So you want to go backpacking? One of the first questions you’ll have is what to eat. Yes, figuring out what to eat when backpacking can be a little tricky. Here, I’m going to give you some tips on how to plan your backpacking meals and foods to bring.
Types of Food to Bring Backpacking
When you go camping, you probably are driving to the location – which means you can load up on the gear. You could even bring a cooler and have fresh food for the first few days. This isn’t the case with backpacking though. You’ve literally got to carry everything on your back. Unless you are up for a major workout, then you won’t be bringing a cooler along!
Backpacking food must be:
- Lightweight: This should be self-explanatory. So don’t bring foods like fresh fruit or canned goods.
- Nutrient-dense: By this, I mean food which contains a high amount of calories and nutrients for its weight. Examples include nuts, dried fruit, and jerky. My dad always brings Pringles when backpacking because they have so many calories.
- Easy to cook or prepare: So you wouldn’t want to bring foods like whole-grain rice which takes 40+ minutes of cooking.
- Water requirements: If you are backpacking somewhere with limited amounts of water, then you’ll want to avoid bringing foods like pasta which require lots of water for cooking.
- Cooking time: You could cook food over a campfire, but this can get complicated (see this post for how to cook over a campfire). Chances are that you will be cooking with a camp cook stove. The longer cooking time required, the more fuel you will use. For this reason, I avoid foods which take a long time to cook, such as beans and pasta.
- Type of cook pot/pan required: Since I go backpacking alone with my daughter, I only bring along a tiny cook set. It has 2 pots and no pan. I won’t be making any stir-fry or pancakes on our backpacking trips!
- Trash and Packaging: Whatever you carry in, you’ve also got to carry out! This is one more reason not to bring canned foods backpacking, or anything else with packaging which can’t be burnt in your fire.
Backpacking Food Options
Just because you are backpacking in the wilderness, it doesn’t mean you have to eat bland food all day long. You’ve got 3 main options for your backpacking food:
Option 1: Dry Foods from the Supermarket
You will find lots of dry foods at your supermarket which are great for backpacking. Examples include pastas, instant soups, dry beans and lentils, cereal, dry milk, instant rice, instant mashed potatoes, couscous, and spice and herb mixes.
- Readily available
- Can be heavy and bulky
- May require longer cooking times
- Not always the tastiest option!
Option 2: Dehydrate Your Own Food
I bought a dehydrator a few years ago and am really glad I did. It is particularly great for making my own backpacking meals. For example, I will dehydrate foods like hummus (yes, you can really dehydrate hummus!) and bean pate. Then you can just add water to these foods and they are ready to eat. I also dehydrate fruits and veggies like tomatoes, peppers, kale, and onions. I add these dehydrated foods to dry foods I buy at the supermarket. For example, dehydrated hummus and veggies go into bags of couscous.
- Very cheap
- Lightweight and compact
- Just add water (great for rainy days!)
- Must have a dehydrator
- Requires planning
- Some foods don’t rehydrate well
This is what I packed for a 7 day camping trip. Click here to read what each of these food items are!
Option 3: Buy Premade Backpacking Meals
There are a lot of brands which sell premade backpacking meals. They are usually made from freeze-dried foods, so are lightweight and cook quickly.
- Lots of tasty options
- Easiest option
Backpacking Meal Examples
Here are some examples of what I bring with me when backpacking with my daughter.
- Oatmeal with dried fruit, brown sugar, and cinnamon
- Hearty cereal and dry milk
- Instant coffee and dry milk
- Instant soup with crackers (I remove the soup from the package and add more noodles and dried veggies to make them heartier)
- Dehydrated hummus with crackers
- Dehydrated bean pate with crackers
- Trail mix
- Instant powdered drinks
- Instant rice with dehydrated veggies and lentils (lentils cook really fast so are a better option than beans)
- Instant mashed potatoes + jerky + dehydrated tomato sauce to go over top
- Angel-hair pasta + TVP + dehydrated sauce
What do you bring with you to eat backpacking? Let us know in the comments or join the discussion on Facebook.
Need more advice on backpacking food? Read:
- Tips for Planning Backpacking Meals
- How to Plan Backpacking Meals
- This is What 7 Days of Backpacking Food Looks Like
- 10+ Backpacking Meal Ideas