Few things demoralize a backpacker more than staring into a food bag of the same old unappetizing snacks! Luckily, this often repeated mistake can easily be corrected for by making the concept of variety into a central pillar of your food packing strategy. Journey with me into the great snag bag at the end of the earth, and I promise you’ll hit the trail with a few new ideas in your hipbelt pockets.
For a balanced day of heavy, healthy snacking, I prefer to have at least one each of the following eight snack archetypes at my disposal: nuts and seeds, energy bars, trail mix, dried fruits and veggies, meats and cheeses, cookie/pastry, candy, and savory munchies. If you pack enough to have one of each of these types per day, you’re going to have a delicious and fulfilling trip!
But not all of these things come as conveniently packaged as energy bars, so you’ll have to flex your decanting muscles to bring it all together. Use whatever strategy works best for you, I recommend Ziploc style bags. By pouring your snacks out of their original, often heavy duty, packaging, you cut down on bulk and weight, while making your snacks formation more uniform, and better able to compress together. Some people prefer to snack out of large master bags, while others (myself included) prefer individually packing each snack for each day. The former option reduces waste and is simpler, the latter, while more work intensive and wasteful, assures a more even flow of food intake over the course of a trip.
So now that you know what to be on the lookout for, make sure to be on the lookout for these three snack traps to avoid! They are in order of most commonly overpacked - energy bars, traditional trail mixes, and lower tier dried fruits (banana chips, cranberries, raisins, etc). From my experience, these three are always the worst offenders, the heaviest things most likely to be left uneaten at the end of a trip. Don’t get me wrong. They can be delicious, and you don’t need to avoid them all together. Just be sure to pack them more sparingly than you might otherwise assume.
Lastly, I’d like to shout out personal preferences. Your specific, particular tastes, the things you always avoid or can never get enough of, are more important than all else. If there are snacks you never get tired of, and always want more of, pack more of those snacks! Conversely, if you’re like me and never, ever, ever touch banana chips (once you try dried bananas, you’ll never go back to bananas in chip form), don’t pack them, even if it feels like you’re checking a box.
Picture the thing you enjoy eating the least while hiking and that you always leave uneaten. Now commit to yourself to never packing it again. Somewhere out there is a food that costs as much or less, and that you like as much or more!
Variety is the spice of life they say, and it is certainly the very best spice of backpacking snack food. If you’re like me, and you’re always looking to improve your munching, give it a go. On your next trip, try packing a wider variety of snacks in the same amount of food. You’ll eat more, eat better, and feel happier. Bon appetit, and happy hiking!