Best Ultralight Lightweight Backpacking Food
When organising a multi-day hike and backpacking trip, food can add up to be the heaviest part of your packing list. The last thing you want to do is be carrying excess weight when trying to be lighter.
It is a skill to work out and manage your food pack list, you have to take foods that not only sustain you but that you enjoy.
Finding suggestions and favourites for your trip can be hard work and take years to accomplish and narrow down lightweight, tasty and fulfilling backpacking foods.
So, what we've done here is show you nothing but the facts, a page of the most highly calorific foods that are great out on the trail, hiking, camping and backpacking and most importantly, those interested in ultralight backpacking and lightening the load.
How do we get all of these results? We have our very own food discovery tool, which we are continually adding sports and outdoor foods to which we then use to share facts about them all.
With a discovery tool and all their nutritional info, we can objectively compare every aspect of each food item and food types and much more, which we do exactly here below. If we have a question, we can easily find answers to it through the tool and we share this sort of info in articles and guides like this.
It's very important that you are getting your recommended daily intake and covering your nutritional needs, especially when doing arduous work such as hiking and backpacking.
It's not just about calories and covering your energy needs. There is a fine balance with getting enough energy from your food and other needs so that you stay healthy and feel the best you can whilst out on the trail.
In this article, we mostly look at calories and energy in foods and specifically finding foods which have the most amount of energy for the least amount of weight, in-keeping with the ultralight method.
There is no perfect ultralight foods that everyone can enjoy, so we try and share different ultralight food categories, diets and so on.
You may have a specific diet requirement, allergies or prefer certain foods over others. Hopefully we can guide you in a direction and give you a better understanding of what foods pack a punch when it comes to calories alone.
Below you can find the cream of the crop, the best ultralight foods and most calorie dense foods items for their categories. These are just a suggestion of what the lightest and most calorie dense foods are and below that we look deeper in to these food items and what others we can suggest.
Each table can be expanded to show more and move through the options from the best 10 by clicking the mini pager at the bottom of each table to see more suggestions.
Ultralight And Most Calorific Backpacking Foods
This is a simple question and one that people are continually trying to find the answer to. There is also a very simple answer, which shows in the food table linked here.
The most calorific foods, which means food items that have the most amount of calories for their weight carried are oils.
You can find suggestions for high calorie backpacking foods in a lot of places on the internet but nowhere else can you compare the nutritional info and specifically the calories against hundreds of other camping and hiking foods and find definitive and objective answers.
Even with oils being the easiest way to get calories in, which oils have the most amount of calories and are any of them actually edible?
When we think of oils, we think of olive oil and vegetable oils we use to fry food with and to put on salads. But, there are specific oils made for sports and outdoor enthusiasts which are good enough to eat by themselve's and without any other foods, just like an energy gel, but a super high calorie energy gel.
Coconut oils and other nut oils are right at the top of this list of oils which are tasty and can be eaten on the go or added to other foods, snacks and meals you make. With this approach you get a tasty fulfilling warm meal with a topping of extra calories.
Just behind oils are nuts and nut butter powders. These are more tasty and enjoyable than plain oils and can be added to different food types, sandwiches and improve their taste and give you those much needed calories, for very little weight.
How Many Calories Per Gram
The highest food item we have in our database is just over 9 calories per gram. This is a MCT oil blend by Fbomb at 9.11 calories per gram.
They say it's one of the most important meals of the day, we totally agree and getting a good, high calorific breakfast in you will start your day in the right way and get you going.
Whatever your preferred breakfast, there is bound to be a tasty and most importantly calorific breakfast for the ultralighters out there.
Coconut, eggs, nuts and nut butters and oats you will find are some of the most calorific backpacking breakfast foods you can take with your on your next hiking and camping trip.
If you're looking for a more nutritionally rounded breakfast, you will be looking at about 5-7 calories per gram of weight.
Just take a look at some of the suggestions on the right and feel free to scroll through the table to view even more ultralight breakfast foods.
Ultralight Lunch And Dinner
Here we have filtered the discovery tool to mostly savoury foods which can be consumed for lunch and dinner.
Expect at least 5.5 calories per gram and more for lunch and dinner food options.
Within this list you will find full meal suggestions and foods which can be added to lunch and dinners.
At the time of writing you can expect to see foods such as packaged camping meals, nuts, dehydrated meat, coconut and powdered toppings.
Ultralight Dessert Foods
With the amount of exercise and calories you'll be burning out on the trail, a dessert will be a welcome meal when backpacking.
What sort of backpacking dessert options can you enjoy whilst staying high in calories?
Coconut packaroons, chocolate bars, protein cookies and even dehydrated fruits are all great choices and we'd enjoy every single one as a dessert option after a long day.
Expect anything from 4-6 calories per gram of weight when planning and packing your desserts.
One thing we love about backpacking foods is that they can be consumed at most parts of the day, pocketed and had as snacks when on the move too.
Ultralight Packaged Camping Meals
In this section we focus on just packaged meals which can be bought from many high street stores, REI and online retailers who make camping meals for all types of adventures.
The types of meals here are mostly dehydrated and freeze dried meals, depending on the manufacturer and you won't see any wet meals because like tinned food the meals usually weigh more than they are worth and you end up carrying around unneeded water and packaging.
Packit Gourmet, Trailfork, Mountain House, Firepot, Trek n Eat and many other brands all create fantastic ultralight packet meals ready for your backpacking trips.
Expect to get around 4.5 - 6 calories per gram of food with these types of meals. They also cover many different diet types and cuisines. Head on over to the food discovery tool to do an even deeper search pf packaged meals which have high calories per gram.
One problem with packet meals, they are high on calories, they are slow to consume. Nearly all food options in this section are slow to create and you will need to prepare most of them. This isn't usually a long process and you only have to add water to most of them and let them sit.
It gets even more lightweight when you can source water on the trail which means you don't have to carry in your water to prepare a meal.
Ultralight Energy Bars
If you're looking for the highest calorie energy bars, you can have quick food to go that tastes great and has many calories.
When looking for an energy bar, look for those which have coconut, chocolate, nuts and seeds in them.
On the table here you can see packaroons with coconut flakes, vego chocolate bars which have nuts in them and raw seed bars. These are mostly raw bars which don't weigh too much and are quite healthy too.
Expect at least 5.5 calories per gram and more if you're looking for an ultralight energy bar.
If you're buying bars from a high street store or on your travels and can't compare them, look for those which have nuts, coconut, chocolate and seeds in them and you won't go far wrong.
Ultralight Vegan Foods
If you're looking for vegan foods which are lightweight and have many calories in them, there are a few suggestions on the right in the table.
There are hundreds of foods available and you'll find the vast majority of options on the website are vegan.
We recommend the food discovery tool which you can use to filter all the foods in the database by diet and simply select the calories per gram column to sort all those by how much calories they have per gram.
This way you can see hundreds of foods and compare them objectively and get a much better understanding of foods that you may enjoy and can work for you.
Calories Per Dollar
If you're looking for ultralight backpacking food suggestions based solely on how much they cost, you want to be looking in to their calories per dollar.
Here we have worked out the RRP cost of each food item, added it to the database and with some simple calculations can work out every food items calories per dollar amount.
You can see that shop bought noodles, nut butters, oils, nuts and packet meals from a supermarket are all cheap backpacking foods and here you can see that in the table.
Expect at least 800 calories per dollar for some of the cheapest yet most calorific foods items that work well with camping and hiking.
Remember though that not all of these suggestions which come in at the top of this table and have high calories per dollar are nutritionally fulfilling. With this in mind, think about mixing this with other food items so that you can get your RDA of nutrients.