30+ Easy Backpacking Meal and Snack Ideas

If you’re wondering what the heck to eat when you go backpacking, or just looking to switch things up, I have some great backpacker food ideas for you in this post!

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclaimer here. 

Easy backpacking food ideas and snacks

Whether you just want some simple backpacking meals, or you want to get creative and start making your own snacks and dehydrated dinners, this post has it all.

I’m not one of those backpackers that can eat the same boring protein bar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I like some variety while I’m out on the trails and I don’t think you need to sacrifice flavor while backpacking.

This post is loaded with simple and satisfying backpacking meal and snack ideas for your next trip.

What Makes Good Backpacking Food?

There are a few things that I look for in the foods I choose to take backpacking:

  • Shelf-stable: Of course, you don’t want the food to spoil without refrigeration, so I pack foods that can safely be stored at room temperature.
  • Calorie Dense: Backpacking burns a lot of energy! I want to choose foods that are going to give me lots of calories for the size and weight of the food. For example, nuts are very calorie-dense.
  • Lightweight & Packable: You have to pack and carry the food you’ll eat on your trip, so foods that are lightweight and packable become an important consideration. For example, a can of beans is neither lightweight nor packable.
  • Minimal Cook Time: Lastly, I want meals that have a short cook time so I don’t use up too much of my fuel for cooking. Meals that you just add boiling water to are my favorite.
Backpacking food for a 4 day trip

How Much Backpacking Food Should You Pack?

How much food you pack depends on a few different factors, but I always pack a little more food than I think I’ll need.

A calorie counter on Backcountry.com suggests that for a long strenuous day of hiking, you should aim for 25 to 30 calories per pound of body weight, per day. This of course is just a rough estimate.

Things like your personal appetite, how much you’re hiking, your trip duration, how heavy your backpack is, and how strenuous the hike will all factor into how many calories you need to replenish your body and fuel your hike.

You’ll definitely be needing more food when compared to how much you eat on a typical day at home. On top of that, I typically pack an extra day’s worth of food in case of an emergency.

One of the ways I stay organized for multi-day trips and make sure I don’t forget anything is to actually write it down.

Plan your backpacking meals:

I actually write down what I’m going to eat for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner for each day of my trip. This will make your life so much easier – especially on longer trips.

It’s really helpful to see things written out day by day. When I go to pack my food for a backpacking trip, I have my written list and make sure I pack everything, meal by meal, day by day.

I don’t stick to any sort of strict meal schedule when I’m actually out in the backcountry, but I do use the list as a way to make sure I have enough food and that I don’t forget anything.

Backpacking Breakfast Ideas

Let’s start with my favorite meal of the day, breakfast!

Homemade backpacking oatmeal packets for breakfast

Homemade Oatmeal Packets

Oatmeal is the perfect backpacking breakfast because it’s delicious, filling, and so customizable.

There are a million ways you can change up oatmeal, so even if you have it multiple days in a row, there’s still some variety there.

This blog post with 3 backpacking oatmeal recipes is the perfect place to start. I usually mix quick-cooking oats with dried fruits and nuts. At camp, I add boiling water, nut butter packets, and/or honey packets.

If you don’t want to make your own combos, you can easily pack pre-made instant oatmeal packets instead.

Cereal and powdered milk for breakfast while backpacking

Cereal with Powdered Milk

If I’m not having oatmeal, then I’m probably packing cereal with powdered milk. At home, I mix together my favorite cereal and powdered milk.

At camp, all I have to do is mix in cold filtered/purified water. This breakfast works best if you have a cold water source like a river or alpine lake to filter water from.

Tortilla peanut butter granola roll up

Tortilla Roll-Up

This is another no-cook backpacking breakfast idea. Simply pack in a tortilla, a nut butter packet, a honey packet, and some granola or trail mix.

Layer the nut butter on the tortilla followed by the honey and granola. This will keep you going for a while!

4 backpacking breakfast ideas

Store-bought breakfast options

You can also buy freeze-dried breakfasts such as this Peak Refuel breakfast skillet.

Pre-made granola and powdered milk breakfasts can also be purchased.

This hot Blueberry Walnut Oat and Quinoa Cereal is another option!

I tend to not buy these breakfast options because they’re expensive and take up more space in my backpack compared to the cost of the other options I listed above.

Instant coffee options for backpacking

Coffee

While coffee is not really a food, it is an essential part of my backpacking breakfast! There are so many different ways to get your caffeine fix while backpacking.

My favorite way is to use the MSR MugMate coffee filter and pack in ground coffee. It’s a little more involved, but it makes a really good strong cup of coffee.

Instant coffee is another convenient option for backpacking. Luckily, I did a blind taste test of the most popular instant coffees so you don’t have to.


Backpacking Snacks and Lunch

For lunch when backpacking, I like to keep things light and simple.

Sometimes I don’t even eat lunch when I’m backpacking, I just eat a bunch of snacks in-between breakfast and dinner.

backpacking snack ideas

My Favorite Backpacking Snacks:

strawberry banana homemade trail mix backpacking food

Trail Mix

No backpacking trip is complete without the trail mix, right?

You can definitely buy trail mix at the grocery store (Trader Joe’s has some great options), but I prefer to make my own.

Making your own trail mix is really easy, especially if your local grocery store has a bulk section.

I love to pick out a few nuts and dried fruits and toss everything together. It’s so simple, and then you get exactly what you want!

Some of my favorite trail mix recipes:

If you need even more trail mix recipes, make sure to check out my homemade trail mix blog post with more ideas.

Tuna packets with crackers for lunch while backpacking

Tuna Packets

This is the lunch I reach for the most when I’m backpacking.

I buy the flavored tuna packets and eat them right out of the pouch with a spork, or I scoop the tuna with some crackers.

There are many different flavors and brands to choose from, so I pack different flavors for each day. I love that they are high in protein.

LMNT electrolyte drinks

Electrolytes for Hydration

I always want to stay hydrated when I’m outdoors. I make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, but sometimes adding electrolytes to my water goes a long way to keep me hydrated.

Electrolytes help your body retain water, so I always pack them on backpacking trips.

pouring boiling water into a backpacking meal to rehydrate it

Backpacking Dinner

When it comes to backpacking dinners, there are so many options!

From store-bought freeze-dried meals to homemade dehydrated meals, we’ll go over the options below.

Freeze-dried vs Dehydrated

There’s a difference between freeze-dried meals and dehydrated meals. You can buy both online or at your local gear shop.

Freeze drying is a low-temperature dehydration process that involves freezing the product, lowering pressure, then removing the ice.

Dehydrated meals use the conventional method and evaporate water from food using heat.

For our discussion of backpacking food, there are a few key differences in the end product (your meal) that are worth noting.

Freeze-dried meals will generally rehydrate faster than dehydrated meals, but I think the taste and texture are usually better with dehydrated meals.

On average, freeze-dried meals will take 5-10 minutes to rehydrate, while dehydrated meals are more like 20-30 minutes. This will vary depending on elevation as well.

Freeze-dried and dehydrated backpacking meal options

PROS of pre-made backpacking meals:

  • quick, easy, and convenient
  • no cleanup – simply eat right out of the bag
  • just add water

CONS of pre-made backpacking meals:

  • can’t control serving size
  • they can get expensive

If you want convenience and as little prep as possible, buying meals might be the way to go for you.

Good-to-go is one of my favorite backpacking food brands that I’ve tried so far. Their meals are dehydrated so they take about 25 minutes to fully rehydrate (maybe longer at higher elevations), but the taste is so good!

There are many different dishes to choose from and they sell single-serving packets or double-serving sizes.

Other Popular Backpacking Meal Options:

Homemade backpacking meal ready for the dehydrator

Making Your Own Backpacking Meals

Believe it or not, it’s actually easy and fun to make your own backpacking meals!

I love to cook and I wanted to be able to control things like serving sizes and the quality of ingredients, so I bought a dehydrator and started dehydrating my own food.

It ends up being so much cheaper in the long run if you go backpacking a lot. I have a Cosori Food Dehydrator and love it.

Check out this guide to homemade backpacking food where I show you exactly how I make my favorite meal – spaghetti!

Homemade Backpacking Meal Recipes:

Backpacking dessert options

Backpacking Dessert

There are plenty of backpacking dessert options from chocolate pudding, to fruit crisp, to freeze-dried ice cream!

These are some options to try:

While I love dessert, I typically don’t pack big freeze-dried backpacking desserts. They often take up too much space in my food bin and the serving size is too big.

Instead, I prefer dried fruits, peanut M&M’s, gummy bears, snickers bars… stuff like that. These options are a lot smaller and perfect for a little something sweet after dinner.

ReZip reusable bags for hiking snacks

Good Reusable Bags

I get a lot of questions about the reusable bags I use for packing my hiking snacks so I thought I would highlight my favorite ones here:

ReZip Sandwich Bags These are my go-to for things like trail mix, dried fruit, and homemade energy balls. They are durable, lightweight, and have a great seal. I use their smaller-sized bags for packing the oatmeal breakfasts I described above.

Amanda eating oatmeal for breakfast while backpacking

There you have it – tons of backpacker food ideas!

What are you packing on your next trip? What are some of your favorite meals and snacks? Chat with me in the comments below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 Comments