It's hard enough to decide what to eat when you're staring into the fridge at home, let alone when you're peering into a stuff sack full of hastily thrown together edibles. That's why meal planning before heading into the outdoors can make life a little more enjoyable.
Consider how much time you will have to cook and to clean up. Extravagant meals are more suited to trips where you spend hours lounging in camp than journeys where the days are long and hard. For big days, bring snacks you can eat on the go for sustained energy. On any trip (even when out for only a few hours) carry some extra food in case of emergency.
Weight: On longer trips, the weight of each day's food becomes critical. Consider the calories-for-weight offered by various foods. Freeze-dried foods have a low moisture content (2% compared to 25% for typical supermarket dry foods). They are light and have a virtually indefinite shelf life. Because freeze-dried foods are odour-free until opened, they are less likely to attract insects and animals. But they are relatively expensive, and some folks find them bland and mushy.
Amount: How much food you require depends on a variety of factors. The intensity and amount of activity is the major influence. Another factor is age – an active, young person burns food faster than someone who is older or heavier. The outside temperature will also influence food consumption as the body uses energy to keep warm. All these variables make it difficult to recommend precise quantities, but participating in outdoor activities burns in the range of 3200 – 4500 calories per day.
Several smaller bags are easier to pack and access than one gigantic sack. Reusable, coated nylon bags with roll-over seals, or heavy-duty, freezer bags with zip closures are both useful for packing food. Remove any surplus packaging that will add weight or be difficult to dispose of on the trail. But remember to keep any cooking directions you might need.
Pack your food above and away from your stove fuel. Your stove fuel doesn't have to actually leak for your food to be ruined. Fuel fumes alone can permeate everything in an enclosed space. For this reason, we recommend double-bagging your fuel with a combination of plastic bags and nylon stuff sacks, and storing it in an outside pocket or well away from any food.