Backpacking on LCHF Diet

I’m curious whether anyone has any experience backpacking (multi-day overnight trips) on a LCHF regimen? Any advice on the dietary side: favorite foods/meals; what packed well (or not); snacks, cravings, etc?

My wife and I are mulling the idea of taking a week long backpacking trip in the High Sierra this August. It would be a leisurely trip, probably 35-45 miles over five or so nights. I’ve spent many nights in the Sierra backcountry, but always with a fully functioning pancreas, devouring Ramen, Mac and Cheese, Lipton noodles, and other dehydrated carb delights. But I’m not interested in taking large boluses to cover the high number of carbs.

I’ve already been on LCHF for about five months, just curious whether others have tips about sticking to it in the backcountry, thanks!


“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” -John Muire

1 Like

You will prolly have to eat more carbs to do something like that. I cant do any activity like that anymore without crashing during or the next day etc. just a 2 mile walk or housework crashes me later. I went on a 6-7 mile hike a few years ago, and managed ok but it wasn’t worth it. I did not enjoy it, crashed towards the end, but managed it pretty well, spiked eventually- it was definitely not worth the stress, and severe muscle cramps for 3-4 days etc after.

Thanks for the response and sorry to hear of your less than ideal hikes. I’ve been able to take some fairly strenuous 4-5 hour hikes without too much difficulty. Although this was when I was eating moderate carbs and taking 18 units of basal per day and Novolog with meals. Now I’m taking about 8 units of basal and my glucose levels are much more stable during exercise. This winter I x-country skied about an hour a day on steep, hilly terrain with very stable glucose levels. I think if I lower my basal a few more units and take it slow and steady, this level of exertion is possible. I just need to plan my meals accordingly to make sure I have enough calories (without the typical carbs.) I will of course be backpacking with my wife and plenty of glucose tabs and some glucagon, just in case.

Thanks for sharing.

1 Like

I have some experience with long days in the mountains (field work, not backpacking, although it’s much the same), as well as long rides on LCHF. The skinny is, as long as you take some practice runs, it’s usually fine for low-intensity, long-duration activity.

I have more issues with high-intensity activities when it comes to bonking: sprints, heavy weights, HIIT, etc. can be a real chore on LCHF. I do, however, make sure to bring dextrose gels in case I get into a low, but I’ve never really had issues running out of energy. I usually aim for about 50g of net carbs a day.

I’ve never done this specifically, but in terms of dietary options I would be thinking of lots of nuts! You could possibly make a lower carb trail mix with different nuts and some dark chocholate etc.

Can you pack soup in a thermos? You could have a brothy soup and some cans of tuna etc also.

Just some thoughts.

I haven’t been backpacking, but I do eat low-carb and have severe food allergies, so I cook and pack everything for myself, including on trips of up to 10 days (in cities, but at times with access to only a fridge and no microwave/stove). I make things like homemade bars, homemade “oatmeal” (without any oats of course), homemade low-carb bread and jam for sandwiches, and lots of fresh veggies and meat for dinner. I also eat tuna straight out of the can on days like today when I’m too rushed in the morning to pack a proper lunch (and didn’t meal plan enough over the weekend). I recently got a dehydrator and am looking forward to making crackers, dehydrated nuts, various veggie chips, low-carb cereal, veggie leathers, maybe jerky (though the idea of liquifying meat makes me want to gag just thinking about it, so maybe not). I’m allergic to all dairy and eggs, but I think those would be options if there was a way to keep them cool.

Bring a solid chunk of Genoa salami. We survived Lake Misstassini on one of those.

1 Like

I will definitely be loading up the pack and taking some long day hikes. I’m within spitting distance of the AT, so I figured if I can get through some long hikes with a pack here, where switchbacks are rare, then the better graded trails will be a bit easier.

I will definitely be stocking up on Mac nuts and sunflower seeds. And drained foil bags of tuna will be a mainstay (lighter weight than cans). I’ll have a stove for boiling, so I was thinking of packing in some bags of bone broth protein powder with extra salt.

Ah, the cured salted meats. Can’t go wrong there. :slight_smile:

Hrmm…now I’ve discussed the trail grades in the East and West with a number of folks, and I’ve through-hiked the AT. I live out West and spend a fair bit of time in the mountains. I’m convinced the AT has more elevation gain per linear mile, or at least more something per linear mile, even if the max altitudes are higher out West. For some reason doing 25 miles in a day on the AT feels far more strenuous than doing 25 miles in a day out here.

Should be fun to try out. Throw on a heavy pack and hit the trails (where along the AT are you?), and see how it goes :slight_smile: One thing I’m sure you’ve thought about: dehydration when hiking at altitude is a pretty serious issue, and even more serious for diabetics and those eating LCHF. Make sure to pack in the salts and a ton of water (or water purifying capacity if you’ll be near sources).

edit: Turns out my gut-feeling is totally right! The AT has far more elevation change per mile and total elevation change than the PCT or CDT. How much more turns out to be a bit shocking!

1 Like

Wow, 515,000 feet! Hats off to you sir, for through hiking that. I’ve always dreamed of doing a long distance trail. I might have to settle/start with the Long Trail. We live in Woodstock, VT, so we do day hikes on the AT/Long Trail/in the Greens. My preferred season is becoming winter, as I’ve found the joy of letting gravity doing some of the work for you on cross country skis.

My wife and I are always joking about how the trails out here feel twice as long as the stated mileage. And, a ‘moderately strenuous trail’ will have you picking your way through/up/over boulders that a Sierra guidebook would have rated a Class 2 scramble. But it’s all better than sitting in front of a computer monitor!

I will definitely err on the side of caution on salt/potassium; and I always carry the trusty water filter. Thankfully there is no shortage of water where we would be going, which will help keep the pack weight down.

1 Like

I ski the backcountry, which is not always going downhill and I don’t know if I would try LCHF. BG is so random. Sometimes I need to increase my carb intake and sometimes decrease. Its best to have both options available. Typically, I get both extreme highs and extreme lows in the same day. Its highly variable moment to moment. My advise is to give yourself ALL available resources, as best you can. Every trip is different, but every trip results in high variability in BG, for me.

I’ve had trips where I ran at BG = 30 for days and trips where there wasn’t enough insulin in the world to bring me down below 400…and everything in between. Best of luck to you. Let us know how it turns out. Do the wife a favor and bring the glucagon.

In general, I think that I perform best when I feel well and am enjoying myself and that is when my liver is kicking a LOT of sugar and I’m throwing out a lot of adrenaline (tend to run high).

Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve noticed much greater stability in my BG levels on a LCHF diet when exercising. I still always carry glucose tabs and use them when I start trending down.

My variability was much much greater on a moderate carb diet, which I attribute mostly to needing twice as much basal to maintain steady fasting BGs. I did backpack once on a moderate carb diet, which I didn’t enjoy greatly. I maintained a fairly steady BG without dipping below 70 on the steady uphill days, but only by eating something literally every twenty or thirty minutes, which just left me feeling overly full.

I will definitely have a stable of carbs, just in case, and glucagon, etc.

Thats super interesting. Other people experience is of interest to me.

I wonder, have people experimented with glucagon while eating low carb vs. “regular” carb? Glucagon signals the liver to convert glycogen and dump to blood as glucose, which makes sense…but if you’re in a glycogen-depleted state from eating low-carb and backpacking, glucagon might not have a very great effect. I know a lot of low-carb athletes carry dextrose gels (or similar) for low BG, and I’ve taken to that as my backup plan as well.


Thats an interesting question, you should post it and see what people volley back.

I agree. Curious whether other have experience with David’s query. I have not had any sudden or serious lows since going low carb, just gradual trends downward during strenuous and sustained exercise, which I usually notice and consume a few grams of carbs when I get into the 70-80 range.

1 Like

I’ll post a top-level question and see if anyone bites.

I don’t backpack a lot anymore. I’m more of a day hiker now (darn adulting takes up too much time). I used to be avid, though. I learned a long time ago about making my own dehydrated meals that are more meat and veggies and less cheap filling carbs than traditional backpacking meals. Just about anything will rehydrate with a little time and insulation.

I carry a collapsible silicone Tupperware-type container that does double duty as a cooking and eating vessel, and an insulated lunch bag that I got from the dollar store. Boil water on camp stove, empty dehydrated meal in silicone bowl, clamp on bowl lid and stuff in insulated bag. Ten minutes to dinner. And so much better than anything you’d buy from Mountain House.

With a little experience, you’ll be making your own combination of foods in no time, but there are plenty of books to get you started. Recipes for Adventure is probably one of the most popular, but it will require a lot of substitution to lower the carb count. I basically just triple the veggies in his recipes and leave out all the rice and pasta. “The Dehydrator Bible”, by Jennifer Mackenzie is my favorite, though. It has a whole chapter on cooking on the trail full of recipes similar to what we’d usually eat at home anyway, like lemon honey garlic chicken, squash and lentil soup, sweet potato and red pepper soup, curried chicken with apples, Chipotle beef chili, andThai noodles (that I sub spiralized and dried squash intead of rice noodles).

Also, you can dehydrate leftovers from your at home cookef meals, pulse them into finer bits that will rehydrate easier in a food processor, and enjoy them on the trail the same way. I do a lot of things like green chili, veal picatta, butter chicken, and mango dal this way. Yummy! If you’ve joined the instant pot craze, anything cooked in a pressure cooker will rehydrate exceptionally well.

I pack foods with slightly more carbs in it then I would eat at home, but still pretty moderate comparably. I’d check your local library for any dehydrated foods cookbooks and see if you can borrow someone else’s dehydrator and vacuum sealer before investing in your own, but it’s totally worth it for saving weight and space… And still eating like royalty.

My partner is a contract pilot for business jets and always globetrotting. I send these meals with him on the road all the time and people always gawk jealously at his dinner

These higher fat meals will oxidize and taste funny if they’re not vacuum sealed, though. You have to either package them fast or keep things like dried pork or hamburger frozen till you are ready to package meals.