What do you eat on a multi-day hike?

First things first: let’s define the type of hike! For a hike from cabin to cabin, you usually don’t take food with you except some snacks for along the road. Breakfast and dinner are usually enjoyed in the refuge/cabin and lunch in a restaurant or similar. So in this article, a multi-day hike is considering (obviously) overnight stays. However including a tent and cooking your own meals on gas or petrol.

For most trips in Europe, taking 3-5 days of food is plenty sufficient and allows for refills at supermarkets and shops in the villages you visit.

Okay – so what do you take with you?

Day after day you will carry a heavy backpack. You need supplies to cover the distance from store to store, so you don’t run out of food. Weight is an important factor: dried meals with a high energy-density is key. There are multiple sources of for this kind of food: specialized outdoor shops, but also in many supermarkets. A Snickers for example is an excellent high-calorie snack.
But also rice, pasta and soups are great: you take them with you whilst they are dry and simply add (boiling) water. As stated: energy density is key, so look at the calories per 100 grams. Higher is better, but of course it should be balanced. Just fats or just carbohydrates isn’t going to make you very happy.
Soups earns a particular place. You can get them as powders, but they do not provide you with a lot of energy. They are however an excellent source of salts and a good way to restore or maintain your hydration level.

Let’s take a closer look, per part of the day:

Breakfast: water with some oat and milk powder. Water you can get usually from a local mountain river. Simply add some drops of Hadex Care Plus (or similar chlorine based droplets), wait for 30 minutes and consume. Bear in mind that this kills bacteria and viruses. Not one-celled organisms which could be parasites. If the water is (potentially) more polluted, use a filter. For breakfast I usually take something with me which we call “hartkeks” or sea biscuits. It’s a low-weight alternative for bread, quite teasty and contains 541kcal for 125 grams (1 pack). This way, the breakfast is about 175g in total (dry weight).

Lunch: Enjoy when you can – at a mountain cabin. Good planning and preparation. I usually don’t pack anything for lunch, but take crepes (French pancakes) with me in case there is no hut on the route. 1 pack weighs 200 grams and contains 1200 kcal.

Snacks: some nuts and raisins. About 700kcal per 100 grams (depending on the distribution of weight between raisins and nuts). A bag of 500 grams should give you enough energy to get through the day – without anything else. So you might as well spread it over the days, and keep a stash as emergency supply.

Dinner: Dried rice or pasta and a sack of soup. About 150 gram, dry. bags of dried rice or pasta are very handy, as you pour boiling water directly into it, let it rest for a moment, stir and eat. They are however only 600kcal a meal. Take some dessert with you (70 grams a bag is possible) to add 300kcal.

With above indicative values, you get the following weights & energy:

Breakfast: 800kcal | 175 gram * 3 days
Lunch: along the hike, take a pack of crepes as emergency food (or similar, of course). 200 grams
Snacks: 800 kcal a day, 500 gram for 3 days
Dinner: 900kcal | 220 grams, * 3 days

Total energy per day: 2500 plus potentially the crepes and lunch, which should get you easily over 3000kcal. I also take powdered coffee with me. Doesn’t give energy but still a boost.

Above adds for 3 days approximately 1900 grams (excluding the packaging).

How heavy will my backpack be?

Let’s be clear: a self-supported multi-day hike is a different cookie than going from hut to hut. The implications are rather big, so the preparation should be much better too. You will be carrying a tent, sleepingbag, matress and a stove, cooking pot and fuel. Plus the food itself.

All in all, this will add about 8 kilogram to your backpack.

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