I tend to focus on nutrient rich, beachy foods on hikes -- the initial boredom often turns to a kind of joy as I explore the tastes and mouth feel of foods I thought I knew very well.
My current favorites on three to five day hikes -- chia seeds, oat bran, steel cut oats. Hydrate the night before and eat for breakfast hot or cold. The chia seeds hydrate in ten minutes and make Jello of the Desert -- high in nutrients, protein and fiber -- the Aztecs used them for centuries for long distance running.
Salmon in pouches.
Walnuts. Almonds. Peanut butter (without additives, like sugar -- grind your own).
Dried blueberries -- avoid the ones with sugar added.
Dehydrated vegetables and fruits -- our local camping stores have several really good versions. I dry many of my own; it's easy and avoids the preservatives. Apricots work very well.
Lentils -- hydrate as I go -- they take about half an hour without cooking. There are other legumes that work well too. Carry a spice mix that pep them up.
Be sure to get plenty of fiber -- constipation has ruined many a hiking trip -- read Livingston's account of travelling in Africa on the risk.
Avoid sugars -- they make you hungrier -- take lots of teas, including coca tea -- the coca leaves are used in the Andes for endurance with little caloric load. Hiking is a great time to jump start a Phase 2 program.
It's surprising really how little food you really need on a hike. On my last three day hike I carried about 4500 calories, less than ten pounds, and was very satisfied with this "menu". I'm assuming water is available on the trail; in dry areas I would concentrate on the chia.
An interesting article on ultralight backpacking focuses on food -- this fellow believes as I do that the hiking is the experience and food isn't too important. I particularly agree with the idea of not eating at all on the first day -- get lots of water though:http://www.adventurealan.com/food_general.htm
Extract:Keep it simple: My thoughts on backpacking food are not for all. I tend to take simple, inexpensive trail food that requires little or no preparation. If you are interested in a lot of hot meal ideas and delicious gourmet trail food, you may do better to check with others. But if you are still interested read on.
Take 125 to 130 calories/ounce of food - Maintain nutrition: Try to get the most calories per unit weight in your food but not at the expense of a poor diet. You want a balanced diet with protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. A good target to balance calories and nutrition is 125 to 130 calories per ounce. In comparison, most backpacers donâ€™t average above 100 cal/oz for their food.
What types of food should I take?
How much food should I take?
Take healthy, natural foods: like dried fruit, dried vegetables, nuts, whole grains, soybean jerky, vegetable oils, etc. Some ultralight hikers try to get in the 150 cal/oz range, but in my opinion their food is too high in fat and too low in other nutritional measures. I don't think this is a realistic or healthy way for most people to eat. On most of my trips even if I try to pump up the high fat foods, like peanut butter, nuts, vegetable oils, whole-fat powdered milk and chocolate, I always seem to end up around 125 to 130 calories per ounce.
Don't carry extra food: I figure I can make it at least 3 days without any food. I've had to do this before and feel comfortable with my choice. Some mainstream outdoor training courses (NOLS, Outward Bound) have two to three food-less days in their programs. This is not a recommendation for others to do the same. You'll have to make your own decision on extra food. Maybe you will bring a bit less next trip.
"Skip" one day of food: I eat a huge breakfast or lunch before I start hiking the first day and I eat a huge meal when I get out. By boosting my off trail calories on the first and last day I eliminate carrying a whole day's worth of food in my pack. So for a weekend trip (three days and two nights) I might carry 3.4 pounds or less of food.
I am mostly veggie at this point (but do not wish to pitch my choice to others). Some backpackers may choose to take meat jerky that will keep virtually forever and/or hard, dry salami. The protein in these meats will complement grain proteins (grape nuts, crackers, grains in energy bars, etc.). Many of these meats are also high in fat, increasing your calories per ounce.
Have fun. Bob