Mountain Man Fuel: Best Foods for Mountaineering
Whether you’re going on a short day climb or an intense multi-day trek, creating a menu filled with the right climbing food for your trip can be the difference between an amazing day where you reach the summit successfully or having a miserable day that ends prematurely because of fatigue.
This article will help you plan climbing food throughout the day to keep you energized and happy while out on the route.
Food Options During a Climb
The climbing food options for climbers will ultimately depend on your situation.
Will you be doing a short climb to the local low-lying area where weight doesn’t matter? Or will you be going on a 4,000-foot elevation gain 12-mile climb to see the valley views from the peak?
In order to achieve a successful climb, you should be strategic with what kind of food you bring out on the route even if you’re having a more leisurely day. Remember, you will be continuously pushing your body physically and you need the right nutrition to keep you fully energized on your climbs.
Protein bars are the quickest and easiest way to get calories in. Protein bars come in a variety of flavors and textures, and their compact form makes them portable. They’re the perfect on-the-go snack if you just want a quick energy boost without affecting your speed and performance.
Crawl bars are a great choice. They come in two delicious flavors (peanut chocolate and blueberry almond), they’re easy to eat, and they’re packed with one of the most sustainable proteins on the planet: crickets!
Jerky provides an awesome option if you want a climbing food that’s with a lot of texture and bite. Jerky is high in protein, low in fat, and makes for a filling snack.
However, you need to remember that jerky tends to be high in sodium, so you should make room for water allowance if you’re going to use jerky as part of your climbing menu.
Spreads are a great little addition to any climbing snack pack. The best spreads for climbing are made from either peanut butter or almond butter.
Spreads provide a great quick energy boost because they are easily digestible, and they leave you feeling full. If you’re like us, spreads make a fantastic supplement for crackers or fruits, or you can just eat them straight out of the packet.
Fruits are THE original climbing snack. They’re easy to eat, digestible, and you won’t have to worry about littering. The best thing about fruits is that they’re packed with natural sugars that won’t give you a sugar crash down the road.
The best thing about fruits is the variety. You can pretty much choose what you want to bring depending on your preference, but you should also consider other factors such as portability and ease of eating.
Aside from fruits, nuts are one of the best choices for climbing foods. They’re packed with healthy proteins and fats, convenient, and full of texture. Plus, they make you feel full without feeling bloated!
Nuts provide a great balance of calories, fiber, and carbs while on the trail. And just like with fruits, there is quite a variety when it comes to choice.
If you’re the type who loves convenience, flavor, and variety, then trail mix should be on the top of your climbing foods list. Trail mix is a fantastic way to get all the benefits of the above mentioned food items in one easy source.
Most commercial trail mixes combine flavors and textures. You’ll get a nice and varied mixture of nuts, dried fruits, and candy. This is a great and easy way to get a balanced snack.
For multi-day climbs, snacks might not be enough. If you want to get the right amount of nutrients and energy, then you need to opt for hot meals. Yes, this will mean a bit more weight since you’ll need to bring a camping stove and water, but it’s worth the addition!
Hot meals can consist of something as simple as quick oats, or something as complex as packaged hot meals. For our money, packaged hot meals are the better choice, especially if they’re formulated for climbing.
What Kind of Food Should I Bring?
If there is one all-important factor that you should consider for your climbing food choices, this is it. You need to choose food items that will bring the most calories in relation to their weight, flavor, texture, and portability.
Ultimately, caloric density will be the deciding factor for your climb; the difference will leave you either feeling triumphant on the summit or defeated on the trail. of you feeling great on the last mile or sluggish.
Texture and Taste
Most people overlook the importance of food texture and taste, but it’s something you should keep in mind when you’re going on a prolonged climbing adventure. Have you ever tried to eat the same food for more than a week? At the tail end of the week, you’ll be begging for anything else to eat.
While caloric density is important, there’s something to be said about texture and taste variety. If at all possible, choose foods with contrasts. Get a variety of food that is soft, crunchy, hard, liquidy, or smooth. Sweet and salty play well off each other, and you’ll end up feeling both full AND satisfied.
Healthy & Nutritious
As with needing a variety of foods in terms of taste and texture, you also need a variety of nutrition so you can stay full of energy as you tackle that climb. Relying solely on one energy source is a recipe for disaster, particularly for prolonged treks.
Your food should have a good balance of carbs, proteins, fats, and fiber. You can also consider bringing both processed and all-natural food sources.
Processed foods are great for a quick and convenient energy boost, but the flip side of that is a possible sugar crash. On the other hand, eating a peanut butter sandwich might make you feel full, but since it takes a bit of time to digest, you might feel fatigued early on.
Choosing the right food in terms of digestibility and speed of energy release is crucial in a successful climb. As a rule of thumb, the ratio for climbers should be 60-70% carbohydrates, 10-20% protein, and 20-30% fat.
Convenience and Weight
Always ask yourself, “How easy is this for me to eat?” before committing to any kind of food to bring on a climb. You want to consider if it takes time to prep and cook or if you just have to peel off the wrapper and you’re good to go.
The items you bring will weigh you down, literally, so be conscious of how much weight they take up. While most snack foods are designed to be portable, you’ll need to bring hot meals for multi-day treks.
Here’s a simple test: try lugging your pack around on a flat surface for an hour. If you’re already feeling the strain, imagine how hard it would be when you’re climbing up an elevated surface!
Space & Volume
Another important factor is how much space the food takes up. For your day climbs you also need your ten essentials and your rain gear, so think carefully before you grab that giant bag of chips to stuff in your daypack.
Important Factors to Consider During a Climb
Distance & Duration
The difficulty of your climb will be the largest factor in how much you should bring. Climbing is an extremely physical activity that burns a lot of calories; the further you’re climbing, the more calories you will burn and the more calories you’ll need to replenish.
The next most important factor is the amount of slope in your climb. This will determine the intensity and difficulty. Climbing a 10-mile climb that’s flat and smooth and climbing a 7-mile climb that has significant slope differences are two completely different climbs. Obviously, sloped routes require more energy expenditure.
Water isn’t a food but it is a necessity to keep you hydrated. If your climb has a stop with a water source during your route and you have a water filter, you can plan to strategize and carry less water since you can refill at these water sources. Seasonal changes and weather will affect the availability of those water sources.
Choosing the right food to bring for a mountaineering trek can be difficult, especially if you’re a novice. This is definitely one of those times when you need to crawl before you walk. Opt for shorter day climbs to learn what food combinations work best for you!
Remember, it’s much easier to go through the trial and error phase if you have the option of turning back in the middle of a climb, instead of ruining a multi-day plan.
Over time, you’ll learn what food combinations work for particular situations. You can also use food recommendations from experienced mountaineers to help you craft your own food choices.