Trail Food 101: Part 1

When preparing for our 2018 flip-flop thru-hike, the biggest worry my husband and I had wasn’t what it would be like to live in the woods for six months or how we would hike 2,000 plus miles. Our priority struggle was, “What are we going to eat?”

I had researched everything I could on gear, mental preparation, hiking strategies, etc., but the one thing I could not find adequate information on was exactly what we would eat day every day. I had heard about the 4,000-5,000 calories we would burn per day and I was perplexed on what we would do to replenish those calories.

Our meal planning started out ambitious. We bought an amazing dehydrator and thought we would be all “organic-like” and make and dehydrate all of our food. Hah!

Don’t get me wrong; the dehydrator was dope and the process was fun. But not only was it super time-consuming, when we did the math, it was going to be way more expensive to prepare and send our food to ourselves than it would be to pick up food in trail towns.

Fortunately, my husband and I do not have dietary concerns. Bring on the meat and gluten. However, if you have these dietary concerns, dehydrating and meal prepping at least a portion of your meals is not a bad idea.

Related: The Best Backpacking Meals

This brings us back to our original question. What are we going to eat? We quickly learned that all of the hikers we were with had the same worries and we began to adopt meal ideas from each other.

Here Is What We Really Ate on the Trail: (Sorry, Mom)


  • Honey Buns
  • If you’re feeling sophisticated: Iced Honey Buns
    • Walmart brand are the best!
  • Pop-Tarts
    • Strawberry and blueberry were our flavors of choice. Had to feel like you were getting your fruits in somehow.
    • Warning: I know this is an adventure of a lifetime and you may feel like you can be all spontaneous. However, do not buy the Jolly Rancher Pop-Tarts. You can thank me later.
  • Breakfast essentials: Strawberry, Vanilla, and Chocolate
    •  My husband and many other hikers loved these. Double up on two of them in one Gatorade bottle to make a shake with some sustenance.
  • Nature Valley Oats and Honey bars with Peanut Butter
  • Instant Oatmeal: My husband would either (occasionally) make some hot water to add to oatmeal or he would add a packet cold to his Breakfast Essentials Shake


*This was our hardest meal to plan for and find items we did not get sick of*

  • Tortillas containing:
    • Peanut butter and jelly- the combo in the plastic container from Walmart is a win!
    • Cheese and Beef Jerky sticks
    • Tuna and Mayo packet
  • Slices of cheese and pepperoni on Ritz crackers
    • This was my lunch of choice that I did not gag on while consuming
    • The cheese blocks do not go bad if you eat them in 3-5 days!
  • Chips- They will probably get smashed, but still taste good as crumbles!
    • Doritos
    • Cheetos
    • Salt and vinegar potato chips
  • Starkist Chicken/ Tuna salad with Ritz Crackers



Our favorite! We loved preparing a yummy, hot meal every night! Go Stoves!

  • Ramen Bomb– Instant mashed potatoes and favorite pack of ramen
  • Knorr Pasta Sides– We did not get sick of these! Add the rice sides to a tortilla…yum!
    • If you are extravagant, go for the Knorr Selects.
  • Good To- Go dehydrated meals
    • We tried a few of these meals  from outfitters and enjoyed them
  • Mountain House Dehydrated Meals
    • Boujee meal option. We could not afford these on a regular basis but enjoyed one on our last night at Hawk Mountain Shelter before summiting at Springer!
  • DIY Dehydrated Meals
    • Again, this is not the most realistic/ easy option. However the meals that we did make/ send ourselves were DELICIOUS!
  • Flavors/Additives
    • Pork rinds– add to a meal to bump up the calories and improve flavor
    • Cheese powder– find on amazon and ship ahead to ourself in zip loc bags…you will be glad you did!
    • Flavorless Protein Powder– also find online and ship to yourself. Your body will thank you.
    • Olive Oil– find small, plastic bottle at the grocery store and add several squirts to meal each night to enhance dinner with calories.
    • Packet of Tuna– Added to Every. Single. Dinner. Honestly this was my worst nightmare before we started, coming from someone who hates fish. But, when you are ravenous and could eat anything in sight, bring it on!


“This hike brought to you by high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. Sponsored by, Little Debbie” – Flip Flop Tramily 2018

*It is important to find snacks you LIKE so that you can get your calories in during the day. We started out eating ” healthy” snacks like Cliff and Kind bars and dehydrated fruits…But these got old QUICKLY. *

  • Snickers and 3 Musketeers Bars– Full size, because thru- hiking.
  • Zebra Cakes and Nutty Buddy’s– get smashed in hip pocket so eat quicker than other snacks
  • Cosmic Brownies–  Hold up great in hip pockets, dense and a great/quick 300 calorie snack
  • Welch’s Gummies– have some vitamin C and are great for some quick sugar
  • Fruit Leathers– We LOVE these from Aldi and eat them in the “real world” also
  • Trolli Gummies– If you get excited over these, go for the Gummy Sloths. Everyone will be jealous.
  • Harribo Gummy Bears– Nice transition from chocolate snacks



*Obviously drinking copious amounts of water while hiking 15 plus miles a day is important. Furthermore, there is nothing more delicious than cold, spring water. But, when “regular” tasting water gets old and you have 2 more liters to drink for the day, these are great additives!*

  • Propel Packets– delicious flavors found at Walmart
  • Walmart Brand caffeine and electrolyte enhanced packets- these will be like currency on the trail!
  • Nuun Tablets– if you are having leg cramps and dehydration issues, dissolve a few of these in your water. Warning, not the most delicious.
  • Gatorade Packets– Because, gatorade.

For those not planning a thru hike and who are disgusted by the horribly unhealthy food items listed above… I am sorry to be the one to break the trail realities to you.

And to those planning their thru hike, bon appétit! This will be the only time in your life where everything you eat will come out of paper or plastic for 6 months. Don’t feel guilty about the 6th cosmic brownie you eat for they day. ENJOY IT!

-Sweet Tea

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Comments 4

  • Molly Brunner : Jan 8th

    What did you use in the rice and beans dinner picture? Is that rice a roni?

  • AJ : Jan 8th

    That was indeed rice a roni! We tried those a few times… very delicious but they are much heavier than other rice meals

  • Bret : Jan 8th

    You da bomb! Thanks for putting this together.

  • Gina : Jan 8th

    Finally, a fish-hating thru-hiker!!! I live in fear of all the tuna that I know lies in my future, this post gives me hope that I’ll get through it.


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