26 Best Foods to Take Backpacking

Everyone should have the luxury of experiencing life through the eyes of a nomad at least once in life. The scenic views, new encounters, and friendships you can make along the way can be life-changing, to say the least. 

Still, going on such an incredible journey will require commitment and a well-balanced diet. To that end, you must know some of the best foods you can bring to stave off hunger and keep you going when fatigue sets in.

When walking through the great outdoors backpacking style, you will want to keep your energy up and avoid eating things that can be too weighty or may make you feel bloated (a horrible issue to have if you are miles away from anywhere with shade). Even worse, you want to ensure you are not eating something that can potentially curdle in your stomach due to heat.

For these reasons, we will discuss the best foods to take while backpacking and certain aspects, such as flavor and texture. These are essential, as many people prefer different things. If you want to learn more, we encourage you to continue reading! 

What Are the Best Foods to Take While Backpacking?


The absolute best foods boil down to things that you can eat are as follows:


  • Foods that you can eat on the go (so you can maintain your pace and minimize downtimes)
  • Foods that taste good
  • Foods that will not come back up to visit if the weather happens to either increase or decrease depending.


To ensure you do not suffer for what you eat, be mindful of what foods you ingest and what time of day you have them. For instance, yogurt in the morning could have some backlash if the heat piles on early, but you will be no worse for wear if you go with a solid fruit salad to start your day.

One final aspect to be mindful of while preparing your meals for your adventure would be to think about how weighty your foods are. The more pounds you pack into your kit for food, the harder it will be on you as the trail blazes on.

camping food

Breakfast Ideas


1. Freeze-dried or Dehydrated Meals


Assuming you know how to make your own freeze-dried goods or purchase them elsewhere, these are some of the best options you can lean towards. They are a very fire-and-forget meal, perfect for your snacking needs, especially when other resources may be scarce, and you don’t necessarily want to start a fire to make anything more complicated.

Suppose you are looking for great places to start looking for this kind of meal. In that case, look into things like Peak Refuel and the like. Most have various meals and flavors that easily fit your needs and preferences.


2. Instant Oatmeal


Oatmeal is a time-honored food classic, so it only makes sense that it would make an honorable mention in the breakfast recommendations. It’s fairly easy to make, and with some dried fruits sprinkled into the mix, you can take your flavor ambitions as far as you want without making your overall load much heavier. 

Also, as the saying goes, oatmeal will stick to you, making you feel fuller for longer. On the other hand, if you do not want to make it, consider purchasing Kodiak Cakes instant oatmeal, as each packet contains 12 grams of protein to help jumpstart your day. 


3. Instant Tea or Coffee


Occasionally, you can have a light breakfast, either forgoing anything truly edible for a bigger lunch or looking to trim down a bit while maintaining your energy. Either way, instant tea and coffee will give you a pep in your step to start your day and can come in various flavors, too. Consider using Cusa Tea & Coffee for your instants, as many customers love them! 

Another boon is that if you don’t want to have one or the other, you can bring them along to complement any other breakfast options here.


4. Oat Bars


Oatmeal is an exquisite choice. However, we recommend purchasing oat bars if you do not feel like adding water, cooking, or doing any of the steps to start your oatmeal. They are an easy alternative to straight oatmeal. You can immediately enjoy the satisfaction, especially if you want a fire-and-forget meal to begin your day! 

As you might expect, oat bars can have extra customizations you’d put in your regular oatmeal. Think strawberries and the like for healthier options or peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want something more sugary. Either way, oat bars will do the job so you can get back on the trail.


5. Dehydrated Quinoa Porridge


Quinoa is a powerful food and a staple for those of us who are more keen to keep our diets relatively strict but have high intakes. To that end, quinoa porridge stands on this list for being easy to make, like most dehydrated foods, and earning even higher marks because it is healthier than just taking oatmeal. It allows you to have some flavor diversity if you have had oatmeal a few days in a row but want something equally filling.


6. Yogurt Parfait


Starting your day with yogurt can be a welcome treat. It allows you to begin your entire day on an uphill trend. Still, like all things, you should be incredibly mindful of what the weather is for the day and how active you intend to be. 

Overdoing it with any dairy in your stomach can quickly result in stomach cramps, bloating, and potentially needing to evacuate the meal from inside you in an emergency should things get dire enough. Otherwise, it is a solid choice with fruit options to boot.

camping food

Lunches, Bars & Snack Ideas

7. No-Cook Meals


In much the same way that any kind of granola bar or meat stick is fantastic as a snack, any meal you can consume with no hassle or extra effort makes for an exquisite change of pace, especially if you are out of energy from a long trail, don’t want to spend time starting a fire, or sorting other ingredients. These can be things as simple as dehydrated meals that only require adding water or something like an assortment of dried fruit.


8. Spam, Tuna or Chicken Packets


Few things are quite as notable regarding canned meat as spam, but you’ve obviously got the other classics like tuna and chicken that can replace your preferred packaged meat of choice. 

These little marvels allow you to make some delicious sandwiches on the fly or something more robust if you don’t mind heating them. You can combine them with some veggies to make a lovely medley. The sky’s the limit when you are involved in these kinds of meats.


9. Energy Bars


Supplementing a meal with an energy bar is a good choice if you are looking to shed some pounds or keep things light and moving. Still, it is pivotal that you remain cognate of how many calories you’ve burned instead of how many you’ve taken in. 

However, depending on how rigorous your trail has been, an energy bar or two might not cut it, so be sure to pack a few extra options if you genuinely intend to indulge in these delicious options.


10. Nut Butters


Nutter butters are one of the strongest calorie-to-weight ratios you can get your hands on, and they are packed with flavor you can savor after a nice long hike. 

So, you can’t go wrong with them (short of having an allergic reaction). Tossing a few into your backpacking rig makes your adventure all the more enjoyable when the time comes, and you’ll be fuller for it.


11. Meat Bars & Jerky


Dried meats and jerkies have the perk of being loaded with protein, calories, and flavor, and they take longer to digest than other choices. This means you will feel like you’ve eaten more for longer, and you can complement these choices with snack choices to bring your food pyramid full circle.


12. Energy Gummies


While you might not think a few energy gummies can supplement an entire meal, like all things in life, you certainly can if you eat enough of them. Still, for the same reason we’ve listed above, you must be mindful of how many calories you take in instead of how many you lose. You will also want to double-check to ensure you aren’t overloading on sugars and sugars alone.


13. Hard Cheese


In most senses, when people think about cheeses, they believe cheese will go bad when left out of the fridge within a few hours. Still, hard cheeses break that stipulation due to how they are made and their salt content (allowing them to remain good for longer). 

To that end, some of the best hard cheeses you can bring with you backpacking are mozzarella (if you get low-moisture-content kinds), cheddar, and parmesan. However, you should get them the day of or the day before to get the maximum amount of safe time with them in your backpack.


14. Dried Nuts & Trail Mixes


Trail mixes and hiking trails are staples regarding the great outdoors and general nutrition. It’s for a good reason, as most ingredients you’d include won’t spoil too quickly. 

More importantly, it will last for a long time regardless of what kind of weather you are in, making them strong choices on longer outings. Different types of nuts can also offer unique flavors, allowing you to really have your pick of the litter as far as keeping things fresh goes.


15. Hard Candy


Hard candy is similar to most things that can technically go with you on the trail, as it doesn’t expire quickly and is relatively lightweight. The problems with these options arise when you attempt to supplement an entire meal explicitly with them. As long as you take your dietary needs into consideration when picking any of these and eat them with other foods, everything will be just fine.

Note: Consider getting hard candy without artificial ingredients, such as this two-pack Hermann the German


16. Whole Pitted Olives


Believe it or not, olives make a fantastic choice to bring on the trail. Still, they’ll need to be dehydrated before they can truly be added to your bag of goodies. After that, however, you are off to the (flavor) races, as few things can fill the unique taste of an olive whilst you are in the middle of the great outdoors. However, if you do not wish to dehydrate the olives, consider getting Oloves


17. Peanut Butter-Filled Pretzels


Combining two of the most delicious and filling foods will make an irresistible snack. Peanut butter-filled pretzels are very high in the chars for categories like these, as pretzels will traditionally last you for quite some time because they are a bread-like food. 

Peanut butter is jam-packed with protein and calories, ensuring you’ll feel full and satisfied after you’ve had some; it’s easy to see why, when combined, they’d make the list.


18. Energy Cookies


Cookies, like candy and anything else, are not meals and should never actually replace one. It goes without saying that you’d be wise to bring other things to complement this choice, but otherwise, you can’t truly go wrong with it. Considering how many different flavor options you have to choose from, your horizons are as broad as your pallet.


19. Macaroons


If we were viewing things strictly from a flavor standpoint, then macaroons would be delightful. Still, because you are not thinking about being in the luxury of your home, perhaps on your couch, macaroons alone aren’t enough to cut it for an entire meal. Supplement them with other things in that case, and you’ll be right as rain.


20. Greenbelly Meal Bars


Time efficiency and great taste are your two focal points for almost any meal bar. Greenbelly has enough options to allow you to cater to almost any whim you might have while trailblazing. Quick enough to have on the go and light enough to fit into any rig, these will see you through your entire journey if you desire; just be sure to have some water to accompany them.


21. Peanut Butter & Apples


Peanut butter fills your needs for keeping your energy up, and apples are a delicious treat. Combining the two creates a crisp, delightful sensation to eat and a genuinely flavorful experience that will have you yearning for more after the first bite. You cannot go wrong here unless your adventures span several weeks or are difficult enough to bash the apples before you eat them.


22. Vegetable Chips


Last but certainly not least, we have vegetable chips. Vegetables are an important food group that will keep your energy and nutritional needs up. When you make them chips (usually involving dehydration), you make a delightful treat that fills both your needs and your belly. Terra just so happens to be one of the best brands you can go for, assuming you don’t make your own, of course.

camping food

Dinner Ideas


23. Mountain House


Mountain House just so happens to be one of the leading manufacturers of dehydrated meals on the market. As you’ll see below, their lead competitor is also on this list. 

However, if you want a delicious meal that only requires adding water, you’ll be well taken care of going with these guys. Their sheer number of options and customer support backing make them one of the best choices you can make.


24. Chicken Noodle Soup


Few things in life can compete with a well-made chicken noodle soup after a long day out on the trail. Finishing your day with something so hearty will take you back to a simpler time that will allow you to feel full. 

Between the broth, meat, and additional veggies. If you do have a nutritional deficit throughout the day, you can easily make up for it with a bowl (or two) of chicken noodle soup.


25. Mac & Cheese


Keeping in step with our above noodle sentiment, mac and cheese is another excellent choice to end your day and go to sleep feeling full, and satisfied. You have a lot of options as far as how you go about making your mac and cheese. There are several instant options for those who don’t want to go all-out when seeking their cheese needs. No matter which way you go about it, though, mac and cheese is a delicious classic that few people can disagree with.


26. Peakrefuel


Peakrefuel is yet another dehydrated meal provider that can easily take care of your dinner meal needs and allow you to get some much-needed meat in your diet to boot. Boasting some of the biggest meat chunks in the dehydrated meal market, you’ll definitely eat your fill going with them, and they also have one of the lowest water requirements around.

In order to get your meals going right, however, it’s highly advised you experiment with how much water you need to get your meats to a level of softness that is pleasant to you. In o tthat end, you should make a few at home, where you have excess water to experiment with and find your preferences.


How Much Food Should You Take While Backpacking?


The general metric is about 1.5 pounds of food per day if your trips are roughly 12 miles or less, but this is more of a generalization. Everyone’s dietary needs are different, and you’ll need to take your personal ones into consideration to make a choice that is right for you.

The amount of food you take with you whilst going backpacking depends entirely on two factors, the first behind, how many people you have going with you (for instance is your family coming, or are you alone) and secondly, how long do you intend on being in the wilds?

Between these two you’ll be able to safely gauge just how much food you’ll need to bring in order to safely meet both your nutritional needs for the day, and micromanage just how much you’ll be carrying for the entirety of your duration.

Tips to Use Before Backpacking:


1. Pack a Variety of Snacks and Foods


As noted above, variety is indeed the spice of life, and while you can certainly survive eating nothing but trail mix every day for a week (assuming you have enough of it to last this time frame), you probably won’t be very happy and will get tired of it extremely fast.


2. Include Some Fresh Foods


Fresh foods will ensure you get the proper nutrition your body needs to perform correctly. Entering a deficit in calories will also cause you to feel tired faster and can begin to affect your clarity of mind. Squeezing in vegetables and fruit will give you a world of good for keeping you healthy.


3. Bring What You Like to Eat


Everyone has things they like and don’t like. For example, if you love peanut butter, you can easily incorporate it into your meals and snacks throughout the day without ultimately compromising your nutrition or weight while backpacking. Apples also go great with peanut butter. If you want something fast, Nutty Buddies will hit the spot without keeping you idle for too long.


4. Dehydrate Your Own Meals


Learning how to dehydrate your own meals will give you greater control over what you consume and ultimately cut down on your overhead costs dramatically once you get the hang of it. 

Investing in things like Peak Refuel is excellent if you are only backpacking occasionally. Still, if it is your passion, you’d be doing yourself a favor to learn this early on to make the most of your hikes truly.


5. Add Spices and Herbs to Your Food


Bland foods can kill your enthusiasm and sometimes even make you less hungry than you are. A quick fix for that would be to bring some Ziploc baggies of herbs and spices to lightly use on anything you plan on having to really change things up. Even something basic, like a strip of jerky, can taste entirely different with just a few basic herbs, like garlic and onion powder.


6. Hydrate Yourself With Flavored Beverages


With the advent of powdered flavor packages, the world has quite literally become our oyster when it comes to chasing your preferred drink while miles away from civilization. Apple, peach, and other flavor packets can be mixed into your water to keep yourself hydrated and scratch that itch if you can find time to dry your favorite fruit before your outing.


7. Consider Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Foods


It is challenging to plan for every event and obstacle that can occur while backpacking. While you could intend on being out for only a day or two, if you enjoy the scenery or the mood strikes you, having food that takes longer to go bad could be the difference between you spending even more time doing what you love or calling a trip short purely because your rations have gone bad.

Another thing to be wary of is learning how to dehydrate your own goods. The process itself is rather straightforward but requires quite a bit of know-how to do properly and, most importantly, safely. You can get food poisoning in your own home just trying to make dinner if you skip a step or cook something for too short a time.

Imagine how poorly things can turn out if you freeze-dried something improperly and ate it or dehydrated something wrong, and it had just enough moisture to slightly mold, and you didn’t notice.

How Many Days Will You Be Backpacking?


Plan your trips accordingly so you can pack appropriately; being ill-prepared while in the great outdoors can be at the least annoying and tiresome and, in a worst-case scenario, dangerous, if not deadly. Always consider what you will need, and do your best to bring more than you need to ensure everything goes as well as possible.


What Do Your Days Look Like?


Taking time to scout the location, get a lay of the land, and an insight into what the weather will be like will allow you to have a mental road map on not only how to get back to civilization should you happen to lose your way, but prevent you from being stuck in a heatwave, or sudden thunderstorm, everyone has access to this information, so don’t sell yourself short by being lazy!


How Many People Are in Your Group?


If you know how many people are going with you, it is easy to ensure everyone has enough food and supplies to enjoy the trip and have enough water and food to go around. Even if something happens, everyone bringing extra can easily compensate for a shortage. Take a headcount before any outing, and double-check with your friends/family that they know what to bring and what to eat.

Final Words


To summarize, you can bring many fantastic foods during your backpacking journey. However, the main things to keep in mind are to ensure you get enough food for your trip and pack lightly, taking dehydrated items instead of a lot of canned goods. We hope this article was helpful to you. If you need more ideas, questions, or answers, feel free to check out our other articles! 

Best Hiking Shoes: The Ultimate Guide

Best Hiking…

If you want to explore the outdoors, hiking…

Camping Food List: Best Food for Camping

Camping Food…

Planning a trip to the great outdoors involves…

Best Kayaking Accessories & Gear

Best Kayaking…

Kayaking is a fantastic hobby or experience in…

Scroll to Top