Appalachian Trail 2010,  Food

The Hiker Diet

Trail Magic!
Trail Magic at Katahdin Iron Works Road, 100 Mile Wilderness, Maine

Now that we are several days post hike we’ve had to really think about what we are eating. When you aren’t burning 5,000 calories a day it is impossible to continue eating like you were. Or, you could, but you’d balloon up in no time! So, I thought I’d give a run down of what a typical thru-hiker eats.

Breakfast: Pretty much everyone starts off with oatmeal. It’s warm and easy to make, but it takes time to boil water. In the beginning this is great because you start off later in the morning. Eventually you move on to breakfast bars. Some people start eating cold oatmeal, some drink Carnation instant breakfast, Pop Tarts are popular and I tried those fried fruit pies. Too much sugar for me. Breakfast was mostly a pain in the butt.

Lunch: Lunch can be equally as hard as breakfast. Mostly we stuck to pepperoni, salami and tuna, but sometimes I bought chicken salad packages and ate peanut butter. I went into this thing thinking I would love pb but it didn’t appeal to me at all! Sometimes I had enough of something else that I’d put my pb into a hiker box. We also cooked lunch sometimes. In our mail drops we’d send a pack or two of chicken or tuna and then a mashed potato. This was awesome on days you were extra hungry. Tortilla’s were used most of the time for wraps with the pepperoni and tuna. I bought the flavored tuna packs, sometimes tuna salad packs. We’d grab mayo, mustard and relish from convenience stores or restaurants to flavor it up a bit. I liked to carry crackers, either cracker sandwiches or items like Goldfish or Cheez-its. Then you’d top it off with a candy bar, gummy bears, or some sort of dessert.

Dinner: Our dinners consisted of a lot of Mountain House/Alpine Aire or the like dehydrated meals. We had bought a bunch before we left for our mail drops and this was an excellent supplement along the way. Towards the later half of the trail we’d sometimes just buy them in outfitters because with two people it was the same cost as buying a Lipton/Knorr side and two packages of meat. Lipton/Knorr sides were very common. Once we bought some Thai noodles and some sauce and made that. Mac and cheese is popular as is ramen noodles. Ramen is probably the most popular hiker dinner there is. People made it all sorts of ways, and the latest popular way was to add peanut butter to it. We went until the very last day of the trip to buy a package of ramen. We had a few in the hiker box on occasion, but we kinda prided ourselves on not buying ramen. You will see all sorts of combinations of hiker food: Noodles with little packages of the dried sauces in the spice aisle, mac and cheese with Spam, pieces of sausage in ramen….on and on and on. One of the best things we did was send dried tomatoes to ourselves. They were nice surprises and additions to our meals. Further north we found some in stores and we’d buy them along the way.

Snacks: Aside from bars like Larabars, Luna, Powerbars, etc., we ate a lot of candy bars for snacks, gummy bears, Oreo’s, crackers, Little Debbie snacks. Anything junk food you can insert here. And oh, it was so nice!

The photo above includes a Whoopie Pie. We discovered these in Andover, ME at a general store. They packing a whopping 800 calories and an ungodly amount of fat and sugar, so they are a PERFECT hiker food! Merf and Chris would joke that after I ate one that I’d have my afterburners on because I’d be so far ahead of them I’d keep slowing down to wait for ’em. Yesterday we were driving along a road on the coast when we saw a hand made sign for pies and whoopies. We turned down the road and into someones drive and out came a pre-teen girl who showed us to a covered porch with a fridge full of whoopie pies. I refrained, but Chris got a pb one and mom got a coconut one. I had a nibble…and they were so divine!

Too bad you can’t eat a whoopie every day.

I’m actually craving a green monster and can’t wait to start cooking! One of my hiker friends (though we only met twice!) has a cooking blog, so check our Eat What You Love and entice her to post more!


  • Stacey

    Ah, hiker food! Isn’t it great stuff. Since we rarely cook ours consisted more of just junk food. We ate some good stuff like bagels, tortillas, granola, dried fruit, peanut butter. But we also ate a lot of little debbie, fruit snacks, granola bars (which sound healthy, but have an amazing amount of sugar), chips, etc. I have to say our diet is WAY different in real life, and its always really nice to get home from a hike and have fresh veggies every day! That was sweet of you to link to my site! I am sorry I do not post real often, but I hope the recipes are enjoyed!

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