There are so many different options for backpacking foods and meal plans – less so if you’re a vegetarian like me, but there are still a bunch of them out there!
I personally enjoy putting a meal plan together when backpacking or camping. It’s a challenge to get as much variation as possible without bringing a ton of stuff. It forces you to really think about what you’re eating and to not be over indulgent like so many of us are in our daily lives. When you don’t have whatever you want available to you whenever you want, you really need to prioritize what foods are necessary based on calories and taste and what are optional items that you can leave at home.
Putting Together a Backpacking Meal Plan
The best advice I can give is to try out different options to figure out what you like and then stick to that brand. Be conscious of not bringing way too much food, but I also suggesting bringing at least 2 extra meals than you think you’ll need just to be safe.
Since I’ll only recommend something I’ve tried personally, this meal plan will be vegetarian. If you’re not a vegetarian, this list can still be relevant to you! I encourage you to give it a try especially when backpacking since you won’t have access to fresh meat during your trip anyway and the vegetarian options will often be healthier. There are lots of great things on this list you can try (and will hopefully love!), but if not, most of the items I link to also have meat-options available on their websites.
What Are MREs?
MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, are self contained complete meals that come in a pouch or package. These are often used by the military. Military MREs provide an average of 1,250 calories (13% protein, 36% fat, and 51% carbohydrates) per package, however since military grade MREs are not available to the public, those that are often purchased for camping will differ. They can be eaten without cooking or heating, which is why they’re great for backpacking. All tho, heating is recommended to make them taste better. The also have a long shelf life and don’t expire for an average of three years.
The biggest negative of MREs are that they don’t taste great. You can easily survive with them, but you won’t necessarily enjoy what you’re eating. Also, they supposedly will make you fart a lot.
If you’re interested in looking into MREs, you can do so here
What Are Freeze Dried & Dehydrated Meals?
Freeze dried meals are my preferred meal to take backpacking because they’re light weight and tasty. All you have to do is add water to the pouch and ta-da! Dinner! My favorite freeze dried meals are made by Mountain Home.
Freeze-dried meals are created through a three step process that begins with freezing. The food is then placed in a vacuum chamber under low heat. The frozen water crystals then undergo sublimation, evaporating and going from ice to water vapor. The food is then tried a second time where any remaining water molecules are removed under slightly higher temperatures. The food is then sealed using nitrogen to prevent contamination from water or oxygen.
I prefer freeze dried and dehydrated meals over MREs, so this list really focuses on those:
For a 3-Day Trip, Pick Three!
Strawberries and Banana Paleo Breakfast
Warm strawberries, bananas, walnuts, almonds, and cacao nibs. Just add water and yum! Get it here.
Eggs and “Bacon”
Super easy and delicious – Mary Janes Farm Bac’un & Egg Scrambler.
Add some spice to the traditional eggs for breakfast meal – eggs, peppers, beans, and chilies. Backpacker’s Pantry Huevos Rancheros.
Mmmm that cheesy goodness! Requires a little culinary skills as you need to flip over the frittata as it’s cooking in your skillet, which makes it a little more difficult when backpacking (since you don’t have a skillet), but otherwise a tasty way to start the day! Get it here.
There are quite a few options when it comes to oatmeal. My favorites are:
- Backpacker’s Pantry Organic Blueberry Walnut Oats & Quinoa
- Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Instant Quinoa & Oat Hot Cereal
- Oatmeal with Blueberries by Mountain House – this was so good my boyfriend wants to eat it at home.
- Cinnamon Roll Oats Oatmeal – if you close your eyes you can almost convince yourself its an actual cinnamon roll.
Pick your favorite pancake mix and put the batter into a plastic bottle or other container to make it easy to carry. Luckily dry pancake mix is very light! Then the morning of, add water and presto! You have pancakes. They’ll be a little small since you’re cooking them on your mess kit, but it’s a quick yummy breakfast option.
For those who like to do meal-prep and cooking. It’s really only good for your first breakfast since it won’t last that long not being refrigerated, but it’s super yummy and filling! Get the recipe here.
Not terribly exciting, but if you don’t feel like breaking out your stove or are trying to conserve your water, munching on a cliff bar will give you the energy you need to get you going.
Backpacking Lunches & Snacks
Pick and choose and nibble on along the trail or whenever you get hungry.
PROBAR Meal Bars
Jam packed with all sorts of yummy super foods! Get them here
Almonds or Trail Mix
Make it at home to include your favorite stuff or grab something pre-packaged.
Apples, Bananas, and Oranges
Stinger Honey Waffles
A great sweet energy pick me up! Get them here
Peanut/Almond/Sesame Butter Packets
Yes! Vegan jerky! a tasty health and environmental conscious alternative to beef jerky.
Just Veggies Mix
Get your daily serving of veggies! Can be eaten plain or added in with some trail mix or to soup or noodles for dinner. Get them here.
Apple, Banana, or Coconut Chips
Real apples, bananas and coconuts that have been baked until crispy. Much lighter than carrying an actual bag of apples. Gluten free, dairy free, no added oil, nothing artificial, and good source of dietary fiber. Get them here.
Shiitake Mushroom Crisps
I personally really love mushrooms, so having some pre-cooked/dried mushrooms as a snack is perfect for me. Low fat, high fiber (which can be hard to get on the trail) and relatively high in protein (at least for a vegetable – mushrooms rank the highest among vegetables for protein content). Also rich in enzymes – researchers have found over 30 enzymes in shiitake mushrooms. Get them here.
For a 3-Day Trip, Pick Three!
Good To Go Meals
Love them because they offer Vegetarian, Vegan, and Pescatarian meal options! Some of my favorites:
- Mushroom Risotto
- Mexican Quinoa Bowl
- Marinara with Penne
- Smoked Three Bean Chili
- Indian Vegetable Korma
Lots of different vegetarian options that are super tasty. These tend to be a bit more traditional/ comfort food meals which are awesome for when you’ve been hiking for several days straight.
- Mac & Cheese
- Veggie Parmesan
- Pad Thai
- Spaghetti & Sauce
- Corn Chowder
- Bac’n Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
Mountain House Meals
Popular among meat-eaters, but not too many veggie options unfortunately. The other negative is that their meals are generally high in carbs and low in protein when compared to other vegetarian backpacking meals, but there are some tasty options such as:
Alpine Aire Meals
Wide variety of different types of foods- everything from smoothies to dinners to snacks & dips! They even have a 7-Day vegetarian meal kit. Favorite dinner options:
Who says you can’t have ice cream while camping? This freeze dried Ice Cream Sandwich tastes surprisingly like ice cream.
Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
New York Style Cheesecake Bites that are crumbly and taste like real cheese cake!
Chocolate & Banana Monkey Mix
Monkey Mix could be a great snack or lunch item too if you’re looking for something sweet.
Mango Sticky Rice
A refreshing dessert that could be a great snack or lunch item too if you’re looking for something sweet.
Instant Teas & Lemonades
Unfortunately often very high in sugar and artificial ingredients, but I personally get bored of drinking plain ol’ water. Also, if you’re looking for some libations while on the trail, you can mix this in with Vodka or other alcohol to create a mixed drink.
The possibilities are just about endless when it comes to trail food. Pretty much anything that’s “instant” or that you can just add water too will do the trick!
Think I missed something or there’s a better option? Let me know in the comments!