Hiking Food For A Week: Appalachian Trail Food Ideas


Food is one of the most important factors for success if you are planning to hike the Appalachian Trail. Preparing backpacking food for a week will require careful planning and understanding of how many calories you need to go through the day. You will be wasting huge loads of energy, which means you will have to balance this high burn-rate by consuming lots of micronutrients.

Preparing hiking food for a week will be easy once you know what foods can provide you with the necessary calories and nutrients you need. In this article, we will go through suggested meals and backpacking food ideas. We will also share some general tips to help you pack enough calories to get you through the Appalachian Trail.

Backpacking Food Requirements

A high level of nutrition is the first thing you want to focus on. Burning up to 6,000 calories in a single day is common for hikers. As mentioned above, you will have to consume a lot of micronutrients to keep your body working properly. When you are preparing hiking food for a week you have to keep in mind that the food is rich in fiber, fats, protein, carbohydrates, calories, and electrolytes (mainly magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium).

Keep in mind to bring food that requires minimal preparation. The food you bring to a hike needs to be ready-to-eat and you shouldn’t be wasting any time with cleanup. Snacks are extremely effective in these situations since you will be hiking during meals and you will be able to eat and hike simultaneously. One-pot-meals are usually the favorite for most backpackers when it comes to dinner at camp.

Your food needs to be lightweight. In other words, it has to be dehydrated, containing little or no water at all. Heavy food usually contains a lot of water. The foods’ packaging can also be heavy which can add to your total weight and make the hike harder. If the cardboard boxes and bagging is excessive don’t hesitate to repackage the food. Prioritize dry food over anything else.

Keep nutritional density in mind. For example, provide your food with 3,000 calories (instead of 1,500) if you are going to carry 2 pounds of food per day. You may have heard of the “calorie-to-ounce ratio” term and this is where it comes from. At least 100 calories per oz should be your ideal goal when you are preparing backpacking food for a week. But, keep in mind that some vegan or gluten-free backpacking food might be lower in calories.

Make sure your food has a variety of flavors and textures. Eating mealy and dense textures for a couple of days can be hard for some people, so try packing some crunchy things like pork rinds and crackers. Finish every day with a treat you enjoy – a cup of tea or a candy bar.


An oatmeal packet is one of the easiest breakfasts you can prepare while hiking. These are very popular among hikers due to their heavy nutrition and convenience. Oatmeal packets are usually served in a bowl. All you have to do is to pour some hot water and your oats will be ready to eat. You can try looking for a pack that has a variety of different flavors so you can have a different breakfast every morning. Oatmeal is also a must-have in every vegetarian backpacking meal.

Another easy-to-prepare breakfast is grits. Some people think that only Southerners love grits, but that’s not true. There are also different flavor varieties and preparing grits is also easy.

Always try having some dried fruits with you. Fresh fruits are usually delicate and heavy since they contain a lot of water. This means that fresh fruit is not usually an ideal option when it comes to hiking food. On the other hand, dried fruit can be a healthier alternative to candy since it provides dense sugar.

You will find the necessary calories in the morning in nuts and seeds. Roasted, salted, or whatever type of nuts you like is always a good option. Your hiking meals should provide your body with necessary oils, healthy fats, protein, and calories – and nuts have all of these! Also, there are almost infinite varieties of nuts – cashews, sunflower seeds, pistachio, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts are only some of them!

Powder meals are also a really good option for breakfast. The good thing about these is that you can find these meals almost anywhere and there is a huge variety of them. You don’t necessarily need weight lifting supplements during a hike, but a complete meal replacement is always a good choice. Make sure these are closed correctly since they can make a big mess, and you will have to clean your backpack in the middle of your hike if a powder meal opens accidentally. Keep in mind that the meal should taste good and provide necessary nutrition, but it should also be minimally processed.

Powdered milk is something you can easily carry with you anywhere you go. It is also something you should probably add when you are preparing hiking food for a week. Powdered milk will add no weight to you, but will serve as a great calorie, fat, potassium, and protein boost. Try mixing it with some dried fruit or granola for breakfast. You can also add it to your oatmeal if you like it a bit creamier.

Another popular powdered ingredient among hikers is powdered eggs. They are usually used for texture and flavor reasons. Also, they are cheap, lightweight, and easy protein.


Dried meat and beef jerky are extremely useful when you need a quick lunch. Salami, tuna, and beef jerky are a common pick for a lot of hikers. You don’t have to cook them and they need no refrigeration. Also, all of these are high in sodium and protein and most people find these foods tasty.

Another thing that is very popular among thru-hikers is tuna. It is probably the most popular meat of choice. Usually available everywhere, cheap, and conveniently packed. If you want extra calories you can put the tuna in olive oil. Another meat item gaining popularity among hikers is salmon.

Preparing backpacking food for a week just can’t go without some cheese, especially if you usually consume it. Some ultralight backpackers might have problems with carrying a lot of cheese because it can be quite heavy. However, it contains a lot of fat and calories you need during a hike. Also, it enhances the meat flavor. Keep in mind to look only for ‘harder’ cheeses for convenience.

Tortillas are very convenient and a great replacement for the fluffy and bulky bread. They can also take a beating that will probably happen in your backpack during a hike. Also, tortillas are compact and great for wraps. You can put some cheese and meat in them, or even peppers and hummus and you will have a tasty meal in a matter of seconds.

If you, however, don’t like tortillas, you can try packing some bagels. They also provide a great replacement for bread but are not too flat. Their ‘fluff’ texture will allow you to enjoy your meals even more. Bagels are a less delicate option but are more pack-able.

Crackers are almost a must-have when you are preparing backpacking food for a week. A lot of hikers love these, simply because they are tasty and you can carry them in anything. They are also rich in sodium and carbohydrates. If you don’t want your crackers to get smashed inside your hiking backpack, you can use a bandana to hang them outside.



Try to put some instant noodles in your backpack when you’re preparing hiking food for a week. Noodles contain a lot of carbohydrates. If you are thinking about packing pasta instead of noodles, don’t do it. Pasta will probably leave your hiking cookware or bowl a sticky mess, while seasoned noodles generally don’t need a lot of cleanups.

Another great meal you can prepare quickly for dinner is instant rice. Having a couple of these will provide you with a solid base for a rich dinner meal you need to have during your hike. Also, you will probably be able to find countless rice varieties with different veggies and seasonings at your local store.

Couscous is very high in fiber – something you will probably lack during your hike. This is why you should pack a couple of these when preparing hiking food for a week. It cooks much faster than noodles and rice – in about 5 minutes. However, some hikers find couscous to be less filling.

Your dinner should contain at least some dried veggies if it is possible. As you can notice from this article, eating healthy food on the trail is quite hard. However, there’s an exception when it comes to dried vegetables. All you have to do is to add them to any of the food items listed above and you will have a tasty meal that is still, somewhat, healthy. Of course, dried veggies are something you don’t want to miss if you only need vegan camping food.

You can always add some freeze-dried meals in your backpacking food for a week. These take very little space but will provide you with a lot of necessary nutrients. You just have to add some hot water, stir the mixture, and wait for a couple of minutes. There are also a lot of different recipes, flavors, and brands you can choose from.


Hiking just isn’t hiking without snacks. There are countless options, and the preferences will vary from individual to individual. However, there are some hiking snacks that a lot of hikers recommend and use on all of their hikes.

Start with packing some energy chews. These usually have a consistency of a gummy bear. They are usually loaded with electrolytes. Also, some of them are caffeinated, so you can use these instead of coffee.

An alternative to energy chews is energy gels. If you want quick calories energy gels are a great energy boost. Besides, they are super convenient and the options for goos and gels are endless.

A lot of hikers prefer leather fruit as their snack. They usually taste like candy and are a good source of natural sugar. Due to their chewiness and thickness, people refer to them as “leather” candy.


Q: How many days food can you carry?


Depending on your weight, size, and exertion level you should aim at 2,500 to 4,500 calories per day (1.5-2.5 lbs per day). Don’t overdo it since carrying too much food will slow you down a lot. Add more water instead of a few extra snacks.

Q: What should I eat on a long hike?


Experienced hikers recommend intaking a double amount of normal carbohydrates. Nutrient dense snacks such as trail mixes, granola bars, dried fruit, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, cheese, and crackers. Fruits are also recommended, just make sure you’re carrying fruit that is durable and won’t end up squished in your bag.

Q: How much food should I bring on the Appalchian Trail?


If your food is high in calories you will need about 1.5-2 pounds should be optimal in most circumstances. However, you will probably need more if you’re doing a terrain with a lot of elevations, rugged terrain, and big miles.

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You will burn a lot of calories during your Appalachian Trail hike. This is why you have to prepare the food with all the necessary nutrients and calories your body needs to keep functioning. The hard part is to choose just the right amount of food you can carry during a hike while still providing your body with the necessary micronutrients. Try avoiding foods that contain a lot of water since you don’t want to add unnecessary weight while hiking.

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