Updated: Nov 10, 2022
Making a full menu for a weekend away or a long hiking adventure may at first seem easy but quickly you will find yourself with limited food choices, nutritional limitations and a restricted ability to carry heavier options. To make sure you can complete your hike you must have enough energy and this comes from a good meal plan, so here is our guide to planning your menu for an overnight hike.
What are the basics of packing food?
While you hike you burn lots of calories per hour and this needs to be made up for in what you eat, on average you will want to aim for something around the 3000 calorie intake per day mark because hiking can use anything from 300-900 calories an hour at its most extreme but this can be different for each individual person. No matter if it's a small overnight walk or a long thru-hike you will want to pack lots of food because without it you will quickly find yourself without energy and unable to keep on moving.
Some key things to remember while planning your menu are:
Look at the weight of each item the same as if it where regular hiking gear.
Longer trips may mean carrying a few extra hundred grams of food a day.
Avoid using cans and other heavy metal food products is a must.
Label your food day-by-day to make it easy to cook and keep track of food.
Carry the bare minimum of eating and cooking utensils to minimise weight.
Try to make your hiking meals nutritionally balanced like you would at home.
Find a friend and spread the weight between each other.
Try to find food you will enjoy eating after a long day of walking.
Look for food that cooks quickly because the less hassle the better.
So how do I make a meal plan?
Well it's not too hard but can take some time to get it right, I would suggest when making a meal plan that you open a spreadsheet of some kind and work within that because it will make it much easier to order everything on your plan.
Within your spreadsheet you will need to identify some of the key meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner along with another section for snacks and dessert if you like something sweet at the end of a day of hiking and make their own little section for each.
Now you have your sections you will want some columns, these should include the name of the food, the weight, the calories and any notes about that food item; other items that could be added are cost and servings but this is up to you.
It's important to take your time and get it right because you will not get a second chance at making this plan while out on the trail and if it isn’t done right you will quickly find yourself regretting not doing it right the first time.
What would a meal plan look like?
Well we have put this example plan together to help show what your hiking meal plan could look like, please remember this is an example and your trip may have other needs you need to factor into your plan such as the water required for each item while cooking, the number of people it serves or even the cost of each meal.
The Below plan is a breakfast of Oats and coffee, a lunch of a peanut butter & banana wrap, a dinner of a freeze dried hiking meal, snacks of scroggin, muesli bars and prunes and finally dessert of popcorn.
Freeze Dried Meal
Tea / Coffee / Milo
Scroggin (Trail Mix)
Muesli bar x2
If you would like to download your own editable version of this planner then feel free to visit our checklists page.
What things work best on a hiking menu?
Well the things that work best on a hiking menu are non-perishable goods that don't require refrigeration, at first you may find it hard to find but you may be surprised with how many options you actually have. These options can include:
Freeze dried hiking breakies
Cereals with powdered milk
Dehydrated and freeze dried goods
Sachet tuna (no cans)
Crackers and savory biscuits
Dehydrated spreads and dips
Sachet tuna (no can)
Beans and Lentils
Freeze dried hiking dinners
Packaged chocolate crepes
Freeze dried hiking desserts
Crackers and Savory Biscuits
Fresh Fruit (only for the first few days)
These are just some suggestion but you can almost guarantee that one of these great options will end up on your menu, if you would like to find recipes and in depth insights into each item on this list then consider checking out our recipes page.
When making your plan you will want to set aside some extra provisions for emergency situations that may arise on your hike, these could include food spoilage, possums nicking it from your bag or tent in the night or you may have even under packed food and need a little more of a boost to keep going. For these provisions consider setting aside a few meals and some extra ingredients just to be sure that you will have everything you require to complete your hike with enough food.
Options for resupplying
For longer hikes that span over 5 to 6 days you may want to consider either a supply drop or a pit stop in a local town where you can resupply yourself with everything you need for the next few days of hiking.
For supply drops you can typically buy these from local providers when walking along more trafficked trails but this can be a lot harder to do when hiking in more remote areas. It's important to note that most supply drops need to be filled by you and the cost only accounts for the delivery of the package rather than the goods inside.
If taking the route of pits stops on your hike, make sure that the town you stop in is going have everything you need for a resupply, this can be done by calling local supermarkets in advance and organising with locals to arrange a pick up of goods. When passing through a town mid-way through a hike you can find yourself losing a lot of time resupplying so consider taking a zero day to help you recover energy and get what you need.
Leave no Trace
When planning your food for a hike it is very important you take into account the environmental implications of the food you are bringing with you. Try to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace while hiking and this means minimising packaging, deposing of waste in proper ways and ensuring the environment is left how to first saw it. For more info on what ‘leave no trace’ hiking is and how best to follow it you can check out this article.
So now hopefully you have a better idea of how to make a hiking meal plan and what is best to put into it, there are a range of hiking meals that can be made and it never hurts to experiment with new recipes or ideas so get out there and give camp cooking a go by planning your hike meal plan.
Written by Josh Welch