trail fuel, trail, fuel, backpacking

Trail Fuel: What to pack for backpacking

Trail Fuel: What to pack for backpacking

Did you know that a full day of backpacking can translate to your body burning upwards of 3,000-4,000 calories a day? Most backpackers out on the trails tend to under fuel in attempt to avoid carrying a large amount of extra weight. Understandably so- a backpack usually weighs around 40-50 lbs!

So what is a hiker to do? Pass out from not eating enough or pass out from all the extra weight your carrying around? The answer is neither! Keep reading to find out how to properly fuel your body to keep up with your body’s the demands while on your next hike or backpacking trip without the extra weight.

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Think carbohydrates for energy!

Carbs are not the enemy we’ve made them out to be when eaten in the correct amounts. Carbs are actually they body’s primary fuel source and provides the body with a quick source of energy. Once the carbohydrates you’ve eaten that day have been depleted, your body will revert to burning off glycogen, the storage form of carbohydrates. Without enough carbs, the body will start to burn off muscle mass and some body fat to help keep up with the demands. The result is fatigue, sluggishness, mood swings and an overall bad feeling.

Best portable sources of carbs for backpacking:

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Freeze dried vegetables (can be found in bulk at The Fresh Market)
  • Cliff Bars/Luna Bars/Power Bar Harvest
  • Candy- my personal favorite it gummy worms!


Fats for long-term fuel

Many people don’t realize that fats are in fact an energy source for our bodies. Fat takes longer to digest and therefore helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer. Think of fat as a time-released energy source, as opposed to carbohydrates. And before you even ask- no, you cannot avoid eating fat to persuade your body to burn your own body fat as an energy source instead. During exercise, your body will burn a mix of carbs and fat eaten with a small amount of your body’s stores of carbs and fat.

Best portable sources of fat for backpacking:

  • Nuts of any type
  • Individual peanut butter cups
  • Freeze dried vegetables or snap pea crisps (usually have oil added)
  • Tuna/salmon foil packets


Protein keeps you strong

Protein, like fat, also takes longer to digest and will help keep you satiated for longer. However, protein supplies less than 2% of your body’s usable energy and should not be considered an energy source. Protein does help to maintain your muscle mass, prevent muscle breakdown and promotes recovery from long, strenuous hikes.

Best portable sources of protein for backpacking:

  • Tuna/salmon foil packets
  • Freeze dried egg/meat (check out Thrive products)
  • Nuts/seeds
  • Trail mix
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein powder

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Of course this is not an all-inclusive list of foods. If you are in need of meals (lunch/dinner) to bring backpacking with you, check out your local backpacking store. They carry an array of freeze-dried meals that you can add boiling water to and eat right out of the pouch. Most of them are pretty tasty too! For additional help on preparing for your next backpacking or camping trip, contact Elite Nutrition & Performance!

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