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Keto Backpacking food List | 3 Day

Keto backpacking food has been my go-to trail food option over the last three years, and I have happily and successfully used it on trail for up to 3 weeks both on personal trips and guiding. I usually take less than 1 lb/day of keto backpacking food to get 3000 calories per day! I don’t foresee going back to another trail food diet.  It is also the diet I follow at home.

Benefits of Keto Backpacking food

On-Trail Benefits | For me, the on-trail benefits of keto backpacking food are the very low food weight (approx 1 lb/day) and that I have stable and constant energy levels. This leaves me free to enjoy my hike and be fully present without constantly thinking about food, feeling hungry and chasing blood sugar levels — wondering when to eat and what to eat. Since I am burning my own fat to make ketones for energy (a constant energy source) I feel alert and vital from when I get up to when I go to bed when I go to bed, independent from what I’ve eaten during the day. Also, since I have been fully keto (very happily so) at home for three years, I do not want to change my diet when I go out on the trail.

Off-Trail / General Health Benefits | As more research and info comes in, other benefits for a keto diet appear to be curbing appetite, weight loss, lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and a more favorable cholesterol profile. It also seems from research, that your heart and brain prefer ketones for a fuel vs. glucose. Finally, it appears a keto diet can help reduce insulin insensitivity and pre-metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes). Again this is based on scientific research done at leading institutions, but it’s still early days and there are both advocates and doubters of all of the keto diet’s benefits. As such, not being a medical or nutritional professional, I can only relay my personal experience. That is, after after three years of diligence on the diet, I find most of these to be true for me — weight loss, lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profile, crazy low fasting insulin levels (an indicator that my body is not becoming insulin resistant /pre-metabolic syndrome/pre-diabetic), and much better HB1AC (measure of long term low blood glucose) — and they have stayed constant during that time. Finally, and most important I feel better on the keto diet and will continue to use it as part of my long-term healthy lifestyle.

What is Keto?

Keto (short for ketosis) is another way for your body to obtain energy vs. glucose. So rather than using glucose for fuel, in ketosis your body metabolizes body fat to make ketones which it can use as an energy source (vs. glucose). One advantage of this is that as long as you have body fat, when you are in ketosis you have a constant energy supply independent of what you eat. So no low blood sugar crashes or bonks. E.g. I can go 18 hours without eating and still have plenty of energy for a long hike or killer workout.

How Do I Get Into Ketosis?

Your body goes into ketosis (metabolizes fat into ketones) when you significantly reduce carbohydrate intake. To do this you need to lower net carbs per day to under (20g to 50g) for a 2,000 cal/day diet. Fair warning, this is seriously low vs the average US consumption of around 300g of carb/day. To put this in perspective, eating a bagel might put you over on carbs for the day. And so much of the food we eat is loaded with obvious and hidden carbs. Intermittently fasting (e.g. not eating say between 6pm to 10 am the next morning) and exercise will also help you achieve ketosis.

Keto Challenges on the Trail

There are some distinct challenges to keto backpacking food:

  1. You need to be bonafide keto adapted before using this on the the trail. This means you likely need to follow serious keto diet at home for at least a few months. And you need to test daily that you actually are in ketosis using a:
    1. Blood testing meter (Keto Mojo is the best and what I use) or
    2. Breath meter (Amazon) although I use the KEYTO Breath Meter
  2. Fair Warning: If your try keto on the trail for a 3 to 7 day trip without being adapted you are going to be a very, very unhappy camper. Trust me, I’ve seen this with clients.
  3. Limited food variety. While it’s easy to get the protein and high fat food in your diet. Keto requires that carbs be super low. So forget about eating 50% to 70% of foods that we are accustomed to & culturally feel is part of our diet (see Super Limited Carbs for Keto below). To put this in perspective the amount of carbs allowed to stay in ketosis for a 3,000 cal/day diet is about 75 g net carbs per day from all sources. So eating a bagel might put you over on carbs for the day.

Super Limited Carbs for Keto Backpacking Food

For Keto pretty much all of this is OUT: grains (wheat products, oat products, rice products, pasta, couscous; crackers, tortillas, cookies, breakfast cereals, and grain based granolas), potato chips & potato products, most energy bars (super full of sugar and grains), and bean products (also high in carbs for the protein they contain), and dried fruit which is all carbs. But I do have a bit of dried fruit with very dark or 100% chocolate for dessert.

Protein & High Fat Food Options for Keto

High fat foods are in and great. Protein is best consumed with high fat foods like hard cheeses, fatty meats, etc. All animal proteins are in. And high fat foods like nuts are also good. And most of the foods on the  7 Core backpacking foods are fair game. Off piste are crackers (and any grain products or trail bars) and unless you are veggie or vegan, it’s best to avoid legumes (including soy) as a protein source.

Vegan Protein for Keto

Legume products including beans, soy, and soy jerky have limitations as a protein source.  They are low in calories and high(er) in carbs so should be used with discretion. The exception is Soy Protein Powder which is a good source of veggie & vegan protein. It’s a complete protein & low on carbs. It can be added to drinks and meals. (Just make sure you get the kind without added sugars!).

Note: Keto is quite the fad and there is tons of “snake oil” being sold as sketchy companies try and make a buck. That is much if not most of the food that is touted as keyto is highly processed and questionably keto at best. I stay away from these and stick with unprocessed foods that my grandmother would recognize.

Other Resources: See our Best backpacking food Guide

What if I Want More Carbs / “Normal” Food?

No worries if you want some more carbs. Take a good look at our Low Carb Backpacking Food List | 3 Day  It will allow you to eat food that is much closer to normal, with something akin to conventional breakfasts and dinners. And combined with some intermittent fasting and the exercise from hiking might be sufficient to maintain “nutritional ketosis” (BHB* levels of 0.5 to 1.0) which has most of the health benefits of “moderate” ketosis. Finally At 1.2 lbs /per day it’s still substantially lighter than the 2 lb of food per day that the usual hiker brings.

* Beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, is one of the ketones that are produced by the body. Its concentration in the blood is the most common measure of the level of ketosis for a person. Nutritional Ketosis is commonly BHB levels of 0.5 to 1.0 mmol/L, and moderate is 1.0 to 2.0 mmol/L.

Nutrition Summary Keto Backpacking Food | 3 Days


2.8 Pounds Food | Trip Total for 3 days

Amounts per Day of Nutrition*

cal Fat Prot. Carb Fiber Netcarb
Sugar
3000 262 105 93 34 59 (8% cal.) 8

* Nutrition scaled for 2.5 days of food (no breakfast first day & no dinner last day). That is, a full day of food — Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch, & Dinner equals 1.1 lb of food and 3,000 calories. This a caloric food density of about 170 calories per ounce.

This Works to Keep Me in Deep Ketosis

Based on testing at home and in the field, this diet combined with intermittent fasting and exercise is sufficient to keep me in deep ketosis. That is, BHB* readings of over 2.0 or a level 6 on my Keto Breath Meter. I feel alert and full of energy all during the day while others are chasing blood sugar levels and trying to figure out what to eat to keep them at a stable energy level.

* Beta-hydroxybutyrate, or BHB, is one of the ketones that are produced by the body. Its concentration in the blood is the most common measure of the level of ketosis for a person. Nutritional Ketosis is commonly BHB levels of 0.5 to 1.0 mmol/L, and moderate is 1.0 to 2.0 mmol/L.

Detailed List of Keto Backpacking Food | 3 Days

Day by Day | Everything You Need to Take

Day 1 Keto Backpacking Food

Snacks, Lunch, & Dinner

oz Day 1 Breakfast
None. Have coffee before hitting the trail.
Day 1 Lunch
2.0 ORGANIC PANTRY Flaxseed Crackers
2.0 Almond Butter
Day 1 Snacks
6.0 Mixed Nuts
1.0 People’s Choice Beef Jerky
2.0 Hard Cheese
Day 1 Dinner
1.8 Sausage (Duke’s Original)
0.5 Dried Mango
2.0 90% Dark Chocolate (Lindt)
1.1 Pounds | Totals Day 1

Nutrition Totals Day 1

cal Fat Prot. Carb Fiber Netcarb
Sugar
2686 223 111 102 33 69 15

Day 2 Keto Backpacking Food

Breakfast, Snacks, Lunch, & Dinner

oz Day 2 Breakfast (intermittent fasting, so coffee only)
Coffee, Starbuck’s VIA
0.5 Heavy cream powder

alt

if you need breakfast | Low Carb “Granola” (homemade)
alt
if you need breakfast NuTrail™ – Keto Nut Granola (store buy)
Day 2 Lunch
2.0 Macadamia Nuts
2.0 Hard Cheese
Day 2 Snacks
9.5 Mixed Nuts
Day 2 Dinner
1.8 Sausage (Duke’s Original)
2.0 90% Dark Chocolate (Lindt)
1.1 Pounds | Total Day 2

Nutrition Totals Day 2

cal Fat Prot. Carb Fiber Netcarb
Sugar
3009 275 97 88 34 53 4

Day 3 Keto Backpacking Food

Breakfast, Snacks & Lunch

oz Day 3 Breakfast (intermittent fasting, so coffee only)
0.5 Heavy cream powder
Day 3 Lunch
1.0 ORGANIC PANTRY Flaxseed Crackers
2.7 Sausage (Duke’s Original)
2.0 Pecan Nuts
Day 3 Snacks
4.0 Mixed Nuts
Day 3 Dinner
None. Eat after exiting the trail
0.6 Pounds | Total Day 3

Nutrition Totals Day 3

cal Fat Prot. Carb Fiber Netcarb
Sugar
1707 158 54 44 17 26 2

Disclaimers

  1. To be very clear, I am not a Medical Doctor or a Nutritionist. What I share here is from my personal experience as a backpacker for over 50 years, professional backpacking guide, outdoor writer and an elite athlete. As such, this post should in no way be considered professional medical or nutritional advice. When in doubt, consult with the correct board certified professional.
  2. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.
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