Finding paleo backpacking food can be a challenge. These foods are less processed and often require cooking making them hard to store and eat on the go. Here are some of my tips for packing healthy foods that will get you through your next hiking adventure.
Are Paleo Foods Necessary for Backpacking?
A healthy lifestyle is all about balance. You cannot eat perfectly 100% of time, and frankly, who the hell would want to.
Much of our culture, celebrations and traditions are established around food. Your healthy lifestyle should never make you feel like you are depriving yourself of the things that make you feel connected.
A balanced life is built around discovering health-promoting foods and activities that enrich your life rather than detract from it. With that being said, if you go camping one time each year just go ahead roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, and drink a few too many beers. That is part of life. Enjoy it.
If you are like me and my husband, most of our vacations involve backpacking and camping. So, abandoning my healthy lifestyle every time we travel isn't practical or desirable.
He also has an autoimmune illness. This means he doesn't have the luxury of being flexible with his diet. So following his dietary restrictions are important, even when on vacay.
Eating nutrient-dense, minimally processed foods is what makes most of us feel our best. This is especially important when we are doing something as physically demanding a long distance hiking trips.
I am not very pleasant when I am hungry, so making sure we have good food on hand is a must. Every been hangry and still have to walk 15 miles with your life on your back? Not fun for anyone involved. This is why we always bring high quality healthy backpacking food. And a french press for coffee, because #priorities.
We try to pack lightly, but we don't take our camping meals lightly.
Tips for Packing Protein
My favorites: Wild-caught smoked salmon, tuna packets, grass-fed beef jerky, Epic Bars, Wild Zora Bars, nut butters, nuts, and eggs.
- Assess the amount of sodium used in processed meats. If you are using something like jerky, smoked sausage or meat sticks as your main protein source consider how many servings you will eat throughout the day. If you are getting more than 20% of your DV of sodium per 1-2 oz. serving consider diversifying your protein sources. Your sodium needs are going to be a lot higher if you are sweating a lot so keep that in mind as well.
- Sugar is often overlooked when choosing a protein source, but worth considering. Most smoked and cured meats have some added sugar, so if you are following a strict paleo diet be sure to read your ingredients and nutrition labels closely.
- Let's quality. Choose organic, grass-fed, wild caught and uncured meats without added nitrates/nitrates when possible for the best quality protein sources.
- When we are feeling real wild and crazy we bring a 6 eggs. We have a simple little yellow egg holder from REI. Who knew happiness could be purchased for $3.50? Now, in terms of food safety I am sure we are toeing the line here. We always eat the eggs as soon as possible within 12 hours of hitting the trail, and have yet to get sick but testing this method might. Using fresh eggs would be a good options since they can be kept at room temperature. I would avoid using pasteurized eggs if it is going to be a scorcher.
Tips for Packing Fruits and Vegetables
My Favorites: Pumpkin chips, seaweed, kale chips, dried fruits (mango, pineapple, golden raisins), fresh fruit and fresh vegetables.
- Veggie chips are incredibly light and an excellent way to bulk up the nutrient content of your backpacking menu plan. Things like kale chips come in awkward packing. Try transferring them into a Ziploc bag (the kind with the zipper will stay closed better) that you can re-purpose once they are gone. Filling the bag with air can help prevent the contents from getting crushed.
- Dried fruits are an obvious trail go-to. For whatever reason, manufacturers love to add sugar to the sweetest things in nature. Choose dried fruit that is unsweetened and unsulfured.
- Fresh fruit. We usually bring several apples that we eat with nut butter for our first trail snack. Sometimes carrying a little extra weight for several hours is worth eating fresh food.
- Fresh vegetables! This is the best tip for luxury camp cooking. You may think this is crazy, but stay with me. There is something magical about hiking to the top of a mountain and enjoying a seriously delicious meal while watching the most incredible sunset you have ever seen. I have to give credit to Kevin for this tip. When he first suggested we bring veggies on our trip I thought he was crazy. i was mistaken. Adding fresh veggies to a dehydrated meal is invaluable. Plus, nothing feels quite as classy as chopping up some zucchini and bell peppers on a rock. That is a fact.
Tips for Packing Snacks
My favorites: Rx Bars, Bearded Brothers Bars, nut butter packets, Epic trail mix, homemade trail mix, coconut chips, and chocolate.
- Sitting down for lunch isn't always practical during long hikes, so high quality, filling snacks is important. Pack several bars that are nutritious and minimally processed. Rx Bars are my favorite because they have an awesome balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat with an impressively small ingredient list. Rx Bars use egg whites as the protein source, which is great for those who don't tolerate whey. Lara Bars, Epic Bars and Bearded Brothers Bars are tasty whole food bar options.
- Nut butter packets make a perfect trail snack. They are a good source of healthy fat and easy to eat on the go. Sometime I pack some Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tortillas. They are not paleo, but are a good option for people just looking for a good carbohydrate source.
- Chocolate. We love chocolate covered coffee beans, because they are made up of everything good in this world. I always feel like having some good quality chocolate makes those final miles easier.
- Try making your own trail mix. Trail mix was essentially made for this purpose. I love using goji berries, chopped up jerky, walnuts, golden raisins, mulberries, pecans, cashews, and coconut.
These are the simplest things to use for dinner and have made leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. I love the Good To Go brand. They aren't paleo but taste great and resemble real food when rehydrated.
Pick several that use great ingredients and have enough calories to fuel the rest of your trip. You can bulk these meals up with smoked salmon or fresh veggies. Topping the Asian options with nuts adds texture and nutrient density.
Some brands that offer paleo dehydrated meals are Wild Zora and Paleo Meals To Go. I like the Wild Zora brand but cannot give my honest input for Paleo Meals To Go yet, but looking forward to trying them at our next excursion. Wild Zora also offers great meat and veggie jerky bars!
What are your favorite paleo backpacking foods? Leave a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!