5 Packaging Design Elements Hikers Look for in Trail Food


Even if you’ve never been hiking or backpacking in your life, you probably have an idea of the stereotypical foods that hikers, campers and other outdoorsy folk like to take with them. Beef jerky, trail mix, things of that nature. Packaging design of these foods is critical for hikers, and can be the deciding factor in whether they choose one brand over another. Read more…

Especially for trips that last several days or even several weeks in the wilderness, hikers and backpackers have to be very savvy when it comes to packing their food. They need to make sure they are getting enough calories per day, balanced nutrition, enough variety, and it all has to fit into a very limited space that they will be carrying for the better portion of their day, every day of their trip.

What hikers look for in trail food package design

  1. Portable

A package that doesn’t travel well isn’t going to make the cut. Trail foods need to be packaged in appropriate sizes and they need to be tough and packable. Flexible, granular packaging techniques are preferred by most backpackers. Hikers are quite creative with making foods more portable, like using refillable squeeze tubes to pack things like peanut butter.


  1. Compact

Space is at a premium on a long hiking trip, so excessive packaging and bulky design are big no-nos. This is why backpackers prefer dried, granular foods like jerky, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, and grains like oatmeal or quinoa. Another good package design for trail food is flat, solid blocks, like these meal bars from Bear Valley.


  1. Lightweight

Hikers know that nutrient and calorie density is critical on a long trip, so any weight that isn’t contributing to those two areas must be kept to a minimum. Heavy packaging materials will be rejected in favor of more lightweight alternatives, like choosing tuna pouches over tuna cans.


  1. Resealable

Many backpackers like to pre-portion their foods into single servings with plastic zip top sandwich bags. But if a trail food manufacturer can provide a package that is resealable and/or single serving size without wasting a lot of space (e.g. an air cushion inside the packaging), hikers will love them for it. These dehydrated meals come in resealable pouches that usually contain 1 or 2 servings, and they are very popular among serious hikers.


  1. Water resistant

You never know when you’re going to have to spend a day or two trudging through the rain, so making sure all food items are protected from the elements is a priority. Many backpackers who hike long trails in deep wilderness will store their food in special odor-proof bags to keep bears, raccoons and other critters away from their packs, and this does provide an extra layer of protection. But if your food’s packaging design doesn’t look like it will hold up to a few days of wet weather, it probably isn’t going to make the cut.