch on. I don’t have to stop and there is nothing to prepare. By doing this I don’t run low on energy to the point where I have to stop and take a break and eat an actual meal. Constant grazing keeps your energy levels up and you find yourself “hitting the wall” less often. It also reminds you to stay hydrated as well.

Drink Mixes:
Depending on your taste and if you like them think about packing your favorite drinks for breakfast and dinner. If you like flavored water during the day (it can help you drink more) make sure to add that in. For myself I pack coffee and tea for breakfast, herbal tea for dinner and dessert and often have more herbal tea bags or drink mixes for 2-3 quarts worth of water during the day. If you are worried about being dehydrated in hot weather plan for making up a quart of flavored water every night in camp and making sure you drink every bit of it with dinner. Do this in the morning before you leave camp as well.

Extra items:
A couple treats not planned in – tossed in just in case you get a craving or are having a bad day. Candy bars, exotic chocolates, anything that peps you up!

An extra meal tucked in just in case you are hungry, get held over or need to help out another person. The very UL hikers may disagree with this point as it adds up to more weight. While I consider myself a lightweight backpacker I will say this: having ran out of food on a trip I can say it is not fun at all. The last day I hiked nearly 19 miles on just over 1,000 calories. If something had happened this would have been a very bad situation.

How You Store Your Food:
In places where hard sided bear canisters are required (such as The Sierras) space becomes a huge issue. This can cause one to really have to think about how they will pack their food and how to pack as much food into the tiny canisters. It often requires one to repack as much food as they can to avoid any extra packaging (and garbage put out). It usually means that fresh foods and canned items just cannot be taken due to space.

More Thoughts:
By having your first and last meals of the trip on the road you have less food to carry. You might plan your lunch on day 1 to be perishable (picking up a sub or tasty fresh deli sandwich on the way to the trail at a grocery store), you might want fresh fruit for day 1 and 2 for snacks. You can always plan heavier food for the first 2 days and then use all dehydrated foods after that to keep weight and bulk down. Going out to eat after a trip is for many the best part of the trip. You get to sit an air conditioned restaurant, sipping ice cold beverages and eating with little care while talking about the great trip you just got done with. If you hike with a group plan to do this, nearly everyone loves it! Check out places as you drive to the trailhead or look online for suggestions (and where to NOT go!). Supporting small places near trailheads is always appreciated and you are providing a big reason for the town residents to support trails.

Food packed for trips:

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Example Tables For A 7 Day Trip:

By using a table like this you can easily note what meals, recipes and snacks you would like.

Day 1:

Snack: Lunch:
Dinner: Dessert:

Day 2:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch: Snack:
Dinner: Dessert:

Day 3:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch: Snack:
Dinner: Dessert:

Day 4:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch: Snack:
Dinner: Dessert:

Day 5:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch: Snack:
Dinner: Dessert:

Day 6:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch Snack:
Dinner Dessert:

Day 7:

Breakfast: Snack:
Lunch Snack:

 

Day 1:
Breakfast at home / on the road.
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 2:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 3:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 4:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 5:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 6:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Dinner:
Dessert:

Day 7:
Breakfast:
Snack:
Lunch:
Snack:
Eat out on way home / or have food in your vehicle waiting for you.

Example Tables For Weekend Trips:

The example:
An overnighter – a loop of 15 miles. Leave Saturday morning early, hiking in 10 miles to a campsite in alpine with an elevation gain of 3500 ft. Get up on Sunday morning and hike the last 5 miles, mostly downhill. You are responsible for your food but would like to make dessert for your hiking partner. While you have a hard first day you are only going for a quick trip so a little extra weight isn’t going to be bad. You might as well enjoy your hard 10 miles in! So stop at the grocery store and hit the bakery and deli on the way out of town. Stock up on some goodies you wouldn’t get for a long trip. Carry a tiny cooler with you to keep everything cold for the drive. In cooler temperatures you can stash a pop or beer in the cooler for when you get back and while it won’t be ice cold it will still have a chill. A nice treat to look forward to!

An example menu:

Saturday:

Breakfast: Eat & drink on the way. Snack: Fruit, bakery treat.
Lunch: Deli sandwich & chips. Snack: Candy or energy bar.
Dinner: Broccoli Walnut Chicken Rice Dessert: Chocolate Cake

Sunday:

Breakfast: Sarah’s Fattening Coconut Berry Oatmeal First Snack: Dried fruit, string cheese.
Second Snack: Potato chips Lunch on the way home.

This of course is just an example. You base the food selection on what YOU like to eat.

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