How to Meal Plan for Outdoor Adventures

Meal planning can be one of the trickiest parts of preparing for an outdoor adventure. It’s easy to over pack – which is not only wasteful, but makes travelling more difficult. Or, on the other hand, you can find yourself under packing, causing regret and vengeful hunger. Making a proper meal plan is the best way to plan and prepare for your trip, while helping you save money, reduce waste, and pack more efficiently. 

This 3 step process – with a little modification to suit your needs – works for any outdoor adventure. 

Creating a Meal Plan

Step 1: Create a table based on how many days/nights your trip should take you.
Include rows for each meal and snack you anticipate eating. Below are 2 ideal formats.

Step 2: Fill in the chart or list with appropriate snacks and meals.

Sample meal plan for a 4 night backpacking trip

Note: greyed out boxes are meals that occur before/after travel to trailhead

Things to consider:

  1. Try filling your meals with a proper balance of macronutrients (carbs, fat & protein). This will help keep you fuelled and energized throughout the day. Ideal daily macronutrient distribution is:
  2. Check out our post How to Calculate How Many Calories You Need and choose higher calorie meals and snacks on more active days. 
  3. The climate, temperature and amount of time you’re exploring (risk of things spoiling or perhaps freezing). 
  4. The equipment you have or may need to store and prepare the food (don’t forget to consider fuel needed). Figure this out by giving our post a read: Knowing How Much Fuel to Pack
  5. The weight and space needed to pack out the food. If you’re car camping or canoeing, for example, this may not be as much of a concern, but if going backpacking or bikepacking you will likely want to avoid things that are heavy and/or take a lot of space in your pack. Learn more: Backcountry Meal Planning & Kitchen Packing Tips.
  6. Although some variance is nice, repeating some meals makes preparing much easier and more budget friendly 

Click here to jump to more meal planning tips, including backcountry meal ideas.

Step 3: Stick a copy of your meal plan in your food bag.

This helps you keep organized on the trip and also ensures you don’t overeat and run out of food early - or be worried and not eat enough of what you brought!


Consider packing an extra snack - or even a meal. I like to do this for the following reasons:

  1. I may find myself needing an extra boost on a more strenuous or active day 
  2. Someone in my group, or someone I come across may be in need of food
  3. In case your time unexpectedly gets extended due to weather, injury, etc.  

Avoid solely relying on a campfire to cook your food when possible. Why?

  • Wet wood, heavy rain, and other weather could make starting – or maintaining a fire – near impossible
  • Fire bans can be initiated at anytime
  • It’s better for the environment. Even though a campfire is a key camp experience, is it ideal to have a fire to cook when other sustainable methods are available? Does each meal really need to involve cooking in the first place? Reduce smoke emission and wood consumption when you can. 
If you do find yourself cooking over a fire though, check out How to Gauge the Temperature of a Campfire for Cooking

Consider preparing certain foods ahead of time. For example:

  • Cook potatoes or pasta at home so that it only needs to be reheated – saves you time and fuel! 
  • Marinate meats or veggies at home to avoid packing a ton of condiments 
  • Slice raw meats (if needed) at home to avoid cross contamination concerns

Be mindful of salts - especially when heading to the backcountry.

Health & nutrition aside, salt is dehydrating. The more dehydrated you get, the more water you need to source and treat for consumption. Work smarter, not harder. 

For more specific guidelines for backcountry meal planning and meal ideas, check out our post Backcountry Meal Planning & Kitchen Packing Tips.

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The Foodie Behind the Screen

Hi there! I'm Bri.
I create and share nutritious and flavourful recipes for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

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