Best Food Options For The Backcountry

Late 2012, I was on a backcountry Mule Deer hunt in the Colorado Mountains. The temps were in the high teens and I was learning first hand some of the differences of hunting high in the mountains and packing in food for days compared to the whitetail woods and treestand hunting. I had prepped with the appropriate amount of calories I thought I needed for each day in the mountains. I even packed everything on a separate daily basis so I knew exactly what I hit on a daily basis. From all my research, calories were very important to ensure I could sustain the energy needed over the week of going up and down the mountain in search of some monsters. One of the things that I thought I could get away with was the quality of the food could be a little less because I was more focused on the caloric needs and I would be burning that through with my activity. That was a definite mistake……

Come day 4 of my hunt, my body was hurting. I was super sore, my body was fatigue and my mental focus was just not there. I hate to say it but I was checked out. When it becomes a mental struggle to continue s From that point on, I told myself I would never feel that way again on a hunt because I would fine tune my system and learn from my mistakes. That system that I ultimately fine tuned was food!

Fast forward to my last backcountry hunt in 2017 and I was doing a high country Elk hunt in the early season. Temps were 40 or so at the highs and 20’s at night. This time around, I felt fantastic. I was hiking 8 to 10 miles a day with my main pack in and out being a 68lb pack. The main difference was I upped by food game. I went to a gluten free option with almost everything while focusing on organic and or wild game in my main meals. I found an awesome company out of Alaska, Heather’s Choice that I heard about from some podcasts and decided to try it out. It wasn’t that much more pricey compared to a cheap mountain house but the quality of the food was great. I was fuller longer and my body was not breaking down due to the poor quality I was putting in. Plus the lack of gluten was not inflaming my body the way other meals did. Less Inflammation means less soreness as well!

Most backpackers look at carbs as their main intake. While carbs are great, I’ve learned that fat and protein are hyper critical to maintaining your bodies needs in the mountains. This is where Almond Butter has come into play as well as fats from coconut in my snacks.

The food we put into our bodies is like the quality of oil we put in our cars. Amazingly, some will forever skimp on the food quality on a daily basis yet they will put full synthetic oil in their car. Priorities….

Below you will see what sort of foods I had with me in 2012, compared to what you would see me packing in current day. I’ve added links to everything if you are curious on scoping out more of the products and doing your own research.


  • Mountain House Meals
  • JIF Peanut Butter Cups
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • Snickers Bars
  • Crackers
  • Water
  • Coffee (Folgers)
  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Processed Meat
  • Nutri-grain bars

Current Day

I firmly believe that experience is the best way to learn. I can tell you I learned to ensure that I get the most of my calories from protein and fats while still having a balance of carbs. I also learned that I will go after gluten free options as well as organic options whenever possible.

You might be thinking…. “So how much should you eat?”

Well, A typical recommendation would be to hit 3,000 to 3,500 calories and that should weigh about 1.5 lbs per day. If you think about your food on a daily basis in weight, you should know what your pack weight will be with your food loaded in there. I would say my typical hunt would be between 5-7 days.

5 days x 1.5lbs a day is 7.5lbs. I also would recommend preparing for 1 extra day worth of food in the case you are snowed out or have another emergency on your trip. Better safe than sorry! Keep me posted on any of your changes and how that has made you feel on your treks through the wilderness.

I hope this article has been helpful to our group of readers. Please shoot me a note, comment below or catch me on Facebook if you have any questions or thoughts.

Scout, Hunt, Repeat

Alex Gruin


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