Food Suggestions for Mt. Rainier WA  •  14,410'  •  4392m

IMG Guide Food Suggestions for Mt. Rainier

To help make your climb more comfortable, below are a few food recommendations from IMG guides who have spent a lot of time snacking on Mt. Rainier.

IMG Guide Peter Dale

A few factors I think about when packing food for a climbing trip are the calorie/weight ratio, packability/crushability, and amount that I actually enjoy eating any particular item. If you don't like carrot sticks at home, you certainly won't like them at altitude, so go ahead and binge on all that candy and chocolate you crave. Additionally, I think it is important to consider the macronutrient composition of the foods you're planning on bringing. Don't bring just nuts and beef jerky, you won't get enough simple carbohydrates to keep your body going. By the same token, don't bring just gummy candies, as you will surely "bonk" at some point. However, a combination of those snacks will provide a nice balance or protein, fats and carbohydrates. Lastly, don't get too hung up on how "healthy" a snack food is. While on a weekend trip you don't need to pack a bunch of semi-obscure vitamins and minerals into your diet. Any micronutrient imbalances you may have surely aren't going to be solved on a three day Rainier climb with granola bars.

A few of my favorite items:

  • A piece of fresh fruit for one of the first snack breaks on day one (doesn't follow the weight rule, but sure is good on a hot day).
  • Bagels with topping of your choice (great calories and packability).
  • Cheese (goes well on many things, and very calorie dense).
  • Salami (great calories, salt, fat and doesn't go bad as easily as deli meat)

IMG Guide Emily Johnston

One of the nice things about mountaineering is that it's a great reason to eat... a lot!

We'll feed you some great meals while you're in camp, but while we're on the move, it's snack time. You can and should eat every time we stop for a break. On a typical 3 day climb of Mt. Rainier I recommend bringing about sixteen 200-400 calorie snacks (that gives you a little extra).

For the first day, I bring a big deli sandwich with chips, a few Mojo bars, and some veggies.

Other great mountain food includes fun sized Snickers bars (small enough that you can put them in your mouth to thaw if they're frozen), dried mangos, nuts, chocolate covered almonds, M&Ms, Luna Bars, cheese and pita bread, good ol' PB&J... whatever your heart desires. If it doesn't appeal to you at home, it's not going to look good at 14,000 feet! The key is to bring food that's durable and palatable, that you can eat when it's frozen solid. Up high, I like Clif Shot Blocks (at least one pack with caffeine), Hot Tamales, and those fake candy orange slices. You can just stuff them in your pocket and munch on them as you're climbing.

This is a climb, not a diet opportunity, so save the sawdust bars for another time and treat yourself to whatever your "forbidden fruit" may be!

IMG Guide Sara Cohen

I don't take all of this on a 3-day, but some of the options I like are:

  • Wrap or sandwich
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Cold noodle salad
  • Leftover Pad Thai
  • Prepared sushi
  • Leftover Pizza
  • Pear or nectarine
  • Killer peanut-free trail mix
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • An apple and Justin's almond butter packet
  • Hummus and rice crackers
  • Hard cheese
  • Summer sausage
  • Figs
  • Licorice
  • Yogurt
  • Pistachios (sans shells)
  • Dried mango
  • Wasabi peas
  • Kind bars
  • True lemon drink mix or Emergen-C
  • Miso or ramen noodles

  • Summit day treats
  • Foods, drink with caffeine
  • Chocolate peanut butter pretzels
  • Gummies
  • Yogurt covered treats
  • Fig Newman's
  • Jerky
  • Pro bars
  • And for the tippy top... York Peppermint Patty

IMG Guide Cedric Gamble

Pack as much "real food" as possible. This constitutes things such as crackers, cheese, salami, dried fruit, sandwiches, pizza, etc. Bring some energy bars, chews, gews, etc as well, but think of them as boosters, not your calorie base. For a three day summit climb count on 12 to 15 breaks where you will want to have a decent snack of 150 to 200 calories. If you want to get scientific, do the math. If you want a generalization: bring enough food to eat the longest lunch you've ever had for three days, and make sure most of it is food your grandmother would recognize. Remember: "Lunch starts when breakfast ends, and lunch ends when dinner begins."

IMG Guide Austin Shannon

There are so many things to think about when planning for a trip. What boots to buy, what pack to wear... How many soft shell jackets do I really need? But one of the most important things you pack is what you put into your body during a climb and has a large impact on the physical performance during the climb. Here are a few items I like to eat that help power me up the mountain.

  1. Sweedish Fish. Fat Free! Good carbs and quick energy for those high altitude summits when nothing else sounds good.
  2. A nice cracker, meat, and cheese combo. No matter how much space food the guy at the gear store told you to buy, you still need sustenance and protein to power you in the long run. Find a nice mellow cheese, some good crackers, and a cured meat that will last a week in the backpack.
  3. Snickers goes a long way. Food stress is real. I have also seen many people bring way too much food. It's important to find the balance. If you're one to stress about food throw in an extra Snickers bar. Put it in the lid of your pack, or in a jacket for those emergencies.

Anytime you're shopping for food try and find a balance between sweet and salty. Think about bringing no more than a pound per day. Bring food you like to eat. If you don't like it down low, you certainly won't want to eat it up high. Pair the food down as much as possible. All those extra candy wrappers add up. And when in doubt, ask the guide.

IMG Guide Dustin Balderach

Sturdy sandwiches — on a bagel, english muffin or other sturdy bread. If the sandwich contains meat then consume it the first day.

Fruit — already cut up and ready to eat, store it in your bowl or mug (preferably with lid) that you will eat meals out of. Eat this the first day (so you can eat dinner out of your bowl).

Gel shots — if you must eat a 'power bar or cliff bar' type food then bring gel/gummy shots. These won't freeze in the cold on summit day, and you can stuff them in a pocket if you don't finish it and take it right back out at the next break.

Propel — or some other way to flavor your water which makes hydrating easier. Avoid heavier products like Gatorade that contain lots of heavy sugar. Artificial sweaters are bad for you, but they are light, and it's only for a couple of days...

Chocolate anything — just keep it out of the sun or it will melt on hot days. Some chocolate will freeze too hard on summit day (like Snickers bars) and should be eaten sooner in the trip.

Your favorite junk food in town that your never eat — now is the time when you can eat that junk food guilt free! Bring it!

IMG Guide Erica Engle

Things I take with me might include gooey cookies, a little bit of fresh fruit, like apple or peaches, chocolate or yogurt covered nuts, a few pieces of fried chicken, a package of cream cheese with salty crackers, jerky, some slices of moist banana or zuchini bread, a few bars that actually are tasty, some gummy candy, cheese of course with a yummy bread to go with it.

IMG Guide Chris Meder

My overall plan for packing food is to make sure I have a variety of items that are tasty (make sure you know you like what you're bringing first!), pack well, have a high calorie-to-weight ratio, and that I have a mix of sweet, savory and salty items. Too much of one type of food will leave you drooling over your fellow climbers' snacks. Shoot to be the food envy of the trip, not the envious one! All that said, watch the weight!

Here are some of my favorites in the rotation and some standbys that I always have along:

  • Bagel sandwiches with your favorite meat and cheese or just simple peanut butter and jelly. Veggie burgers also hold up pretty well. Bagels offer dense calories and they pack really well, can take a lot of abuse and still hold up after multiple days in your pack. On a three or four day trip I'll pack one bagel sandwich per day. Even lunch meat is fine by day four since its cold.
  • Frozen burritos and tamales — nuke them in the morning on the first day of the trip, and they might still be a bit warm by the time you get to them, but still tasty even if they are cold.
  • Loaf of fresh bakery bread like sourdough, baguette, or whatever else looks good and a tub of humus or your favorite dip.
  • Muffins — pick your favorite, put them on top of your pack and eat them early
  • Cookies — homemade kicks up the comfort a bit
  • Chocolate covered pretzels
  • Box of crackers and a block of cream cheese — I can't claim originality on this one but its an awesome snack
  • One or two pieces of fresh fruit for day one — there's nothing like a juicy peach on a sunny day on the Muir Snowfield!
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Soft chewy candies of some kind like Swedish Fish or Fruit Slices — these are great for quick energy on summit day or at shorter snack breaks where you need an extra boost. Put a couple extra in your pocket at a break and pop one when needed. The various energy bar companies make these as well (Clif Bar's Shot Blocks are an example) but they tend to be more expensive, although the ingredients are certainly more pure.
  • Pack everything in one or two 1-gallon Ziplock bags with the sliding zipper and put it in the top of your pack for easy access.

IMG Guide Tyler Gimenez

  • Homemade fruit leather (spread your favorite yogurt in the dehydrator and let it rip).
  • A nice chunk of pre-cooked black forest ham.
  • Blue Diamond wasabi flavored almonds.
  • Hardy colorful fruits/veggies(bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, kohlrabi)
  • Beet sandwiches (cook nice thick slices of beet and put on a multi-grain bread with avacado, brown mustard, cayenne pepper, spinach and a white cheese like a swiss or gruyere. I find that white cheese keeps longer. Tip: smash your sandwiches to compress the air from the bread to save space. You can fit like 3 sandwiches in a single zip lock).
  • Motts all natural jellies.
  • Hard candies that you can chew on for a period of time while climbing like Starburst.

IMG Guide Eric Remza

Here are some ideas for those with the Gluten and wheat free diet... if you have access to a Trader Joe's, you can ask for a list of all the gluten and wheat items/brands in the store.

  • 70-80% dark chocolate, antioxidants, this candy is actually good for you.
  • Columbus brand salami's. Most processed meats have gluten added to them.
  • Sunflower seeds. With gluten and wheat free diets, you get hungry and need to eat every 2 hours — having a large bag of sunflower seeds is a great way to keep the hunger pains down...
  • Jelly Belly jelly beans, gluten free candies; most candy have wheat or gluten added to them.
  • Blue diamond almond crackers — the best wheat free cracker I have yet to find that is durable in the hills.

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