How to Pre-pack Food for a Multi-month Hike
It seems easy. Put 5,000 calories-a-day in a box, mail it to yourself, and you’re thriving on-trail for the summer. Right? That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, pre-packing your food for a multi-month hike should be a strategic process. Those who don’t think it out, pay the price. There’s a big reason why a significant amount of long-distance hikers either get sick of their food during the trip or feel like they can’t get enough calories.
I don’t want either of these things to happen to you, which is why I wrote this post.
Expecting free stuff just because you’re hiking is NOT a good way to fuel your trip.
When it comes to pre-packing my food for a multi-month hike, there are 3 main factors that I consider regarding the foods that I buy. Keep these things in mind to keep yourself from wasting food, and more importantly – your adventure food dollars.
How to Pre-pack Food for a Multi-month Hike
1. Freshness of the Ingredients
In a perfect world, your resupply box would stay fresh forever. But that’s not going to be the case. At most, you’ll have 3-5 months before a lot of what’s in it is stale or rancid.
Ran·cid: Foods containing fat, smelling or tasting unpleasant as a result of being old and stale.
"I’m convinced that the reason why so many hikers experience an intolerance to nuts is not from the nuts themselves but from the body rejecting the rancid oils that are in them -due to oxidation from sitting out in the sun, being over-roasted, or not being sealed airtight." - Aria Zoner
In my experience, switching to raw, organic nuts and seeds plus incorporating the act of sprouting my food has eliminated the distaste for dried nuts and roasted nut butters and also the associated gas and gut pain that came along with them.
Which ingredients last the longest in a resupply box?
Here’s a sample layout of how I pack nuts, seeds, and fruits for an extended trip.
Basic Dry Foods for Resupply Boxes:
And if I have the opportunity during the trip, I’ll do the same spacing out of ingredients with fresh fruits and veggies.
Fresh Foods in Order of Consumption:
2. Nutritional Density
Forget how much your food weighs, how much nutrition does it have?
Is it all quick-burning foods?
Or do you have foods that help you feel full? Recover fast? And keep you from losing too much weight or worse, getting sick?
A clue into the nutritional density of a whole food can be found by looking at its pigment.
Yup, you know the saying:
"The darker the berry"
Look for Pigments to Eat the Rainbow!
I like to pack foods that are colorful not only because my goal is to eat a rainbow a day, but because it adds vibrancy and life to my snacks and meals.
Here’s a few of my go-to snacks for a nutritionally dense resupply box:
Beet & vanilla powder for AM tonics
Dried green peppers & kale chips for snacking
Sundried tomatoes & pistachios for hors d’oeuvres
Curry powder & black or red sea salt for soups
Dried mangoes & papaya for dessert
Dried berries & grapes for pocket snacking
How much money does it cost to hike a long-distance trail? It depends. But one thing’s for sure...It’s important not to skimp on the quality of your food for the hike, just for price sake.
Cheap food can be stale or rancid as we already talked about, but it can also make you feel the same way - not worth much - at least when it comes to your energy levels.
Use this hike instead as an opportunity to invest in your health.
Pre-packaged vs Homemade
At a glance, eating healthy on-trail may seem expensive if shopping pre-packaged organic, but upon closer inspection, buying whole organic ingredients and then making your own energy bars, dried granolas, dehydrated meals, and trail mixes at home can be more affordable than buying pre-packaged conventional food products.
Not into making your own food but still want something whole'licious?
Thankfully, a new wave of food products is hitting the shelves of America.
INTRODUCING: Butternut Squash Pasta
Foods like these are perfect for resupply boxes.
The most cost effective and nutritional dense foods I’ve found so far are to no surprise, the classic backpacking foods:
GORP – Good ole raisins & peanuts
Oatmeal – Oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, sea salt
Nut butters – Mixed with chai spice & ground flax
Cooked Dinners – Rice & beans, quinoa soup, pastas & veggies
Here’s a few more things to consider when putting together resupply boxes for an extended adventure:
Portions: How hungry will you be?
Styles/types of foods: Are you going to be cooking? Or going stove-less?
Snack bumps: Will you be able to bump up your resupply box with additional town food?
Mixability: How well does everything go together?
Variety: Is there enough diversity to prevent food fatigue?
Landscapes: What kind of environment(s) will you be traveling thru? Eat to match those places. Ex: Chia seeds for the desert. Pine nuts for the alpine.
The Next Step…
Now that you know just how much goes into putting together a resupply box, what are you going to put in yours?
I’d love to hear in the comments below.
Wanna see how I pre-pack my food for a multi-month hike?
Check out this video, it shows my exact strategy for a nutrient-dense and fantastic tasting resupply box.
WATCH: The 5 Day Resupply Box
Here’s to reaching the end of the trail, healthier than when you started it!
- Aria Zoner