The Weight of Backpacking Food in your Backpack (Guide)

Do you have any plans to go backpacking anytime soon? Are you conflicted on what to bring with you and what to leave behind? Whether you’re a first-time hiker or a seasoned hiker, knowing how much food is just enough for your trip is a critical aspect.

In this article, we’ll go over how much your backpack should weigh, how much food is enough without overdoing it or being too scanty, the best food to bring along with you, how much food you can carry in your backpack, and some tips to keep in mind when packing food in your backpack.

Here’s the weight of backpacking food in your backpack

A fully loaded backpacking pack should not weigh more than 20% of your body weight. Your food weight estimate should be two and a half pounds of food per person per day. However, this depends on the nature of your hike, i.e., which kind of activities you engage in, your body weight, and how long you will be out for.


How much food should I carry in my backpack?

You can figure on using 2 lbs of food per person per day on a 3 season backpacking trip as a rule of thumb.

However, depending on your body weight and exertion level, you may need to carry more or less food, but that’s a pretty reliable estimation to begin with. The trick is to go for food with high calories and low weight for backpacking (like high calorie crackers).

Different types of backpacking also influence how much food you will carry in your backpack.

For example, ultralight backpackers aim for one and a half lbs to 2 lbs of food (or 2,500 to 4,500 calories) per person every day, depending on a variety of parameters such as their size, weight, exercise intensity, exertion level, and the number of days they’ll be out.

Thru-hike backpackers ideally pack food in the 100-125 calorie/ounce range to reduce weight and space. Regular backpackers carry packs weighing roughly 30 pounds of food which is enough for approximately five days.

Depending on the number of days you are out, for example, a short trip (3-5 days), then 4,000 calories(3lbs to 4lbs) per day which equals 20,000 calories, will do you good. For a long trip exceeding a month, you’ll have to pack up to 20 pounds of food, depending on the nature of your hike.

The best lightweight food to bring backpacking

While preparing your backpack, focus on relatively lightweight food. Consider dried foods and foods high in calories. Therefore, substitute more caloric items for fewer calories until it’s down to what you are willing to carry.

Seeds and Nuts

Seeds and nuts are high in calories, lightweight, non-perishable, and have an ideal carbohydrate, protein, and fat ratio.

Nut Butter

Nut butter is packed in calories, healthy fats, and protein, all of which will help you stay nourished on the course. Furthermore, they can be incorporated into various meals and snacks and have a shelf life of more than a year; you can enjoy nut butter on long hiking excursions without fear of spoilage.


Jerky is a great shelf-stable and backpacker-friendly alternative to fresh meat. It’s prepared by drying meat or fish to keep it from spoiling. Because most of the moisture is eliminated during the drying process, it is light and can be stored without refrigeration, making it an ideal choice for travelers.

Protein Bars

Protein bars are portable high-quality protein sources that may accommodate any diet, including veganism and vegetarianism. When looking for the finest protein bar to carry, look for goods with few whole-food components and steer clear of those that contain artificial sweeteners, tastes, or colors.

Dried Potatoes, Pasta, and Rice

These are the “basic” carbs found in most backpacking meals. They’re cut-price, light, non-perishable, universally available, and only necessitate red-hot water to cook.

Dehydrated Meals

These meals include dried components such as meat, poultry, vegetables, grains, and fruits prepared by boiling water and letting the mixture sit. Dehydrated meals are packaged in lightweight foil containers that are convenient to keep and transport.

Hot & Cold Breakfast Cereals

Oatmeal is a common backpacker breakfast. Cold cereal (with full-fat powdered milk and a 1/2 scoop of protein powder) is an excellent way to add variety to your diet.

Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is abundant in protein. It can also be a good source of calories for backpackers in harsh weather. You can use powdered milk to supplement nutrients in instant oatmeal, dehydrated meals, and morning tea or coffee.

Beans in Foil Packs

Beans in foil packages are lightweight and compact. Beans in foil packs last for a long time, making them an ideal choice for extended excursions.

Packets of fish or poultry in foil

These items are shelf-stable and do not need to be refrigerated, making them ideal for hiking and touring.

Unlike canned fish and poultry, foil packets are light and compact, making them ideal for carrying in a backpack.

Dried Fruits

Even though they are low in calories, dried fruits are one of the most nutritious backpacking snacks. They are an excellent source of natural energy, as well as micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants.

See related: Where to get condiment packets

How many days of food can you carry backpacking?

Once upon a time, seven days of food was about the most a person could reasonably take on top of their backpacking gear. However, with the development of ultralight gear, it is now possible to carry considerably more and be self-sufficient for many more days.

The average total pack weight (including 600ml of water) for nine days of food should be less than 16kg (less than 35lbs). It is advisable to fall on the side of carrying a bit more. On the other hand, don’t go overboard to avoid extra bulk and weight.

Consider the following factors when deciding how many days of food to bring:

  • How long will you be gone? Consider the meals you’ll have at the trailhead and the end of your journey.
  • What is your typical day going to be like? If you’re going to be covering a lot of ground in a day, you might want to stock up on snacks that you can eat on the go and plan a quick dinner that night.
  • What is the size of your backpack? The size of your backpack will determine the days of food you will carry.

What is the most efficient food?

In general, the most efficient food should be lightweight, high in calories, nutritious, and tasty. The key tip is to always go for dehydrated food because water weighs a lot.

But as much as you want to keep everything light, you have to consider the standard recommendation of about 50% of calories from carbohydrates, 35% from fat, 15% from protein.

You could choose to break it into three meals at least a day, i.e., breakfast, lunch, and supper, with a snack break in between meals.

Here are some of the most efficient foods:

Fresh foods

Because you will be consuming non-perishable foods for the rest of your hiking vacation, you may wish to carry some perishable items for the first day.

Dry meals, Dehydrated or hardened-dried foods

They give outstanding convenience. All you need to do is simply heat some water and enjoy a satisfying and calorie-dense meal. They include rice, quick noodles, soup mixes, dried fruits, and vegetables: Seaweed is a great dried vegetable option because it is light, crunchy, and flavorful. Very efficient for lunch.

Food packs

Instead of bulky and hefty canned goods, seek lighter packets of the same. Packs of tuna or salmon can provide a good source of protein and are ready to eat.

Preserved meat such as pork rinds is high in protein and makes an excellent hiking snack. Coupling these with nuts, spices, and some dried foods provides a nutritious dinner.

Olive oil

Due to its high calorie and fat content, it is a good energy source. Drizzle olive oil over tuna or crackers for extra flavor and moisture, or mix it into pasta or rice recipes. Bring a tiny bottle of olive oil in a plastic baggie if you’re traveling so it doesn’t spill.

Water purification tablets or filters

When planning a multi-day trek, consider that you will not have enough space in your pack to bring bottled water for the entire journey, so bring some sort of water filtration system and purification tablets instead.

See related: How long unused water filters last

Powdered drink mixes

Powdered drink mixes are mostly taken for breakfast. Just adding powdered drink mixes to your water will keep you feeling refreshed and energized. Protein powder can also be used as an easy way to consume more protein while hiking. Trail mix, instant oatmeal, and packs of coffee or tea also come in handy for breakfast.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds have a high protein enthrallment and a fantastic calorie-per-ounce rate, making them one of the everyday hiking snacks.

Examples are granola bars and nut butter which can be eaten plain and taken as lunch, dinner, or snacks. Hummus is also a high-calorie, high-carbohydrate, high-fiber, high-protein trekking food.


Nutrition or energy bars are small and can provide a lot of protein and carbohydrates. Select nutrition bars made mostly of natural components and free of added sugars. Crackers, Chips, Candy, Pastries & Sweet, and Salty Snacks are all good examples of snacks.


Cheese is high in protein and calories, can provide richness to practically any meal. It comes in a variety of flavors and can be stored for several days if properly stored.

Things to consider when deciding what food to pack

Backpacking is a thrilling experience, however, the tricky part is when it comes to preparation. You must consider all the essentials to carry with you.

With that said, here is a list of tips you might want to use when deciding on what food to pack.

Bring what you like to eat

Don’t try to adapt your taste buds to new foods. Take comfort foods that you love to eat and will look forward to enjoying at the end of a long hike.

Pack a variety

To keep your taste satisfied, look for a balance of flavors and textures. Make sure you eat a good balance of carbs, protein, and fats.

Include some fresh foods

It’s simple to incorporate some fresh meals into your backpacking menu. Include nuts and seeds and hard cheeses like parmesan. You can also bring some fresh produce: choose things that will last a long time, such as carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, onion, kale, snap peas, apples, or oranges.

Look for lighter versions of your favorite foods

Macaroni and cheese, proteins such as tuna and salmon preserved in convenient vacuum-sealed pouches, instant rice, noodles, pasta, rice mixes, powdered peanut butter, and other shelf-stable boxed dinners are also good options.

You can add spices such as salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, lemon pepper, and everything else you need for your home kitchen.

Make your dehydrated meals

While it takes more time and effort, dehydrating your backpacking meals can help you reduce the weight and volume in your pack.

Consider the following freeze-dried/dehydrated foods

These ready-to-eat meals are handy, require no cleanup, and fit in many backpacks. Wait for the meal to rehydrate after adding hot water. Over the years, the selection of nutritious, tasty options has grown, delivering above-average taste and sustenance for the weight.

Wrapping up Backpacking Food: Weight Suggestions

The goal is always to reduce your backpack weight as much as possible and take the essentials with you. In this case, you’ll need to bring enough food to last you through your hike. Therefore keep in mind the following tips:

Avoid canned foods

Always avoid canned foods because they are far too heavy, lack adequate calories, and make bulky waste to pack out.

Repackaging food

Repackage food in ziplock bags to save space and allow you to reseal containers.

Caloric density

To keep your pack weight down, examine how calorically dense your backpacking food options are. High-fat foods with high calorie-per-ounce ratios include olive oil, almonds, peanut butter, and chocolate. Fresh fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, have a low calorie-per-ounce content.