One thing we’ve found to be almost invariably true is that people who love the outdoors also love food. Food is, after all, one of life’s pleasures, and is rarely appreciated more than when you can dig into a hot and satisfying meal around a campfire, after a hard day of hiking. But when it comes to backcountry cooking, effort is required to ensure that your meal is not only delicious but also provides you with the energy and nutrients you need to keep going.


The most important factors to consider is calories- you’re going to need a lot of them. The average adult burns about 2,000 calories a day, but just one hour of hiking can burn somewhere between 500-700 calories, so a full day of hiking can easily triple your body’s calorie needs. These numbers can also vary based on your metabolism, physical fitness, difficulty of hiking, and even the temperature outside, so while these guidelines are helpful, we highly recommend erring on the side of caution and bringing a bit more food than you will need, especially if you’re new to hiking and are not used to your body’s particular calorie needs.

Calories come from three sources: Fats (9 cal/g), Proteins (4 cal/g), and Carbohydrates (4 cal/g). Since fats are the most calorically dense, including a high percentage of fats will make it easier to meet your calorie needs, however, balance is key. To feel your best and hike most efficiently, you need a healthy combination of all three groups.

Meal Planning

Breakfast- There’s a reason oatmeal is a favorite meal for hikers. It’s lightweight, easy to carry, and chock full of fiber from whole grains. We like to pack pre-measured baggies with 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 tbsp chia seeds, for an extra boost of fat. You can also throw in some dried fruit, nuts, and a protein shake pouch to add some extra nutrients and protein.

If you crave a more traditional breakfast, a number of brands make dehydrated or freeze-dried breakfast scrambles.

Lunch- Most hikers prefer to eat lunch on the go, rather than stopping and cooking. That makes portable no-cook food a priority. We like to be prepared with a variety of dried fruit, nuts, and energy bars (try Threshold Provisions’ bars, or if you’re feeling ambitious, whip up a batch of Phil’s No-Bake Bars -see below- before you hit the trail).

Wraps are also a great option, as tortillas are easy to transport and can be filled with a variety of trail stable foods. Depending on how long you’ll be on the trail, hard cheeses and meats that don’t require refrigeration (think summer sausage and some salamis) make excellent savory options. We also love peanut butter & banana, tuna (bring the pouch variety to save weight), or hummus (Fantastic Foods dehydrated hummus mix is available at most health food stores).

Dinner- After you make camp, you can afford the luxury of a hot meal. This can be a prepackaged or homemade dehydrated meal. We love the gourmet offerings from Good-To-Go like Thai Curry and Wild Mushroom Risotto. Shelf stable foods like ramen and boxed macaroni & cheese also make great budget-friendly options, just make sure to bring some protein and dehydrated veggies to amp up the nutrition value.

Extras- Having a few little luxuries can make all the difference.

  •  Coffee/Tea- European grocery stores often carry high-quality instant coffees. If you want to go the from-scratch route, pick up a backpacking pour over filter.
  • Hydration Tabs- Keeping your electrolytes up will help stave off dehydration and keep you performing at your best.
  • Spices- these can improve even the most mediocre meal. Staff favs include za’atar, minced onion, and crushed red pepper.
  • Peanut Butter or Coconut Oil- Great sources of extra calories and general yumminess. Bonus: coconut oil also makes a great moisturizer and provides sunburn relief.
  •  Chia Seeds- A great source of healthy fats and extra calories, these can be added to just about anything. Calorically dense water, anyone?

Favorite Recipes

Phil’s No-Bake Bars

“Wet” ingredients
1⁄4 cup Coconut Oil 1/3 cup Honey
2/3 cup Peanut Butter

Dry ingredients
1.5 cups of oatmeal (rolled or quick)
1⁄2 cup of walnut pieces (any nut is fine here)
1⁄4 cup of chia seeds
1⁄2 cup of shredded coconut flakes
1⁄2 cup mixed dates, chocolate, sour cherries (anything will work here, I just like these)

In a saucepan combine coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter over low to low- medium heat. Stir until homogenized and pour over dry ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are completely coated. Transfer mixture into a prepared 9×9 pan and press until evenly thick from edge to edge. Put in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow to set.

Mega Macaroni

1 cup kale or other leafy green washed, dried, and chopped coarsely

1/2 cup onion sliced into 1/4 inch rings

1 box Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese (preferably organic)

1 pouch albacore tuna

At home:

Using a dehydrator, dehydrate onions (6-12 hours) and kale (2-3hrs) at approximately 125 degrees. Once dehydrated and cooled, pack vegetables in a small ziplock bag. Repackage noodles in a separate ziplock bag. All other ingredients can remain in their original packaging.

In camp:

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then add noodles and vegetables, boil until noodles are al dente, then strain using a strainer lid or carefully pour the liquid off while using a spork to hold back noodles and veggies. Mix in cheese packet and tuna and cook until warmed through.


Jackets and Hats

Short Answer: Samples are current season items from top brands that we make available below MSRP.

But seriously, where do they come from? Producing high-quality clothing is an involved process. About a year before you see items hit stores, top brands have already designed their lines and received finished samples of the final line. They use these samples to show retail partners the new line and help them make purchasing decisions.

Why are they all one size? Typically, each brand rep will have a sample set that consists of one of each item, in a single size. Most brands produce their samples in a small or medium for women and a medium or large for men. However, sample sizing is not always precise. Occasionally you’ll find a small that fits more like an extra small or a medium that fits more like a large, so if you’re close to the marked size, try it on, you may be pleasantly surprised.

How do you get the prices so low? At the end of the showing season, brands sell their samples to us at a reduced cost and we pass the savings on to you. Often you’ll find current season items, that are just hitting other retailers, for 30-50% off MSRP.

How do I find out about new sample sets? Make sure you’re on our email list and like us on Facebook. We try to let our frugies know when we get sweet new products in, and sometimes offer exclusive deals.


If you want the reward of a beautiful view without an arduous hike, look no further than Craggy Gardens. A short 1.4-mile hike provides you with postcard-perfect 365-degree mountain views. The views are particularly stunning at sunrise and sunset (don’t forget your headlamp). In addition to great views, the high elevation allows you to spot some unique plant life year round, but our favorite time to hit this hike is in mid-June when the entire rhododendron covered mountainside is in bloom. The hike up is rocky, but fairly easy, and is great for new hikers and children.

Even on cloudy days, the view from Craggy is superb.

Even on cloudy days, the view from Craggy is superb.

Distance: 1.4 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Recommended Map: NatGeo 779; Linville Gorge/Mount Mitchell

Directions: From Asheville, follow the Blue Ridge Parkway North 18 miles past the Folk Art Center. Pass the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area and Visitor Center; go under the Craggy Pinnacle tunnel. Turn left into the Craggy Dome overlook just past the tunnel. Park in the upper parking lot.

Be safe. Play more. Remember our outdoor safety basics.


We truly live in an outdoor paradise. WNC offers hundreds of beautiful hiking trails and breathtaking overlooks. But to make the most out of your adventure, it’s vital to be well prepared and think about a few essentials for a rewarding (and safe) experience.


Always bring along enough water for your hike. An average adult will likely drink a minimum of 2-3 liters of water on a full day of hiking, but will likely need more, especially in warm weather or on particularly strenuous hikes. Good news! Water is plentiful in WNC and delicious! Just bring along a filter, pump, or treatment solution and you will have all the clean water you need.

Rain Gear: 

Rain gear is critical in WNC, one of the rainiest parts of the country! During popular spring, summer, and fall months rain and thunderstorms are a common occurrence. Stay dry, stay warm, stay safe, and play more


If you’re doing the Art Loeb, venturing into a wilderness area, or just hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway to explore a new trail, make sure you know where you’re headed and can find your way back! National Geographic and Pisgah Map Company maps are affordable and readily available.

First Aid: 

Whether taking the family to a swimming hole or going on an overnight camping trip, First Aid is important. Scrapes, cuts, bee stings, sunburn and other more serious injuries can and do occur. Be prepared.


Whether hammocking or curling up in a tent, camping is an awesome way to experience the WNC wilderness! Pisgah National Forest has designated campgrounds for easy car access and also allows dispersed camping anywhere in its boundaries. Certain portions of Pisgah require the use of hard-sided bear canisters. Please check their website for up-to-date information or stop by Frugal Backpacker for advice!

The nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. In the busy season these spots go fast, so plan ahead!

Bear-Bagging is a useful skill when camping anywhere in bear country. WNC is home to a large black bear population and even when camping in areas that do not expressly require bear canisters, we suggest bear-bagging your food and other scented products (deodorant, soap, toothpaste, etc). The PCT method of bear-bagging is our preferred system at Frugal Backpacker. If you are unfamiliar with it, drop into the shop and ask one of our experts to demonstrate. All it takes is a bag, some paracord, a carabiner, and a stick!

Leave No Trace and Wilderness Awareness: 

The mountains and forests of WNC are a wonderful resource and welcoming opportunity to learn and explore! Please be respectful of the land and help preserve it for future generations and fellow enthusiasts alike! Bag your trash and carry it out with you. Dispose of human waste responsibly and away from water sources and trails. Thoroughly extinguish any fires and obey fire ban ordinances when and where applicable. Do not disturb wildlife and be mindful of slippery surfaces near the many creeks, rivers, and waterfalls that dot our mountains. More people die from slipping and falling each year than every other cause put together!

If you don’t know, ask! 

Getting into a new activity or learning a new area takes time, but expert guidance can make a huge difference. Stop by Frugal Backpacker or our sister store, Diamond Brand Outdoors and ask our friendly expert staff for info on the local area or gear suggestions. We’re always happy to help!