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What To Eat On A Backpacking Trip


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Randee Conley



Embarking on a backpacking trip is an exhilarating experience that allows you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. As you plan your adventure, it’s essential to consider one crucial aspect: what to eat along the way.


Proper nutrition is vital to sustain your energy levels, optimize your performance, and ensure overall well-being throughout the journey. However, planning and preparing meals for a backpacking trip can be challenging, especially when you have limited resources and need to pack light.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various meal options and strategies to help you make the most of your backpacking experience. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or new to backpacking, this article will provide valuable insights on how to fuel your body and enjoy delicious meals on the trail.


We will discuss breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas, as well as snacks, dehydration and packaged meals, trail mix, energy bars, hydration, cooking methods, food safety, and storage tips. By the end of this article, you’ll have a thorough understanding of what to eat on a backpacking trip and be well-equipped to satisfy your hunger and nourish your body along the way.


So, grab your backpack and get ready to indulge in a culinary exploration amidst breathtaking landscapes. Let’s dive into the world of backpacking meals and discover the delightful options that await you!


Planning and Preparing Meals

Proper planning and preparation are key to ensuring you have nutritious and satisfying meals on your backpacking trip. Here are some essential tips to help you get started:

  • Calculate your calorie needs: Consider the length and intensity of your trip to determine how many calories you’ll need each day. Backpacking typically requires more energy expenditure, so aim to consume around 2,500-4,500 calories per day.
  • Choose lightweight and nutrient-dense foods: Opt for foods that are lightweight and compact, but still provide essential nutrients. Look for dehydrated or freeze-dried options, as they are lightweight and easy to pack.
  • Plan your meals in advance: Create a meal plan for each day of your trip, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This will help you stay organized and ensure you have enough food for the duration of your journey.
  • Pack individualized meal portions: Divide your meals into individual portions and pack them in resealable bags or containers. This will allow for easy access and help you avoid carrying excessive amounts of food.
  • Consider dietary restrictions: If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, make sure to plan your meals accordingly. There are plenty of options available for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other specialized diets.
  • Include variety: Aim to include a mix of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables in your meals. This will provide a well-rounded nutritional profile and keep your taste buds satisfied.
  • Test your meals before the trip: It’s a good idea to test your backpacking meals at home before you head out. This will give you a chance to adjust the flavors and ensure that you like the taste and texture of the meals.

By following these planning and preparation tips, you’ll be well-prepared to enjoy delicious and satisfying meals on your backpacking adventure. Next, let’s explore some tasty breakfast options to kickstart your day on the trail.


Breakfast Options

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially when you’re embarking on a backpacking trip. It provides the fuel your body needs to kickstart your day and sustain your energy levels as you hit the trail. Here are some delicious and easy breakfast options to consider:

  • Instant Oatmeal: Packets of instant oatmeal are a popular choice for backpackers due to their lightweight nature and ease of preparation. Simply add hot water to the packet, stir, and let it sit for a few minutes. You can customize your oatmeal by adding dried fruits, nuts, or a drizzle of honey.
  • Granola: Granola is another fantastic option that is both lightweight and nutrient-dense. Look for pre-packaged options or make your own using a mixture of rolled oats, nuts, dried fruits, and sweeteners like honey or maple syrup. Pair it with powdered milk or yogurt for added protein.
  • Breakfast Bars: There are many types of breakfast bars available, specifically designed for on-the-go nutrition. Look for bars that provide a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to keep you energized. Opt for options with natural ingredients and low sugar content.
  • Trail Mix: Trail mix is not only a great snack option but can also be a quick and easy breakfast choice. Create your own mix with a variety of nuts, dried fruits, and even some dark chocolate for a sweet treat. It’s a portable and customizable option that provides essential nutrients.
  • Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps: For a protein-packed breakfast, spread peanut butter on a tortilla or wrap. Slice a fresh banana and place it in the center, then roll it up and enjoy. This option is easy to pack and provides a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Instant Coffee or Tea: If you need a caffeine boost in the morning, consider packing some instant coffee or tea bags. Simply add hot water to your cup, stir, and indulge in a warm beverage to kickstart your day.

These breakfast options are not only convenient but also provide the necessary nutrients and energy to keep you fueled during your backpacking trip. Remember to consider your personal preferences and dietary needs when selecting your breakfast meals. Up next, we’ll explore some delicious lunch ideas and snacks to keep you satisfied throughout the day.


Lunch and Snack Ideas

When you’re out hiking and exploring, it’s important to refuel your body with nutritious and satisfying meals. Lunchtime provides an opportunity to take a break, rest, and recharge. Here are some lunch and snack ideas that are easy to pack and enjoyable to eat:

  • Wraps and Sandwiches: Wraps and sandwiches are a classic choice for lunch on the trail. Use tortillas, pita bread, or whole grain bread as your base, and fill them with ingredients like sliced deli meats, cheese, vegetables, and spreads such as hummus or mustard.
  • Crackers and Cheese: Pack a variety of crackers or crispy breadsticks and pair them with individually-wrapped cheese portions. This combination provides a good balance of carbohydrates and protein, and the different textures add variety to your meal.
  • Instant Noodles: Instant noodles are a quick and easy option for a warm and comforting lunch. Look for noodles that require minimal cooking time and come in a convenient packaging. Just add hot water and your preferred seasonings, and your meal is ready to enjoy.
  • Pre-Made Salads: Prepare your favorite salad in advance, using sturdy vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Pack your dressing separately to prevent the salad from becoming soggy. Add some protein sources like canned tuna or chicken for a more filling option.
  • Dried Fruits and Nuts: Dried fruits and nuts are lightweight, nutritious, and perfect for snacking during your hike. They provide a good mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. Create your own trail mix by combining your favorite dried fruits and nuts.
  • Veggie Sticks and Dip: Slice up some vegetables such as carrots, celery, and bell peppers into sticks and pack them in a container. Pair them with a pre-made dip like hummus or salsa for added flavor and a boost of nutrients.
  • Energy Bars and Protein Bars: These bars are designed to provide a quick and convenient source of energy and nutrients. Look for bars that are high in protein and made with natural ingredients. They are lightweight, easy to pack, and great for a quick snack on the trail.

Remember to pack your lunch and snacks in resealable bags or containers to keep them fresh and prevent any spills in your backpack. These lunch and snack ideas will keep you fueled and energized as you continue on your backpacking journey. Now, let’s move on to dinner recipes that are delicious and easy to prepare in the wilderness.


Dinner Recipes

After a long day of hiking and exploring, a satisfying and flavorful dinner is just what you need to replenish your energy and unwind. These dinner recipes are easy to prepare and will leave you feeling nourished and satisfied:

  • One-Pot Pasta: Pasta dishes are quick, convenient, and filling. Choose a pasta shape that cooks quickly, such as angel hair or fusilli. Add dehydrated vegetables, protein sources like freeze-dried meats or beans, and your preferred seasonings. Boil everything together in a single pot, and you’ll have a delicious one-pot pasta dinner.
  • Couscous with Veggies: Couscous is a versatile grain that cooks in minutes. Simply add boiling water or stock to your couscous and let it sit for a few minutes to absorb the liquid. Toss in some rehydrated vegetables, protein sources like canned chicken or tofu, and seasonings for a delightful dinner option.
  • Instant Rice Stir-Fry: Instant rice makes for a great base for a quick and flavorful stir-fry. Bring a small skillet or a pot, heat some oil, and add in dehydrated vegetables, freeze-dried meats, and your choice of seasonings. Stir-fry everything until heated and well combined, and enjoy a delicious dinner on the trail.
  • Bean and Vegetable Stew: For a hearty and nutritious dinner, consider making a bean and vegetable stew. Combine canned or dehydrated beans, chopped vegetables, and spices in a pot. Add enough water or broth to cover the ingredients and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the flavors have melded together.
  • Foil Packet Meals: Foil packet meals are perfect for camping and backpacking. Wrap your choice of protein, such as chicken, fish, or tofu, along with vegetables and seasonings, in a foil packet. Place the packet over hot coals or on a camping stove and cook until everything is tender and cooked through.
  • Quinoa Salad: Quinoa is a nutritious grain that can be cooked easily. Combine cooked quinoa with chopped vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, and a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar. This refreshing salad can be enjoyed as a cold meal on the trail.

These dinner recipes are versatile and can be adapted to suit your taste preferences and available ingredients. Experiment with different flavor combinations and get creative with your campfire cooking. With these recipes, you can have a delicious and satisfying dinner that will make your backpacking experience even more memorable. Next, let’s delve into the world of dehydrated and packaged meals for those times when you want a convenient and hassle-free dining option on the trail.


Dehydrated and Packaged Meals

When it comes to convenience and simplicity, dehydrated and packaged meals are a popular choice for backpackers. These meals are lightweight, require minimal preparation, and provide a well-balanced combination of nutrients. Here’s what you need to know about dehydrated and packaged meals:


Dehydrated Meals: Dehydrated meals are pre-cooked meals that have been dehydrated to remove the moisture. They are lightweight and easy to carry, making them ideal for backpacking. To prepare a dehydrated meal, you simply add hot water to the pouch or container and let it rehydrate for a few minutes. You can find dehydrated options for various types of cuisine, including pasta dishes, curries, stews, and more. Some brands even offer vegetarian and vegan options. Although dehydrated meals can be convenient, it’s essential to check the ingredients and nutritional information to ensure they meet your dietary needs.


Freeze-Dried Meals: Similar to dehydrated meals, freeze-dried meals are also lightweight and require minimal preparation. The main difference is that freeze-dried meals undergo a special freezing process that removes the moisture before packaging. This method helps preserve the flavors, textures, and nutritional value of the ingredients. To prepare a freeze-dried meal, you add hot water to the pouch, stir, and let it rehydrate for a few minutes. Freeze-dried meals come in a variety of options such as rice dishes, soups, and even desserts. They are readily available in outdoor stores and are a popular choice among backpackers.


Packaged Meals: Some companies specialize in producing ready-made, packaged meals specifically designed for outdoor adventures. These meals often come in sealed containers that can be heated on a stove or over a campfire. Packaged meals provide the convenience of a complete meal without the need for additional preparation or mixing of ingredients. They offer a wide range of options, including traditional favorites like macaroni and cheese, chili, and even international dishes. Packaged meals can be a good option when you want a hot and satisfying meal without the hassle of cooking from scratch.


Dehydrated and packaged meals are valuable options for backpackers who prioritize convenience and simplicity. However, it’s important to remember that these meals may not always offer the same flavor and freshness as homemade meals. It’s recommended to try out different brands and flavors before your trip to ensure you enjoy the taste and quality. These meals can be a reliable backup option when you don’t have the time, resources, or inclination to cook from scratch on the trail.


Now that we’ve discussed dehydrated and packaged meals, let’s move on to exploring some of the best trail mix and energy bars to keep you fueled and energized during your backpacking journey.


Trail Mix and Energy Bars

When you’re out hiking and exploring, trail mix and energy bars are convenient and tasty options to keep you fueled and energized along the way. These portable snacks provide a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, making them perfect for sustaining your energy levels during a backpacking trip. Here’s what you need to know about trail mix and energy bars:


Trail Mix: Trail mix is a classic snack for outdoor enthusiasts. It typically consists of a combination of nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and sometimes chocolate or other sweet treats. Trail mix offers a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, providing you with sustained energy. You can purchase pre-made trail mix or create your own custom mix with your favorite ingredients. Consider adding almonds, cashews, peanuts, dried cranberries, apricots, raisins, and dark chocolate for a delicious and satisfying blend.


Energy Bars: Energy bars are compact and convenient snacks that are specifically designed to provide a quick source of energy. They come in various flavors and formulations, including protein bars, granola bars, and meal replacement bars. Energy bars are typically made with a combination of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy and support muscle recovery. Look for bars that are made with natural ingredients, low in added sugars, and provide a good balance of nutrients. It’s a good idea to try out different brands and flavors before your trip to find the ones that you enjoy and that work best for your nutritional needs.


Both trail mix and energy bars can be easily packed in resealable bags or pockets, making them accessible and handy while on the trail. They are lightweight, non-perishable, and have a long shelf life, making them an excellent choice for outdoor adventures.


However, it’s important to remember that while trail mix and energy bars are convenient, they shouldn’t replace whole foods entirely. It’s still important to incorporate a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods into your backpacking meals whenever possible.


Now that we’ve covered trail mix and energy bars, let’s discuss the importance of hydration and how to ensure you have access to clean drinking water during your backpacking trip.


Hydration and Drinking Water

Staying properly hydrated is essential during a backpacking trip to maintain your energy levels, support bodily functions, and prevent dehydration. Here are some important tips to ensure you stay hydrated and have access to clean drinking water throughout your adventure:

  • Drink water regularly: Make it a habit to drink water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Take small sips frequently to stay hydrated and maintain optimal performance.
  • Carry a water bottle or hydration bladder: Invest in a durable water bottle or hydration bladder that you can easily carry with you. Look for ones that have a large capacity and are lightweight for easy transport.
  • Purify water from natural sources: If you’re relying on natural water sources, such as rivers or streams, it’s important to purify the water before consuming it. You can use water purification tablets, a portable water filter, or boil the water for at least one minute to kill any harmful bacteria or parasites.
  • Plan for water sources: Before your trip, research and plan where you can access water sources along your route. This will help you know when to refill your water bottles or plan to carry extra water if needed.
  • Consider water treatment options: In addition to purifying natural water sources, you may also want to consider carrying water treatment options such as iodine drops or a UV sterilizer for additional safety.
  • Monitor your urine color: Your urine color is a good indicator of your hydration level. Aim for a light, pale yellow color, indicating proper hydration. If your urine is dark yellow or amber, it may be a sign of dehydration, and you should increase your water intake.
  • Bring electrolyte supplements or sports drinks: During intense physical activity, you may lose electrolytes through sweat. Consider bringing electrolyte supplements or sports drinks to replenish these essential minerals and maintain proper hydration.

Remember, it’s important to listen to your body and drink when you’re thirsty. Maintaining proper hydration is key to keeping your energy levels up, preventing fatigue, and ensuring an enjoyable backpacking experience.


Now that we’ve covered hydration, let’s explore the different cooking methods and stove options available for preparing meals on the trail.


Cooking Methods and Stove Options

When it comes to cooking meals on a backpacking trip, choosing the right cooking method and stove is crucial. Here are some popular cooking methods and stove options that you can consider:

  • Campfire Cooking: Cooking over a campfire can be a rewarding and traditional way to prepare meals on the trail. However, it’s important to check if campfires are permitted in your location and follow Leave No Trace principles. You’ll need a sturdy cooking grate or a set of sturdy cookware to safely cook your meals over the flames.
  • Canister Stoves: Canister stoves are lightweight, compact, and easy to use. They use small gas canisters that are screwed onto the stove. Canister stoves are known for their quick and efficient heating capabilities, making them popular among backpackers. They are suitable for boiling water, simmering food, and simple cooking tasks.
  • Liquid Fuel Stoves: Liquid fuel stoves, such as white gas or multi-fuel stoves, are versatile options that perform well in various conditions. They provide consistent heat output and are ideal for longer trips or colder climates where canister stoves may struggle. Liquid fuel stoves require priming and can be a bit more complex to operate and maintain.
  • Alcohol Stoves: Alcohol stoves are lightweight and simple to use. They utilize denatured alcohol or other high-proof alcohols as fuel. Alcohol stoves are affordable and relatively easy to make or purchase. They are best suited for boiling water or simple cooking tasks and are popular among ultralight backpackers.
  • Solid Fuel Tablets: Solid fuel tablets, such as Esbit or hexamine tablets, are compact, lightweight, and easy to use. They are ignited with a match or lighter and produce a consistent heat source. Solid fuel tablets are suitable for boiling water and basic cooking tasks, but they may not offer as much control over the heat output.

When choosing a stove, consider factors such as weight, fuel availability, ease of use, and the types of meals you plan to cook. It’s important to practice using your stove before your trip, familiarizing yourself with its operation and safety precautions. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe and efficient use.


Additionally, keep in mind that some cooking methods, like cold soaking or utilizing pre-packaged meals, eliminate the need for stove use altogether. These methods can be a lightweight and convenient option when you prefer not to cook or want to simplify meal preparation on the trail.


Now that you’re familiar with cooking methods and stove options, let’s move on to discussing food safety and storage tips to ensure your meals stay fresh and safe during your backpacking adventure.


Food Safety and Storage Tips

When it comes to backpacking, proper food safety and storage practices are essential to prevent foodborne illnesses and ensure the longevity of your meals. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Pack perishable foods safely: Perishable foods, such as fresh meats and dairy products, should be packed in insulated coolers or freeze them before your trip. This will help keep them chilled for a longer period of time.
  • Separate raw and cooked foods: To prevent cross-contamination, keep raw meats, poultry, and seafood separate from cooked foods. Use separate containers or zip-top bags to store them and clean utensils or cutting boards after they come in contact with raw foods.
  • Keep foods at safe temperatures: Ensure that perishable foods are kept at safe temperatures to prevent bacterial growth. Keep cold foods below 40°F (4°C) and hot foods above 140°F (60°C) when storing or transporting them.
  • Use leak-proof containers: Pack your meals and snacks in leak-proof containers to prevent any spills or contamination. Zip-top bags, screw-top containers, and vacuum-sealed bags are good options for keeping your food secure.
  • Dispose of waste properly: Dispose of food waste and packaging responsibly to prevent attracting wildlife and minimize your impact on the environment. Pack out all trash and follow Leave No Trace principles.
  • Practice good hand hygiene: Before handling any food, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and clean water or use hand sanitizer. This will help prevent the transfer of bacteria or other contaminants to your food.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates: Keep track of the expiration dates on packaged foods and discard anything that has passed the expiration date. This ensures that you are consuming safe and fresh food throughout your trip.
  • Consider using resealable bags: Resealable bags are versatile and can help you portion out meals or keep ingredients separate within your pack. They also help reduce the risk of spills or leakage.

By following these food safety and storage tips, you can ensure that your meals are safe to consume and maintain their quality during your backpacking adventure. It’s important to prioritize food safety to enhance your overall experience and keep yourself healthy and energized on the trail.


Now that we’ve covered food safety and storage, let’s conclude our comprehensive guide to eating on a backpacking trip.



Congratulations! You now have a comprehensive understanding of what to eat on a backpacking trip. By planning and preparing your meals in advance, you can ensure that you have nourishing and satisfying food options throughout your journey. Remember, proper nutrition is vital for maintaining energy levels, optimizing performance, and keeping your body healthy.


From breakfast options like instant oatmeal and granola to lunch ideas such as wraps and sandwiches, there are many delicious choices to fuel your adventure. Dinner recipes like one-pot pasta or foil packet meals will satisfy your hunger after a long day on the trail. Don’t forget snacks like trail mix and energy bars, which provide a quick boost of energy when you need it the most.


Hydration is key, so make sure to drink water regularly and consider purifying natural water sources during your trip. Choose the right cooking method and stove for your needs, whether it’s campfire cooking or utilizing canister stoves or liquid fuel stoves. And always practice food safety and storage tips to prevent any foodborne illnesses and keep your meals fresh and safe.


As you embark on your backpacking adventure, remember to enjoy the journey and the wonderful landscapes that surround you. Embrace the freedom and simplicity of outdoor living, and savor the taste of your well-prepared meals that will fuel your body and nourish your soul.


Now, armed with this knowledge, go forth and explore the great outdoors with confidence and excitement. Happy backpacking and bon appétit!