What do you eat on a ketogenic backpacking trip?
[UPDATED for February 2021]
It IS possible to stay in ketosis while hiking and stick to a low carb diet with the keto food you can buy from the grocery store. Here’s a list of the best ketogenic backpacking foods we pack for ourselves when we head out on our own keto diet backpacking adventures.
1. Salami or Sausage
Find the hard salami brands with zero carbs and a paper casing. We find that particular preservation method not only tastes better but keeps better over a few days out in the woods. Summer sausage is another option, but we prefer the taste of salami.
2. Hard Cheese
Find a good hard cheese and wrap it up to keep it from getting too greasy in your bag. We really like dubliner cheese: it’s mild, can be eaten as a snack or sliced up and put into a wrap with the aforementioned salami. If hard cheese isn’t your thing, you can also find cheese snacks that are freeze-dried and can be eaten like chips!
3. Nuts or Nut Butter
Choose carefully here, as many “nuts” aren’t actually nuts at all. Peanuts are easy to overdo and will kick you out of ketosis, but others, like almonds and especially macadamia nuts, are a great packable trail snack. Almond butter, whether packed in a jar/baggie or purchased in individual packets, is delicious consumed by itself, mixed with some sugar free chocolate, or put on a low carb wrap.
OMG Avocados. How we love thee. Pack at least two, one kinda ripe and the other underripe and eat half at two meals each day. These packable veggies provide a much needed bit of green into your daily diet and are such a great source of fat (and low net carbs).
5. Low Carb Wraps/Tortillas
If you can find a good low carb wrap, now is its chance to shine. Goes great with almond butter or as a sandwich wrapper for your salami, cheese, and avocado. Some brands are a little more carb-y than others, so pay careful attention to how you feel when you start eating one or two each day along the trail. Calculating net carbs can be a bit of mystery math at times, so listen to your body after any change you make to your diet.
6. Preserved Meat or Jerky
Salami is our go-to base for lunch-time wraps, but snacking throughout the day on other meats is a good option too. Stay away from most store-bought jerky (loaded with sugar) but check out "Biltong". It's air cured without sauce/marinades and is the PERFECT keto trail snack. Here's a list of the different keto jerky options we've tested on on trail.
7. Keto Trail Mix
Our own version of Keto Trail Mix (macadamia nuts, almonds, sugar-free chocolate) was a delicious treat we looked forward to every day. Modify your own version with Cocoa Nibs, Unsweetened Coconut Pieces, or sunflower seeds.
8. Low Carb Protein Bars
What backpacking food list would be complete without energy-packed bars, but just remember some of these protein bars contain a lot of sugar alcohols which every body processes differently; we find if we have more than half a bar a day it really impacts our ability to hike up the hills we need to. We’ve found a few good ones that limit the sugar alcohols and let us get on with our hike.
9. Keto Granola Bars
In addition to protein bars, granola bars made out of keto friendly ingredients like crunchy nuts and dried veggies are another great quick-grab item to eat while you move. Added bonus, these bars are often have a decent "crunch": a texture we often miss out on when our diets are mainly protein and meat-based.
10. Mayo/olive oil/coconut oil packets
Keto backpacking food can be protein-heavy as meat is far easier to preserve than fatty foods (which tend to go rancid far easier). Look for easy ways to add back in fat to keep your macros balanced throughout your hike: watching carbs is important, but so is making sure you’re getting the right mix of fats and protein. Pack a few single packets of oil or mayo to bump up the calories in your day.
11. MCT Powder or Heavy Cream Powder
Pack a baggie full from a bulk jar or pack a few single-serve packets and put enough into your morning coffee or tea to make it a meal in itself. We get 400+ calories each day just with our morning caffeine, and it can help make later-in-the-day meals more caloric if you’re thru-hiking or doing something particularly strenuous.
Warm beverages are an easy vessel to get a few extra calories into your day, not to mention what a great way to start and end your day, with your hands clasped around a warm mug. Instant coffee in the morning and some sleepy-time tea in the evening and you’re all set. There are some new keto-friendly creamers with MCT and other fuel sources out there.
The thing that was missing from our daily packs was a warm dinner with vegetables. The conventional freeze-dried options were padded with cheap carbs (like rice, or pasta) that might fill up the typical backpacker and make the company a lot of profit, but we wanted something better. We are our own biggest fans and we eat our own meals each night on trail (and often times at lunch… and soon breakfasts!) and it’s a constant debate about which ketogenic backpacking meal is our favorite.