In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best 10 high protein backpacking foods that you can create. These meals will be low in cost, easy to prepare, and you will be able to store them safely and securely in your backpack.

How Much Protein Should we Have?

In nutrition, your protein intake is measured against your body weight. This helps to prevent confusion between a 50kg person and a 120kg person, who clearly have different requirements. The daily recommended intake for protein is around 1 gram per kg of body weight.

This translates to 50 grams for a 50kg person and 120 grams for a 120kg person. But the DRI is based on people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. People with more active lifestyles (hiking, for example) will require more protein as their body utilises more.

Natural bodybuilders often consume around 3.5 grams per 1kg, whereas Pro bodybuilders will consume even more than that.

If you are hiking but not aiming to build muscle, then a target of around 2 grams per kilogram of your body weight is a good target to aim for. If you weigh 70 kg, then you want to be consuming around 140 grams of protein per day.

Why Backpacking/Hiking Requires More Protein

There are two reasons why protein is important while backpacking or hiking. The first reason has been covered in the previous section. Basically, exercise requires more protein to fuel your muscles and to help protect them from breakdown.

The second reason is that protein is highly satiating, meaning that it can make you feel fuller for longer. While hiking, there are going to be long periods of time when you cannot eat. When you do eat, choosing high-protein foods can help to keep you full and keep hunger cravings away.

Considerations When Packing Food in Your Backpack

Obviously, a massive home-cooked meal would be an amazing choice for backpacking, but this isn’t exactly a likely option. There are several things to consider before choosing foods that you can put into your backpack.

Size/Weight

How heavy your backpack is when fully packed will have a huge knock-on effect on your enjoyment of your trip. The biggest mistake that new backpackers make is to overpack. This puts pressure on your feet and often causes blisters that can derail your journey within 24 hours.

You want to pack as lightly as possible while still getting as many calories as possible. Hiking or backpacking can burn a lot of calories, particularly if you are travelling for multiple days. Finding foods that are small in size and light in weight will really help.

Shelf Life

Food spoilage is annoying at any time, but it can be a nightmare while backpacking. Not only have you lost your meal, but it could well have ruined other foods nearby as well as creating a horrific mess/smell inside your backpack.

That’s why high protein foods such as meat and cheese need to be carefully chosen. Some meats can be stored in warm, humid conditions without any effect (cured sausages, for example). In comparison, uncooked chicken breast may not be the best idea!

Durability

When we say durability, we are not talking about its ability to survive a vicious beating. We’re talking about how well it can survive being placed inside a backpack. This isn’t just about the food itself. It is also about the packaging.

Fruit, for example, is not necessarily a good choice, even for shorter journeys. A badly packed banana can turn to puree within minutes. Berries such as strawberry or raspberry will not survive in a backpack. In comparison, blueberries tend to hold up better. This is down to durability.

Taste

Sometimes, we can get so obsessed with finding the perfect foods for backpacking that we forget that food is also about enjoyment. Don’t pack your bag with protein bars if you hate the taste! Don’t fill your pockets with cashew nuts unless you enjoy the taste of cashew nuts! Some sacrifices may have to be made, but tailor your choices to your likes and dislikes where possible.

How Appropriate is it?

Does the food that you are packing suit the backpacking lifestyle? Is it easy to prepare? Is it nutritious and calorie dense? Does it require loads of cooking time and numerous utensils? All of these questions should be answered before adding any food to your pack.

10 High Protein Backpacking Foods

Here are ten high-protein foods that are great for backpacking. Some of the foods on this list can be used for meals, while others are perfect for snacking on. Some hikers prefer to graze on numerous snacks throughout the day rather than having three big meals, while others prefer to normalise their diet as much as possible. It’s up to you and the logistics of your walk.

High protein food #1 Protein Bars

Protein bars are an excellent snack for backpacking. They are calorie dense, high in protein, taste great, and are able to withstand being in a backpack without getting damaged in any way.

The only downside to protein bars is the fact that they cost so much per serving. Ten protein bars can cost a small fortune, which often leads to backpackers choosing the cheapest brands. These are often filled with sugar and can have a surprisingly low protein content!

It is better to go for quality protein bars and just buy less, so grab a couple and then find another high-protein snack on this list to supplement them with.

High protein food #2 Jerky/Biltong

Meat is a great source of protein, but it can be quite hard to prepare and store while backpacking. Jerky or biltong (the South African equivalent of jerky) is a high-protein meat snack that has been cured so that it won’t go off.

Not only is jerky delicious, but it is packed full of protein, easy to store, and weighs almost nothing. The only downside to jerky is that it can be quite high in salt/sodium, which can make you thirsty. As with protein bars, limiting yourself to 1-2 per day should mean that you get all the benefits without any of the downsides.

High protein food #3 Cured Meat

This is an expansion of the last entry. Jerky and biltong are great, but they are not the only cured meat in town. Salami, chorizo, venison, and boar are all examples of cured meats that can be carried with you while hiking.

They taste amazing, are incredibly calorie dense, and can be thrown into a backpack without any issue. There are only a couple of downsides. Firstly, they can suffer from the same high salt/sodium issue as jerky. But they are also very high in saturated fats, and processed meat has been correlated with an increased risk of certain cancers [1].

This is not an issue if you are having it as an occasional treat while you walk many miles each day, but it is a good idea to eat cured meat sparingly and add in some plant-based protein options where possible.

High protein food #4 Protein Shakes

Protein shakes have a lot going for them. They are easy to store, easy to prepare (just add water and shake), high in protein, and provided you find the right flavour, they taste great. A bag of protein powder can contain thousands of calories while not weighing very much. If you are going for a day hike, then you can just pack a shaker with the powder already in it, adding water when you’re ready.

There are a couple of downsides, though. Because they only contain protein and almost no carbs or fats, they aren’t actually that high in calories. They are also not very balanced. While protein is important, you also want some carbs and fats. That’s why we rate meal replacement shakes (see below) slightly higher.

High protein food #5 Nuts and Seeds

With a very long shelf life, and an excellent calorie density, nuts and seeds are a great high-protein snack for hiking. These are great for grazing on while you walk, or they can be added to any meal to bump up the calories.

High protein food #6 Dehydrated Meals (Just add water)

If you are camping overnight or hiking over multiple days, then dehydrated meals are a must. Not only are they high in protein, but they are lightweight, they are designed specifically for backpacking, and they are highly durable.

The only downside is that they need to be heated up in boiling water, which means that you will need a gas fire (or wood fire) to heat the water, and you will need a saucepan. Anyone who is hiking for a few days is going to need to be carrying these items anyway. Another issue is that they can be quite expensive but well worth the indulgence.

High protein food #7 Canned Tuna/Salmon

Canned fish (or chicken) is great for hiking. Again, it is lightweight, calorie-dense, and full of protein, and the packaging can take a lot of damage without breaking or affecting the food. Just don’t forget a can opener, or you’ll be smashing that can against a rock in no time!

High protein food #8 Meal Replacement Shakes

Meal replacement shakes provide all of the benefits of protein shakes, but they are a much better option. They are much more balanced, with good quality carbohydrates and healthy fats. They are also calorie-dense. They have similar serving sizes but will contain 400 calories rather than 200 or so. They are also high in fibre, which makes them more satiating and healthier too.

High protein food #9 String Cheese

Cheese is a great source of protein, but most cheeses are unsuitable for backpacking. They can go off quickly when exposed to heat and humidity, and they can get easily damaged while in a backpack. String cheese can survive outside of a refrigerator for a long time, and it is packaged so that it won’t get damaged.

Mini cheddars and foods such as babybell are also great, though the amount of packaging creates a lot of litter.

High protein food #10 Porridge/Oatmeal

As with many of the foods on this list, porridge (or oatmeal) is great for hiking because it is so easy to prepare and can withstand the rigours of a hike without getting damaged. Add hot water, stir, and eat. Simple. Oats are a fantastic source of protein and fibre and will keep you sustained throughout the day. This is why oat flour is such an integral part of Rootana.

Food Options for a One-Day Hike

Short hikes are very easy to supply with food, and you can be a little more relaxed about what you pack. Shelf life isn’t quite as important, nor is weight. You also don’t need to obsess about finding the ideal foods for fuel. Don’t bring crazy foods, but pack foods that you can really enjoy.

Food Options for a Two-Day Hike

For two-day hikes, you are going to need to be a little more strategic in your choices, but there is still room for enjoyment and flexibility. Dehydrated meals and meal replacement shakes are a great option, as are nuts, seeds, and some cured meats and cheeses.

Food Options for a Week-Long Hike

When it comes to week-long hikes, the weight and calorie density of foods become much more important. We’ve talked before about how to schedule your walks so that you can resupply midway through, but you are probably still going to need to pack sensibly.

Meal replacement shakes are a great option here, as they are so easy to prepare, weigh very little (considering how many meals you can make from them), and can sustain you thanks to their protein and fibre content.

You can have a meal replacement shake for breakfast and be packed up and ready to go in the time it would take you to boil water! That being said, dehydrated meals are another fantastic option and offer many of the same benefits.

Fill out the rest of your pack with the high-protein snacks and foods that we’ve mentioned so far. But don’t overpack. Try to resupply during the walk so that you don’t have to carry 7 days’ worth of food on day one. A very common mistake that derails many hikes.

Final Thoughts on High Protein Backpacking Meals

What you pack depends entirely on the length of your journey, the access you have to fresh foods (hiking through a village, for example), and your personal taste. We feel that meal replacement shakes such as Rootana are a great option for day hikes, two-day hikes, and a week or even month-long hikes. The weight-to-calorie ratio is fantastic, and they are filled with all the nutrients you need to thrive.

Cured meats and cheeses have been used for centuries as ideal hiking foods, and they are still relevant today. Protein bars and shakes are other great options, as are dried fruit, nuts, and seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best food to eat while hiking?

A high-carbohydrate and high-protein meal is ideal for hiking. The protein can help to support your muscles, while the carbohydrates provide you with a mix of short-term energy and sustained energy production over time.

Are protein shakes good for hiking?

Protein shakes are okay for hiking. They have many advantages. But the lack of carbohydrates holds them back slightly. Check out our article on the subject to learn more.

What are three important nutrients needed on a longer hike?

The three main macronutrients are protein, fats, and carbohydrates. While exercising, you tend to keep your fat intake relatively low, with more emphasis on protein and carbohydrates, unless you are following a ketogenic diet, which has high fat, very low carb, and medium protein.

 

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661797/

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