FOOD & COOKING

Backpacking Food Ideas: Find the Master-Chef Within

Backpacking Food Ideas
Dorothy Tobias
Written by Dorothy Tobias

Can you plan your backpacking trip to perfection, but get completely lost when it comes to finding some good backpacking food ideas? Does it seem really difficult to get the proper ingredients so you have enough energy, but still eat something palatable? You’re on the right page.

Even if you’re out in the wilderness that doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland noodles all the time, nor eating just granola bars. Though these are good, you can actually bring more ingredients without adding to the bulk and weight of your backpack. You can really make the most of your backpacking trip by eating balanced meals, plenty of snacks and all the nutrients and vitamins you need.

Backpacking Food

Think we’re pulling your leg? Do you think we’re promising impossible things just for the sake of marketing? We don’t blame you. But read on, we’ll start you off with all the important advice to choose the perfect ingredients, so you can plan meals that suit your needs. After that, we’ll take you through a series of fast and nutritious meals, that really have it all so we’re confident you’ll find some great ideas here.

How Can You Choose?

There are several factors that you should take into account when you’re planning your backpacking meals. So don’t skip the section below, we’re confident it will make your meal planning easier.

Calories

Since backpacking means you have to push yourself pretty hard, you need lots of calories to give you all the necessary energy for that. So look for calorie-dense items, like dried fruit, peanut butter, and cheese. It’s not the time to pack low-fat items, in fact, those have few calories so you won’t get any energy from them.

Dried Apple Slices

Depending on your build and the difficulty of the trail, consider that an hour of backpacking can burn between 200 calories on the low end and 600 on the high end. Multiply that by the number of hours you’re on the trail, and you’ll know how many additional calories you need just for that day. We’ll give you a hint: a hell of a lot, at least 3000 calories total.

Nutrients

Blank calories aren’t enough to keep you satiated and give your body the proper fuel. Of course, calories are fuel in themselves, but it’s best to bring some nutrients to the table. Besides, you should be calculating the right proportions so you get the best out of your trip.

The bulk of your meal should be represented by carbohydrates, so things like pasta, white potatoes and crackers are a great source of that. Oatmeal rules too, right alongside granola bars. You can easily add fiber to the mix with fresh fruits you find on your way, like berries, with the advantage of added vitamins and minerals.

Oatmeal

Next on the table, you have proteins, which are really valuable for your muscles. These will have to support an enormous amount of strain, and you’re likely to get sore muscles too. So to repair the damaged tissue, you need plenty of proteins that can be found in meat or fish cans, as well as eggs or lentils.

Fats are important too, so don’t choose low-fat meat cans. You can get some cheese cans or cheese packs too. You can even make some of your own cheese, by mixing goat cheese with salt and placing it in an airtight jar for a couple of weeks prior to your trip.

Package Size

The package size depends on the length of your trip and the number of people in your group. So if you’re going away for longer, with more people, you can afford to share some of the burden and carry more food. That includes bigger, heavier packages, like fresher food items and maybe even a small camping stove.

Food Packing

Otherwise, if your group is pretty small and you’re not going for more than a couple of days, you can get away with less food, mostly canned items that are relatively compact and nutritious. Still, keep in mind the overall weight of your backpack and available space when deciding which ingredients you’re taking. You can also consider available food sources on your way, like maybe a farm or a sheepfold.

Preparation Time

You might be ok with investing more time in preparing your food, at least for dinner, even if you’re more interested in easy backpacking meals. On the other hand, you might not want to invest any time at all when it comes to getting lunch ready so that you might want to skip it altogether.

Prepairing Food

Therefore, we would advise you to end the day with a warm, nutritious meal, like oatmeal with dried fruit that’s pretty easy to prepare. You can save some of this for breakfast too, so you can be up and moving at first light, while the rest of the day you can eat snacks like granola bars and dried fruit. That’s a great strategy because you’re not filling your stomach with a lot of food, but rather getting small bites of energy throughout the day.

Required Utensils and Ingredients

This also depends on the length of your trip and number of people in the group, and it’s obvious that a lengthier trip with more people might require more utensils, which you can share between you. That way, you can prepare more nutritious meals with fresher ingredients.

But you can have fresh, satiating meals even without carrying a lot of utensils and ingredients yourself. For instance, you can pick wild berries or wild apples for extra vitamins, or you might even set booby traps for critters. Another option is to take advantage of the farms and sheepfolds that might be on your way and get some fresh milk and eggs.

Beries In The Woods

Still, another issue is that of water and fuel. And you need those for most meals, especially if you’re planning to cook a bowl of rice or canned noodles. However, since you’re backpacking, chances are that you’ll find lots of kindling material and brush on your way. You might also find lots of streams and ponds, but consider getting a reliable water filtration system since boiling doesn’t guarantee you’ll get rid all the waterborne bacteria and parasites.

Backpacking Food Ideas

With that in mind, let’s see exactly what you can eat when you’re out backpacking, so consider the following ingredients:

  • Backpack mix
  • Bagels
  • Canned meat
  • Carrots
  • Cheese packs
  • Dehydrated fruit
  • Dry cereals
  • Dry roast
  • Energy bars
  • Granola bars
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Instant rice
  • Jerky
  • Noodles
  • Nuts and almonds
  • Oatmeal
  • Packaged meals
  • Pancake mix
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Powdered drinks
  • Soup mixes
  • Toast
  • Tuna cans
So with these ingredients, the world is practically your oyster, since you can cook all your meals fast. The backpack mix is your best friend here, and you can, in fact, get more than one such mixes. They’re easy to prepare even at home since you’re basically putting together a few dry ingredients and spices like onion and garlic powder, and pepper, or sugar and cinnamon.

Backpacking Food

That said, let’s see what meals you can get ready in no time.

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you might not want to lose a lot of time prepping it. So you can consider:

  • Peanut butter and jelly on toast
  • A granola bar
  • Hard-boiled eggs

If you have more time and ingredients, you can prepare:

Pancakes

These are easily done with:

  • Pancake mix
  • Water
  • Dry fruit
  • Fresh fruit you find on your way (optional)
  • Nuts and almonds
  • Sweet backpacking mix

Just mix all these ingredients together, following the directions on the pack of pancake mix. You will also need to have a campfire ready and an iron skillet, but you can also improvise with a metal plate and some pliers.

Pancakes

The advantage of such a meal is that you’ll get valuable carbs from the pancake mix, along with fibers and lots of calories from the dried fruit. The nuts and almonds used also bring plenty of calories to the table, along with a generous amount of protein.

Egg salad

This can be prepared with most of the things you have in your backpack, but we recommend using:

  • Carrots
  • Eggs (obviously)
  • Some nuts
  • A can of tuna
  • Noodles
  • Salty spices

The calorie factor is strong with this one because the nuts and the tuna are packed with them. But we also like this recipe because it has the perfect proportions of macronutrients that will keep you satiated for longer. That way, you can keep going for a few hours without necessarily eating anything else than maybe a power bar.

Tuna Egg Salad

The carrots are perfect for vitamin C and fiber, so they release energy at the right pace to be absorbed by your body. The eggs, nuts, and tuna are a great source of protein and healthy fats for energy and sore muscles, while noodles are amazing when it comes to carbs.

The Oatmeal Of The Champions

Everyone knows how to get a bowl of oatmeal done fast, right? Well, we’re sure you don’t have this particular oatmeal recipe, though:

  • Oatmeal (2 spoons for every 4 ounces of water or milk)
  • Water or milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried fruit
  • Sugary spices

If you have a farm nearby, take advantage and buy some organic cow’s milk for added protein and fats. Otherwise, this recipe can work great with just water, though you should use the water purifier before cooking with it.

Oatmeal With Dried Fruit

After you boil the oatmeal in the milk or water, you can go ahead and add the dried fruit, for some extra sugar, fibers, and calories. You can add the peanut butter on top, once the oatmeal has cooled down a bit, and that can bring some extra calories too, supplementing the protein you have in the oatmeal.

Snacks

These are really important for the bulk of your trip, especially considering that you won’t have a lot of time to stop and prepare another meal. You can eat some snacks even while you’re on the move, like:

  • Bagels
  • Granola bars
  • Power bars
  • Dried fruit

There are also those snacks that require a bit of rest, if not some degree of preparation, like:

  • Canned tuna
  • Beef jerky
  • Dried roast
  • Powdered drinks

All these can be munched on with the minimum of effort and the maximum of benefits, considering you’ll get lots of carbs with the bagels and granola bars. These bars along with the dried fruit and powered drink boast a huge quantity of sugar, but that’s actually good news for your body when you’re backpacking – sugar is the fuel of choice for your body, so it will burn it first.

Besides, the powdered drinks have some much-needed vitamins too and don’t forget those electrolytes everyone keeps telling you about. With these in your system, you’ll prevent dehydration which is actually really common for backpackers and hikers who exert themselves but forget about drinking enough water.

Granola Bars

Roast and beef jerky are perfect for protein, and most power bars have a sufficient amount of protein too. So by their powers combined, you’ll get Captain Protein to help with muscle strain as well as give you enough energy and a feeling of satiety so you don’t experience any hunger pangs.

Dinner

This is our favorite part. Just imagine sitting down after you’ve tackled a difficult, challenging, yet awe-inspiring trail. You’re by the campfire, you’re happy and fulfilled, but you’re also hungry. So what can you prepare that’s fast, but still nutritious enough to fill you up for the night and get you the needed strength for the next day? The recipes below are a good start.

Mashed potatoes and dry roast

Get your fire going with:

  • Mashed potato powder
  • Water (or milk)
  • Carrots
  • Salty backpacking mix
  • A few slices of dry roast
  • A cheese pack

This is a great way to adding up those calories and nutrients, and it’s all pretty easy to make.

  1. Prepare the mashed potatoes with water or milk if you have a source nearby, like maybe a farm, by following the instructions on the pack.
  2. Cut some carrots into very thin slices and mix these up in the mashed potatoes.
  3. Get some cheese from your cheese pack and put some bits of it into the mashed potatoes, then stir.
  4. Now cut a few slices of dry roast on the side and your dinner is ready to go.

We love this recipe because you’ll be getting lots of fiber and carbs thanks to the mashed potatoes and carrots, though the emphasis lies on the protein courtesy of the roast and cheese.

Mashed Potatoes and Dry Roast

That will help your muscles recover faster, while the good amount of healthy fats are a great boost for your system, letting you feel full for longer. And don’t neglect those calories – you really need that.

Pasta

What other better way to end the day than with a quick bowl of pasta? You’ll need:

  • Pasta (that was a no-brainer) or noodles
  • A can of tuna
  • Carrot sticks
  • Salty backpacking mix
  • A cheese pack

You simply have to:

  1. Boil the water.
  2. Add the salty backpacking mix in the boiling water.
  3. Boil the pasta following the directions on the pack.
  4. Get the can of tuna, but dry the oil inside it.
  5. Mix the tuna with the pasta.
  6. Add the sliced up carrot sticks.
  7. Cut some slices of cheese and add that to the mix as well.

This is another great recipe in terms of calories and macro-nutrients. We bet you already noticed we love to put carrots everywhere, but that’s just because they’re such a great source of fiber and vitamins.

Pasta With Tuna

The pasta and noodles are great for carbs and satiety, while tuna and cheese will give you a whole lot of calories and protein. So you’re all set for a good night’s sleep.

Poor man’s risotto

We promised you’ll become your own Master-chef right from the title, didn’t we? Well, it’s time we make good on that promise again. So here goes. You need:

  • Rice
  • Canned meat
  • Salty backpacking mix
  • Soup powder
  • Cheese
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Water

This is the fanciest we’re getting, so follow all the instructions accordingly:

  1. Make an instant soup with the soup powder and water.
  2. Once this mix is boiling, add the rice. You’ll need to have three times more water than rice added.
  3. If the instant soup isn’t tasty enough for you, add some salty backpacking mix.
  4. Keep stirring until the rice is done.
  5. Add the cheese so it can melt, and stir.
  6. Add some cut bits of canned meat and stir.
  7. Add the hard-boiled egg, cut in half, but this time don’t stir.
  8. If you find some leafy greens or ruccola around, it’s even better. Otherwise, you’re all set.

This doesn’t sound much like a risotto, but hey, it’s worth giving you a fancy name so the food tastes better. You’ll be packed with protein thanks to all that cheese, egg and canned meat which also boast some healthy fats, while rice is perfect for carbs.

Poor Man's Risotto

But the real coup de grace is the rice prepared in the instant soup, which will bring you a lot of vitamins and minerals.

Conclusion

We’ve taken you through some good tips and advice to pack the right ingredients, so the perfect time to re-read that would be right before making your shopping list. We really hope we’ve inspired you with some great recipes, though.

Backpacking Food

And if not, at least with the right mindset so you have the freedom and knowledge to build your own meals. Still, if all that seems like a bit much for you, you can always get a pre-packaged meal, especially if you want a fast and easy backpacking dinner.

So now we’re curious to hear more from you. Where are you going? What will you make? What food do you generally take along when you’re backpacking or hiking? Pick up the conversation with a comment below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dorothy Tobias

Dorothy Tobias

Dorothy is a full-time writer, who loves traveling, good food, and understands the beauty of a night spent under the stars. She likes to discover new experiences wherever she goes and she feels most comfortable in her tent, with her favorite sleeping bag. Dorothy started camping with her family when she was 4 years old and remained loyal to the practice throughout the years. Today, she is an experienced backpacker and camper and knows everything there is to know about products in this niche.

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