Backpacking Food for the Colorado Trail

I can tell you one thing. There is nothing like a good meal when you have been hiking for days and you need to regain your energy.

Before I get into some of the foods I will be eating on the trip there are just a few little tips that it is good to be aware of when you do your food planning.

Food Facts for Backpacking:

  1. Protein and Carbohydrates have 100 calories per ounce and Fat has 240 calories per ounce. If you want to go lighter with your food you obviously want to pack fattier foods, but you can only go so far.
  2. Aim for 125-150 calories per ounce. This means about a quarter to a third of your calories should come from fat.
  3. Take from 1.25 pounds to 2 pounds per day of food. Everyone is different and the amount of calories you need depend on how long you are going, how many miles you cover, what elevation gain/loss will occur, etc. It takes some experience to get it just right.
  4. Fruits and Vegetables are water heavy and have much less than 100 calories per ounce. Unfortunately the most nutritious foods are water heavy. Take dehydrated substitutes when you can.
  5. It is good to get your protein and fats early in the day, and always eat a few carbohydrates before and during the hiking parts of your day.

With the above facts in mind, here is a basic breakdown of what I am eating while I am on the trail.

Breakfast Foods:

  1. Oatmeal with Dried Cranberries/Blueberries
  2. Pop Tarts of many flavors
  3. Breakfast Tea

Breakfast for me is going to be quick and easy. I plan on packing up camp and hiking right away on most days without really eating a cooked breakfast of oatmeal. On those days I might have a pop tart or an energy bar of sorts. If I start hiking by 7am or earlier I will have a mid-morning breakfast of oatmeal and tea somewhere around 10 or 11am when I reach a good water source.


  1. Sunny Cranberry trail mix (Cranberries, almonds, golden raisins, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds) plus Peanut M&M’s. I love this combo. It is a great mix of protein, fat, and carbs and tastes great.
  2. Regular Granola Bars
  3. Fruit Bars (Pomegranate, Raspberry Cranberry, etc.)
  4. Snickers (Backpacker food for years)
  5. Clif Bars and a few other types of bars for variety.

I am trying out a large number of snack foods that aren’t even listed here as well. My plan is to eat a little bit every hour or two as I am hiking to keep me well fueled. Depending on how the day is going and what the weather conditions are I will probably skip lunch on most days and basically just snack all day.


  1. Breakfast for Lunch or Dinner items for Lunch
  2. Summer Sausage and Cheese
  3. Grits with Dehydrated Peas
  4. Tortillas with Peanut Butter
  5. Tuna wrapped in a Tortilla with various toppings

Lunch for me needs to be easy to prepare and have plenty of fat and protein to help give me that steady energy level for hiking the rest of the day. I most likely will not break out the stove for lunch and try to eat something that I can put together in 5 minutes, rest a little while I eat, then continue on the trail. Again, the time I stop and whether I eat lunch or not will depend on arriving at a water source, if it is rainy or sunny, and how hungry I feel if I am just eating my snacks.


  1. Ramen with dehydrated veggies and/or sun-dried tomatoes with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Instant Potatoes with Gravy or Bacon Bits and Olive Oil
  3. Tuna with Angel Hair Pasta or Couscous.
  4. Lunch Items for Dinner

Dinner is the main meal where I plan on cooking. All other meals and snacks don’t need to be cooked, but it is good for the soul to have some hot meals every now and then. I also plan on having hot cocoa at night just to warm my spirits.

I plan on eating dinner around 4-6pm every night, depending again on when I reach a water source. My goal is to eat around water sources because it makes clean up and hydration easy. My goal for sleeping is to camp as far away from water sources and signs of animals as possible.

Last but certainly not least I plan on eating some 90% cacao chocolate before I go to bed to stoke the furnace and keep my metabolism high and just as a reward for the end of the day. And if I go to bed well fed then I can more easily get up and start hiking right away in the morning with just a little food.

This is the last of my topical posts for now. I leave in exactly one week from today so my next post will probably be titled “Final Preparations” and every post after that for the next month or so will be telling of my story and experience hiking the Colorado Trail.

This is part of the “Through Hiking the Colorado Trail” series…