First-time backpackers are often intimidated by the idea of planning and preparing meals for an overnight trip, let alone a multi-day excursion. After all, it's not easy to deliver several hearty meals without the conveniences of a modern kitchen.
Rest assured, backpacking food is much simpler than it seems. You can easily keep a group of six hikers fueled and on the go (even teenage boys) with one large pot, a backpacking stove and some carefully planned menus.
If you're the cookmaster for your next backpacking trek, here's your six-word mantra: High calories, low weight, great taste.
Calories are critical because it's recommended that the average backpacker consume in at least double his normal caloric intake, meaning you should be eating 4,000-5,000 calories daily to keep your energy up, more if it's an especially strenuous hike.
Weight is important because no one wants his pack weighed down with cans of pasta sauce, and great taste is important too. After a long day on the trail, you should have something to look forward to.
The easiest solution is to purchase the just-add-hot-water freeze-dried meals sold at most sporting goods and outdoor specialty shops. These work great in a pinch or as emergency rations, but they tend to be expensive, and what's the fun in grabbing someone else's version of beef stroganoff?
Here are some basic guidelines and suggestions for backpacking food. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Instant oatmeal and granola are the obvious staples, because they are lightweight and easy to prepare. Bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese also provide a high-calorie start to your day with minimal effort.
Or if you are really feeling inspired, you can create your own breakfast bars before your trip, tailored to your tastes using a combination of ingredients such as granola, oatmeal, raisins, honey, vanilla, brown sugar and chocolate. Once your ingredients are mixed together, you just bake in a cookie sheet, cut into squares and wrap individually and you have a quick but tasty and hearty breakfast that you can even eat on the trail if you need to make an early start.