Paleo Backpacking

You’ve taken on a Paleo diet, you’re feeling energetic, and now you want to go do things that make you feel even more like our ancestors, like go walking in the woods for a few days.  But now that you’re tethered to your kitchen making all of these foods, you can’t imagine what you would eat if you were to go Paleo backpacking. What would that even look like? It’s not like the old days when you could just take some chocolate bars, some gouda cheese and a hunk of salami (or was that just me?).

As a rock climber, I know this issue well.  I actually avoid going to places where I don’t have access to a cooler and a camp stove because it can be so difficult.  Having said that, it is very possible.  You just might have to sacrifice some freshness of your meals and lightness of your backpack to do it.  It takes a lot of protein to do this diet right, and nuts and seeds only get you so far.  Especially when you’re working hard hiking all day, you really need to replenish with good food.  Obviously, staying true to the Paleo Plan will be at least partially out of the question for the trip, so here are some guidelines:


1. Protein in bags or cans. You know the tuna and salmon and (maybe) chicken you find in single-serve plastic packets?  I’d use those.  The cans they normally come in will be heavier, but get them if it’s all you can find.  Don’t forget about herring and sardines – they’re amazing sources of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.  Bring packets of mayo/mustard to add if you want.  The mayo in packets is probably not going to be Paleo, but we do what we can…

2. Cooked meat will stay good for at least the first day, and so will a bunch of other things, depending on how hot it’s going to be.  Make a few chicken breasts/steaks/burgers/hard boiled eggs or buy some deli meat and keep them in one of those cooler bags in an insulated part of your backpack and eat them for the first day or so.

3. Dried or smoked meat is going to help you immensely, too – beef jerky, salmon jerky, those salami rolls, etc.  I make my own jerky because it’s so expensive to buy.  Just slice up some cheap, lean steak really thinly and lay it out on your oven racks (cover the lowest rack with aluminum foil so you don’t start a grease fire).  Put the oven on the lowest temperature and you’ll have yourself some jerky in about 5 or 6 hours.

4. Nuts and seeds do offer some protein, and they’re great because they provide a ton of fat and carbs along with it.

5. Bars – if you like any of the protein bars that have whey, hemp, pea, or rice protein in them, I know it’s not Paleo but if you can tolerate them, they will be a lot lighter and can substitute for some meals and snacks.


1. Nuts and seeds.

2. Nut butter packets or a tub of nut butter.

3. Chocolate.  Don’t forget the chocolate.

4. Trail mix with dried fruit, chocolate, etc. in it.  If you go to a health food store and raid the bulk section, you should find something that works.  Also, I did a review on Paleo People granola, which is pretty Paleo friendly.  Check that out here.

5. Avocado if you can find a place where it won’t get smashed.


Don’t skimp on the carbs.  Hiking 7 miles a day, being in the elements and carrying a backpack is not easy work.

1. Dried fruit is going to be important, or just fruit, but it’s easy for fresh fruit to get smashed.  Apples are good for this.  Just get dried fruit that hasn’t had anything done to it at a health food store.

2. As for starches, one thing you could do is make the Paleo Pumpkin Muffins beforehand.  Another thing I would suggest is a recipe I save only for when I know I need a lot of carbohydrates – tapioca crepes.  They sound fancy, but they’re really easy to make.

3. And as for vegetables, you could bring a big bag of chopped veggies – carrots, peppers, and other things like that.

Just remember to try to have some fat, carbs and protein at every meal.  For instance, tuna, avocado, and some carrots.  Or Paleo People granola and a hard boiled egg or two.  Now that you’re eating Paleo, you should be strong and energetic enough to carry the extra weight these foods will add to your pack…

Good luck and have fun out there!

What did I miss?  Anyone have any suggestions?


  1. I’m just getting started on a paleo diet. I used to carry couscous, instant brown rice, and masa, with freeze-dried black beans or refried beans, jerky, and shallots and garlic for flavor. Freeze dried veggies too. But none of that works with a paleo diet. So, I was excited to find this site. However…
    This is pretty basic. My main criticism is it’s not at all lightweight, and anyone going out for more than a day is not going to want to carry these items. We need to do some more work on this!

  2. Ditto the comment regarding weight. I’m approaching 70 and need to keep it light. I dehydrate my own food which allows for lots of leeway especially regarding salt and other seasonings.

  3. Funny, I just started a blog about paleo backpacking and found this article. I am using it as an online experiment on my hikes that feeds into my main website for in-depth articles. I’ve tried the no-cook approach with Steve’s PaleoKits but it involved too much chewing of jerky and now I am focusing on creating fully dehydrated meals and even foraging seasonally if possible. I’m always looking for new info, recipes, or tips from others.

    My blog: Paleo Backpacking
    My main site: Alter Auslander

  4. What was wrong with the chocolate, gouda and salami? If you’re lacto-paleo that’s a good start…

  5. Best backpacking tip I have since going paleo is to cook up some grassfed ground beef in the crockpot, crumble & dehydrate it, pulverize the dried beef in a vitamix and add the beef “protein powder” to every cooked meal. Easier to deal with than jerky & I think I get more food value with less chewing. You are welcome to check out my backpacking website ( for more ideas. Warning – I do use quinoa, rice and beans in my backpacking meals. I need the carbs and I don’t do wheat or recreational sugar.

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