Ultralight Backpacking Food – CleverHiker.com

Visit http://www.CleverHiker.com for more gear recommendations and videos.

Episode 7 of my Lightweight Backpacking Foundations series

Top Ultralight Backpacking Food Tips:

Some choose:

– A food is fuel mentality – Strictly for calories, taste, and ease
– Body is a temple approach – Take time to prepare, dehydrate their own recopies, and are willing to bring a little extra weight for better nutrition.

– For ease and convenience Lightweight backpackers tend to lean towards the food is fuel mentality.

To go light and get serious, measure Calories per ounce.
– Get as light as possible.
– Nut & seeds, olive oil, peanut butter, chocolate, high fat foods – more cal/oz
– Fresh fruits and veggies – less cal/oz
– Good range 120-130 cal/oz

The goal – nutrition, taste, & calories while keeping weight low

– Good trail nutrition is just like good nutrition at home –
– Balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – with fiber, fruit + veg when possible

– When “cooking” on the trail – Ease of “cooking” for most lightweight backpackers is important
– Boil water and pour in a bag
– Choose meals with short cook times

– Amount of food. You’ll need more calories than normal, especially for full days and long trips
– Some thru-hikers find that they consume 5-6,000 calories per day – very long hiking days

– Avoid all canned food. Heavy – low in calories – pack out the trash.
– Repackage all food when possible to reduce weight and volume

– Save weight and add nutrition with dried Fruits & Veggies
– Use a food dehydrator to make your own delicious and healthy trail snacks.

Popular UL Food Choices:

• Very important part of trail diet – keeping constantly fueled
• Dried fruit
• Trail mix
• Energy bars – lots of bars
• Fruit leather strips
• Nuts
• Chocolate
• Chips & crackers
• Beef jerky
• Candy

• Will you want to cook?
• Powdered milk
• Granola
• Pop tarts
• Bars
• Carnation instant breakfast mix
• Snacks – trail mix, dried fruit
• Tea/coffee
• Instant oatmeal

• Sandwitches
• Whole wheat tortillas
• Bagels
• Salami
• Summer sausage
• Peanut butter & jelly
• Honey
• Hard cheeses
• Fill in with snacks

• Freeze dried meals are light but can be expensive – $7-10 per
• Similar meals can be found in grocery stores for a fraction of the price
• Dehydrated meals
• Dry soups
• Pasta sides
• Rice sides
• Instant potato flakes
• Instant stuffing
• Easy Mac
• Ramen noodles
• Couscous
• Tuna and chicken in foil packets
• Add freeze dried veggies when possible

• Fast food packets for condiments
• Hot sauce
• Olive Oil
• Seasoning
• Powdered sports drinks
• Hot coco


  1. James Stanley on September 16, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    I cannot stress enough about couscous, you can cold soak it and it tastes like spaghetti.

  2. bali song on September 16, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    I DETEST having to cook on the trail. I only do it if I ‘ve foraged something, or if I need the heat/calories in me for a cold night. There’s no way I’d carry any sort of stove. I just go 50m off of the trail, dig a small Dakota pit and when I"m done, I fill it in. if you first set-aside the top materials and replace them, nobody will ever know that you had a fire there.

  3. Michael Sagehorn on September 16, 2019 at 7:43 pm

    Great video, but I’m finding my food choices today are more Spartan and John Muir like. Two loaves of French bread, salami, cheese, oatmeal, tea, brown sugar, dried fruit, soup mix, and some Scotch. Four days and very little waste.

  4. Niel Enriquez on September 16, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Aha! Philippine Mango spotted at 2:46. Here in the Philippines we always bring rice! Nice vid though.

  5. First Last on September 16, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    OATS + whatever meat and plants you can get

  6. Andy c on September 16, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Tinned mackerel, peanuts, apples & a few others

  7. godheadTestify on September 16, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    Can someone explain to me how hard meats and cheeses and bags of milk keep well when hiking? Do they not enter the danger zone of between 36°F and 135°F? What stops them from growing bacteria within those temperatures? Does the milk not spoil? The hard meats aren’t dehydrated and the cheeses wouldn’t be either, so does how they are produced and aged play a part in they stay well? Thank you!

  8. Kristopher Fuller on September 16, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    4:04 eating mallows cooked over pressure treated lumber is never the best plan….

  9. TainoXtreme on September 16, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Very good video. Very good subject. Very good instructional. I love your channel so much I subscribe. Nutrition is ass in court and ask calories when it comes to backpacking but not much people realize that. Thank you so much for sharing this video. God bless you.

  10. CapCon Jimmidy on September 16, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks Dave! I screenshotted the list at the end and will be definitly be using it! Cheers.

  11. ya boi on September 16, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    I love these videos! They help a lot!

  12. bali song on September 16, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    you need a trowel anyway, to bury your TP, or at least, most do. I favor soap, a rag and a round, smooth rock, myself. Put the rag in a ziplock bag, after cleaning and drying it, of course.

  13. Jannes on September 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Very nice choice of music, I love Emancipator!

  14. Joey Vallone on September 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    One of my favorite breakfasts is instant oatmeal w/ a hot chocolate mix and peanut butter

  15. Spitch Grizwald on September 16, 2019 at 7:56 pm

    No noodles (Ramen, etc.) for me! Great way to sling scented liquid everywhere, including your clothes. Maybe if I lived in the UK where there are no bears . . . . I’m less interested in fish than I used to be for the same reason.

  16. HikerJohn316 on September 16, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks for sharing Dave. Love bagels. My Cheap & light meal, 1 pack of Ramen , broken up to make it easier to eat with a spoon, and one cup of TVE – Textured Vegetable Protein, available at some health food stores. You could just soak it, but I like a hot meal at the end of the day. Alternative, Ramen and add a half of a cup of powdered eggs. Both of those give some balance of protein and carbs.

  17. Ronald Rose on September 16, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Hello Dave, thank you for sharing this very informative video.

  18. Pia Young on September 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    I’d really love to see an undate for this video with plastic free packaging ideas

  19. bali song on September 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    fats have twice the calories of protein or carbs, for the same weight. The instant oatmeal suffices to keep your guts moving. There’s enough variety in this assembly to keep it from getting too blase.

  20. Saint Nick on September 16, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Picnic tables on a backpacking trip?

  21. Robin Brown on September 16, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Instead of tuna….has no one ever considered eating sardines on the trail? If you get boneless skinless, they are pretty much like eating tuna, but much more nutrition and not as much mercury in them because they are lower on the food chain….you can also get them in extra virgin olive oil. Considering everyone shops for tuna in the same section, I’m surprised that I never see anyone eating them on the trail.

  22. Russ Cambell on September 16, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    I did a 60 mile hike and ended up with a whopping 5 lbs trail mix left over!!!!

  23. bali song on September 16, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    I use a mix of almond butter, jerky, Tang and instant oatmeal. Just stir and spoon it down. Also tang and powdered gatorade in my water, and gorp as I walk along. I can heat up the mix if I want, as well as the tang. All cheap, readily available, no cook, no spoil, no freeze, compact for its weight and food value.

  24. Edwin B. on September 16, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Great video!

  25. GarouLady on September 16, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    really wish someone would put some videos out for diabetics. its very hard to find foods to take that aren’t carbs carbs and carbs.

  26. Loren on September 16, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    I have been watching tons of videos on all sorts of backpacking related topics, including a bunch of food ones. You see I have not done any backpacking or hiking since I move to TX from NorCal 10 years ago, and want to take get back into backpacking; planning a trip to the eastern sierra in late Sep, so that is the reason why I have been watching and gathering intel.

    While watching this video I had an epiphany.

    Meal Replacement powder, or even better gainer. Not protein powder as you would want carbs.. Why nobody I have watched even suggested this is beyond me I found a powder called Pro Gainer by Optimum Nutrition. It mixes with water, is light weight and provides the following with one scoop.
    650 Calories
    60g Protein
    85g Carbs
    24 Vitamins & Minerals

    You could mix this up and drink while you hike. Sounds perfect to me. Obviously to compliment other foods, but this is super caloric and nutritious. I have come to the conclusion that many backpackers are not the most health conscious when it comes to their food choices.. Many prefer sugary snacks.. Or it could be they don’t have deep pockets and are looking for high calories/low cost options..

  27. John Smith on September 16, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Good video. Thanks. On a side note, you’re a bit light on vegetables.

  28. Arthur on September 16, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    fat has 9 calories per gram, while carbs and protein have 4 calories per gram

  29. kvnmcinturff1 on September 16, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Think MRE’s.

  30. Anna Sullivan on September 16, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing, Dave. Totally agree – it’s all about a balance diet of carbs, fats and veggies for a balanced diet. We created Real Food Bars: http://www.realfoodbar.com which is 240-260 calories in 2.29 oz. with all essential food groups and completely balanced macros. We’d love for you to check us out!

  31. K D on September 16, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    So here’s a calories to ounce problem for some folks….water availability. Here in the desert, water is SCARCE, and meals that require rehydration are just not worth it most times. Just food for thought, pun intended.

  32. Paul Roy on September 16, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    I’d bring instant oats, minute rice, nut & fruit trail mix, jerky, dry vegetables, honey, peanut butter, powdered milk, instant coffee, cheese powder, vitamins, and camp seasoning shaker.

    For breakfast you can enjoy oats with dry nuts, dry fruit, milk and honey, then clean out the pot with some coffee to get you moving. For other meals you can have rice with veggies, jerky and cheese. If you need more calories, have some peanut butter. Most could also be eaten raw.

  33. redstedman on September 16, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    Eating all day is no good. The body doesn’t work that way. Old way of thinking.

  34. 805gregg on September 16, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    You should add that alot of the freeze dried meals have way too much sodium, some up to 1500 mg, I like Patagonia, just add some beef jerky and it’s a meal

  35. Simply Shredz on September 16, 2019 at 8:21 pm

    Will you be doing any more camping food videos in the future? Would love to give you a sample of my product to see if it’s worth being mentioned.

  36. Alex Heiss on September 16, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    Your videos are incredibly helpful. Keep up the good work!

  37. Bill Dickson on September 16, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    I found your suggestions un-workable and to be honest the amount of junk food described was disturbing.
    There’s too much sugar, too much carbohydrate and too many preservatives in much of the food you described. Most folk by today’s standards are storing to much energy (fat) so the trick is to burn your bodies fat whilst you are out walking. To do so requires folk to convert their bodies fuel source from burning sugar to burning fat. Look at Dr. Eric Berg’s youtube channel on Ketogenic diet and after doing so, you’ll re-think the way you eat and how you go backpacking. 2 meals are sufficient per day, there is no reason to snack, you’ll find that once your body is producing ketones, the fat you store will be burnt and you will feel stronger, happier, have a clear mind and won’t be hungry. Sugar and carbohydrates make you hungry after a few hours, hence the need to top up with more junky trail mixes or sugar bars. Stick to a ketone diet 2 weeks before the walk and during the adventure and not only will you feel better but you won’t have to carry as much food.

    Cheers from Bill

  38. Leif Nilsen on September 16, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Great video. Thank you! Good tips

  39. Eliel Lopez on September 16, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Some good ideas here. Thanks for posting. I will try some of these.

  40. eqlzr2 on September 16, 2019 at 8:26 pm

    I absolutely disagree about the canned foods. Nothing makes me happier on the trail than canned chili with beans and meat and chips and salsa with maybe some chopped onions. Worth every single particle of weight, and I don’t have to carry around any extra liquid.

  41. Sleeve Of Wizard on September 16, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    You would be a lot more clever if you can point me in the direction of some good hiker food that isn’t loaded with garbage. 🤔

  42. Mike Zumstein on September 16, 2019 at 8:28 pm

    Dear Mr. Collins, Your intro is the best… not too long, beautiful scenery and worth every second ! The info and your delivery of it , is extremely well done. No wasted words or long drawn out explainations…none better anywhere. Hope you are not finished yet ! God Bless You and Yours !

  43. 1MANVSWORLD ! on September 16, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    This was well thought out! Dare I say clever!!! Lol

  44. Gerard Whittle on September 16, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Sorry… but unless you are walking for 14+ days and are already underweight the calorie count is irrelevant. Far more important is the weight of the food you have to carry. (The lower the better!) Freeze dried, dehydrated and noodles, pasta, oatmeal all leave you feeling full – which is far more important for your well-being and ability to continue the hike. If you lose a bit of weight, gain some muscle tone, who will complain?
    Apples? Bagels? WTF – meals are a means to an end! By all means complicate meals for the winter when the evenings are long and there is not much else to do, you only have 7 hours of daylight to walk – so the weight is less important. But… lightweight is the best weight.
    Rehydrate foods prior to cooking = less fuel!
    Treats… Skittles – large bag! (Instant energy – and will last a week!)

  45. Bowzer The Dog on September 16, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Great video, but the gal with the black nail polish on her fingers….OUCH! Reminds me of fingernails that have been accidentally hit with a heavy object. LOL!

  46. Tomek_PL on September 16, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    You forgot about one thing. Some of this food is unhealthy and demolishes your organism. Ramen is cancerous. So being excited about its weight and taste doesnt make any good for hiker.

  47. Dr Spaseebo on September 16, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    WHY does almost everyone waste the first half minute or more of their videos
    with a long "intro" ?

  48. A.J. Hart on September 16, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Loved the vid, although I’m still not getting the tortilla thing that so many seem to like. And peanut butter and bagels are fairly weighty products to lug around. It depends on your distance, though. Not every diet is geared toward thousands of miles of ultralight backpacking.

    One (kind of) correction I would probably make is that hiking food is just about the opposite of eating healthy in the civilian world. It seems to be becoming increasingly apparent that carbs and sugars are wrecking people’s health to a much greater degree than dietary fat.

    That being said, you need those sugars when doing an activity such as hiking. Healthier, low-carb diets are fine for a marathon but won’t give you the bursts you’ll need for a hike. And when you’re burning 3K+ calories a day when hiking, not a lot of blood sugar will survive to lead to fat production.

    Five weeks ago I started a sort of time-restricted, modified keto diet. While I’ve lost 24 pounds during that time, I’m actually looking forward to my modest 109-mile hike of the Mickelson Trail this summer (my first of any kind of length) as a perfect chance to let that peanut M&M monkey hop back on my back! 🙂

  49. Michael Grimes on September 16, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    A good trick a friend taught me…smoke methamphetamine on the trail…youll get energy and is an appetite suppressant…double win…

  50. G H on September 16, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    This Saturday, I am going to have to walk around about 20 miles, I don’t know where the starting point is, and there will be people chasing me the whole way. Wish me luck!

Leave a Comment