One of the hardest parts of planning a backpacking trip is figuring out what you will eat. The reason it is so difficult is because you definitely don’t want to go hungry in the middle of nowhere. But you also don’t want to carry too much food because of the extra weight.
It’s taken me a while to master the skill of packing backpacking food. Actually, I still haven’t “mastered” it, but I’ve gotten a lot better at planning out the meals. Here you can see what I packed for a 7-day backpacking trip in Greece.
*The quantity here is for 1 adult female + 1 preschool girl. The two of us together probably eat as much as 1 adult male. You’ll have to calculate your caloric need. Or do “test” runs of your backpacking food beforehand. For example, I carefully measured that my daughter and I eat 1 ½ cups of oats + 1 banana for breakfast. So, I was able to use these measurements when packing our backpacking breakfasts.
- I have a dehydrator. Without it, most of these meals wouldn’t be possible.
- I also have a mill attachment for my blender. It allows me to grind up dried foods into powders.
- I go backpacking with my daughter (now 5) who is a bit of a picky eater. Because of this, I have to pack stuff I know she will eat. It kind of limits choices. L
- I’m vegan, so you won’t find any sausages or meat jerky (though I’ve made tofu jerky for backpacking before).
- A lot of backpackers don’t make a cooked lunch. They just eat lots of trail mix (aka GORP). Read how much GORP to pack for backpacking.
- I’d have done a few things differently. I’d have packed more soups and less couscous. My kid can eat couscous every day, but it got boring for me. I’d also bring along more sweet snacks – like chocolate pretzels and more cookies.
2: Seven Dried Bananas + One Pound Dried Strawberries
Yes, we ate oatmeal for breakfast every day of our backpacking trip. My daughter loves it, so it wasn’t boring for her. To make the oatmeal, you first add the dried fruit to water in your pot. Heat on your camp stove until the water is boiling to rehydrate the fruits. Then add the oats. You can turn off the stove now. Cover the pot and wait about 5-10 minutes. The oats will absorb all of the water and get nice and soft. You can add powdered milk, sugar, and nuts if you want.
= 7 breakfasts
3: Homemade Trail Mix
Nuts and dried fruit are high in calories but very dense, so they don’t take up much space. Our trail mix was a combination of many types of nuts (my daughter particularly loves hazelnuts) plus raisins, dried cranberries, dried bananas, and dried apples. I dehydrated the bananas and apples myself.
4: Minestrone Soup
I bought two packets of minestrone soup from the supermarket. These aren’t very nutritious though, and they certainly won’t fill you up. So, I added red lentils, dehydrated carrots, and dehydrated tomatoes. All of these things I ground up in my mill. Why? Because it takes a long time to rehydrate carrots and tomatoes. As a powder, they cook up much faster.
= 2 meals
5: Tomato Soup
With this soup, I also started with 2 packets of store-bought soup. Then I added a bunch of dehydrated vegetables which I ground up into a powder in my mill so they’d cook faster. Also, because my daughter is a picky eater. If she sees a chunk of rehydrated tomato in her soup, she won’t eat it. But if she can’t see it because it was pulverized, then she doesn’t complain J .
= 2 meals
6: Ramen Noodles
This is a good quick meal, though it doesn’t exactly give you much energy. It also takes up a lot of space. Next time, I will take it out of the package and crumble the noodles so they are more dense and take less space. My daughter and I share one of these when we aren’t very hungry (like when we will have a big dinner).
= 1 meal
7: Couscous, Quinoa, Lentil & Veggie Mix
I found these in the supermarket. They are a combo of various grains, lentils, and veggies. Just mix with water and heat until boiling. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then turn off your stove, cover the pot, and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. It will continue cooking in the pot so long as it is covered. You save fuel this way.
= 2 meals
8: Instant Mashed Potatoes
9: Dehydrated Scallions and Wild Mushrooms
Instant mashed potatoes are great backpacking food. You just add water to them and they rehydrate. You don’t even have to add hot water (though they definitely taste better hot!), so you can make this if it is raining, or if your camp stove fails on you.
Because instant mashed potatoes lack nutrition, I added some dehydrated scallions and wild mushrooms to them. The dried scallions and mushrooms I ground into a powder (cooks faster and better for picky eaters). Add these to your pot with water. Heat until boiling. Turn off the camp stove. Then add your instant mashed potatoes. Just mix and you’ve got really tasty mashed potatoes. You can also add powdered milk to the water to make it creamier.
= 3 meals
10: Dehydrated Kale
12: Couscous + Pulverized Red Lentils
There are two reasons that I bring lots of couscous when backpacking. The first is because it cooks in just 2 minutes. Compared to other grains or pastas (which can take 20+ minutes to cook), this will save you a lot of fuel for your stove. The other reason that I bring couscous is because my daughter loves it. I know she will eat it up without complaining.
Because couscous isn’t very nutritious or exciting on its own, I added some pulverized red lentils to it (ground up in my mill). I also dehydrated some kale and ground this up in my mill and packed it separately. To make the couscous, add the dried call to water in your pot. Boil the water. Once the water is boiling, add your couscous. Turn off your camp stove. Cover the pot. In a few minutes, the couscous will absorb all the water and you can eat it.
14: Dehydrated Hummus and Crackers
Did you know that you can dehydrate hummus??!! It turns out that you can dehydrate pretty much any semi-liquid. Some other examples of things you can dehydrate are tomato sauce and bean dip.
I just spread the hummus on parchment paper which has been cut to fit my dehydrator trays. I also stab some tiny holes into the parchment paper to allow for better air flow while dehydrating. When done, the dried hummus looks a bit like cardboard. To rehydrate, just add water and let it sit a few minutes before stirring. Eat with crackers.
= 3 meals
13: Sweet Snacks
I don’t add chocolate to my trail mix anymore because it melts and gets super messy. But having sweet snacks while backpacking is a must. I actually wish that I’d brought a LOT more sweets for this trip. L Next time, I am bringing a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels plus more cookies.
11: Powdered Soy Milk
15: Instant Coffee
16: Powdered Orange Drink
There is no way that I’m going backpacking for a week without bringing coffee along (that wouldn’t be an enjoyable time for either of us!). I always make sure to measure out extra servings of coffee for the trip. That way I have enough extra coffee that I can offer any fellow backpackers a coffee with me. No one has ever said no when I offer a hot coffee in the wilderness! The powdered soy milk (I’m vegan) and sugar also go in the coffee. The sugar also goes on my daughter’s oatmeal, and the powdered milk can go in mashed potatoes.
Normally I wouldn’t give my daughter sugar-filled powdered orange stuff to drink. But while backpacking she uses up the excess sugar. Plus the drink has all sorts of vitamins in it.
DO NOT FORGET TO PACK SALT!!!! All of the food shown here would be pretty boring if we didn’t have salt to add to it. You might also want to pack baggies of mixed spices. I know a lot of backpackers also bring a small bottle of oil along so they can add a squeeze to their food.
What is your favorite backpacking meal?