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Best Food for the Appalachian Trail

(Editor’s note: Due to the federal government shutdown, the Appalachian Trail is officially closed along much of it’s length as of 10/10/2013, but is still open where it runs through state parks, state forests, and portions of national forests. Click here for more information on where the trail is open and where it is closed.)

Planning an epic hike of the Appalachian Trail? If only doing a short trek, you can bring perishable food, though if the goal begins in Maine and ends in Georgia, it’s best to do thorough trail food research before lacing up your hiking boots. Nutritious food and snacks that are easy to pack and won’t spoil after a day or two are your best bets, so leave the chips and cheese puffs at home! Instead, go for packable proteins, carbs and good fats, all of which will keep you energized and satisfied. Check out a few tips concerning the best food for the Appalachian Trail on what will surely be the trek of a lifetime:

Best Dry Food Options

Dried foods are staples of most long hikes, and with good reason — they won’t spoil easily nor do they contain a lot of water, which will only weigh your pack down. Make your own (literal) trail mix with nuts and dried fruit — think walnuts, almonds, dried apricots, cranberries, raisins, prunes, bananas, cashews, peanuts and anything else you want to throw in, such as antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. Granola bars that contain dried fruit and nuts are also a good choice, as are breakfast cereals and seeds. Seed options can include sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseed.

Heartier Snacks

Crackers and cheese work as heartier snacks that will leave you feeling full and ready to hike another mile or two. Crackers generally last a bit longer than most cheeses, so be sure to eat your cheese in a timely fashion and stock up on more at the next store or service center. Since crackers can break easily, pack them in a safe place where they won’t end up a crumbled mess, and cut cheese into slices or cubes to avoid having to stop for long periods of time while on the trail.

Dinner Ideas

It’s doubtful you want to eat trail mix for dinner, however there are hot food options you can bring along and easily heat up. Raman noodles, to-go soup packs and dry pasta cook easily on portable stoves, as will dry rice and oatmeal. Foil packets of chicken or tuna are also often recommended as good protein sources when hiking the trail. Forget about building fires to cook these items, as fires are prohibited in some areas of the trail, and portable stoves make preparing food a lot easier after a hard day of hiking.

Additional Tips

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends carrying 1.5 to 2 pounds of high-calorie food per day, unless you’re hiking during colder weather in which case 2.5 pounds of high-calorie food is required. You need more calories to keep warm, after all! If you’re planning on hiking the whole shebang, don’t worry about packing four months of food, as the trail often goes through towns, such as Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, meaning you can easily stock up on what you need. Don’t forget to eat a variety of foods whenever possible, as variety is part of a healthy diet!

Use these and other hiking tips to stay healthy and safe while on this historic trail! Happy hiking!

Kent Page McGroarty is a blogger for whose work has also appeared in the SF Gate and AZ Central Healthy Living. Check out more of her tips on the Survivalbased blog.

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