Choosing the right food to bring along on a camping or hiking trip is serious business.
You need to balance weight, calories and the all-important protein with your own taste preferences.
Thankfully, there are now more options available than ever before.
Read on to see some of our favorite backpacking food ideas.
Meals vs. Snacks
When you’re out on the trail there will be a lot of situations where you won’t be able to make a full meal. If you’re planning a long distance or ultralight hike, packing cooking gear can be a burden. Even with shorter hikes with more frequent resupply, cooking can be a luxury.
Cooking takes time and most hikers only eat a hot breakfast and dinner. Then we snack throughout the day to keep our energy up. if you do want to cook some meals you’ll need to prepare.
There are a few basic things you’ll need when you’re building a camp kitchen. The first is, of course, a stove.
Backpacking stoves have gotten a lot lighter over the years. You can get a good quality alcohol or propane stove that weighs only a few ounces.
Once you’ve got a heat source you need something to cook and eat with. Cookware, plates and silverware, usually sporks, have followed the same trend as stoves. Titanium, anodized aluminum, and lightweight plastics are the materials of the day.
Before checking out these backpacking food ideas, make sure you understand what you need to stay healthy on the trail.
Breakfast Backpacking Food Ideas
Having something hot for breakfast is a great way to get yourself moving in the morning. it really gives you something to wrap your stomach around. Here are some of our recommendations for a great breakfast.
1. Instant Breakfast Grains
There are tons of available instant breakfast packets that only require hot water to prepare. Oatmeal is the classic hiking breakfast, with good reason. It’s filling, tasty and warms you up on a cold morning.
With the addition of some basic dried fruits and flavored syrups, you can make your breakfast taste different every morning. This is really helpful on long distance hikes where monotony can set in.
Grits, cream of wheat and other instant packets are all great options depending on your own tastes. They can add a savory break to your sweet oats.
Dehydrated eggs or sausage give you a hit of protein right in the morning. They taste pretty good and can be spiced up endlessly. There are a number of manufacturers that make different kinds of dehydrated foods.
If you really want to cut ounces, using high-quality protein powders or shakes is a great way to get your day started. This site can show you lots of reviews and comparisons of different protein powders.
It’s best to try them out before hiking to find the one you like best. Nothing worse than getting on the trail with a new breakfast to find you’d rather feed it to the fire than eat it.
3. Bars, Cereals, and Dry Goods
Cereal is a great stop gap for days when you really don’t want to cook. Bringing a decent amount in a bag gives you something to eat in the morning without the hassle of boiling water and cleaning pots.
Protein, granola and other cereal style bars also give you a great breakfast instantly. They’re small, nutritionally dense and keep you satisfied for a while. Add in a little peanut butter or Nutella and you’ve got a quick, delicious breakfast without any cooking at all.
Lunch (Or Grazing)
Most backpackers we know don’t stop to cook a meal for lunch. When you’re outside a shelter it can be hard to find the right place to settle down and cook. There’s also the difficulty in unpacking and repacking your bag in a short time. Because of this, backpacking food ideas for lunch usually end up sounding like snacks.
Ah jerky, who would have thought flavored, dried meat could be so satisfying? Jerky is an excellent snack to bring with you on a hike. It’s lightweight yet packs a serious protein punch.
Eating jerky is also a great way to keep hunger pangs at bay. A single bag can last all day if you really savor and enjoy it. What makes jerky really good are the varieties available.
Beef, pork, salmon, and turkey are just a few of the available proteins in jerky. Once you get into different brands, rubs, and marinades the sky is literally the limit. If you’re really picky you can even make your own jerky with minimal equipment.
But…But there’s no refrigeration? We know, we know, cheese on the trail, that’s crazy. Thankfully, there are lots of shelf-stable cheeses that can be enjoyed without any refrigeration.
You’ve probably seen the little wedges of cheese in your local supermarket. Most of the time they aren’t kept in the refrigeration section. These provide you with a massive burst of flavor, and when combined with crackers, a delicious snack to pick you up.
Once you’ve reached your campsite for the night the last thing you want is to spend a lot of time on food. Thankfully, there are now hundreds of quick, easy to prepare meal options available for hiking dinners.
6. Meal Kits
A backpacking meal kit can be pretty much anything, as long as it can be prepared using boiling water. There are a lot of companies that make dehydrated entrees using everything from chicken pot pie to coconut curry as the base. They can be found at any outdoors store and usually don’t break the bank.
If you want to really customize your dinner you can make your own meal kits pretty easily. Just start with something like rice, pasta or lentils and add the seasonings and dried vegetables you enjoy. You can even get dehydrated meats to mix in.
7. Instant Noodles
Ah, the old college standby. Ramen noodles aren’t the healthiest thing in the world but they do provide a fast, satisfyingly savory meal with lots of delicious broth. Ready in just three minutes and available in dozens of different flavors, a pack or two of ramen is always great to throw in your bag.
If you’re ever too tired to cook, you can actually eat the noodles with the flavor pack sprinkled over them. They taste kind of like a super crunchy, salty cereal.
Always Expect the Unexpected
When you’re using these backpacking food ideas make sure you always bring extra food with you on your hike. Anything can happen when you’re out in the wild so it’s best to prepare yourself with some delicious backup. If you’re hiking in winter this is even more important.
We’d love to help you learn more about hiking, backpacking, and camping. If you liked this article, check out some of our other work.