Updated on June 25, 2020

It’s important to pack enough (and not too much!) food, fuel, and water on your overnight hiking trip. Getting the proportions right can be tricky, so here we’ll help you figure out how to calculate exactly how much of each of these essential items you’ll need to bring to be safe and happy.




You’ll need between 2,000 – 4,500 calories of food per person, per day, depending on the individual.

You should plan to pack 1.5 – 2.5 pounds of dry food per person per day.

Things like elevation gain, distance traveled, and speed will affect how often and how much you actually want to eat.

If you’re new to backpacking, pack more food than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to have too much than to run out.

Also, make sure you bring some extra food in case of an emergency.



1. Bring food you know you’ll enjoy

Make sure to try out your food beforehand so you know you like it.


2. Remember that calories keep you energized and active

Don’t start or continue a diet before starting or during a multi-day hike. You’re going to need all the calories and water to fight off fatigue and headaches and to fuel your body to keep moving through the hike.


3. Focus on calories and nutrient rich foods

It’s fine to eat a candy bar during your trip as a pick-me-up, but for the long haul, you’ll want to rely on proteins and complex carbs. Things like dried fruit and nuts will provide you with a much more stable energy when snacking on-trail.


4. Ditch packaging for less bulk

Stick to lightweight and low-bulk foods as much as possible. Consider repackaging food into plastic baggies to cut down on bulk and trash. Be sure to clearly label the bags and include cooking directions.


5. Keep cooking simple

Consider the ease of preparation. Unless you’re an experienced camp chef, always bring backpacking meals that are easy to cook. Also make sure to bring some non-cook meal items in case your stove malfunctions.


6. Look for nearby water sources for convenience

Check what water sources are available on your trip. The availability of water along the trail will greatly influence the types of food you can bring


7. Consider convenience vs. price

Convenience has its price. Freeze dried meals and high energy foods can be expensive, but at the end of a long day when you’re tired and all you can do is boil water, these luxuries are justifiable.



1. Plan to drink between 2-4 liters of water/day

You should drink more water when backpacking than you normally do at home. 


2. Consider bringing a water bladder 

Water bladders (also known as CamelBaks) make drinking water more convenient while you’re hiking because you don’t have to stop and grab your water bottle to hydrate – you can drink out of your hose on-the-go!


3. Don’t carry more water than you need

You only need to carry enough water at one time to get you to the next refill point, plus a little extra, just in case.



1. Take account of all actions that require fuel

How much you eat determines how much fuel you’ll need to bring. 

Will you be making coffee every morning? Do you need to melt snow for hot water bottles to put in your sleeping bag? Are you making freeze dried food or regular food? 

If you’re going to eat things like pasta or potatoes or rice or any other starches, you’ll need to pack more fuel because those things take a deceptively long time to cook.


2. Practice cooking meals and making coffee with your camp stove ahead of time

Doing so will give you an idea of how much fuel you’ll use while doing all of these activities. That will help you learn how much fuel you need to bring on your trip.


3. Plan time to purchase fuel at your destination

Remember you can’t bring fuel on an airplane, so if you’re flying to your hiking destination, you’ll need to buy the fuel once you land.

Use these tips to plan how much food, fuel, and water you’ll need to bring on your next backpacking trip and don’t forget to have fun!