It’s a weird concept, bringing food to sustain yourself on the trail for a period of time with out refrigeration. There are only so many foods you can take with you on your journey that doesn’t spoil and is light to carry. This is the kind of thinking I had when I first began backpacking about 8 years ago. It has definitely changed since then!!!!
Choosing backpacking meals for beginners: (skip if not a beginner, proceed to breakfast)
When choosing the right backpacking foods, it is essential in looking for foods that are light, and don’t perish easily. What you don’t want to do is bring canned foods that are heavy and bulky. You don’t want anything with refrigeration except if you are eating this item on your first day out. Or if you are bringing cheese. For some reason, cheese has seemed to be fine for me on backpacking trips. Just don’t touch the cheese if you are putting it back in your pack for later! DON’T TOUCH THE CHEESE! Lol. You also don’t want to bring foods that take up a lot of room. As an example, if your on a 3-5 day backpacking trip, you might run out of room in your food bag or your bear canister. Are those apples worth the room and weight? Probably not. And apples are perishable and heavy. Just take one for the first day if you really want one. And after that, you can always bring dehydrated apples. And this goes for all fruits and vegetables. I always pick up dehydrated fruits and vegetables before I leave, or I dehydrate them myself.
These are things you need to be thinking of before your adventure. Instead of that can of tuna, pick up the tuna that is in the bag. Also, make sure you understand you have the ingredients to cook these meals, if involves heat. Does this meal require milk to cook it? If so, do you have dehydrated milk? If not do you think you can stomach this meal without putting milk in it? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself when determining what you want to bring backpacking with you. Ok, now lets get to some of the meals!!!!
Breakfast: As for breakfast, and this is just what I do. There are no right and wrong answers. Everyone has different taste buds and different ways of doing things.
*Oatmeal- very good for you. Filling, fiber, carbs (which you need a lot of to sustain your energy!!!) Women, do not worry about watching your weight on a backpacking trip. Eat those carbs!!! And the fiber is great for your digestive tract. Need to keep those bowels moving while still on the trail. Sorry, but it’s true. One more thing about oatmeal, you can put whatever you want in it to make it more healthy and filling, such as almonds (now you have your protein), raisins, cranberries, (now you have your fruit). These are just suggestions. There is so much you can do with oat meal. And I always get the whole grains oatmeal. That will ensure you are putting good grains in your diet. Also sugar or brown sugar for some simple sugars which will give you quick energy!!!
*Powdered milk and cereal- Cereal is actually very good for you. It has a lot of essential nutrients we need in our diet such as magnesium, iron, copper, zinc, vitamins A, B, C, D, niacin, riboflavin, and more!!!! And of coarse milk is good, we all know that’s what keeps us healthy and strong. Good for our bones and we know we need that for walking.
*Protein drink- one suggestion I have is to pick up those super food packets and then pouring them into your water bottle, or if you have dehydrated milk to mix it in your milk. This ensures you are getting your vital nutrients for the day, and its fast and easy!
*Dehydrated meals- You can buy these from pretty much any hiking store. You can also purchase these dehydrated meals off Amazon. There are so many selections for breakfast. Or you can make your own dehydrated meals, which is what I do. It’s just time consuming, but totally worth it. You can be as creative as you like. Dehydrate sausage and eggs. Mmmmmm.
Lunch: There is so much you can do with lunch. All you have to do is think. Put yourself in a grocery store. Sometimes I just walk up and down the isles brainstorming what I can create! This is one thing you really want to invest your time in. When you are hiking all day, sometimes the best time of the day for me is lunch time on the trail or getting to camp because I know I have an amazing meal waiting for me, instead of just pulling out ramen noodles. Now, there is nothing wrong with ramen noodles. Creamy chicken is my favorite. I don’t even know if they make creamy chicken anymore (sad face.) I will have Ramen occasionally for my meals, but there is more food other than ramen. Ok, back to lunch…
*Tuna packets- We discussed this earlier. Very good for your protein. I make sure I get healthy fish but that’s just because I’m crazy. Any tuna packet will do. I get the wild caught albacore tuna that is with water. But fish in oil is also very good for you because oil is good for you. It is good for your skin and has other vital properties. You can put it on bread if you packed some bread with you and then you are incorporating carbs with your meal, or you can just eat it right out of the tuna bag. If you are using bread, obviously whole wheat is better for you than white bread. The white bread is white for a reason. It is bleached and then the bread is enriched with the good nutrients that was taken out of the bread. But all the nutrition does not go back into the bread. Wheat bread is better but still is not the best. The bread has to have the word whole in it to make very nutritional for you. This is just advice on eating healthy. I’m not trying to persuade anyone from their eating habits. This is just in case you are interested and want to eat healthy on the trail.
Anyway, when I make tuna salad sandwiches, I’ll sometimes add garlic salt to it for more flavoring. There is nothing wrong with bringing your favorite kinds of seasonings with you on your trip. It makes a hell of a difference when you are eating your meals. One option is putting salt or pepper or in my case garlic salt in a tic-tac box. Super light and small so your not adding much weight to your pack :). And salt is really really good for you when your on these adventures! Keep that in mind!!!
*Peanut Butter sandwiches- There is a lot you can do with these sandwiches too. You can do peanut butter and jelly. I recommend when making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to put the peanut butter on both pieces of the bread and then put the jelly in the middle. The peanut butter acts as a sealant and prevents the bread from getting soggy. I’ve packed these sandwiches up to three days before and they have held for me. You can also do peanut butter and fluff. And there is also nuttella. Peanut butter is also good for you because of the protein. And the bread, we already talked about the bread.
*Cheese and pepperoni/ sausage/ crackers- A lot of people mistaken that cheese needs to be refrigerated. And the same goes for pepperoni and sausage. You just need to get those links that are not in the refrigerated section. And as for cheese, there is only one rule on preserving cheese for days. Don’t touch it, unless you are going to eat it in that moment. As an example, lets say you have a brick of cheese, and you are planning on having a little bit of it each day you are out. Cut off the slab you are going to eat and then put the rest of the cheese back into the packet without touching it. That’s the most important part. If you touch it, you are putting bacteria on that cheese, and that bacteria will grow fast! Also don’t have it sit in the sun. One time my whole brick of cheese melted, completely lost its shape and everything. I still ate it though ;).
*Dehydrated fruits- You can buy them at the store, they are in most hiking and grocery stores or you can dehydrate them yourself. Dehydrated fruits if done right can last from 6 months to possibly a year. The possibilities are endless. Strawberries, apples, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, starfruit, kiwis… Well, you know your fruits.
*Dehydrated veggies- You can get veggie chips for more of a snack, dehydrated kale, whatever you like. I mostly use dehydrated veggies in my dinners. I rarely eat veggies for my lunch but, like I said, everyone has their own taste buds and opinions. You can buy containers of dehydrated vegetables from Amazon as well. That’s what I do if I don’t want to dehydrate the myself.
*Dehydrated meat– Beef Jerky anyone!!!!
*Granola Bars- So many different granola bars. I just look for the granola bars that has the most health benefits. Or you can make your very own. Put your own touch in it like flax seeds!
*Protein Bars- also very good for you.
*Protein Shake- This is where I would pull out my super food packet and pour it in my water bottle just for an extra kick.
*Nuts- bring one type of nut or assorted nuts with you. It’s great brain food and protein. Pistachios, almonds, cashews, macadamia, peanuts, pecans, etc.
*Cookies- I bring cooking with me a lot on the trail for lunch. This helps with instant sugars. If you need energy fast, this is your ticket.
*Trail mix- There are so many different varieties with chocolate and peanuts. You are bound to find something you like.
You can also cook something like a pasta side or rice side. I just generally don’t cook my lunches. I only cook meals for breakfast and dinner. It is just easier so you don’t have to pull everything out of your bag.
Dinners: 100 percent of my dinners revolve around something that you need to cook. You do not have to have it this way, but I’m telling you, there is no better way to end the day of a long hike than to have a nice warm home-cooked meal.
*Rice- rice is very good for you. Brown rice better than white rice. There are also other types of rice that is good for you such as wild and black. When I buy rice, I generally get the boil-in-a-bag rice. It is easy and does not take long to cook. Make sure you always look at the cooking times. You do not want to be sitting there watching your rice boil for 45 minutes when you are hungry. It is also a waste of gas. Or you can get rice sides. This won’t be as healthy but hey, you can’t eat healthy all the time. What’s the fun in that. Plus it has a lot of sodium and in this circumstance, sodium is good for you. You are sweating all day, loosing an essential nutrient. You need to replenish that. If you are making your own rice, bring salt and put a generous amount of salt in it. Another tip is making your rice taste good. Add some things to it. You can add dehydrated veggies to your rice, or dehydrated beans, dehydrated chicken, or beef. You can bring seasonings and spices with you on your backpacking trip. Bring some salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, whatever it is you like. Make this rice scrumptious!!!
*Pasta- basically a lot of this stuff is repetitive for the rice. Spice up your pasta. Just because you are in the back-country doesn’t mean you can’t eat well. What I do, this is one of my favorite things. I bring chia seeds. Chia seeds, are like the healthiest things on the planet. They are so nutritional and ill just poor these seeds right on top of my pasta. Now this won’t add flavor to it, but you know you are getting a lot of health benefits from it. As for the seasoning it can be whatever you like. Putting chicken on it, garlic salt, maybe melting your cheese that you brought for lunch. Mmmm. The sky is the limit.
*Veggies- You can get these backpacking meals in most hiking stores or dehydrate them yourself. Eat the veggies as is, or add to your rice or pasta. You can even put your cheese in there and have cheesy veggies. Add some salt for the sodium you lost earlier that day.
*Dehydrated backpacking meals- You can buy these backpacking meals in hiking stores. There is a huge variety. Spaghetti and meatballs, beef stew, chicken parmesan, chicken primavera, you name it. And remember, you can always make these meals yourself. Spaghetti doesn’t take long to boil and you just have to dehydrate some beef and there you have it. Spaghetti and meatballs. Easy peasy. You can buy those little spaghetti seasoning packets in the store. Same goes with fettuccine alfredo. Just cook the fettuccine and buy that small packet of alfredo sauce at the store.
Spice your dinners up a bit. Even if you dehydrate some onions and put it in a separate baggie. Now you can incorporate onions into your meal. Same goes with garlic. There is no reason you have to eat bland on the trail. And all this isn’t much as far as weight goes. Just put all of your items in baggies. Baggies barely weigh anything and your food is dehydrated. Plus dehydrated food doesn’t take up much space. You can go a long way with dehydrated food. It’s a beautiful thing. The food when dehydrated holds almost all of the health benefits as when it was fresh off the shelf.
And don’t forget the deserts! Just the other day I had hot apple cobber!!! YUM!!!! As far as the deserts go, if you have a pan you can really create some things. I usually get the pie filling (cherries, apples, whatever), take it out of the can and put it in a baggie. Double wrap that baggie! It can get very messy. Put that filling between two slices of bread, toast it carefully on your pan, and wala! You have cherry desert. May not sound really good right now, but food always seems to taste better on the trail!!! I also go the easier route and just get the dehydrated deserts from mountain house. They make good meals! Sometimes the dinners don’t agree with my stomach though so I try to not go too crazy with them. Plus, it’s not cheap!
I hope this helps. These are just a few of my favorite ideas. These ideas are exactly what I do on the trail. And these guidelines will help you incorporate plenty of nutrition on the trail, so you and your body can thrive with plentiful energy. Don’t give yourself food that contains empty carbs and calories. Give your body food that it can use. You will feel much better. I hope this helps. Stay safe on the trail!!!
Thank you for reading!