Eight-Day Backpacking Food Plan and Tips

I’m “that” hiker. The one with the food spreadsheet that includes weight and calories per ounce. I figured I may as well put all my hard work into an easy-to-understand list and share it with the world. Whether you are planning a long section hike or prepping for a thru-hike, take a look and I’m sure you will find something useful. Also, check out my personal food tips below. These are designed to share my personal insights on how I’ve learned to make trail food more enjoyable.

Eight-Day Backpacking Food Plan

Download PDF Here

Important notes for using/perusing the plan:

  1. Calories: The plan was developed for an eight-day section hike, so the calorie count is adequate for a section hike or the beginning of a thru-hike. I would raise the calorie count as your hike progresses. If you want/need a list with a slightly higher calorie count, my seven-day list from last year can be found here.
  2. You’ll notice a few breakfasts or dinners missing because I planned an off-trail meal. Those can be substituted with a meal from a different day and/or you can pick up an idea from my seven-day list. These are all clearly noted.
  3. If it’s in a box (like Kraft Mac-n-Cheese), I take it out and put it in a ZipLock to save volume
  4. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, so this plan won’t generally work for those who are… but let me recommend the SunRype Fruit Strips on this list. They are gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, and delicious! Actually, they’re my favorite food item.

 Fruit Strips

The Breakdown

I start my plan with two primary considerations: Calories and weight. Almost everything on the plan is a good calorie/weight ratio with the exception of some flavored drink packets I had on hand. Next, I categorized everything into breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. This should help you quickly find useful info when it comes to a certain meal of the day or just the general “snack” category. Lastly, You will find a breakdown for each item: quantity, weight in ounces, calories, and calories-per-ounce.


I flounder back and forth when it comes to breakfast. Some days, I hardly feel like eating anything but I know i’ll crash soon if I don’t eat. This is why you will see some kind of bar listed for breakfast such as a Luna Bar or Pro Bar. Most listings also include a more robust alternative like a Mountain House Meal or oatmeal for the days I wake up starving.


Not all my snacks are particularly easy to eat on-the-go, but most are. I’m trying some new stuff in the snack department this year including some Honey Stinger products that have caught my eye. Also, as mentioned above, I’m a sucker for the fruit strips and the sugar boost they give. Don’t worry, I included salty and calorie dense stuff, too.


I alternate between lunches that are very “snacky” with some cheese and jerky and a slightly more traditional lunch with PB&J tortilla wraps. The wraps are easy to make and eat quickly; no heat required. I’ve learned to make lunch easier so I will feel better about stopping to take on the calories.


Dinner, supper – whatever you call it! Every supper requires “cooking” or at least requires fuel to boil hot water. I’m a sucker for a hot meal at the end of the day. Maybe one day I will play around more with cold soak and stove-less stuff (actually, Southwest Black Bean & Corn Salad on last year’s list was cold soak) but for now, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Expect to see Mountain House, Pack-It Gourmet and a homemade mix of Ramen noodles with my own blend of custom spices and veggies.

I hope you enjoy the variety in the easy-to-use meal plan for your next hike! Even if you don’t use the entire thing, there’s plenty of info to glean if you are crafting your own plan and need something to fill in the gap.

Check out the tips that helped me put this plan together.

My Personal Backpacking Food Tips

Tip #1 – Variety. I built more variety into this year’s food plan to break up the kind of food I would eat from day to day a little bit.

Tip #2 – Favorites. I increased the quantity of the few foods that I REALLY liked or were super convenient and easy-to-eat. Such as: peanut butter/strawberry jelly tortillas for lunch and SunRype Fruit Strip snacks.

Tip #3 – Try something new! For real, sample stuff leading up to your hike or get crazy and throw something calorie dense in the pack that you’ve never tried before

Tip #4 – Coffee. Everyone is different when it comes to coffee, but you will notice coffee on my list. I left it vague on purpose. I just says “coffee” without any calories etc. Find the style you like if you drink coffee: instant, pour over, aeropress etc. … Whatever works for you. Last year I did instant, this year I’m doing pour over. I even have a buddy who brings a small grinder and aeropress on the trail and grinds the beans right before making his coffee.

Tip #5 – Restricted diets can be done. Always consult your doctor with diet restrictions, but as a general rule I run into hikers who have major food or diet restrictions and are making it work. Don’t be afraid to scour the internet and dig deep to get ideas for a myriad of diets. Also, if you can’t find a “trail” idea for you diet, ask the same diet groups you might frequent for your normal dietary needs. Just be specific about the demands you need (high calorie/weight ratio, no refrigeration) on the trail.

Tip #6 – Talk about it. This is isn’t as much a suggestion as much as informing you that hikers will inevitably talk about food. Go ahead and see what food makes other hikers happy or really makes the budget stretch. It’s probably gonna happen by default

I hope this food list and tips improve your food experience out on the trail! I put the links to the food plan(s) below just for convenience.

8-Day Backpacking Food Plan here
Last year’s 7-Day Food Plan here


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Comments 2

  • emily sue : Jul 31st

    Hi Josh! Great post – thanks for all your insight. Question – where do you buy the Welch’s jelly packets?

    • Josh Johnson : Jul 31st

      Great question! I frequent Chick-Fil-A (my local restaurant has a BOGO nugget night) and they have the jelly packets available. Each time I eat there, I grab a couple packets (two) and it doesn’t take long to build up a few for my hike. Some other restaurants have them available to grab (with your purchase, of course) but I can’t recall which other restaurants have them – keep your eyes open if you don’t have a Chick-Fil-A in your area. I found them difficult to find online. You can also substitute jelly by using honey if you like peanut butter and honey. They are more readily available but can also be found at Chick-Fil-A if you have one in your area.


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