Have you ever gone hiking for a day or even a week and ended up with rotten or spoiled food?
Most of us have, and it only takes that one time to realize there is a science to keeping food fresh and keeping food safe from scavengers and animals.
Is the science hard? No, and learning it is essential to anyone planning a hiking trip.
This article will explain what foods to bring and how to keep them from spoiling. In addition, we will go into how to store food to keep it away from animals.
How to Store Food When Hiking
When going on a long, all-day hike, the best storage option when you have to put your backpack down is to either have someone else in your group hold your pack or, if you are alone, hang it in a tree.
However, if you are going on a multi-day hike and are constantly moving your camp, you need real storage options that are easy and lightweight.
In this scenario, the two best options are keeping the food off the ground and keeping it from being detected by scent using bear bags.
Day Hiking Food Storage
If you plan to eat breakfast in the car and then spend the rest of the day in the woods hiking, you will need to bring snacks that build energy.
Hiking is hard work and requires stamina, so day hiking lunches and snacks are essential.
Snacks and lunches are readily available in the way of protein bars, granola bars, jerky, and trail mix snack pouches.
You can also make your snack pouches for trail mix using sandwich or snack bags. The problem with sandwich and snack bags is that they are not as airtight as we think they are.
Even if placing the snacks in plastic containers, the scent of the food can breakthrough.
These containers will allow the scents of the food to escape, which can attract animals, so it is best to get the prepackaged trail mix pouches.
Most people think that keeping these snacks in a backpack makes them safe. The truth is that the backpack does nothing but keep them up and out of the animals’ reach until it is put on the ground for some reason. Then the backpack becomes open season for the animals.
To maintain your food’s integrity, the answer is simple, don’t put the backpack on the ground. Animals are more intelligent than most people think.
They can learn to unzip easily, and if they can’t unzip, they have been known to chew holes in backpacks or steal the whole backpack.
If you are with others, have them hold your backpack. If you are by yourself, put the backpack out of reach.
Since you will probably only be away from the backpack a few minutes, use a rope thrown over a low branch to make it harder for the animals to reach and hang onto, which will deter them from trying to chew into it.
Multi-Day Food Storage to Reduce Spoilage
If you plan to go backpacking for several days, then planning your menu is more important and more difficult in terms of reducing spoilage.
You will want to pack high caloric foods, which would be any foods that are 100 calories or more per ounce to keep up energy and stamina, but are also less likely to spoil quickly.
Hiking for several days means no cooler, so the food has to be non-perishable for the most part. There will always be things that can spoil, but the less of those types of foodstuff, the better.
The snacks of the day hike are perfect for breakfasts and lunches during a multiday hike. They require little space, so they can pack in the backpack easily.
To keep the food safe from animals, just don’t put the backpack on the ground.
However, some foodstuffs can and will spoil. To avoid this, bring as little fresh meat as possible.
You can bring some frozen meat to be used the first night, but the best and longer lasting option is to bring preserved meats because they will last several days rather than several hours.
If you want to bring eggs for breakfasts, they are less of a problem than meat in terms of spoiling. If they are fresh and not from the grocery store, they will store without refrigeration for several days.
You will also need dried fruits and vegetables to make storage more manageable and less likely to spoil.
These items will obviously not give you a gourmet meal, but they will keep you nourished and healthy while you are hiking.
Multi-Day Food Storage to Protect Over Night
When hiking for several days and not returning to a fixed campsite every night means that you will not have easy access to a secure place to store your food overnight.
This problem with storing food away from animals has been the downfall of many campers over the generations.
There are several ways to store food overnight to keep animals out of it. First is the hang it from the tree method. You will need to find a tree with a high limb not easily accessed from the ground.
Ideally, the limb is at least 15 feet off the ground, and the limb is large enough that you can you’re your food more than 10 feet away from the tree’s trunk. This standard makes it hard for bears to get to your food.
You can throw a rope over the limb. Tie your backpack to one end of the rope and lift it up. When it is high enough, tie the other end to the tree trunk.
Instead of using the tree method or giving a second layer of protection while using the tree method, invest in a bear bag would keep the smell of the food locked inside, so the backpack would be less likely to be of interest to any animal.
Protecting your food while day hiking or multi-day hiking is not as challenging as most people think. Keeping the food away from ground level, packing non-perishable foods, and investing in a bear bag make food storage while hiking the easy part of the trip.