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Hear Us Out: Baby Food is the Best Backpacking Food

Chewing is overrated. Meet your new favorite, slurpable hiking snacks.

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Pureed food isn’t just for babies: Applesauces, nut butters, and other mashed concoctions make great hiker nutrition. They’re packable, digestible when you’re working hard, and go down easy when your appetite is gone but you need to fuel. Plus, you can stash one or two in the hipbelt of your pack and snack without even breaking your stride. 

We know a few of you are rolling your eyes, but hear us out. Blended foods are easier for your stomach to break down than solid food, making them a good option for trail runs or during strenuous sections of hiking. Digesting solid foods requires energy, and diverts blood flow to your stomach. Giving your body a jumpstart on the digestion process by consuming simple carbs and pureed foods helps avoid stomach upset and keeps the blood flowing to your legs where you really need it. 

Pouches of applesauce have long been a staple of my trail diet, but the packaging is wasteful and the serving sizes are made for, well, babies. Enter the reusable baby food pouch, a lightweight, eco-friendly solution that makes fueling on the trail simple. Use a funnel to fill these washable pouches with your favorite blend (make a large batch at home, or buy in bulk to reduce waste) and slurp to your heart’s content. Add water to the combinations below until you’ve reached the desired consistency, then store filled pouches in the freezer so they’re ready to go when you are; they’ll be delightfully cold once you reach your first snack break. Start with these 15 recipes, and tweak to your own taste.

Fruit Sauces

Fill the fruit-shaped hole in your backpacker stomach with these fresh combos. Use store-bought applesauce as a base, or make your own

Applesauce + mango + lemon juice

Applesauce + strawberries

Pureed pears + cinnamon + ginger 

Make Your Own Applesauce

Store-bought applesauce will do for these recipes, but for an extra kick of flavor, make your own. Start with four pounds of whatever kind of apples you like (tip: save a few bucks by raiding the grocery store’s manager’s discount bin for bruised, overripe, and about-to-go-bad apples, which are usually extra sweet and perfect for sauce), core, peel, and slice them, and dump them in a stock pot with a cup of water and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice, then boil them until they’re just mushy. Drain the pot, stick the apples in your food processor, and blend until smooth. If desired, you can sweeten to taste with sugar, honey, or agave nectar.

Sweet Potato Mash

Photo by annick vanderschelden photography via Getty Images

This superfood is nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins, and is a great base for your favorite ingredients. Start by baking sweet potatoes whole or cutting into cubes and steaming on the stove. Then, use a hand masher or food processor as you combine additional ingredients.

Pureed sweet potato + maple syrup + salt 

Pureed sweet potato + lime + cumin + salt

Pureed sweet potato + tahini + sesame seeds + salt

Veggie Power

Sometimes your tastebuds need a break from the sweets. These savory snacks are healthy and add some variety to your food bag. Bake or steam veggies, or start with canned purees

Pureed squash (acorn, butternut, or delicata) + maple syrup + salt + smoked paprika + cayenne

Pureed pumpkin + salt + thyme 

Avocado + olive oil + everything bagel seasoning

Chia Pudding

Photo by Евгения Матвеец via Getty Images

This trendy ingredient will provide long-lasting energy and is packed with nutrients. Try it in place of your morning oatmeal. For the best texture, use 1 Tbsp. of chia seeds for every ¼ cup of milk. Refrigerate chia mixture overnight before transferring it into squeeze pouches.

Chia seeds + almond milk + honey + vanilla 

Chia seeds + almond milk + dates + cocoa powder + vanilla

Chia seeds + coconut milk + mango

Elevated Nut Butter

Photo by Wanwisa Hernandez / EyeEm via Getty Images

Use your favorite peanut, almond, or cashew butter as a base, or try making some from scratch (see our recipe below).

Nut butter + ground coffee beans + chocolate 

Nut butter + maple syrup + bacon bits 

Sunflower butter + agave

Make Your Own Nut Butter

You can make any of these recipes with an off-the-shelf nut butter, and for most people, that’s going to be the best option. But for full homemade, crunchy-granola-hippie points, mix up a batch of your own. It’s easy to do, though the result won’t be quite as smooth as Jif (think of the grainy stuff you buy at a natural food store).

The good news: Whether you prefer peanuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds, the method is the same. Grab three cups of roasted nuts or seeds (buy them that way or toast them in a single layer on a baking sheet for 15 minutes or until they start to brown). Toss them in a food processor with a tablespoon or two of honey or agave nectar and a half-teaspoon of salt, then blend on high. Over the course of five minutes, you’ll see the nuts go from chopped to grainy to an almost doughy consistency as the solids and oils begin to blend together. When it looks like peanut butter, you’re good to go. Store it in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a month.