Three Weeks ago I started planning for an overnight trip to Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. I had absolutely no idea where to start when it came to keto backpacking food because most of the things I normally eat are refrigerated. Could I bring frozen vegetables? No… Could I bring guacamole? No… Could I bring cheese? No… Could I bring butter? Probably a bad idea…
As it turns out, I could actually bring cheese if I chose the right kind. And, butter would make it through the trip as well if I took ghee butter instead. Keto is actually a lot better fit for backpacking and traveling than we might think. We just need to pack the right foods. Going keto on the trail means you’ll be able to carry more calories in your pack and weigh less overall. You probably already know – fat is the most calorie dense macro nutrient. That’s a huge advantage to have on your side!
Keto is also in a perfect position to provide great energy to distance hikers and backpackers. Wondering why that is the case?
While hiking, your heart rate is likely to always be in the fat burning zone. This is the sweet spot before your body transitions into glycogen burning for intense exercise. Vinnie Tortorich refers to these sweet spots as “training zones” and in this case it is zone 1 and 2 where a hiker is likely to always be. Zone 3 would be the point at which your body starts to favor glycogen.
Without going too deep here with the training zones, let me just say that my Zone 2 is between 133 – 150 bpm. This is 70% –79% of your max heart rate and is still considered to be the prime fat burning zone. The last time I went backpacking my heart rate never went above 125 bpm, so I was in Zone 1 the entire time (still fat burning). Let’s just suffice it to say that hiking is a great fat burning activity. To calculate your heart rate zones, go to the following two links. [*] [*]
So, you’ve come here for keto backpacking food ideas… Let’s talk about that!
Keto Backpacking Food List
1. Nuts and Seeds
You can take nuts and seeds anywhere you go. They are super portable, calorie dense, and very easy to snack on for any keto backpacking trip. You’ll be getting a great source of nutrients and a solid amount of fat. Nuts and seeds also have a good amount of protein to keep your muscles fueled throughout the day.
I typically throw a bunch of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts into a big bag for the trip. Sometimes I’ll add almonds to the mix as well. If you’re feeling like keeping your cooking to a minimum, load up on nuts and seeds!
Nuts for Keto Backpacking Food
- Pecans – A staple keto food. Very high fat content and low carbohydrate content
- Macadamia Nuts – Probably the best nut out there for keto. Great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio. High in flavonoids. Downside is the cost.
- Brazilian Nuts – Great keto option. They are very calorie dense, with a high fat content
- Almonds – Good for keto but consume in moderation.
- Peanuts – Nothing fancy here. If you are on a budget, add a bunch of these.
Seeds for Keto Backpacking Food
- Pumpkin Seeds – Calorie dense and high fat content
- Sunflower Seeds – Calorie dense and high fat content
Seeds are actually more nutrient dense than nuts.
2. Nut Butters
Nut butter is another calorie dense food that doesn’t require any prep. It can be really handy to have some on the trail for either a snack or to have with your meal. A 16oz plastic jar (or smaller) is easy to throw in your pack. Keep in mind, as with all nut butters, get the kind that only has the nut and sea salt. Hydrogenated oils and palm oils are only going to slow your system down.
Nut Butters for Keto Backpacking Food
- Pecan Butter – Very high in fat, and has negligible carbs and sugar. Best option for Keto.
- Almond Butter – Good fat content, low carbs, and low sugar.
- Peanut Butter – High in fat and low in carbs.
Peanut Butter Fat Bombs
Peanut butter fat bombs can be made with real peanut butter, grass fed butter, coconut oil, and cinnamon. You can add unsweet dark chocolate to the mix as well. The basic idea is to melt these down together and freeze them in ice cubes for about 30 minutes afterward.
The only thing with these fat bombs is that they can get messy if you are hiking in hot weather. If you know it is going to be hot, I would plan on eating your fat bombs out of a container with a spoon. Check the Nut Butter Supreme option out below.
Nut Butter Supreme
A 16 oz standard peanut butter jar works great for this. Make sure it is plastic. Remove half the peanut butter contents and replace with two sticks of butter. You can also add stevia to the mix. This is a super calorie dense snack that is very easy to make and consume on the trail. Credit to Alpine Science for the idea.
3. Hard Cheeses
Yes, you can bring cheese on the trail! Cheese is one of those foods that has specifically existed to provide long-term food storage without refrigeration. What do you think Italy did before the household refrigerator was invented in 1914? They kept the cheese in cool underground cellars for long periods of time.
The type of cheese that you choose to take with you matters. Choose cheeses that are older, dryer, and harder. These will keep better while backpacking.
To store the cheese, use cheese clothing that has been dampened with a bit of vinegar. You can also use butchers paper, parchment, or wax paper for this. The vinegar will help to preserve the cheese for a longer time. And, your paper will soak up the extra liquid. Afterward, wrap the cheese in plastic wrap. Then, place the cheese in a small Tupperware container so that the cheese doesn’t get crushed.
Cheese for Keto Backpacking Food
- Sharp Cheddar
- Grana Padano
- Swiss Gruyere
You can also try the harder baby bel cheeses. These are sealed in wax and may stay fresher. The cheddar one is a good option for backpacking on keto. Most of the others are too soft and will get messy.
4. Tuna Packets
These are awesome! Tuna Packets can be used as a bowl for whatever you are planning on adding to the tuna. That means no mess to clean up after your meal. Not only that but Tuna is a great source of protein and very healthy overall. You’ll be getting 18g of protein and the fat content of the Mayo or Ghee that you are adding to the Tuna.
I usually eat two of these for lunch and they taste great. I’ll add some mayo, dried bacon bits, and some hot sauce. Helman’s To-Go packets can be picked up at any local grocery store and carried in your pack.
Tuna Meal For Keto Backpacking Food
- Two Tuna Packets
- 2–3 Helman’s To-Go Mayo packets
- Ghee from Trader Joe’s (optional)
- Olive Oil (optional)
- Frank’s Red Hot
5. Butters and Oils
Certain kinds of butter and oils are better for backpacking and they won’t spoil. Standard butter is a bit harder to keep and if you are going for a multi-day trip, I wouldn’t recommend bringing it.
But, Ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil are awesome on the trail. They all keep well and can be used for keto coffee, cooking things like eggs, etc. You can pick up coconut oil packets at Trader Joe’s for a few bucks. The packets keep your cleanup to a minimum and help to plan out your meals per day. Ghee can be purchased at Trader Joe’s for a good price as well. Trader Joes has a large selection of keto backpacking food.
Butters and Oils for Keto Backpacking Food
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
6. Dehydrated Vegetables
Dehydrated veggies are harder to find but getting some type of vegetable in your diet while hiking is really important on keto. Normally you can find things like Kale Chips at your local grocery store. Unfortunately, most of the time dehydrated veggies are packaged with carbs. But, you can order a dried vegetable mix such as this one from Amazon for a good price. There’s nothing like cooking up some hot soup on your stove at the end of a long hike.
For cooking your own vegetable soup, add some bone broth or chicken broth. The flavored cubes work great for this since they are lightweight.
You can also dehydrate your own veggies since they are hard to come by. A food dehydrator is needed for this. If you think that you will be doing quite a bit of backpacking in the future, a dehydrator may be a pretty cost-effective solution over time. You can find bags of frozen vegetables at any grocery store for about a dollar. Two full bags of frozen vegetables will shrink down into a lightweight ziplock bag that you can take with you on your travels.
Dehydrated Vegetables for Keto Backpacking Food
- Kale Chips
- Dehydrated Vegetable Soups
- Use a Food Dehydrator to Dehydrate Frozen Veggies
7. Dried Meats
Meats like salami, pepperoni, and summer sausage are often labeled as “Refrigerate After Opening”. So, you have some time before they spoil. These meats are high in fat, low in carbs, and moderate in protein… which makes them perfect for keto. You can also combine them with cheese for a simple snack on the trail.
Dried bacon bits can be added to various recipes or even dumped in your tuna packets for added flavor and fat.
Beef Jerky makes a great keto backpacking food option since it is lightweight, a good source of protein, and is generally low in carbs. It is a great source of energy when you need it most. Go with the peppered jerky versus the flavored type.
Dried Meats for Keto Backpacking Food
- Summer Sausage
- Bacon Bits
Any type of powder that can be cooked or combined with water is advantageous to have on the trail. They are lightweight, and you won’t need to worry about anything spoiling.
Powders: Keto Backpacking Food
- Whole Egg Powder
- Instant Coffee
- Heavy Cream Powder
- Bone Broth Powder
- Powdered Coconut Oil
Other Keto Backpacking Food Options?
I definitely haven’t covered all the keto backpacking food possibilities. They even have keto protein bars and bone broth protein powders now. These aren’t things I have tried myself. If you have some extra space in your pack, pork rinds will keep well and are a great fat source.
Do you have a food you really like for backpacking on keto? Post it in the comments below! I would be curious to see what other hikers preferred for their trips.