Calories are the basic unit of energy found in all foods. The amount of calories a person needs depends on factors like their age, gender, body size and physical activity level. When you’re hiking, climbing or just walking in the wilderness, your body needs tons of extra energy and the only calories you should be worried about. You can burn up to 530 calories per hour on the trail and hiking in a stormy weather can increase this burn potential by 5 percent.
What kind of food do you need for hiking and backpacking trips to maintain necessary energy level? Below is a list of the high-calorie foods that give a powerful boost to your backpacking menu.
Top 10 Hiking Foods
1. Fats & Oils
Fats and oils are the most concentrated form of energy. They yield 9 calories per gram. Beside rich in energy, fats are incredible sources of essential fatty acids and vitamin E. Adding a small amount of fat to your backpacking meal can enhance the taste and also help to keep you satisfied for longer.
Calorie density (per 100g): Coconut Oil – 929 Cal, Sesame Oil – 857 Cal, Olive Oil – 800 Cal
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. They are super healthy hiking snack and great addition to granolas, baked goods, some Asian and Indian dishes.
Calorie density (per 100g): Macadamia Nuts- 750Cal, Pine Nuts- 700Cal, Pumpkin Seeds- 601Cal
3. Nut and Seed Butters
Seed and nut butters contain healthful nutrients and can be used as a smooth sandwich spread, as a binding ingredient for energy bars or as a topping for your backcountry oatmeal.
Calorie density (per 100g): Peanut Butter – 594Cal, Tahini (Sesame Butter) – 594Cal, Almond Butter – 563 Cal
Chocolate already took a first place on a hiker’s list of go-to foods. One of the most high-calorie products, it can give you a much-needed energy boost and help you recover after a long day hike.
Calorie density (per 100g): Dark Chocolate, 85% Cacao – 625Cal, White Chocolate – 482Cal, Milk Chocolate – 458Cal
5. Dried fruits and berries
Dried fruits and berries are high in fiber and dense in nutrients. Combined with some nuts and seeds into a trail mix , they make a perfect portable fuel for the trail.
Calorie density (per 100g): Dried Banana Chips – 516Cal, Dates – 350Cal, Dried Cranberries – 345Cal, Apricots – 250Cal, Prunes – 240Cal
6. Milk, Dairy Products
Dairy products contain several nutrients that are essential for human’s health. Calcium, vitamin D, and protein are just some of them. Whole milk powder from Nestle is a very convenient product to use for hiking and backpacking trips. Just pre-mix it with your favourite cereals or granola at home, add water at camp and eat it for breakfast.
Ghee is my absolute favourite, as it’s very high in calories and can last for months without refrigeration.
Calorie density (per 100g): Ghee (clarified butter) – 884Cal, Whole Milk Powder (Nestle Nido) – 503Cal, Parmesan Cheese, grated – 321Cal
Shelf-stable bacon is great option for cooking on the trail. It goes well with instant mashed potatoes, eggs, polenta and pasta dishes.
Calorie density (per 100g): Smoked Bacon – 533Cal, Summer Sausage – 298Cal, Beef Jerky – 286Cal
8. Oily Fish
Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are full of omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for a healthy eye, brains and nerve development. They also are a good source of vitamins A, D, and E.
Calorie density (per 100g): Mackerel in Oil- 268Cal, Smoked Salmon Jerky – 257Cal, Canned Sardines in Oil – 204Cal, Tuna in Oil – 198Cal
9. Pasta & Grains
Pasta is a great base for healthy, nutritious and satisfying backpacking meals. It provides your body with “fuel”, to power muscles and brain. As a complex carbohydrates, pasta digested more slowly that ensure a steady release of energy to keep you gong throughout the day.
The whole grains also is an essential part of a hiker’s diet. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, proteins, minerals (magnesium, iron, selenium, potassium) and fiber.
Calorie density (per 100g): Quacker Oats (rolled) – 375Cal, Pasta, cooked – 158Cal, Rice – 130Cal
10. Legumes & Vegetables
Legumes are low in fat, rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. After meat, poultry and fish, legumes provide more protein per serving than other types of food. For hikers, especially vegetarian ones, protein-based plants as beans and lentils are the must.
Despite on low-calorie density, vegetables are also an important part of the hiker’s daily diet. They contain minerals and vitamins that can help to keep you healthy, produce energy and recover tissues during long backpacking trips.
Calorie density (per 100g): Instant Potatoes – 364Cal, Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas) – 119Cal, Red Lentils – 116Cal
Top 10 Hiking Foods (Infographic)
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How many calories per day should you eat while hiking? Check out with Daily Needs Calculator.
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