Why don’t I have an Appetite on Backpacking Trips?

Packing Normal Food
Packing Normal Food

Have you ever been on a backpacking trip and not had an appetite? Even if you’re hiking 15 to 20 miles a day?

It’s frustrating because you know you should be hungry, and you know need energy to hike the next day, but you can’t bring yourself to dig in at dinner time.

“We can never eat what I take…just not hungry. I eat more sitting at my desk at work than when hiking 15-20 miles a day on the AT”

There are 3 reasons why you can lose your appetite on a backpacking trip:

  1. Different Eating Schedule
  2. Different Food
  3. Less Free Time

Different Eating Schedule

If you have a fixed routine of meal serving times at home, it could be that your body and mind are not acclimated to your new backpacking schedule if you eat at a different time, especially during the first few days of your hike. If you’re like most people, and you can only take short 1 and 2-night backpacking trips, you might never get used to the changed schedule. If you can stay out longer than a few days, my guess is that your body will eventually acclimate to the schedule change and you’ll be hungry again when dinner is served.

Different Food

It might be that you prefer normal food over commercial backpacking meals or the kind that you prepare FBC style. I’ve largely given up gave up on buying freeze-dried or dehydrated backpacking meals and bringing the same food on trips that I tend to eat at home, like cheese, crackers, bread, nuts, granola, tuna fish, rice… just regular food, so there’s not any “adaption” required.

Less Free Time

If you’re sitting at work and munching on food, it’s because you either have free time or you can multi-task. Walking is far more active than sitting still and you might just need to take longer breaks to snack than you do today.

A couple of years ago, I would never stop for breaks during the day and as a result, I ate sparingly between breakfast and dinner. Today, I make a point to load up the back pocket of my backpack with about 1,000 calories worth of snacks each morning before I leave camp. I take long breaks every few hours to rest and take in my surroundings and I feel relaxed enough to munch because I’m not in a hurry to get up and walk.

Do you ever lose your appetite on a backpacking trip?


  1. I’ve often marveled at how little I want to eat on a multi-night trip. It’s actually somewhat frustrating, the wasted weight in my backpack. Maybe the moral is to take less food, but denser in calories, carbs, nutrients, protein (or whatever you think your dietary needs are). I’ve wondered if I could go a week on only GU. [shudder] blech.

    What’s even more puzzling to me, is that despite 1. more fibrous fare 2. more water consumption and 3. constant exercise, I am, uh… well… let’s say peristalsis seems to take a break. TMI. Sorry.

  2. This happens to my wife and I when we take a multi-day hike. We have to force ourselves to eat and it almost makes us sick. We buy top of the line freeze dry meals and it seems that dinner is the only time we are able to eat. Breakfast almost gags us and lunch is impossible. Everything seems to dry and amost impossible to swallow. We drink 2 – 3 liters of water a day (NW tempertures) and still seem dehydrated. We think it might be a electrolyte problem and the level of exercise carrying 20 to 30 pound packs 15 to 20 miles per day. We understand that after 10 to 14 days of this your can’t get enough food. The longest single hike we have done was 6 days and we still had food problems.

  3. This happens to me all the time and I’m certain it’s the food. Your mileage may vary, but in my view the food is so monotonous, boring and downright bad compared to real life food that I just eat what I need and nothing more. The soon I do get back to civilization, I eat a fair portion, even immediately after the hike, so I don’t think for me it’s anything to do with the other factors you mention.

  4. Haha, I was looking at this old thread, and for me the opposite happens. In fact, I was looking for “why am I so hungry during and even days after a hike”. (I am a man with an athletic and lean body type, with a very consistent weight.)

    I just returned from a hike through the amazing Norwegian fjords. During and after I was quite hungry and have a good appetite. Even now, days after the hike my appetite is still quite elevated. During the hike, I did bring food that I really enjoyed to eat, that is non-negotiable for me as a (vegetarian) food lover ;-). Mostly healthy, organically grown whole foods, such as organic and unsalted non-roasted nuts, seeds, dried fruits, cacao nibs, dried cocos flakes, quinoa, lentils and rice, and sometimes – some vegaburgers (soya or quorn). Also, most of the time I had some fresh vegetables that stay good for weeks (carrots, cabbage and iceberg lettuce). I carry a little stove, which allowed me to cook the quinoa, cabbage, lentils etc. Adding some concentrated organic tomatoe sauce and a bunch of spices – this allowed me to create – for me at least – very tasty meals. Most of these foods are next to natural and healthy, also energy dense, and so quite light to carry around (I mean: low weight per calorie). Man, how good a handful of hazelnuts and two dried apricots can taste after a few hours of hiking (even much better than at home)! Talking about taking breaks, the nice thing about the nuts and dried fruits is that you can eat them while walking.

  5. I find I ‘want’ to eat no more on a hiking trip than I do in a normal day – and sometimes less. On early trips I used to take heaps of snacks to eat through the day and found I wasn’t eating much at all. A few months ago, two friends and I did a grueling (to me) technical track – not much track, really – over, under, and through 150+ fallen trees, up and down gullies, and often hugging trees on washed-out parts of the track. We got a late start and 7 hours later finished in the dark, having worn our headlamps for at least an hour. We set up camp and heated our packs of food, but all of us struggled to eat even half our portion. We just wanted sleep, despite knowing we were actually fueling up for the next day’s return trip out. A few months after that, we did a multi-day hike and while I didn’t eat much more than normal, at least I had an appetite!

  6. THis is a major problem for me. I get major low blood sugar when I’m trying to sleep but I have no appetite whatsoever. Thank goodness my hiking partners force me to eat when we get to camp. I try to eat while hiking but so far not very successful.

  7. ” I gave up on buying backpacking food and started bringing the same food on trips that I tend to eat at home, like cheese, crackers, bread, nuts, granola,… just regular food, so there’s not any “adaption” required.”

    This line changed the way I think about both day hikes/backpacking trips and food. Eat the same food I eat at home. Pizza has become my favorite Day hiking and the first day backpacking food on all trips now. I order a pizza the evening before a hike, put in the the frig overnight and its easy to pack in a ziplock the next morning. I now eat candy bars not those power bars I never ate at home. For a while I just gave up eating on day hikes, nothing seems to taste good. Now I have to order a Medium Pizza, 3 slices was not making it to lunch. Single idea but helped me a lot. thanks

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