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How to plan a tramping menu

The other week we wrote about choosing food for tramping; this article will expand on that to include a couple of other considerations and some suggestions for a menu. Whether heading for a quick overnight trip or an extended tramp lasting several days, you will want nourishing food that tastes exceptional.

How much food should I take tramping?

A question that we often get asked is how much food you’ll need for a tramping trip. This will depend on many factors, including the intensity of your activity, your size and weight, how many calories you burn, how many days you’ll be out and so on.

When you decide how much or little to take with you, it is safest to stay on the side of caution and take a little more food. One of the essentials for an overnight trip is extra food for an emergency or if you get caught out. On the flip side, you won’t want to take too much. A common mistake is to pack too much food, forcing you to carry that unwanted bulk and weight on your trip. Over time you will learn the right amounts of food for you.


To help you decide how much food to bring, also consider:
  • How many days will your trip be? Don’t forget to include the meal you might eat at the start of the track if you’ve camped overnight at the beginning.
  • How big is your group? Meals can be much easier to plan if you’re heading out solo. But if you’re tramping with others, make the decision early if you will or won’t want to share meals. A bigger group can split the weight of food and fuel, and cooking gear.
  • What does your day look like? If you’re churning through the kilometres over rugged terrain one day, you may want to take extra snacks on top of the base meals that you can eat on the go and plan for an easy dinner that night.

What kind of food should I take tramping?

You can take most foods when you go tramping, but it’s best to stick with foods that are portable, lightweight and not too bulky, making them easy to pack and carry. Fortunately, there are ways to take backpacking versions of your favourite meals. You might be thinking that freeze-dried is a bland and tasteless option to take tramping, but the reality is that nowadays, that is far from the truth. There has been a massive amount of development over the years, and with more brands than ever to choose from, you are sure to find a flavour that you love. What is better, having freeze-dried ingredients that you can make into a meal is now a genuine option.

When choosing what food to pack for your tramp, consider these things:

Bring what you like to eat: Converting your taste buds to new types of food while out in the backcountry can be a very unpleasant experience; at best, you won’t want to eat your meal; at worst, well, stomach upset and the follow on effects. Take foods that you love to eat and look forward to enjoying at the end of a long hike, food that your stomach will handle, and food that you know will satisfy you. Test your foods at home to find out what you will love.

Pack various flavours: A variety of different foods is the key to keeping most trampers motivated and on track. While we suggest not trying new flavours, it certainly helps to have a range of different options that you love. We all know how plain porridge for breakfast every morning becomes mundane. It also pays to make sure you have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats according to what your chosen diet allows and that you need.

Try to include some fresh foods: Taking fresh foods can be bulky and heavy, but even some bread or fruit with your lunch can do wonders for morale. You will enjoy the freshness, but it also adds different textures to keep your palate happy. While keeping things cold can be a challenge, there are ways that you can work around this. Pack the perishable items into your pot if there is space and wrap it in your towel; this will give it some good insulation from the outside. Of course, you may not need to do this for a winter trip. It is best to take ‘longer-lasting’ fresh foods such as hard cheeses, salami, etc.

Add some spices: Spices can boost the flavour of tramping food with only a minimal increase in weight. Don’t be scared to add it to your meals. Bring salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, lemon pepper, or anything essential to your home kitchen. Cinnamon makes hot chocolate taste even better. Some chilli sauce adds a little zing a to mac and cheese. Garlic powder can really up the flavour of instant mashed potatoes. But again, test this at home first.

Stay hydrated with flavoured beverages: A hot coffee in the morning or a hot chocolate at night is always a winner. But don’t just stop there; adding an electrolyte sachet to your water can make the water taste good (although fresh stream water can be excellent), and it has the added benefit of increasing your sodium intake, which will be needed after a day of grinding up and down the hills. Soup is another excellent way to ensure you can get some hydration on board and warms you up on a cold day.


How to plan food for your tramping trip.

Even if it’s just a menu outline, it helps you plan for your meals and know how much food you will need for your trip. This could be as simple as writing it out on a bit of paper; or as complex as creating an excel spreadsheet. It helps to start the planning with dinners, which generally make up the biggest meal of the day and the meal you’re most likely to sit down for. Think of the exertion you’re going to be doing during the day. What will your day include, and how much energy will you need for the next day? On your most challenging day of hiking, you may want just a simple freeze-dried meal. But if your trip includes time relaxing at camp after your days tramping, you may have more time to prepare a culinary delight from various ingredients. Check out this previous post for a great tasting Moroccan Beef Risotto.

Some people prefer to know what food they’ll eat each day during their adventure – keeping all the ingredients for each meal or all the items together and labelling each pack by the day. This will help to ensure you have enough food for each day of your trip. Other people throw all their food into one bag and pick what to eat at each meal. If you want to include some fresh food for your meals, like fruits and vegetables, plan to eat them earlier in the trip (to make your pack lighter and prevent it from spoiling).

 

As you’re planning your meals, also think about:
  • Make sure you have access to water: This can vary significantly depending on where you’re going and can influence what tramping food you choose to take.

  • How much fuel you will need: Be mindful of the amount of fuel you will need to take for cooking; also, bear in mind how much fuel you will need for hot drinks and if you need to boil water to make it safe to drink.

Tramping Food Ideas

Here is a relatively simple and basic outline of options for your tramping meals that we stock here at Venture Outdoors NZ.

 

Breakfast

Breakfasts are something that you should not skimp on. Breakfasts are what give us a good deal of energy and set us off on the right foot for the day of tramping. You may opt for a hot or cold breakfast; some of the tramping breakfasts we stock are great with hot or cold water. The Radix Nutrition Ultra 800 V8 Mixed Berry Breakfast is a crowd favourite. What makes it better is that there is also a Plant-Based option. If you prefer a more traditional breakfast, check out another crowd favourite, the Back Country Cuisine Cooked Breakfast; which comes in a smaller 90g size and a larger 175g size. Of course, we also have a wide range of porridge iterations in the store.


Snacks

Snacks are a great way to help you get through the day. Venture Outdoors NZ has a wide range of tramping snacks which are an excellent addition to your menu. If you are after something easy to stash in your jacket pocket and eat along the way, check out the Canterbury Biltong range, the Off Piste Provisions range, or something a bit different like the Real Meals Fruit Trio. We also have a wide range of bars in stock from brands that make great tramping snacks, Clif Bar, Nothing Naughty, and The Crafty Weka Bar.


Lunch

Some trampers prefer to stop and sit down to have a hot lunch and enjoy the rest, while others like to keep it simple with a few bars on the go. Some trampers also graze on different snacks throughout the day, sometimes just eating on the go and occasionally stopping for a bit. If you are a tramper that likes to have a hot lunch, then any of the meals we sell will be a great option; it may be best to opt for something like the Radix Original 400 range to keep it lighter in your belly. If you prefer to go with snacks for lunch, or graze throughout the day, any of the snacks mentioned above will be a great option.


Dinner

The meal at the end of the day is your reward for your hard work during the day. It can be as simple as adding boiling water or as gourmet as making something from scratch. If you like the simplicity of a freeze-dried meal, then the range has grown almost exponentially in the last few years. Otherwise, you can make some pretty delicious dinners with freeze-dried extras like the No Rush Beef Cubes, the Back Country Cuisine Instant Mixed Vege, Go Native Mashed Potato or the Real Meals Basmati Rice. Or you can start with one of the Lyndal’s Ladle pasta meals and add other ingredients such as Canterbury Biltong or No Rush Chicken Cubes. Bring some spices from home to add a little zing to your meals, and you won’t regret it, especially given how light the herbs can be. The options for a delicious tramping dinner are endless.


Suggested menu for four days

Here is a sample menu for a trip such as the Tongariro Northern Circuit that we have made up to help give you some inspiration on what to take for your next trip. We have based this on the Department Of Conservation’s suggestion of completing this walk in 4 days.

Day 1-
Breakfast – eat at home before you go
LunchClif Bar Chocolate Brownie & packet of BiteMeat Tangy Pepper Biltong
Dinner – Chicken Pasta (No Rush Chicken Cubes, Lyndal’s Ladle Green & Tomato Vege Noodles)
DessertReal Meals Chocolate Cake Pudding
SnacksGo Native Fruit Bar, Lindsay’s Freeze-Dried Banana, Canterbury Biltong Original Bierstick

Day 2-
BreakfastRadix Nutrition Ultra 800 V8 Mixed Berry
LunchClif Bar Blueberry Crisp & packet of Off Piste Provisions Teriyaki Jerky
DinnerGo Native Beef Casserole with Go Native Mashed Potato
DessertBack Country Cuisine Apple Pie
SnacksThe Crafty Weka Bar Original, Lindsay’s Freeze-Dried Banana,Canterbury Biltong The Italian Bierstick

Day 3-
BreakfastReal Meals Eggs, Cheese & Chives
LunchClif Bar White Chocolate & Macadamia Nut  & packet of BiteMeat Mighty Chilli Biltong
DinnerLocal Dehy Mexican Chilli Beans
DessertReal Meals Tropical Pudding
SnacksNothing Naughty Pineapple Protein Bar, Lindsay’s Freeze-Dried Banana, Canterbury Biltong Original Bierstick

Day 4-
Breakfast – Radix Nutrition Ultra 800 V8 Apple & Cinnamon 
LunchClif Bar Chocolate & Hazelnut Butter Bar & packet of BiteMeat Original Biltong
Dinner – At home after the trip
SnacksBack Country Cuisine Fruit Salad Fusion, Lindsay’s Freeze-Dried Banana,Canterbury Biltong The Italian Bierstick

Click on the product names to check them out in the Venture Outdoors NZ shop.