FOOD & COOKING

Backpacking Food Ideas: Get ready for Your Next Delicious Trip

backpacking food ideas
John C. Porter
Written by John C. Porter

Once you are on the trail, fresh air can definitely work up an appetite and make you crave your favorite food, right? On top of that, you still have to take into consideration the quantity of food you bring with you because you would want to backpack as light as possible. Therefore, making a choice among the vast pool of backpacking food ideas can be a struggle.

Having the proper nutrition while backpacking is quite important and will make your days more energized and enjoyable. Also, the easy backpacking meals can be delicious and healthy at the same time, will keep you full for longer periods of time and you won’t have to worry if you will have to carry a lot of weight with you.

For that purpose, let this article be a guide for your next backpacking trip. Here, you will find useful tips on how to prepare at home for the upcoming trip and what food to bring with you. Also, you will find some of our favorite recipes that are really easy to make and are super delicious on top of that.

Planning the Trip at Home

Not even one trip is successful unless you start planning it in advance, at home. It is really important.

Weight

As we have already mentioned several times, taking into consideration the quantity of the food you bring is really important. To make sure that you travel as light as possible, start off with deciding how many days you are going to spend out on the trail.

camping food in stainless steel

Then, accordingly, plan how many meals you will have per day. Because you are going to waste a lot of energy, you want to make sure that you will always have your required daily intake of proper nutrition, so don’t shy away on calories!

Necessary Cooking Tools and Cookware

Your favorite backpacking meal won’t be at its finest without the proper cookware and other cooking tools. Because you are restricted with the weight that you can carry, you want to make sure to bring cooking tools that can satisfy all of your needs and be suitable for all of the meals you have already planned for.

Therefore, we have created a short list of necessary cooking tools that you might need when preparing your favorite meal, or one of our chosen recipes. Also, have in mind that all of the recipes that we have selected for you can be cooked over a campfire, in an iron skillet, in a Dutch oven or on a grill grate.

cooking in the forest

With that being said, take a look at our modest list:

  • Cook sets – one of the most necessary cooking tools, these are already assembled sets of pans, pots, and They are a better choice than individual pieces because they save you from the pain of combining your own set and there are already customized sets in the stores for backpacking in terms of size, weight, and durability.
  • Mugs and bowls – once you prepare your meal, you might wanna consume it somehow, so don’t forget to bring your set of mugs and bowls, which sometimes can be included in the cook set. Since they can take up a lot of space, you can have plastic ones with you that you can dispose later on in order to gain an additional space in your gear.
  • Utensils – There is nothing better than the traditional kitchen utensils, but once you are on the trail you may find it more convenient to bring the spork, which is a spoon, a fork and a knife combined into one. It a real space saver and it is one of the most practical things ever invented. However, no matter which one you take with you, make sure you bring enough of them.
  • Extras – different trips require different tools, so you might want to bring a lot of plastic bags, towels, zip bags, cleaning detergents, a coffee pot, extension forks, cutting board, towels, etc.

Overall Nutrition and Ease of Preparation

The food you bring on the trail should be full of healthy and complex proteins, carbs and fats. We may all fall victims to the candy bars, but relying too much on them won’t keep us full for longer period of times.

trail-granola-bars-

It is better to opt for healthy snacks such as nuts, or dried fruits in order to feel energized throughout the whole day. Also, since there a lot of food choices that you could bring with you, choose your meals carefully because you will want them to be easily prepared.

Spices

When you are preparing food in nature, especially in such conditions when you have limited amounts of ingredients, spices are those that give a rich taste to the meal.

If you are a spice lover, you know that there is no such thing as ‘too spicy’ and therefore, it is always a good idea to bring as many spices as possible, because they will add flavor to any meal. Also, they don’t take a lot of space in your gear which makes them even more attractive.

Dehydrated Food

Dehydrated food is the solution to carrying less bulk on your trip. With a simple food dehydrator, you can easily reduce the weight of your favorite food, while still keeping the healthy ingredients in it.

food dehydrator and dried fruit in ziploc

It is a cheaper and healthier option to possess a food dehydrator in the long run than to buy dehydrated products from the stores because a lot of them are saturated with artificial preservatives and chemicals.

Fresh Food

Even though they are bulkier, the fresh veggies and fruits you bring with you will keep you healthier on the road. But, have in mind that the fresh food won’t last long because you won’t have the luxury of refrigerating it, so make sure to always bring foods that can withstand the conditions they are going to be exposed to. Apples and carrots are the best options for such a trip.

Seeds and Nuts

One of the most caloric foods you can take with you and they are a must for your next trip. They will always keep you boosted with healthy proteins, fibers, and fats. They are easy to prepare and you can have them raw, roasted or even mixed with dried fruits for an extra flavor and vitamins.

Instant Food

If you don’t have much time and resources to properly prepare at home before you start your trip, instant foods are a great alternative for a lunch or dinner.

instant meals

Anything from noodles, pasta, instant rice and soup mixes will do, requiring only a pot, boiling water and a tiny bit of your attention. In return, you will get some decent meal that will be your best comfort food on the road.

Recipes

Here’s a selection of some of the finest recipes.

Breakfast

Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, we are here to make sure that you will get your healthy portion of proteins, carbs, and fats.

#1. Crunchy Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Crunchy Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 5 min

Cooking tool: One pot, a mug

Calories: Approx. 350

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ quick oat flakes
  • 2 full cream milk powder
  • 1.1 oz. of your favorite peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of crunchy nut granola

At home: Mix the oats and the creamy milk powder in a zip bag and pack the rest of the ingredients separately.

On the trail: Put the oats and milk mixture into a bowl and add in a ½ cup of boiling water. Stir it well and then cover it and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. In the end, add in the peanut butter, put some granola and enjoy your super delicious breakfast.

#2. Easy Pancakes with Mushrooms

pancakes on a plate

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 20 min

Cooking tool: An iron skillet

Calories: Approx. 300

Ingredients:

  • 3.53 oz. of your favorite pancake batter mix
  • A handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • A bit of butter for frying

At home: Combine the batter mix, the mushrooms, the thyme and the salt in a zip bag. Pack the butter separately.

On the trail: Start by gradually adding ⅓ to ½ cup of water into the zip bag with the pancake batter mix. Stir it until it is smooth, close the bag and let the dough rest for approximately 10 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the butter in the iron skillet and once the dough has rested, cut a hole in the zip bag and squeeze some batter into the pan. Repeat the process for the rest of the batter. Cook the pancakes on both sides until they are slightly browned.

Starter

The starter doesn’t have to be skipped when you are backpacking. It doesn’t require much time to be prepared and will keep you full for longer period of times. After all, who doesn’t fancy a warm cup of mushroom soup after a long walk?

#3. Creamy Mushroom Soup

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 15 min

Cooking tool: One pot, a mug

Calories: Approx. 200

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons instant mashed potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon full cream milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried mushrooms
  • ½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon croutons (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper

At home: Put the mashed potatoes, the milk powder, the mushrooms and the thyme into a zip-lock bag. Pack the other ingredients separately.

On the trail: Pour the soup mixture from the bag into the pot and gradually add 1 cup of water. Stir it well and then let it sit for 5 minutes. Put the pot over medium heat, bring it to a boil and season it for taste with salt and pepper. In addition, put in the bay leaf and stir for 5 minutes. Remove it from the heat, remove the bay leaf and serve it with croutons.

Lunch

Once you’ve had a cup of your favorite soup, it’s time for the delicious lunch.

#4. Mixed Vegetable Sabji

Mixed Vegetable Sabji

Servings: 4

Cooking time: 15 min

Cooking tool: One pot, a mug

Calories: Approx. 600

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 2 teaspoons mild curry
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3.3 lb. chopped mixed vegetables
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz.) drained chickpeas
  • A handful of chopped coriander leaves
  • Salt and pepper

At home: Heat the olive oil, add the onions and cook them until they are soft. Stir in the spices and cook for one more minute. Add the vegetables and the coconut milk and season it to taste. Bring it to a boil and turn down the heat to a medium-low. Cover the saucepan and leave it to cook for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Add in the chickpeas and coriander leaves and stir for another couple of minutes. Once the meal is cooled thoroughly, spread it on dehydrator trays, previously covered with non-stick sheets or parchment paper.

Dehydrate them at 145F for 8-10 hours until they are brittle. Once they are ready, divide them into equal portions of about 3.5 oz. each and put them in separate zip-lock bags.

On the trail: It’s time to rehydrate the lunch. Put the dried meal into a pot and add a ⅔-1 cup of water. Bring it to boil and continue to cook it for 5-10 minutes until it is rehydrated. Once it is done, you can serve it with tortilla, or you can add ⅓ cup of dehydrated cooked rice for extra calories.

#5. Bulgur Pilaf

Bulgur Pilaf

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 20 min

Cooking tool: One pot

Calories: Approx. 550

Ingredients:

  • ½ quick cooking bulgur
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • Small pinch of chili powder
  • Salt and pepper

At home: Mix the bulgur, the chili powder, the cumin and the sweet paprika powder in a zip-lock bag. The rest of the ingredients should be packed separately.

On the trail: Melt the butter in the pot and add the diced red onion. After it is smoothly cooked, add in the tomato paste, the sun-dried tomatoes, the bulgur-spice mixture and cook it together for another 1-2 minutes until they are nicely combined.

Pour in 1 cup of water, bring it to boil and in addition, season it with salt and pepper to taste. As such, simmer it for 6-7 minutes until the bulgur is thoroughly cooked and the water is totally absorbed.

Dessert

They say dessert goes to the heart and we cannot agree more. Therefore, you can’t have a backpacking trip without it and what’s a better time for a dessert than having it after the lunch itself?

#6. Easy Trail Tiramisu

Easy Trail Tiramisu

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 20 min

Cooking tool: One pot, a mug

Calories: Approx. 500

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla custard powder
  • 3 tablespoons full cream milk powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, or another sweetener
  • ½ teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto liquor
  • 6 pcs ladyfinger biscuits
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

At home: Start by combining the vanilla custard, the milk powder and the sugar in a zip-lock bag. Pack the rest of the ingredients separately.

On the trail: Boil ¼ cup of water. Mix the hot water with instant coffee and set it aside to cool. Once it is cooled add in the vanilla custard mixture and gradually add ¾ cup of cold water. Place the pot over a medium heat, bring it to boil and constantly stir it.

Reduce the heat and simmer for at least one minute until the custard is thick enough. Once you reach the desired consistency, remove it from the heat and leave it to cool. Stir in the Amaretto liquor and then put in a mug half of the biscuits, crushed.

Drizzle it with half of the coffee and spread half of the vanilla custard over the biscuits. Repeat the layering process with the remaining of the prepared ingredients. In the end, serve it sprinkled with cocoa powder.

Snack

When you are backpacking, it is always wise to have snacks within reach, because you are burning more calories than you do otherwise.

#7. Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

Servings: 14

Cooking time: /

Cooking tool: /

Calories: Approx. 400

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups icing sugar, or another sweetener
  • ¾ cup unsalted and chopped peanuts

At home: Line a 25 x 20 cm baking dish with a parchment paper. Start making the fudge by melting the butter and the peanut butter in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. In addition, add in the vanilla extract, the icing sugar, and the chopped peanuts and stir them until they are well combined.

Once the mixture is prepared, pour into the baking dish, spread it evenly and let it cool on a room temperature and then refrigerate it for 1-2 hours, until it is firm enough. Once it is done, remove it from the baking dish, cut it into bars and pack it.

On the trail: No additional preparation needed. Just sit back and enjoy your mouthwatering peanut butter bars.

Dinner

After you are done with any kind of an activity, it is time to enjoy the lovely evening. There is no better way than to relax by the fire, having your favorite dinner for a great end of the day.

#8. 3 Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Kabanos

3 Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Kabanos

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 5 min

Cooking tool: One pot

Calories: Approx. 400

Ingredients:

  • ½ instant mashed potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried Cheddar cheese, powdered
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried Mozzarella cheese, powdered
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried caramelized onion (optional)
  • 3-4 sticks (1.76 oz.) shelf-stable Kabanos sausages

At home: Mix the instant potatoes, the powdered cheeses and the dried caramelized onions in a plastic bag and pack the sausages separately.

On the trail: Boil a ⅔ cup of water in the pot and once it is simmering, carefully pour it in the bag with the dry ingredients. Stir it well and add in the sausages.

#9. Easy Chili Mac

Easy Chili Mac

Servings: 1

Cooking time: 15 min

Cooking tool: One pot

Calories: Approx. 600

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ precooked and dehydrated pasta
  • ¼ cup dehydrated ground beef
  • ¼ cup dehydrated canned beans
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • Pinch of chili powder
  • Handful of grated Parmesan cheese

At home: Mix all of the ingredients together, except the Parmesan cheese, into a plastic bag.

On the trail: Pour the chili pasta mixture into a pot, add in 1 cup of water and stir it well. Boil it and season it to taste. Continue cooking it on a low heat, regularly stirring it for 10 minutes until it is rehydrated. In the end, add in the grated cheese and enjoy.

Wrapping up!

Just because you are a backpacking enthusiast, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get the proper nutrition on your trip. With the food variety and the cooking tools that are available to you nowadays, you can easily prepare a delicious meal on your next adventure that feels as tasty as if it was made at home.

Food being cooked in a pan outdoors

Sure, there a lot of options and recipes to choose from, but with the ones we’ve provided in this article, we hope that we can influence your choice and contribute to your delicious trip.

However, the bottom line here is that you should eat what you like without restricting yourself just because you are out on the trail because as you have read, every meal can be prepared with an ease.

So, don’t hesitate anymore and start your adventure as soon as possible. Grab your backpack, pack your food and recharge your batteries with the fresh air and delicious meals. If you have any other suggestions, leave us a comment in order to share them with us!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John C. Porter
John C. Porter

John is passionate about hiking long distances. His record is over 65 miles in one day with backpacking gear. John hiked over 10 thousand miles, tried over 100 hiking shoes and visited 56 countries so far. His favourite hiking route is West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

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