Backpacking Meal Plan: My JMT Meal Plan

When it comes to backpacking and thru-hiking, a big portion of your success is reliant on a solid backpacking meal plan. You've got to be sure to eat enough calories each day to stay energized but also balance the weight, bulk and effort of each meal. A good backpacking meal plan will keep you energized, healthy and strong for the entire trip and will also taste great and be easy to cook. Below is my meal plan for 13 days of hiking the John Muir Trail.

In planning a backpacking meal plan it's important to note that most backpackers will burn between 2,500 to 4,000 calories per day. You'll need to eat high calorie and high protein foods throughout the day to stay energized. You can do this by eating plenty of complex carbohydrates and proteins. To do this you'll want to snack on nuts and dried fruits throughout the day as well as packaged bars for easy trail food.


Breakfast: Backpacking Meal Plan


Your mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day and she's right. You'll want to get a head start on energizing your body for the long hike ahead so whether you choose a quick snack to-go or take the time to cook a hot meal, make sure to eat an energizing breakfast.

I plan to bring plenty of dried oatmeal packets. Oatmeal is a delicious way to pack some nutrients into your morning meal plus it's lightweight, packable and easy to cook. It'll only take a few minutes to boil some water and get my day off to a great start. In addition to oatmeal, I plan to make one of my favorite meals from our campsite cooking series, Cinna-Raisin Crunch.

Day-Time Snacks for Backpacking


On our John Muir Trail trip we'll be averaging about 16 miles per day. With an agenda like this we'll have little time to stop and make a meal for lunch. Instead, I plan to snack all day long on trail mix or GORP which will include plenty of nuts and dried fruits. I'll also snack on some energy bars. Eating light snacks constantly throughout with day will keep you hiking efficiently.

John Muir Trail Meal Plan

Dinner: Backpacking Meal Plan


Dinner is the time of the day to eat a delicious warm meal. You've hiked all afternoon and finally have some time to take a load off and relax around the campsite. You'll probably want to keep it easy but if you are feeling up to it you can make something a little more gourmet than Ramen Noodles.

To make a great backpacking meal, you can start with an easy base like rice, pasta, dried potatoes or quinoa. Then add spices and protein such as pouched chicken, pouched tuna, summer sausage or beef jerky. If you don't feel like creating your own meals, you can pick up some great freeze-dried meals.

On the John Muir Trail I plan to cook Trailside Chicken and Rice, Pizza Taters, Tuna Noodler,  and Cheesy Bacon Taters among some other pre-made meals. All of these backpacking meals are easy to cook on a small cook stove in the backcountry.

Do you have a favorite backpacking meal or recipe? Enter it in comments below.

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Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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