Hiking food: Eat well while carrying less

Enhance your experience in nature by enjoying better hiking food.

By Lynley Joyce

Hiking food: Nothing tastes better than a hearty meal at the end of an excellent day’s walk. The trick is to not be too exhausted from having to carry your food.

Day walks are simple. Pack your lunch box, take a bottle of water and you’re off. Some people like to take a thermos of tea, or another option is a small camp stove to make yourself a cuppa along the way.

Flatbreads or cracker biscuits are good lunch options for multiday bushwalks as they tend to travel better. Hommus is perhaps the best travelling dip, and can be carried dehydrated, and rehydrated the day you want it. Cheese is great for lunch, as is salami and anything with a bit of a kick.

Woman enjoying tasty bar on a hikeFresh food will generally keep for up to three days, depending on how warm the weather is. Most fresh food is also heavy and some of it does not travel that well. Fresh food that usually travels well for an overnight or 3-day walk includes snow peas, carrots, hard cheeses, hommus and some other dips if they’re in sturdy containers or tubes. Other things can be carried in containers if you can be bothered. Try and avoid fruits that leave pips and stones to carry out again. Fresh bananas, stone fruits and berry fruits do not travel that well.

Sadly chocolate is often not a good option on walks unless it’s cold weather or you can keep it insulated and protected. It’s often best to take this essential supply in a form that has a hard candy shell, such as M&Ns, Smarties or the like. Scroggin with nuts, dried fruit and other goodies can help keep you sustained. Have a few bags with different options when walking for several days, so you have some variety.

Unless you have to take all your own water anyway, it is so much better to take dried or dehydrated food and not the extra weight. While you do not have to live entirely off dried foods, they are definitely worth it on longer walks.

Women enjoying lunch on a hike

If you have to carry water for all your walk, you may as well take some of that water as part of your food. Choose foods that don’t need too much cooking to minimise the fuel needed.

It’s also a good idea to take food that’s easy to prepare. Heat and eat is a great motto for evening meals on a multiday hike. Take a small camp stove with at least two pots. Trangias of all sizes are a great option, as are gas camping stoves.

Couple eating muesli bars hikingPeople who have dehydrators swear by them for preparing food for hiking. They can make just about any casserole, curry or pasta sauce and weigh next to nothing. Dehydrated food is easy to rehydrate, heat and eat. Mostly it tastes delicious, though most things do after a day’s hiking. On the downside, dehydrators are expensive and you do need to prepare well in advance.

Hiking gear on forest pathMost camping stores will stock commercial dehydrated or freeze-dried food for hikers. These can be worth it for long walks but tend to be expensive.

Dehydrated foods from the supermarket can be an option. They tend to be salty and highly processed, but they are cheaper, and most people hanker for a bit of salt on a long walk anyway.

Instant soups and tea bags are almost a must for colder evenings. Couscous is great, as it only needs boiled water. When cooking white rice, try the absorption method to reduce the fuel needed. Put two cups of water to one cup of rice in your camp stove and bring to the boil. Cover and set it aside while you cook the rest of your meal. The rice should be ready in about 20 minutes.


Here are a few options that are easy to cook on a hike:

  • Pasta with pesto
  • Sundried tomatoes, “cream” made from powdered milk with an optional stock cube and dried herbs with pasta
  • Instant mashed potato with flour and egg and optionally salami and dried peas or onion, fried to make savoury potato fritters. It’s best to take oil as margarine or butter to help prevent messy spillages.

Hikers often crave something with a bit of a kick in their food. Take extra chilli or pepper, salt or dried parmesan cheese to add extra flavour to a meal if needed.

Hiker cooking on campfire

Muesli and powdered milk are popular for breakfast hiking food for good reason. It is hearty, provides sustained energy and travels well. Another option is instant porridge. If you want to take the effort and have the time, pancakes or apple fritters made with dried fruit are good options for a leisurely breakfast or supper.

There are a variety of coffee options, and everyone’s tastes are different so it’s best to try a few. Unless you’re walking past a café, you’re unlikely to get a high-quality cappuccino with milky froth on top, but the one you get when you return to civilisation will taste so divine, it will be worth it.

Woman hiker enjoying snack food


Multiple Contributor at | Website

Lynley Joyce lives on the outskirts of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia with her family and a variety of other wildlife. She loves to camp and hike in her home territory of Tasmania, though she has been sighted on walks in other parts of Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Europe. Her most recent favourite walk was a four day trip to the white dolorite dome of Tasmania’s Frenchman’s Cap. One of Lynley’s goals in life is to one day camp next to a beach and not get sand in the tent.

11 thoughts on “Hiking food: Eat well while carrying less

  • December 12, 2019 at 5:02 am

    Eating well during hikes is really important so as to have full energy for hiking and without getting sick. It is always good to carry dehydrated food as it is easy to re-hydrate, heat and eat. Also carrying dehydrated food on our back is easy as it has less burden. Good to know it tastes delicious, and easy to make after a day’s hiking. I know these foods are generally expensive which is the only downside. I find pasta with pesto and also ready to eat noodles always easy to make during such hikes.

  • December 11, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    A very functional and informative post for people like me who love to hike and trek. Granola bars and multi-grain cookies are a must-carry for me personally. And, I do vouch with your ‘heat and eat’ options. I always stock my backpack with ‘ready-to-eat’ mini-meals that we get here in India!

  • December 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing some important considerations and ideas about what food makes sense to bring when hiking. Of course, how long it keeps is key, but I wouldn’t have thought twice about tossing a banana peel or fruit pit until you mentioned it here. I would have never considered bringing instant potatoes either, but I bet they are so warm and comforting after a day of hiking in the fresh air. I like the idea of bringing a little chili powder to kick things up a notch, too. Thanks for sharing these helpful insights–I will keep them in mind!

  • December 10, 2019 at 5:31 am

    This has great tips for hiking! I personally love the breakfast time and always like to have more food then than on my other meals. Oatmeal has been my favorite but I never thought I could maybe make some pancakes while camping. I must explore that next time. And coffee is a must!

  • December 9, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    This is a great article for hikers. I enjoy walking but I am not an overnight camper. It is amazing to know that there are so many food options for hikers these days. The ‘heat and eat’ options sounds perfect for the end of the day.

  • December 9, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    I wouldn’t have thought hard cheeses or hommus would last 3 days without being refrigerated. I have a dehydrator I use for making granola but again, never would have thought to dehydrate a casserole or a sauce! My parents took me camping when I was little and all I remember is hot dogs – I got ripped off lol. But seriously, this is eye opening info for sure

  • December 9, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Great suggestions for food plus carrying less and as a hiker myself totally agree with everything in this post. Its amazing how much energy we need after a long days hike, usually by lunchtime I want to eat a five-course meal before carrying on with the hike for the rest of the day. I always carried mashed-up milk (that is what I call it) with me, that is always helpful, especially when I want a cup of tea en route.

  • December 9, 2019 at 5:30 am

    I love hiking and all that it entails- including planning for the adventure. Your ideas are fantastic and great reminders as I head out and onto the trail. I especially like your idea of “heat and eat is a great motto for evening meals on a multiday hike.” After a long day, I am always grateful for an easy warm meal.

  • December 9, 2019 at 1:04 am

    These are great suggestions for foods that should go into your backpack when hiking. I have to confess that I never hiked long enough to have to carry food with me, but if I were to do it I’d definitely bring some pasta. It’s a very feeling food and it doesn’t weigh much.

  • September 29, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Such great tips. It is super important to eat well but carrying a lot of food is hard as well. Thanks for the amazing advice. I love reading this blog. Even though I can not be so actively camping anymore with two kids, it’s still very good to find out about all these nature-based tips.

  • July 28, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Having healthy food and a hearty meal is so important for preserving energy on a hiking trip! Thank you so much for all the valuable suggestions and great tips.


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