This guide is for anyone looking for inspiration for their expedition food plan. I’ve covered all meals as well as ideas for dietary requirements such as vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. I originally wrote this guide for anyone doing their Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expedition…..but it’s relevant for anyone planning any type of expedition such as a thru-hike or kayaking adventure.
These expedition food ideas will help you prepare meals and snacks for your expedition. Where possible I’ve added links to show you examples of the sorts of foods you can buy easily from the supermarket or from outdoor stores.
You should never underestimate the importance of food on your expedition. Eating well will keep your reserves up and will give you the energy needed to get through long days on the move.
YOU MIGHT ALSO WANT TO CHECK OUT:
- 7 Tips for staying warm in a tent
- How to pack a hiking backpack like a pro
- 23 long-distance walking tips
- The best thru-hiking gear list
- DofE Kit list: The best rucksack and gear for your expedition
- DofE Gold Expedition: ideas & tips from those who’ve passed!
Before we start….
If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer and founder of the women’s adventure community, Love Her Wild. I’m on a mission to make the outdoors and adventures as easy as possible!
Important tips when choosing your food
When deciding what expedition food to take on your adventure, keep in mind the following tips:
- You want to try and pack as much energy into your food with the least amount of weight. Heavy foods will give your bag unnecessary weight so liquid foods and cans are not good.
- Foods that are high in sugars, carbohydrates and fats are good
- You will want foods that will last well without being in a fridge, even in hot weather – like dried, cured or vegetarian foods
- It’s so important that you pack foods that you actually like to eat. It’s all very well having the perfect high energy meal in your pack, but if you don’t’ enjoy it, you won’t eat it and it will just make you feel miserable. If there’s a snack you love and will give you a boost during a difficult time – then pack it!
- The food needs to be simple to cook on a single camping stove
- You can reduce weight by removing food from packaging or cooking meals as a team
- Store your food in your pack so it is waterproofed and won’t get damaged or (too) squashed if you knock your bag. I usually store my food in a dry sack but might separate softer foods to put in the top pocket of my bag where they will get less damaged
- Have a meal plan and only bring the exact amount of food you need. Make sure you don’t eat all your snacks on day 1 or you’ll go hungry
- The meals you eat before your expedition are also important as this will ensure you start with your energy levels on full!
Wondering how much calories you should be consuming on an expedition? As a rough estimate, you should be aiming for around 3,000 – 5,000 a day
Food that you will want to avoid include:
- anything in glass
- tinned foods
- foods that require refrigeration (like fresh meats, milk or cheese)
- Eggs that are easily broken
- Pot noodles in a plastic pot as these take up a lot of space for little energy
- crisps break easily – if you want to take crisps then Hula Hoops are your best bet as they harder to break
- fizzy or sugary drinks that will dehydrate you
- lots of chocolate that will easily melt in the heat
Here’s a good example of the sort of food I’ll take. This was for 2 people (and a baby…ignore the baby food pouches!!) for a 5 day expedition in the UK:
Expedition food ideas: breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal of the day and will give you the kick start you need to get going on a slow morning in camp. Having said that though, don’t feel obliged to cook something big and complicated. I personally like to pack up and getting moving quickly in the morning so tend to eat something dry and on the go.
Here are a few ideas for breakfast!
TOP TIP: If you are used to having a tea or coffee each morning, take these supplies with you for the expedition. It’ll make starting each morning a lot easier!
A solid favourite and for good reason – it’s light and quick to cook and can fill you up with a solid warm meal. Make your own porridge mix in advance with oats, nuts, and fruits that you like. You can also add milk powder. Then you just need to add water on the expedition and you’ve got a creamy porridge.
I’ve even heard of some mixing coffee granuals into their porridge to make the ultimate expedition food wake up!
Some sachets already come with flavorings like this one.
#2 Muesli or Granola
An easy breakfast option that doesn’t involve any cooking. Increase the energy and calories of your meal by adding dried fruit and nuts. You can also add in milk powder so all you need to do is add water for a milky cereal breakfast. Alternatively use hot water to create a warming meal (for some reason, I find warm water and ceral easier to stomach than cold water and cereal!)
#3 pitta bread
Pitta is a good alternative to bread as it lasts longer and doesn’t break so easily. Wholemeal being the healthiest option. You could cook up some vegetarian sausages to put in your pitta for a filling breakfast. You could also boil an egg in advance and have that instead of the vegetarian sausages. These will only last for one overnight and not on a really hot day. Remeber that you shouldn’t ever risk using meat sausages!!
Alternatively you could take beans (Heinz beans now do a pouch of beans which is perfect!) or have peanut butter, nutella or marmite.
Top tip: pick up some ketchup and brown sauce sachets from your nearest fast-food chain or cafe so you can add condiments to your meals without adding much weight.
#4 Make a gronola bar
Before your expedition you can make gronala bars (like this recepie). Make sure you add lots of nuts and seeds so you have some good protein. These can easily be chopped into bars and eaten on the go as a quick expedition breakfast option.
Expedition food ideas: Lunch
For lunch, you won’t want to take a long break so make sure your meals don’t require much preparation. It’s also best not to have anything too large or heavy that might make you sluggish in the afternoons.
Here are some DofE food suggestions for lunch.
#5 Sandwiches and wraps
Choose pitta or wraps instead of regular bread (both these have gluten free options). For fillings, you could use nut butter, Nutella, marmite, avocado or non-refrigeration cheeses and meats like baby bells, cheese strings or cheese squares with sliced pepperoni sausage. There are also vegetarian substitutes for pepperoni (like these ones)…check out the meat free options in your supermarket.
#6 Ready-to-eat meals with crackers
Head to the pot noodle section in the supermarket to find a selection of ready-to-eay meals like couscous or pasta. Some of them are ready to eat but most require a bit of hot water. You can bulk out the meal by breaking up crackers and mixing them into the meal.
Here are some examples of ready-to-eat meals:
Jamie Oliver has brought out a great range of pouches which are perfect for any expedition. These is all your dofe expedition food sorted for a week!:
#7 Cold Pizza
A good choice for the first day on an expedition…it won’t last more than a day without refrigeration!
Expedition food ideas: Dinner
The end of your day is your chance to rest and stock up with food and energy so make sure you plan a big dinner with lots of calories. It’s also important to use the evening as an opportunity to drink lots of water as you will likely be dehydrated from a long day hiking.
Try some of these dinner ideas for your Duke of Edinburgh expedition.
#8 Pasta or Couscous a Sauce
Pasta and couscous is so easy to cook, as all it needs is boiling water. Couscous is the easiest to make and you can get packets that already have flavourings. If you need to add flavourings you can get sachets of sauces (like this) or simply use stock cube. Personally I love a simle pasta meal with a dash of oil, garlic and salt….easy!
You can even get ready cooked pasta that you just need to heat up, like this one.
Bulk out the meal by adding sliced pepperoni, vegetarian sausages, or dried fruits. For vegans and vegetarians, you can sometimes find ‘vegan billton‘ style snacks like this one (jsut check the plant-based section in supermarkets). They’re great to have as snacks or to bulk up any meal!
It’s possible to buy curry in packets to be heated up in a pan when you are ready to eat. Add some nan bread (you can toast them in your stove or on an open fire) and you’ve got a great substantial meal.
An easy expedition food option! Don’t ever bring normal rice to cook as it takes a long time and will eat up your fuel – rice in a packet is always more efficient (Uncle Ben always has lots of options). Try to get rice that has added veg or protein so the meal feels substaintial.
#11 Dehydrated expedition packs
When thinking of expedition or DofE food ideas, deydrated expedition packs is probably what most people think of…and for good reason!
I would really recommend brining some expedition packs for your meals if you can afford them. They are easy to cook and provide a high-calorie meal at very little weight. They can be a little pricey so mention in the outdoor store if you are doing your Duke of Edinburg award or a charity challenge and you may get a discount.
Another option is to buy a dehydration machine and make up your own expedition food in advance! This might seem extreme but actually could be the most affordable option if you are doing a number of expeditions….plus you have full control so can make your favourite expedition meals.
Check out these brands who offer expedition food packs:
#12 Veggie sausages and instant Mash
Instant mash is really easy to cook up. You can have it with curry (see above) or veggie sausages. Another good option is taking a tin of beans and sausages. Although you want to avoid tins, taking 1 won’t cause a lot of hassle.
Bring some sachets of risotto (like this one). These usually just need to have water added and then sit for a few minutes before being ready to eat. You can bulk the meal out by breaking in crackers or having a pitta bread with it.
Pack yourself a dessert to enjoy after your evening meal. Expedition foods often have puddings in a bag for an easy option (although hoestly, most of the ones I’ve tried have tasted disgusting!).
Or you could bring flapjack (homemade or shop brought) and add some powdered custard.
Snacks for your DofE expedition
In between meals you want to be snacking regularly. Ideally, these will be high energy snacks that you can keep in your pocket and eat easily as you go as you may not always have time to sit down and prepare food.
Here are some ideas for DofE snacks:
#15 Sports sweets and gels
These are a great option for refueling and ensuring you have enough electrolytes – especially important on a hot day. Cliff energy products are great.
#16 Energy balls
Make flapjacks at home or buy them ready from the shops. They work as a great snack as they don’t break easily and can withstand being squashed in a bag.
#18 Cereal bars
There are lots of cereal bars on the market so choose the flavors that you will enjoy the most.
#19 Dried fruit and nuts
A really fantastic healthy snack choice for any expedition.
#20 Mint cake
A classic expedition snack…I hate the stuff but a lot of people love it. Kendal Mint Cake is a classic choice for adventurers!
Not very nutritious but great for a morale boost for you and your team!
Feeling more confident about your expedition food plan?
Hopefully, these DofE food ideas have given you an indication of what you should be including in your expedition meal plan. Have you got any questions or ideas you want to share? Then use the comment box below.
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