Hiking Meals Planning

One of the biggest headaches going on a few days hike is preparing meal lists. Have to pack light and carry food that is non-perishable. You can still carry perishable food but best consume on the first day. In high mountain where it is colder, then you can keep this perishable food for 2 or 3 days. Perishable food still takes up space and weight, not an ideal choice. 

If you are going with the local mountaineering club, then you are in luck. Normally these clubs will prepare a minimum 6 course meals. The last time in Syue Shan we saw a 9 course meal plus soup. Always the food was not finished and wasted. Anyway, this is not the subject. 

If you have free time create a spreadsheet and put in the list of meals you like to have. The next time if you go on a hike again, use the same spreadsheet to assist in the planning your meals. You do not have to crack your head one more time. This method is applicable to camping trips or planning a BBQ lists.

Here are some examples of my packing for 2

  • Option 1
    • 2 x Instant Milo
    • 6 x Toast Slices
    • 1 x Canned Corned Beef
    • 2 x Eggs
  • Option 2
    • 2 x Instant Milo
    • 6 x Toast Slices
    • 1 x Canned Tuna
    • 2 x Eggs
  • Option 3
    • 2 x Instant Coffee
    • 2 x Eggs
    • 2 x Sausages
    • 6 x Toast
Lunch - Normally we do not stop for lunch, it takes to much off hiking time, at least 30mins. Instead I will prepare energy snack food
  • Option
    • 2 x 7-11 Beef Jerky
    • 2 x 7-11 Mix Nuts
    • 2 x 7-11 Pork Jerky
    • 2 x 7-11 Mix Raisins
    • 2 x 7-11 Dried Mango
    • 2 x Bananas
    • 2 x Packed Biscuits 
    • 2 x Energy Snack Bars
    • 2 x Snickers Bars
    • 1 x Packed Sour Plum 
  • Option 1
  • Option 2
    • 1 x Self-packed Rice Grain
    • 1 x VeWong Instant Pork Stew
    • 1 x Self-packed French Beans with Garlic
    • 1 x Canned Tomato Sardins with Onion and Chilli
    • 1 x Instant Miso Soup with Dried Fungus
Emergency Meal - wise hiker will always prepare another emergency meal just in case something happen. 
    • 1 x Ramen
    • 1 x 7-11 Beef Jerky
    • 1 x 7-11 Pork Jerky
    • 1 x 7-11 Mix Raisins
    • 1 x 7-11 Mix Nuts
Once the meals lists have been established, pack the day's meals in one big Ziploc Bag. Each different day with different Ziploc and marked them for Day1, Day2 or Day3. The idea is to identify the day's meal and take what is necessary out without messing up. This will become a pre-packed MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) 

Another benefit is that day ration can be shared and carried by partner so that the load is lesser. Our last 3 days hiking ration in total weighs 3kg. Normally the second day's ration weighs more because it is a full day's meals. At times you might need to use 2 Ziploc for second day's meal. 

Meal Packing Preparation
Bread is not ideal to carry in a hiking trip, it will be compressed in you backpack and will turn out like a rag. We found French bread is better, cut them in slices and pack them. Morning breakfast just use a pan to dry heat to become a toast. French bread last longer than most bread. At home we would buy French bread, cut them in slices and store them in a fridge for 2 weeks. When needed to consume, used the oven to pre-heat. 

Packing perishable food is best wrapped with newspaper, it helps to retain the moisture and prevent it from rotting away. This method can be used at home when stored in the fridge. On the photo on my day's packing, you will notice I have used some newspaper in it. Bananas was wrapped in it. Few fresh vegetables worth considering in hiking trips, carrot, potatoes, french beans, okra, cabbage etc.  

Packing meat is best done frozen and used layers of newspaper to wrapped it. It will sealed the coolness for quite sometime but definitely not till second day. German Sausages is another option, you can skin-off the sausage and use the meat to cook some other dishes such as fry them with boiled potatoes, carrot, serve with 2 sunny side up eggs and you have a Classic American Breakfast.  
Eggs....the biggest headache to carry in a trail hike. There are available 2, 4 and other sizes egg containers but these container adds weight and space. Some would suggest cracked the egg and carry in a sealed container but that makes the eggs less fresh. One method which I did was wrapped the eggs in bubble wrapped or newspaper, placed it in the cooker set and stuff it with spare socks to fill the cooker pot space. Less weight and use up all the void space in the backpack. 

Canned Food are the best option for hiking meals. They are cooked and can be consumed without reheating them. The disadvantages are that it weighs and take up space. You will have to bring back the empty Cans to disposed. Normally I find these in Asian Supermarket, they have smaller canning and weighs lesser, enough for 2 person. Still one of my preferred meals compared to carrying perishable food.   

Instant energy food, goodies from 7-11, glad that they have these, making hiking snack food much easier to come by. I would suggest before hiking day, use a needle to poke these packaging. This will allow air to escape otherwise in high mountain due to the difference in atmospheric pressure, the packaging will balloon up. Same goes to Ramen packing. 

Pre-packed 1 cup of rice grain, 1 pack for 2 person. 
All these meals you will need time to test it out to see if it is sufficient. Do it at home, weigh every meal and create a recipe. First time I started hiking camp, my meals was simply Instant Noodles and canned food only. Easy to cook and clean up. At times I would heat from the canned itself, today I found it was toxic as most Can packaging have lead in it. You can still use these canned food but hot heating the can directly.

Today's Tip
Another tip I will share with you guys, Aluminium cookset are toxic. Read here for more info

These are local Aboriginal Porters who sometimes carry 30 to 40kg of fresh meals to cook just to satisfy local hiker's and tourist's appetite. Can't blame them, they needed the money and the hikers wanted a good meal but I still feel there must have a regulations in carrying such loads. In some parts of the world, Porters are allowed to carry up to 25kg and no more. 
photo from Taiwan Environmental Information Center
山之子民的呼喊 布農族登山文化今昔

My 3 days Backpack weighs less than 12kg and do not feel tall. In it was inflatable sleeping mattress, compressible pillow, ration, cookset, water, extra clothing, survival FAK kit and some others. I had used compression backpack packing method to use up all the spaces in the backpack and created less air pockets.