You’ve heard the call of nature, and the sound is irresistible — it’s time for a backpacking trip. Right now!
Whoa, hold on a minute. You can’t just tie your shoelaces and run out the door. You’ll need to pack your bag first. It’s also a good idea to let people know where you’re going so they won’t worry. Who knows — maybe they’ll want to come along for the ride.
Whether you’re planning a single day or weekend long trip, it’s important to ensure that you won’t be lacking food throughout the venture.
When choosing backpacking food, you’ll have to avoid anything potentially perishable. This decreases your options a great amount, but there’s still a ton of healthy, tasty backpacking meals to bring with you.
To help you pack, we’ve put together a list of easy backpacking food ideas. Let’s go through it, shall we?
Breakfast Backpacking Meals
There’s a long day ahead of you, with a lot of twists and turns. If you’re to be ready to enjoy the experience, you’ll need some good nourishment right from the get-go. Here are some key backpacking food ideas for breakfast
Loaded with fiber, vitamins and magnesium, oatmeal is a great way to start the day.
If you’re opting for instant oatmeal, it’s important to equip a heat-preserving canister with hot water to mix the oatmeal in. If not (and if the environment allows for it), practice your fire-making skills by building a small fire to heat some hot water over.
Be sure to choose among the healthier brands of oatmeal, as some options contain a high sugar content.
TEA AND INSTANT COFFEE
Some of us have a lot of trouble at the start of the day without a bit of tea or coffee as a pick up. If that sounds like you, be sure to stock some for your backpacking trip.
Again, it’s best to come equipped with the right canister, in which case you can simply open it up and enjoy your hot beverage as you go. Otherwise, it’s time to bust out your fire starter kit once again. If you’re looking for a healthy option you can also try out some herbal coffee options as a healthy coffee alternative.
POWDERED MILK AND CEREAL
Bringing fresh milk for an outdoor trek is never a good idea, unless you plan on building a bacteria civilization in your backpack. Which you probably aren’t.
Luckily for all breakfast cereal lovers out there, you can start your day off right with some powdered milk and cereal. Simply mix the powder with water until it reaches a milk-like consistency, add some cereal, and you’re good to go.
Aside from being super portable, powdered milk is packed with protein, vitamins and calcium.
There’s no reason why a backpacking trip can’t include a delicious breakfast. When you’re ready to make your first pit stop, you can enjoy a happy helping of pancakes.
Some pancake mixes require milk, eggs and oil — those are the ones you want to avoid. Instead, look for the options that only require water being added to the mix, such as this recipe.
Once again, you can get a small fire going and plan the day’s adventures as the smell of pancakes wafts up. Don’t forget to bring a small frying pan, as you’ll have quite a tough time without it.
LUNCH BACKPACKING MEALS
Aside from being tasty, these lunch backpacking meals are easy to enjoy on the go. You don’t need to prepare any of them over a fire, and you can even get away with making them at home before embarking on your journey.
Bean tortillas are a great backpacking lunch option. They have the fiber content your body needs, and the carbohydrates from the tortillas are sure to provide the kick of energy you need for the rest of the day.
If you’re avoiding fast carbs, opt for whole grain tortillas. You can add whatever toppings you’d like, but be sure that everything is non-perishable.
COLD CUT SANDWICHES
If you’re looking for a delicious, quick lunch that will keep you energized throughout the trip, cold cut sandwiches are definitely the way to go.
Of course, it’s important to be selective with the meats and cheeses you include here. Options like mortadella, ham, provolone and Swiss cheese simply won’t make the cut.
Instead, opt for dehydrated meats like salami and dried pepperoni, and be sure to use hard cheeses that won’t risk bacterial build up. If you have room in your bag for a small container with some ice packs, your options broaden considerably.
Backpackers looking to stray as far away from carbs as possible can enjoy a healthy lunch with a nice tuna salad.
Fresh lettuce will last a few hours in your backpack, so it’s safe to use. Of course, canned tuna has a shelf-life of several years, so there’s no issue there. By adding some oil, salt and pepper, you’ll feel like you’re eating a tuna salad freshly prepared at home.
Keep in mind that, when adding oil to the salad, it’s best to pack it separately and apply it before you’re ready to eat. If not, it’s likely that the salad will get soggy before long.
DINNER BACKPACKING MEALS
After a long day of traveling, you’re definitely due for a hearty meal. When you’re famished at the end of your hike, these backpacking dinner ideas are sure to hit the spot.
If pizza is one of your favorite meals (like many of us), there’s no reason to skip out on it during an outdoor adventure. You can enjoy pizza as a backpacking supper — all it takes is a few slight modifications to the classic formula.
Since making your own dough is obviously out of the question, you can use bagels as the base of the pizza. Be wary of the type of cheese you’re using, too. It’s best to go with a hard cheese that will hold up well in the heat.
Choose your favorite bottled sauce, bring some sliced salami in place of pepperoni, and you’re good to go. Build your pizza bagel, heat it over the fire until the cheese melts, and bask in the pure glory of the taste.
Let’s indulge a bit more, shall we? Pasta does take a bit of preparation, but it’s definitely doable as a backpacking meal
Once you get some water boiling over the fire, simply add salt and pasta, then stir it periodically until ready. Be sure to taste the pasta before removing the bowl from the heat, as that’s the only way to know that it’s ready to your liking.
Then you simply drain the water, add your favorite bottled sauce and enjoy.
Pizza bagels and pasta are great, but you might want to retain that fit feeling in your body after a day of backpacking.
Couscous is delicious, healthy and quite easy to prepare. Like pasta, all it takes is a pot and some boiling water over the fire. Within minutes, your tasty couscous will be ready.
There’s a ton of ways to customize this dish to your liking. For example, non-perishable herbs and pouched chicken can add a serious kick to your couscous dinner.
It’s important to keep yourself energized throughout the day, since backpacking burns a tremendous amount of calories. Thankfully, these compact, tasty snacks will help you pursue the road ahead.
While fresh fruit is quite perishable — especially if you’re camping in hot weather — dried fruit is totally stable. The dehydration process decreases bacterial growth and ensures that the food won’t spoil.
On top of that, fruit greatly decreases in size when dehydrated, making it easy to store. Just keep in mind that, despite the shrinkage, the sugar content remains the same.
SEEDS AND NUTS
These are a staple of the backpacking experience. Seeds and nuts are high in protein, fats, fiber and vitamins you need to sustain your energy throughout your adventure.
They’re also calorie-dense, which is quite handy since you’ll be burning a ton of them. For a punch of flavor and energy, mix your seeds and nuts with your dried fruit.
Trekking through the great outdoors gives all your muscle groups a significant workout. That’s why it’s important to take in enough protein to repair those muscle tissues.
Protein bars load maximum levels of protein in a small package. They’re a versatile, shelf-stable option that don’t require refrigeration. Plus, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, this protein source fits neatly into your diet options.
Not all protein bars are made equally in regards to nutritional content. To sustain a healthy diet, be sure to shop around for options that don’t contain artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Protein bars are great for protein, but you’ll be needing more than that if you plan on backpacking for several hours. Thankfully, beef jerky makes for a great addition to your backpacking meal inventory.
Fresh meat is great, but it’s not a feasible option if the meat will sit for hours without refrigeration. Since jerky is dehydrated meat, it’s non-perishable and will last virtually forever in any weather condition.
Jerky can be made from any meat under the sun, from chicken, turkey, beef and even salmon.
Sure, we’ve talked down sugar a lot in this list, but you certainly deserve a tasty treat at the end of a long day of trekking.
S’mores are a staple snack of the outdoor experience, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy it at the end of your adventure. Bust out your fire starter kit, roast some s’mores and reflect on the journey you’ve just had.
Be sure to pack a cooler in your s’mores kit, though, since the only time the chocolate should be melting is when it’s held over the fire.
YOU’RE READY FOR THE ROAD AHEAD
Now that your backpacking food plan is mapped out, you’re ready to embark on your journey. It’s tough to predict what awaits you on the road ahead, but at least you know that you’ll have a full stomach throughout.
Remember — safety first. Whenever you feel like you need a break, it’s important to stop, take a load off and get some good food in you.
Speaking of taking a load off — if you’re looking for a chair that’s easy to bring along for the trip, check out our picks for the best backpacking chairs.
Happy backpacking, and don’t forget to save us a pizza bagel or two.