How to Pack for a 5 Day Trip in the Backcountry

The average 185-pound male can burn anywhere from 4,600 to 6,300 calories during a strenuous day of backpacking. Obviously, taking into consideration age, weight, gender, pack weight and trail difficulty, this number can vary from person to person and trip to trip. Regardless, any day of backpacking is a hard day’s workout, and always adds up to A LOT of calories burned, which means having to take in just as many calories to keep your energy levels up.

Now try to imagine what 6,300 calories looks like in food. Sure, you could dream up a couple of greasy entrees from your local fast food joint and that would add up quick, but when you are in the backcountry, trying to pack food with a dense caloric and nutritional intake can be hard. You do not want to choose anything that will spoil, but you also do not want anything that is too processed or salty, and you want something that will taste good while sitting by your camp fire at the end of the day.

Before you start dreading the nights of packaged instant noodles and beans, take a minute to read our handy guide on How to Pack for a 5 Day Trip in the Backcountry.


Oatmeal is a staple breakfast for many backpackers for several reasons. Not only does it come stocked with nutrition, but it is also lightweight and quite the tasty treat for a morning meal. While you can purchase pre-packaged instant oatmeal, to spice it up a bit and add more nutrition you can also make your own. For those who cannot go a day without caffeine, instant coffee packets and teas are also a great option.

Make-at-home Instant Oatmeal (recipe idea courtesy of theyummylife)


Rolled Oats – We recommend quick and instant oats because they can be cooked with just boiled water

Dry Sweetener – because dried oats can be quite a drag, we recommend adding something to sweeten the deal like brown sugar, coconut sugar, or pure maple sugar

Additions – here comes the fun part. You can add literally anything you want to pack more nutrition into your oatmeal packet, and even choose a variety so you have something different on the trail each day. Some ideas would be chia seeds, dried fruit, nuts, powdered peanut butter, and more.


At Home

1. Add all the ingredients into a resalable plastic bag

2. Once all ingredients are added, flatten the back and seal tightly

3. Pre-label the bags so you know which is which (you can label by days or by ingredients)

On the Trail

1. Add the dried ingredients to a bowl

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil

3. Add desired amount of hot water to oatmeal mixture

4. Stir and enjoy!


Depending on how many kilometres you are trying to fit into a day, lunch may be the meal that you do not have time to whip out the stove and boil any water for. To save time and the efforts of re-packing, the best lunch options are ones that require minimal effort but pack the most nutritious punch. Crackers, jerky, wraps with peanut butter, and tortillas and hard cheeses that won’t go bad are all a good option.


Although many outdoor shops do sell pre-packaged lightweight meals in a bag, they often come with a ton of added sodium and unnecessary additives. Instead of reaching for the other alternative, heavy canned soups and beans, here is a make-at-home instant recipe idea and 6 more from theyummylife to get you started.

Creamy Alfredo Noodles with Chicken & Mushrooms
(recipe courtesy of


1 cup pasta broken in 2” pieces (use pasta that normally cooks on stovetop in 4 min. or less – thin egg noodles, or quick-cooking artisan pastas)

1 tsp chia seeds or ground flaxseed (optional)

¼ cup freeze dried chopped chicken

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

¼ cup freeze dried chopped mushrooms

1 tsp powdered chicken flavor base (or bouillon granules)

3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese (the dried, unrefrigerated kind in a can)

2 tbsp. instant dried buttermilk powder (or regular powdered milk)

2 tbsp. corn starch

2 tsp freeze dried Italian herb blend (or 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend)

¼ tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp salt (or more to taste)

1 ¼ cups water


At Home

1.Add all ingredients except the water to a quart freezer Ziploc bag

2. Seal bag and store until ready to use

3.Label bag

On the Trail

1. Bring water to a boil

2. With opened bag resting on plate or bowl, pour in boiling water

3. Seal bag and let soak for 9 minutes, turning bag upside down after 3-4 minutes to redistribute & mix ingredients

4. Open bag and eat directly from bag, if desired. Or, transfer to a bowl or mug for eating.


Your best option for a snack with the greatest energy give-back are granola or protein bars. There are a couple of terrific options you can buy in store, but if you have the time we recommend you try making your own! Check out this list of the greatist 34 energy bars you can make at home. Nuts and dried fruit are also good go-to snacks for the trail.

Day by Day Breakdown

Now that you got the idea of what you will be eating each day, here is a rough day-by-day breakdown of your meals. To make things easiest, pack each meal for the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) into one larger bag of food and label by day. This will help you know what order to pack your stuff in, and will save a lot of time rummaging around to find what you are looking for. Thick freezer-lock bags will be the best to ward off any tears or water leakage.

Day 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal + instant coffee or tea

Lunch: Whole grain crackers, jerky or sausage, cheese

Dinner: Creamy alfredo noodles with chicken & mushrooms

Snacks: Granola bar, graham crackers and peanut butter

Day 2

Breakfast: Oatmeal + instant coffee or tea

Lunch: Wrap with peanut butter, dried fruit

Dinner: Cous Cous with Chicken & Vegetables

Snacks: Granola bar, nuts

Day 3

Breakfast: Oatmeal + instant coffee or tea

Lunch: Wrap with cheese, jerky or sausage

Dinner: Curry Rice with Chicken & Cashews

Snacks: Granola bar, dried fruit

Day 4

Breakfast: Oatmeal + instant coffee or tea

Lunch: Whole grain crackers, jerky or sausage

Dinner: Thai Peanut Noodles with Chicken & Vegetables

Snacks: Granola bar, nuts and dried fruit

Day 5

Breakfast: Oatmeal + instant coffee or tea

Lunch: Wrap with peanut butter, jerky or sausage

Dinner: Fiesta Rice with Corn & Chicken

Snacks: Granola bar, nuts and dried fruit

Although these meal plans will vary from person to person and trip to trip, these are just a couple ideas to help you get started on your next backpacking trip. Please be advised that you should also pack along some extra food and water in case of emergencies. If you are looking for a liquid alternative to celebrate a victorious day of hiking, check out our backpacker bartending recipes as well.

Get hungry for more adventures with Vancouver, Coast & Mountains BC Backroad Mapbook 

or download the PDF Avenza BC Backroad Mapbook!

Do you have some recipes from your backpacking trip you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below or share your meal photos on Instagram using #brmblife.