Hiking the Ireland Way is quite easy in terms of finding food and water. However, it’s not easy to maintain a healthy diet on this kind of trip and here’s a few of the reasons why:
- Limited cooking gear.
- Fruit, veg and other food items go-off too quickly to carry for multiple days.
- You need to actually carry this food on your back which often dictates what food you carry.
- After hiking 30km+ every day, it’s often a task/chore to eat never-mind put something healthy together!
I try to pick food items that will last longer than a couple of days in my backpack. It’s also necessary to choose as many lightweight options as possible and food that contains enough calories to help sustain the demands of long distance walking. For instance, shelf-stable food such as peanut butter, oatmeal and nuts are ideal because they never spoil. Similarly, cereal bars or protein bars provide a much needed boost and…..you get the idea.
But that’s not very nutritious or healthy, right?
It’s true, backpacking food and high-calorie snacks (sweets and sugary cereal bars) is not enough to sustain a healthy diet on the trail. Also, processed food has many artificial ingredients which do little good. The truth is, long distance hikers often need to go without the right nutrition or balance that you might find in every-day life. This was the case on my walk around Ireland and my time on the Pacific Crest Trail in America.
Anyway, what do I eat on the trail?
Short Answer: Backpacking Food for Hiking the Ireland Way
Breakfast – Oatmeal with honey and raisins.
Snacks – Trail mix with nuts and cereal bars.
Lunch – Bagels with cheese or pasta.
Dinner – Dehydrated Meals.
What Backpacking Food to Eat While Hiking in Ireland
Breakfast – Oatmeal and Coffee
For breakfast, I will often eat oatmeal and honey for some added sweetness. Oatmeal is a fantastic fuel and full of fiber, magnesium, and vitamin B. It’s also a great source of carbohydrates which give you the energy to hike in the first place.
You can also add raisins, seeds or nuts to the mix for extra protein. On occasion, I will have a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast. Nut butters consist of of healthy fats, calories and protein – all of which provide plenty of energy. I also enjoy boxty, eggs and vegetarian sausages every now and again!
Snacking – Nuts, Dried Fruit, Chocolate and Gummy Bears (Trail Mix)
Nuts have healthy fats, vitaminis, minerals and protein which provide further fuel for hiking. Unlike actual apples, bananas or mangos, dried fruit is heat stable and the absence of water ensure they do not attract bacteria. However, dried fruit still retains the same nutrients and antioxidants that you might find in perishable fruit. As for chocolate and gummy bears, they might not be healthy, but they provide energy and flavour.
Snacking – Cereal Bars and Protein Bars
Cereal bars and protein bars are high calorie foods and reasonably healthy. That being said, you might want to check the labels because some bars contain too much artificial flavors. Best of all, they are small, easy to pack and very quick to eat on the move. Just so you know, I also carry chocolate biscuits most days and snack on these in between all of the above.
The Holy Moment – Coffee
Coffee/cafeine is great for energy levels and staying focused. For me, I just enjoy the warmth and flavour – especially in the middle of nowhere where it always tastes better!
Lunch – Bagels with Cheese
Lunch is a short affair for me. I will sometimes make a bagel with cheese and a cereal bars for after. I also try not to have a big meal so that I can continue walking and snacking, while allowing for a slower release of energy throughout the day.
Dinner – Dehydrated Meals
Warm meals make such a big difference on the trail and this is especially true in either cold or rainy conditions. Dehydrated meals are also tasty and super quick to make. Okay, they might not hold the same nutrition as a standard meal but you are backpacking and expectations need to be managed. I used to eat Knorr sides but I’m vegetarian nowadays and prefer to make my own. This means pre-making dried meals and bagging them up so that I only need to heat/cook them on the trail. As backup, two-minute noodles are also light and great to have at the ready.
About Drinking Water and Staying Hydrated
Walking long distances with a heavy backpack is a great way to work out but dehydration is one of the greatest risks on a long walk because proper hydration is necessary to maintain a healthy mind and digestive system. You should always treat water from a river etc andI also use electrolytes (dioralyte) most days and a tablet of Berrocca on occasion.
*In ten years of treating water in the outdoors, I have been sick twice. Both times were due to laziness and not treating the water correctly. Moral of the story: It’s safe when done right. I am using aquatabs on the Ireland Way.
Aside from the above, I maintain my energy levels by sleeping well and avoiding alcohol. I don’t smoke, stretch every day and often read and meditate to keep on top of my mental well-being. It’s true that diet and nutrition is sometimes lacking on these long walks but I’m perfectly happy with my personal choices.