Food is going to be one of the heaviest things in a backpack, and also one of the things that you have a great deal of control over. Your food weight can vary by pounds per day, depending on what kind of things you pack. The most common advice you'll get on trail nutrition is, basically, to pack heavy on carbs and sugars, the thinking being that these foods are light per calorie, readily available, and tasty.
But what about fat? There's a good case to be made that fat is perfectly healthy for you (if you want to learn more about this, see here (in-depth), here (video), here (video), here, here, here), and besides, fats will often have as much as twice the calories per unit of weight that carbs do. In the interest of going light, fat really is the best option.
Taking fats on the trail with you doesn't have to mean bringing along a hunk of butter (though clarified butter is supposed to keep very well), there are many tasty options that are full of fat...
Trail Foods List
- Trail Mix - By far the easiest way to get a lot of fat calories on to the trail with you. It's an easy thing to carry and to eat and it tastes good too. Best of all, there are countless different varieties and combinations to choose from so that you never get bored with it.
- Peanut Butter - Another good option, or any kind of nut butter really (Peanuts aren't actually nuts, they're beans). Peanut Butter goes great on a whole variety of things, and is good on its own too, straight from the jar on a finger.
- Energy Bar - If you're willing to shop around a bit, and possibly spend a bit more, you can find some great energy bars that are fat heavy and carb light, rather than carb heavy and fat light, which characterizes your typical energy bar. Of course, there's no reason you cant make your own.
- Pemmican - Of course, there is always the original trail food, pemmican. Pemmican is a combination of dried meat, fat, and sometimes berries, and originated with the Native Americans but was used widely by early settlers and as well as arctic adventurers because of its excellent weigh to calorie ratio and its long shelf life. A quick google search will show you where it's sold, but again, there's nothing wrong with making your own.
- Cheese - Shelf lives will vary depending on the type(hard cheeses typically last longer), but cheese can be a very tasty addition to a trail food bag, and goes great with a whole range of different meal options.
- Butter - Perhaps not as a stand alone food item, but certainly as part of a meal, butter is a great option, and can be added to just about anything, from soup to pasta sauce to rehydrated eggs.
- Olive Oil - Similar to butter, this probably isn't something you're going to be eating on its own, but again, it tastes good in a lot of different common trail foods, and will improve the calorie to weight ratio of any meal.
Those are a few of the different options available. You can see some more here (check out the comments for a lot of great ideas). As you can see high fat snacks are easy, and there are different things that you can add to breakfast or dinner that will give you a lot of calories for a little weight, and will taste good too.
The thing you want to keep in mind with all of this is weight. By using fat as much as possible, you're going to significantly reduce your backpack weight, and have a lot more fun as a result. You'll also burn fewer calories by carrying less food weight, which means you wont have to carry as much food. It's all interconnected.
And don't think this is small differences either. A few simple choices can give you the same amount of calories for a pound or even two less in weight. On a five day trip that could be anywhere from five to ten pounds of weight that you're not carrying on the first day, which definitely isn't nothing.