A lot of no-cook backpacking meal ideas are really boring. Below, I’ve included some of the trail classics as well as variations to make them more exciting. By thinking outside the box and packing lost of spice mixes and condiments, you can make the same trail recipe in dozens of different ways so it doesn’t get boring.
If you are willing to soak a few of the ingredients — such as some instant mashed potato flakes or couscous — you will find yourself with a lot more options (but still don’t need a stove).
For more info on which foods can be made with soaking, read: Cold-Soak Backpacking Meal Ideas
You can put almost anything into a tortilla to make a wrap. To mix things up, get some lavash bread or pita bread. Here are some ideas of what to put in your wraps. Also read: Backpacking Tortilla Ideas
- Tuna or chicken from a pouch, mayo packet, hot sauce. Olives if you want to be extra fancy.
- Peanut butter, honey, granola and dried fruit
- Nutella and GORP
- BBQ sauce from packet, chicken from pouch, Babybel cheese
Slather tomato sauce on a tortilla or pita bread. Add slices of cheese or pieces of string cheese and slices of salami. Roll it up and eat. You can also do this on bagels.
*The brand Boboli sells pizza sauce in packets. You can also find tubes of tomato paste. It needs to be watered down a bit to turn it into pizza sauce.
Tuna in Pouches
You can also use other types of fish in pouches. Smoked salmon and smoked tuna are hiker favorites. Make sure you get the tuna which comes in oil and not water. It is much more calorie dense. Remember to add herbs and spices to make these more exciting.
- Tuna + salt and vinegar chips
- Tuna + crushed crackers + mayo and hot sauce
- Tuna + raw ramen noodles
- Tuna + croutons + sundried tomatoes
- Tuna on bread + cheese, mayo, olives, pesto…
Sandwiches (In Dozens of Variations)
The key to keeping your backpacking sandwiches from getting boring is to mix up what you use for the bread and filling. With a bit of creativity, you can end up with dozens of variations.
- Bagels: This is the hiker’s go-to because it is so calorie dense and retains its shape even after taking a beating.
- Waffles: Get frozen waffles and let them thaw. Slather with PNB and honey or your favorite sandwich combo.
- Poptarts: Make a sandwich with Nutella or PNB as the filling. PNB and jelly poptart sandwiches is another trash hiker meal.
- English muffins
- Croissants: They get smashed but still taste good.
Sandwich Filling Ideas:
- Cheese + salami: This is a trail staple for most hikers.
- PNB + honey: Tip: First put the honey on. Let it soak in for a minute. Then add the peanut butter and it won’t be as messy.
- PNB + fritos or tortilla chips: The crunchiness is sooo delicious.
- PNB + granola: The granola makes it crunchy = so much better.
- PNB and jelly
- Avocado or guacamole + cheese + hot sauce
- Sandwich dipped into olive oil: Add Italian seasoning to the olive oil for a gourmet version.
- Cream cheese
- Sun dried tomato: You can find pouches of sun-dried tomato in olive oil. Or buy it in jars and repackage. It lasts for a long time unrefrigerated. This is great in sandwiches, especially with cheese.
- Smoked tofu: I’ve found shelf-stable smoked tofu in ethnic stores and some health stores. It’s a good vegan no-cook meal idea and a nice break from salami for non-vegan hikers.
- Olive tapenade: You can find plastic tubs of this. Or repackage it into baggies.
- Hummus: Instant hummus lasts longer (here’s how to make your own dry hummus mix) but requires soaking. Storebought hummus will usually last a few days without refrigeration.
*Trick for keeping cheese from going bad: If it will be cold at night but warm during the day, keep the cheese out during the night. In the morning, roll up the (wrapped) cheese in your sleeping bag. It will help it stay cold.
Yes, you can eat raw ramen! Mix peanut butter into it for a protein-packed “meal.” Hot sauce also makes this better.
Chips, Crackers and Fritos Meals
- Tortilla chips + tuna pouch + cheese + fresh green onions + hot sauce
- Corn nuts + chicken from pouch + mayo packet + mustard packet
- Fritos + peanut butter + hot sauce
- Crackers + cheese + salami
Fancy DIY Crackers
I dehydrate my own calorie-dense crackers. To make them, I will blend up ingredients like flax meal, almond meal, and red pepper. This then gets spread on dehydrator trays to make crackers with tons of flavor. They eventually end up smashed and crumbled, but you can mix them with instant hummus and eat with a spoon. This recipe is in my Trail Recipes Book.
There are hundreds of brands which make meal bars. I usually make my own. There are two ways to go the DIY route:
- Dehydrate some base ingredients. Pulse these and some nuts/seeds/protein powder/etc. in a food processor.
- Use your food processor to mix up base ingredients into a chunky paste. Spread this onto a dehydrator. You’ll end up with a calorie-dense bar.
- Choose your base: such as oats or granola
- Add powdered milk and water. I’ve also heard of a lot of people using Carnation Instant Breakfast instead of powdered milk for their breakfast oats or cereal.
- Healthy add-ins:
- Protein powder
- Chia seeds
- Freeze dried fruit
Slather the Honeybuns with peanut butter. Then sprinkle GORP, granola or candy on top.
Veggie Hot Dogs
I’ve found shelf-stable hot dogs at some specialty stores. Even refrigerated kinds will last a while out of the fridge. You can use these in tortillas or cut up and put on bagels. Or just dip them into mustard and eat.
The moisture in these means they aren’t always the lightest meal option. They also crumble (eat with a spoon when this happens). Some calorie-dense options include:
- Black bean brownies
- Pound cake
- Coconut flour carrot cake
*You can dehydrate baked goods to turn them into a cracker. Or break them up and cover them with milk to rehydrate a bit before eating.
For some really damn good meals, check out my dehydrator backpacking meals book. It includes recipes for DIY trail bars and lots of meals which can be cold-soaked. There’s also tons of info on backpacking meal planning.
Since you made it to the end of the post, I’ll even give you 50% off. 🙂