What to Eat on a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike
Updated: Sep 22
Do you need a stove or not? What are ideas for easy meals on the hike? What are the best snacks to bring? Details on how to strategize what food to pack for the hike are below.
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If you want to read a detailed description of the hike and about camping tips, the timing of the hike, and more, check out my post, Everything, and Anything You Need to Know for a Two-Day Mt. Whitney Hike.
For gear tips and packing, advice read my article: 35 things to Pack for a 2-Day Mt. Whitney Trip.
Food planning for a 2-day Mt. Whitney Hike
To start planning what food to bring for my Mt. Whitney hike I created an excel spreadsheet to roughly map out food for each meal, how many calories it included and how much each item weighed. When it came time to pack I didn’t stick to the excel meal plan exactly, but creating the list helped me learn how much items weigh v. their calories, which helped me strategize overall. For example, sadly foods like apples and clementines weigh a lot and don’t have a high-calorie count. Most of their weight is water weight. Dried fruit on the other hand weighs less and has a high-calorie count. Dried apple chips or freeze-dried fruit weigh even less. I used a food scale to weigh out small bags of snacks, and other foods I was considering bringing.
A friend gave me the advice to bring foods that I love and know I would want, even if I wasn’t feeling well from the altitude or lost my appetite. I typically don’t eat much while hiking and eat a big meal afterward. That strategy is harder during a 12- hour hiking day. You are supposed to eat regularly to prevent altitude sickness as well. So avoid packing too healthy or bring lighter weight foods that you won’t even want to eat. Pack foods you like!
I also received the advice to not bring anything that I had never eaten before. Runners often try a free energy gel for the first time during a race and then are sick from it. Don’t let that be you on the hike! Try out any food you plan on bringing beforehand, not only to make sure you like it but also to let your stomach become accustomed to it.
If you are hiking in the summer, bring foods that won’t melt and that hold up well in the heat. Chocolate-covered energy bars aren’t ideal, even M&Ms may not survive well into day two. Also, pick foods that won’t break or bruise easily when they are stuffed in your pack or bear canister.
Meal Ideas For a 2-day Mt. Whitney Hike
Although Mt. Whitney was my first true backpacking trip, my goal was to have as light a pack as possible. See more details on my Ultralight packing planning here. With that in mind, I made the decision to not bring a butane stove or fuel on the hike. After a long day of hiking in the heat, a hot meal didn’t sound that appetizing to me anyways. I knew there were plenty of food options that don’t require cooking, especially for only one night. Below are a few suggested stove-free meal ideas.
1. Packaged Tuna with Avocado
This was my dinner meal on the Mt. Whitney hike. An avocado is not a light packing choice, but it is calorically dense so I figured that made up for the weight. Most grocery stores sell a wide variety of packaged tuna flavors, so you don’t need to bring any salt and pepper or worry about a bland meal. It also worked well to mix the avocado inside the tuna package, so I avoided packing dishes. If you dislike avocado you could also bring individual mayo packets to mix in with the tuna for extra calories. We stored the avocado in the bear canister to prevent it from bruising in the pack.
2. Packaged Smoked Salmon with Avocado
My friend chose to make a similar meal with smoked salmon. It also doesn’t need to be refrigerated and is sold in packets similar to tuna. Patagonia also sells smoked salmon in packaging intended for backpacking purposes.
3. Peanut Butter and Honey Wraps
Peanut butter is a high calorie food that holds up well in heat and without refrigeration. I pre-made my wraps to make them quick and easy to grab and to avoid the packaging of peanut butter packets and honey. This is one of my favorite hiking meals that I know I will eat, even if I am not feeling well. I have also found that wraps are less likely to become moldy in heat compared to bread.
4. Chorizo, Salami or other Cured Meats +Cheese
There are many options of meats that don’t need refrigeration. I brought chorizo for one of my lunches and my friend brought salami. Any of these options could be put into a wrap ahead of time for a sandwich. Hard cheeses can usually go without refrigeration as well, so pairing meats and cheeses make a stove-free meal too.
Snack Ideas for a 2-day Mt. Whitney Hike
For any food where it is possible, remove it from its original packaging and put it in lightweight, cheap plastic ziploc bags. This helps to save weight and room. The ziploc bags also served as my friend and I’s trash bags once we finished a food item in them. For any snacks that are more likely to break or bruise, store them in the bear canister for extra protection.
Bars, Gels and Balls
1. Power Bars/Granola Bars
2. Power Gels
3. Energy Balls
Frooze Balls are a New Zealand-made, plant-based energy ball that are one of my favorite hiking snacks. They pack in protein and calories while still being all natural and tasting great. The lemon cheesecake filled ones hit the spot to have a sour snack at the summit.
For less expensive dried fruit, buy it in bulk at Costco or Amazon. Trader Joe's also has a wide selection of reasonably price dried fruits.
1. Dried Pineapple
2. Dried Mango
4. Apple Chips
Apple chips are high in calories and weigh less than most other dried fruits.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Keep in mind that most of these options are less calorically dense than dried options. I still thought it was worth it to have a couple fresh items for the two days.
It's best to plan to eat carrots on day one, but I have read if you wrap them in a damp paper towel they could last a couple days without refrigeration. I recommend buying unpeeled large, regular carrots, not the process snacking ones. They last longer.
Eating salty foods helps to replenish electrolytes, so be sure to bring a salty snack.
1. Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
These are a perfect snack for many reasons. They are calorie dense, don’t break easily, have protein and have salt to help replenish electrolytes.
2. Plantain Chips
Plantain chips tend to break less easily than a traditional chip, so they work well as a snack option.
4. Trail Mixes
If you are hiking in the summer, sadly avoid trail mixes with chocolate pieces, they will make a melted mess.
4. Jerky/Meat Sticks
This list focuses on options that won’t melt and that hold up well in heat.
1. Gummy Bears
2. Sour Patch Kids
These are a popular choice for high altitude hiking because the sour flavor is helpful for mouths that are dry from the altitude and hiking.
3. Australia Licorice
Oreos are an option to fill any chocolate cravings that won’t melt!
5. Ginger Chews
If you are worried about feeling sick from the altitude I recommend packing a few of these to help settle your stomach.
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Trip Dates: July 2021
Article Updated: July 2021
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