Backpacking Meal Ideas


Planning on hiking and I need to figure out what we’re eating. Besides the obvious trail mix, energy bars, oatmeal, nuts ect. I need some ideas for lunch and dinner things. We’re all pretty poor so I wanted to avoid the freeze dried prepackaged meals. I think the biggest problem is finding a lightweight source of protein besides jerky. You can’t do much with jerky besides eat it right? But ramen, oats, and rice all make great sources of carbs. So what do you all have in your backpacking cookbooks?


My advice for backpacking meals:

Peanut butter is a good energy source that you can eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you can dip chocolate or energy bars in it, and you can make Gorp balls with your trail mix.

Backpacking Meal Ideas

Backpacking Meal Ideas

Hamburger and tuna are available ready to eat in resealable containers from ordinary grocery stores now, so you can forget about the clunky cans of meat and expensive specialty shop prices. I’ve even seen the hamburger in several flavor choices. Look next to the Hamburger Helper.

Summer sausage, pepperoni, and other hardened meats pack well, as do hard aged cheeses, and pizza-place packets of parmesan are really nice.

Dried soups, especially bean soups.

Take pita bread instead of sandwich bread / crackers. It doesn’t squish or crumble.

Small potatoes pack easier than large ones.

You don’t have to pack the entire container, just what you’ll need in double Ziplocks. I like to make as much ahead of time as I can, and tape / rubber band my “meals” all together in bundles. You can make your own “Hamburger Helper” this way with way less sodium to swell your feet. I preseason too, so I don’t have to carry spices. It makes for much nicer meals. Don’t forget to start hitting up your local fast food places for condiment packets early.

Go look at the expensive pre-packed foods and try to find out how you can imitate it on your own. You will most likely wind up with a healthier meal.

Tuna packaged in bags is nice and light weigh

Tuna packaged in bags is nice and light weight and serves you about 28g of protein per serving. I recently did a 30 mile hike to Havasu Falls and had to pack my own food.. this is what i brought:

  • 6 Bags of Tuna
  • 4 Ramen Noodles
  • Misc power bars and granola stuff
  • 3 Easy Mac
  • Misc condiment packages like mayo and relish to make tuna salad etc.

In hindsight, i think i packed pretty good, I ate comfortably and didn’t have to pack 50lbs of food but i think i might try MRE’s next time. You can pick them up at any army surplus store and they aren’t too expensive if you only buy the meal and not the entire MRE.

You can pick up a nice Stainless mess kit

Also, you can pick up a nice Stainless mess kit (pot, pan, lid for both, and a 1 cup cup) for about 8 bucks at Wal Mart in the Colman section. It worked great for me and isn’t heavy. A little heavier than the aluminum but worth every oz.

Also, look into a bunson burner as opposed to a propane or butane powered stove. Its a LOT lighter and will do you just fine. buy some extra tabs though, they only last about 15 minutes each.

Bring some water purification tabs so that you don’t have to pack all of your water if you will be around a KNOWN source of RUNNING water.

A thermus works well if you want to heat enough water for a few meals so you don’t have to fire up the stove every time but is kind of heavy.

Don’t make your pack more than 25% of your body weight.. and if you arent an experienced packer, I’d say cut that to 18% of your body weight.

The whole time i was down in Havasupai (3 days) I wore 2 pairs of underwear (one hiking in, one hiking out.. the rest of the time i was freeballing it.) one pair of shorts, and my swim trunks. I brought a pair of thin cotton pants and a thermal shirt just in case along with 2 pairs of socks.

You can get a thin fleece sleeping bag at Wal Mart for 10 bucks. if it’s not going to be cold I’d recommend that down to about 50*

Photo by coda.

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