Backpacking Meals: What to Eat on the Trail

Backpacking Meals: What to Eat on the Trail

Backpacking meals
Photo by Dave Giordano

One of my personal battles with backpacking is always the question, what am I going to eat on the trail? I love hiking long distances and setting up camp but I don't love freeze-dried backpacking meals. I used to pack my backpack full of granola bars and trail mix and try to make it as far as I could. With a 200+ mile trip on the John Muir Trail coming up, I started doing a little more research on easy, lightweight and good tasting backpacking meals.

I've found that backpacking meals don't have to taste bad. It is possible to make easy lightweight meals that are filled with the nutrients you need to keep moving on the trail. I've found rice, quinoa, and dried potato flakes all make great bases for an easy meal. If you add spices such as dried soup packets or homemade concoctions, you can make a great tasting meal. Add in some pouched chicken, pouched tuna, beef jerky or dried vegetables and you'll surely have all the vitamins and protein you'll need.

I've made a beef and noodle meal with beef jerky, a chicken and stuffing with canned or pouched chicken and even a tuna noodle casserole all on a small backpacking stove. If you follow the basic formula of a lightweight base such as rice, add an easy spice packet, then add a source of protein, you can get quite creative with your backpacking recipes.

Here are some ingredients that are great for creating easy backpacking meals:

  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Dried potato flakes
  • Stuffing
  • Beef Jerky
  • Summer Sausage
  • Packaged Peperoni
  • Dehydrated Vegetables
  • Pouched Tuna or Chicken
  • String Cheese
  • Dried Soup Packets
  • Pasta Noodles

There are a lot of different backpacking recipes you can put together using the above ingredients. Summer sausage and packaged peperoni can stay in a backpack for a few days, it only needs refrigerated after it is open. Likewise, string cheese is okay for a day or so without refrigeration and it melts okay if you cut it into little discs. You can do a lot of different backpacking recipes without relying on dehydrated or free-dried ingredients.

For more backpacking meal ideas, check out these recipes: Tuna Noodler, Pizza Taters, and Backpacking Beef and Noodles.

Do you have a favorite backpacking recipe? Let us know about it in the comments below.

Editor's Note: Please join me in welcoming Andy Hawbaker as a guest blogger on Brian's Backpacking Blog. Andy enjoys hiking, backpacking, camping and exploring the Rocky Mountains. When he isn't on the trail, he shares his experiences on the Sierra SocialHub.

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