Enjoy Happy Trails, the free monthly newsletter from Hiking For Her

High Calorie
Backpacking Food:
Make The Weight Count

By Diane Spicer

Pack the most energy for the weight in your backpack with these backpacking nutrition tips from Hiking For Her. #backpackingfood #besthikingfood #hikingforher

Backpackers make elaborate menu plans for high calorie backpacking food.

Why? To stay fueled up and strong for the trail, and to satisfy their demanding taste buds.

The rest of us?

Probably counting each tiny little calorie, or frowning at certain numbers on food labels.

If you're here, you want the skinny full meal deal on high calorie backpacking foods that travel well, are cost and weight effective, and can be scarfed down early in a hurry or enjoyed as a backpacking dinner!

You already know that food energy (hiking calories) are your best defense against sluggish energy levels, cold temperatures, a long stretch of endurance zapping rain and wind, and a dip in immunity levels from high exertion.

But you're looking for options for high calorie backpacking food because it will save you weight, being more nutrient dense per ounce.

So let's dig into those high calorie choices!

Specifically, let's go by time of day you'll need that fuel:

High calorie backpacking food
for breakfast

There are two mindsets for backpackers in the morning: get up and get going (which long trail hikers probably prefer), or slide into the day (those with less time pressure).

Let's cover some nutrient dense food options for both types of hikers.

No cook, just swallow and get going
high calorie backpacking food

Screw the cook stove! Lace up the boots, grab a pouch of food, and hit the trail.

Recognize yourself?

Then here are two high calorie food options for you:

The "hot water makes me smile" contingent

If you have no need to burn up the trail, take time to boil some water and rehydrate these backpacking breakfast options:

Add some heavy cream powder for more calories and a creamy mouth feel that really satisfies.

Don't overlook a handful of these little lovelies to pump up the calories for staying power through the morning on the trail:

Or toss them together into one fantastic trail nourishment pouch!

BTW, it's seriously true that hot water will make you smile when you hit that long craved and much deserved shower at the end of your backpacking trip!

But while you're on the trail, here are hot water preparation necessities:

Backpacking kitchen essentials

Best backpacking stoves

High calorie backpacking food
choices for a fast, filling lunch

Why ruin a perfectly good day on the trail by stopping to boil water*?

Here is a fast, uncooked approach to a backpacking lunch with a hefty portion of calories:

*Unless it's pounding down rain and you're under the shelter of a friendly tree, that is.

Then you'll want the best backpacking tea, to wash down that personalized smorgasbord.

Fast calories from carbohydrates

GreenBelly specializes in calorie dense (650 calories per serving) food that can be eaten as you hike.

GoMacro bars hover around 300 calories per bar.

They're made with brown rice syrup for easy digestibility, won't go rock hard if they get cold, and have a wide variety of flavors to choose from.

This variety pack is the way to go if you don't want your taste buds to fall asleep on a backpacking trip.

Load your lunch with protein and fat calories

Nut butters like these can be plopped right into your mouth, ignoring crackers.

A handful of jerky (free of fillers and chemicals) makes a delicious lunch option.

Packets of olives, high in good oils and so very tasty for jaded taste buds? Yes, please!

High calorie backpacking food choices
for delicious dinners

Unless you're going so fast and so light that a stove is a foreign concept to you, you'll have a stove and some kitchen gear to make a backpacking dinner (tips above).

That means time to relax while the water boils and food re-hydrates.

Here's how to get maximum calories into your gullet at dinner.

Trail Tip:

  • Eat the entire pouch/packet/meal. Your hunger will thank you.

Additional calorie hacks

Carry a small plastic jar filled with some type of oil: coconut, olive, whatever makes your taste buds happy.

  • Add a teaspoon to your evening meal to keep you feeling full longer.
  • More satisfying backpacking meal hacks here.

Add powdered high calorie supplements to your food:

How to manage all that powdered food without losing it?

Use the smallest sealable plastic bags you can find (snack size), and keep them organized in your food storage system by time of day you'll need them.

Prefer to go the environmentally friendly route to store your food?

These reusable sealable bags are the solution.

Or skip plastic bags altogether, with these reusable brown paper stand up pouches.

High calorie trail snacks
all through the day

Hunger is just another way to say you're making good time on the trail, right?

So stash some of these hiking snacks in a conveniently placed pocket, and you don't even have to break stride to get refueled.

Trail Tip:

These little calorie bombs also work well as snowshoeing snacks, requiring only one ungloved hand to get this high energy fuel into your mouth!

More snowshoe tips here

Things to keep in mind when
selecting high calorie backpacking food

You want to see high calorie counts, but you don't want to overload on sodium and weird fillers or preservatives. That's why I recommend Backpackers Pantry and GoodToGo, two brands that are going to go easy on your kidneys.

Forget about that silly little phrase "serving size" when you're a backpacker. You want to wolf down the entire meal, or at least most of it, at one go.

When you're tallying up calories, keep in mind what your individual metabolism requires.

  • If you're a keto backpacker, you want few carbohydrates but love to see fats and protein.
  • If you're gluten free, you're going to skip most grains.

So be prepared to scrutinize nutrition labels to select the food that agrees with your digestion and biochemistry.

Never take food on a trip that you aren't familiar with and know will do your body good.

Calorie dense foods are your allies
as a backpacker

So glad you're taking the time to think through your calorie needs for an upcoming trip!

It's important to keep your strength and stamina on the trail, in addition to your sanity.

It also shores up your immune levels in the face of trail dirt, cuts and scrapes, and exposure to unfamiliar microorganisms in surface water sources.

So eat up, early and often with high calorie backpacking food, and laugh in the face of hunger pangs!

  • That's a direct order. Eat when you get that first little pang of hunger, or become the Hangry Hiker no one wants to be around.

One last tip:

Eating calorie dense foods after a training hike or other type of workout also pays benefits. This Mayo Clinic explanation is simple and straightforward.

You might like to read these next

Home page > Best Backpacking Tips >

Choosing High Calorie Backpacking Food