Best Lightweight Vegan Backpacking Food Ideas
Easy, delicious, lightweight, and filling backpacking food ideas that you wouldn’t even know are vegan.
There’s a funny thing about food and the psyche when you are out in the backcountry. You spend a lot of time thinking about whatever your first meal back will be, typically consisting of all of the indulgent things that you can’t have. You also spend a lot of time dramatically complaining about the dehydrated food sitting in your pack. “If I have to eat another freeze-dried meal, I might just be sick!” It can be hard to come up with creative backpacking food ideas.
But then you carefully pour the boiling water into that package of Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai and spend the next 10 minutes drooling, counting down the seconds till those morsels are rehydrated and ready to be wolfed down. The second it hits your tongue, it’s like you’ve died and gone to heaven. That savory, salty, thick, hearty goodness. It’s like there’s nothing more satisfying in the entire world!
Here at Bearfoot Theory, we love good backpacking food and we also thrive on a plant-based diet. All of the recommendations in this post are vegan-friendly and packed with healthy nutrients that will keep you powered on the trail. For all you meat eaters out there, don’t worry – these options are all delicious, healthy, and filling, plus who wants to eat those weird spongey dehydrated meat nuggets anyway?
Here’s a list of our favorite simple vegan backpacking food ideas. They are readily available online, delicious, easy to prepare, and require little cleanup.
Tips for Choosing Backpacking Meals & Snacks
During my 22-day John Muir Trail adventure, there were plenty of times when I dreamt about real food. But overall, I would say that I made some pretty darn good choices when planning our menu and comping up with backpacking food ideas.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t happy when we sat down for our first real meal after the trip, but when I was out on the trail, I always felt pretty content after eating. Here are a few tips to follow when planning your backpacking menu:
1. Pack a variety of food options
Variety is key. You do not want to be eating the same thing every day over and over again. Having a mix of different breakfasts, lunches, and dinners gives you something new to look forward to and keeps your palette from getting bored.
2. Choose meals that are easy to prepare and clean up
The second critical element, at least for me, is to choose foods that are easy to prepare and clean up – ideally, dinners that can be “cooked” right in their own pouches. For these kinds of meals, you can pour the boiling water into the pouch and eat straight out of the bag, resulting in minimal dirty dishes.
3. Opt for calorie dense foods
Protein will help keep you feeling full on the trail while carbohydrates will provide you with energy. When coming up with backpacking food ideas, it’s best to choose foods that are calorie-dense and high in protein and carbs for maximum energy.
Backpacking Breakfast Ideas
Below are a few of my favorite vegan backpacking meal ideas for filling and calorie-packed breakfasts on the trail.
Bars make for quick and easy breakfasts because you can eat them on your own schedule as you pack up for the day. One of our favorite vegan bars is the dense PROBAR Meal Bars that are packed with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and taste like real food because that’s what they’re made of.
We also love Bobo’s Oat Bars, which are slightly sweet, calorie-packed, and delicious (my favorite flavors are the coconut and peanut butter), as well as Patagonia Provisions Bars, Larabars, and GoMacro bars.
Instant Oatmeals & Cold Cereals
While a lot of people like to complain about oatmeal, it’s one of the most classic backpacking food ideas that’s become a staple on our trips. As long as you don’t have to eat it every day, it can be tasty, easy, and filling, sustaining you on those tough climbs. All you have to do is boil a little extra water with your morning coffee, stir it into the oatmeal, and dig in! If you don’t have time or enough fuel to boil water, these cereals can also be eaten cold (although we definitely recommend a hot breakfast especially on chilly mornings).
Nature’s Path Instant Oatmeal
While on my JMT hike, I enjoyed the texture and flavors of Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack. This box comes with four different flavors including Apple Cinnamon, Multigrain Raisin, Flax Plus, and Maple Nut for a nice variety each morning.
Trailtopia Instant Oatmeals
Trailtopia makes several delicious and lightly sweetened instant oatmeal varieties that can be cooked right in their pouches, which also makes for easy clean-up. Each pouch contains real dried fruit and a touch of sugar to brighten up your morning. Flavors include:
- Trailtopia Mango Oatmeal
- Trailtopia Blueberry Oatmeal
- Trailtopia Strawberry Oatmeal
- Trailtopia Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- Trailtopia Brown Sugar Raisin Oatmeal
Food for the Sole Energy Oats
Another popular instant oatmeal option is by Food for the Sole, a company that produces ultra-light, tasty, and health-conscious backpacking meals. Food for the Sole has three varieties of vegan-friendly Energy Oats, all of which are delicious:
- Food for the Sole Blueberry Banana Crunch Energy Oats
- Food for the Sole Coconut Mango Macadamia Energy Oats
- Food for the Sole Pumpkin Apple Pecan Energy Oats
Backpacker’s Pantry Oatmeals
Backpacker’s Pantry is a very well-known and popular brand with lots of backpacking food ideas. They have several breakfast options including a delicious vegan-friendly instant Hot Blueberry, Walnut, Oats & Quinoa Cereal, which can be made and eaten right from the pouch.
Outdoor Herbivore Cereals
Outdoor Herbivore makes whole-food vegetarian and vegan backpacking meals including tasty breakfasts. Their ingredients are locally sourced as much as possible and their meals are packaged in compact rehydration pouches that use minimal plastic to help reduce waste.
For a breakfast, try their Toasted Sunburst Muesli or High Elevation Rice Cereal or pick up their cold breakfast sampler to maximize variety on the trail.
Peak Refuel Mountain Berry Granola
I’ve written an in-depth review of Peak Refuel backpacking meals, but since then, I’ve transitioned to a plant-based diet so many of their products are a no-go for me. However, Peak Refuel does have a vegan breakfast option, their Mountain Berry Granola. Made with rice milk, freeze-dried berries, and whole grain oats, it provides a tasty and filling start to the day. Just pour a cup of cold water into the packet and enjoy!
There are a lot of backpacking egg breakfast options out there, but have you ever tried a morning tofu scramble? If not, give the Outdoor Herbivore Sunrise Tofu Scramble a try. It’s packed with plant-based protein to give you energy on the trail plus plenty of dehydrated veggies. Try it rolled up in a tortilla for a filling, and delicious, breakfast burrito.
Maxim Mocha Gold is the best instant coffee I’ve ever had. I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m still drinking it now that I’m home, but it’s that good! It comes in little single-serve packets, but it already has the non-dairy cream and a small amount of sugar mixed in. You can get 100 instant servings for under $20 on Amazon. A steal!
Backpacking Lunch & Snack Ideas
A lot of backpackers choose to snack throughout the day rather than stop to make a lunch. Either way, here are a few of my favorite backpacking lunch and snack ideas.
Powdered hummus is a perfect backpacking meal idea because it’s lightweight, packed with protein and carbs, and high in fiber. The Hummus Co. makes several flavors of powered hummus including my favorite – Mughla Curry. Just pour in water, mix until you reach your desired consistency, and enjoy with a tortilla, crackers, or baby carrots.
Vegan jerky is another delicious protein to throw in a tortilla or eat on the go. My favorite is Primal Vegan Jerky in Hot and Spicy (made from mushrooms) or the Texas BBQ (made from soy protein). You can also get the sampler pack with 6 different flavors to choose from. Even meat-eaters love these jerkys!
Before I turned to a plant-based diet, I had a thing with Nutella. It’s SO good and it was a real treat on the JMT. Nutella does contain dairy, but if you’re vegan, don’t despair! The vegan-alternative is Nutiva and it’s just as good if not better (it’s quite a bit less sweet). This chocolatey hazelnut goodness slathered on a tortilla with some dried banana chips is heaven. Pro tip: pack more than you think you’ll need.
Justin’s Nut Butter Packets
Nut butter packets are super convenient and a great source of protein on the trail. They’re one of our favorite newer backpacking food ideas. We really like Justin’s Nut Butters because they’re non-GMO responsibly sourced, and they taste amazing. The Maple Almond Butter is heaven in a packet.
Food for the Sole Dehydrated Meals
I mentioned Food for the Sole Energy Oats in the breakfast section above, but they also make tasty dehydrated meals and all of them are vegan! Each pouch contains a single serving and is best eaten as a lunch or snack since they’re not as calorie-dense as other dehydrated meals that you would eat for dinner.
- Ratatouille with Nutty Quinoa Pilaf
- Garlic Green Bean and Cashew Stir-Fry
- Coconut Rice and Cuban Black Beans
- Lentil Walnut Pilaf with Kale
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale and Quinoa
You can buy them individually or get a Full Meal 6-Pack Deal.
Outdoor Herbivore Lunches
Outdoor Herbivore has a ton of vegan and vegetarian backpacking food ideas, including delicious lunches that are packed with protein and nutrients and have way less salt than other brands (which I prefer). I tested out many of their products on my Boundary Waters trip and I thought they were really awesome. They had good texture, satisfied a fresh salad craving, and were super easy to make because you just mix in cold water, no need to get the stove out.
My favorite Outdoor Herbivore lunches are:
Navitas Organics Power Snacks
These little cubes of dates, nuts, seeds, and superfoods are an energy bomb. They’re great for a quick snack on the trail when you’re feeling tired and sluggish or they’re the perfect post-lunch sweet treat. Navitas Organics sources ethically grown ingredients and are committed to creating a “healthier world through regenerative organic farming and plant-forward lifestyles”.
Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews
These are pure gummy goodness with energy that is naturally derived from white tea. After sampling all the flavors, I would recommend pomegranate passionfruit, but really they’re all delicious.
Trail mix is a given on nearly any backpacking trip. My recommendation is Trader Joes Omega Trek Mix. It’s packed with all of the best nuts including almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pecans. Alternatively, load up on your favorite ingredients in the bulk section and make your own trail mix concoction.
Dried fruit is an essential on the trail and is one of our favorite backpacking food ideas. You can eat it by the handful as a snack, sneak some cranberries into your hummus wrap, or flavor oatmeal with dried mangos or apples, My favorite dried fruits are tart Montgomery cherries – they’re slightly sweet and have a nice tang.
Backpacking Dinner Ideas
Whether you’re looking for DIY backpacking dinner ideas or dehydrated pouches of savory, salty goodness, these meals will help refuel your body for another day on the trail.
DIY Backpacking Dinners
Soy curls are a delicious alternative to meat. They’re quick and easy to rehydrate and can be added to any backpacking meal likes soups or stews, stir-fry’s, pasta, or any other dish you’re whipping up at camp. Butler Soy Curls are minimally processed, non-GMO, and pesticide-free.
Harmony House is the perfect place to look for DIY backpacking meal ideas. They have a huge selection of dehydrated foods, freeze-dried fruits and veggies, soup blends, and TVP (which stands for Textured Vegetable Protein and is an excellent alternative to meat).
To get started, head to their Trail Food page or pick up one of their Backpacking kits (also available on Amazon).
Outdoor Herbivore Dinners
Not only does Outdoor Herbivore make a delicious breakfast tofu scramble and filling and nutritious lunches, they also make a huge variety of amazing dinners as well, which I sampled during our Boundary Waters trip. All of their dinners are vegan or vegetarians and are made with whole-food ingredients. No chemicals or artificial flavors here!
My favorite Outdoor Herbivore dehydrated vegan dinners are:
- Chickpea Sesame Zetti
- Pea-Nutty Matchsticks
- Cheddar Instant Mac
- Basil Walnut Penne
- Lemongrass Thai Curry
I also recommend checking out their 7-day sampler which has 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 7 dinners.
Peak Refuel Backpacking Meals
Up until recently, the number of major backpacking food brands has been pretty limited, but over the last few years, we’ve seen some new players in the game that are focused on creating healthier, more natural backpacking food with fewer chemicals. One of these new companies, based out of Utah, is Peak Refuel.
Their meals are non-GMO, calorie-dense, and packed with protein…but even more important, they are delicious and they have a tasty vegan-friendly option – the Three Bean Chili Mac.
Good To-Go Backpacking Meals
Good To-Go‘s lightweight dehydrated backpacking meals are meat-free, gluten-free, and have less sodium than the competition, filling a huge gap in the food aisle at REI. I’ve tried every meal in their lineup and wrote up a post listing out my top Good-To-Go picks.
All of their meals are vegetarian, but if you’re vegan, here is their vegan line-up:
- Kale and White Bean Stew – This hearty stew is perfect for cold nights on the trail. It’s nutrient-dense, calorie-dense, and delicious.
- Herbed Mushroom Risotto – A creamy mix of caramelized onions, basil pesto, and sauteed mushrooms. All without dairy!
- Mexican Quinoa Bowl – A friend and I sampled this on our Coyote Gulch backpacking trip and agreed that it was one of the best backpacker meals either of us had ever tasted.
- Classic Marinara with Pasta – A super comforting bowl of pasta sauce over noodles. What could be better?
- Smoked Three Bean Chili – When I tried this one, the beans cooked perfectly and the smoky tomato sauce was filled with carrots, garlic, corn, and onion, resulting in a nice, complex flavor.
- Bibimbap – Good To-Go nailed this one. The rice rehydrated perfectly, the carrots and zucchini gave it a nice crunch, and the mushrooms added a little meatiness.
Nomad Nutrition Dinners
Nomad Nutrition is relatively new on the backpacking food scene and they offer delicious plant-based meals that are easy to prepare and no-fuss to clean up. Simply add about a cup of hot water to each pack and dinner is served! There are six different flavors to choose from and two different size pouches – 2oz and 4oz.
- Irish Shepherds Pie
- Kathmandu Curry
- Indian Red Lentil Stew
- Caribbean Curry
- Hungarian Goulash
- Ukrainian Borscht
Backpacker’s Pantry Dinners
Backpacker’s Pantry is one of the biggest and most well-known backpacking food options out there. They have a handful of vegetarian and vegan-friendly meals that are nutritious, filling, and tasty, especially after a long day on the trail. The Pad Thai gets great reviews as does the Three Sister’s Stew. Here is Backpacker Pantry’s full line-up of vegan-friendly meals:
- Pad Thai
- Three Sister’s Stew
- Kathmandu Curry
- Cuban Coconut Rice & Black Beans
- Louisiana Red Beans & Rice
- Chana Masala
- Three Amigos Veggie Stew
Couscous is awesome for backpacking. All you have to do is boil water, add the couscous and seasoning, turn off the heat, cover, and it’s ready in 5 minutes. My favorite is the Near East Roasted Garlic Couscous. It’s great on its own, but if you want to make it a more hearty meal, add in some vegan jerky and a handful of cranberries. You can also buy couscous package free in the bulk section and add your own seasonings.
On the John Muir trail, I loved ramen so much that I joked that I might just start eating it on the regular at home. Grab your favorite flavor – the Soy Sauce flavor is vegan – and mix in some soy curls and freeze-dried veggies for a more filling and “nutritious” meal.
Drinks are an essential backpacking menu item, both to keep you hydrated and to keep you warm on chilly days and nights. Here are a few of my favorite backpacking drink options:
Powdered Hot drinks
Lesson #21 from the John Muir Trail: Plentiful hot drinks are crucial. The more, the better, so stock up.
- Hot apple cider
- Hot chocolate
- Herbal Teas
- Chai Tea
- Natural Vitality Calm is a great evening hot drink option since it contains magnesium and can help prevent cramping as well as help you get to sleep.
Powdered Cold drinks
While we didn’t bring any cold drinks other than water on our JMT hike, we saw plenty of people carrying Tang and Gatorade powder. I can’t help but think that some orangey Tang would have been nice with lunch every once in a while. If you’re looking for a more ‘natural’ powdered cold drink with rehydrating electrolytes, Skratch is awesome. We also like Nuun hydration tablets and Liquid IV.
For a little pick-me-up or post-meal treat, try a few of these tasty backpacking snack ideas:
Heather’s Choice Packaroons
Heather’s Choice Packaroons are calorie-dense whole-food treats packed with coconut, maple syrup, nuts, and other goodies. If you like coconut, you’ll love these! They come in four flavors: Amaretto, Blueberry Almond, Lemon Lavender, and Sweet Coconut.
The Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate flavor is the bomb. It provided a nice crunch that you don’t often get out in the field. The Almond Coconut variety came in at a close second.
Loucks Sesame Snaps
Crunchy, sweet, cheap, and packed with fat, calories, and protein these sesame snaps only weigh 1.4 ounces so you get a lot of bang (and flavor) for the weight.
Do it. Load up on those Snickers Bars and Sour Patch Kids. In my recent post 22 Lessons from 22 Days on the John Muir Trail, I explain that backpacking is not the time to go on a diet. You don’t want junk food to be the only thing you consume, but treating yourself here and there is totally acceptable.
For vegan candy options, try UNREAL – their dark chocolate caramel peanut nougat bar is amazing.
What are your favorite easy vegan backpacking food ideas? What would you leave behind? Leave a comment below to share your tips!
Aron and I read this before backpacking the Kern River last weekend- we have to try the Ova Easy! Instant oats, dried fruit, nuts, jerky, tuna, salami, hard cheese, and ramen are our regulars too. We used to buy Mary Jane’s backpacking meals at REI- they are organic, low sodium, have lots of veggie options, and require no cleanup but they are a little pricey ($10-12 a pop!). Nowadays we also like taking hard boiled eggs, tortillas or flat breads for wraps (they don’t get squished like regular bread), instant/dehydrated soups, lara bars, and powdered hummus (this is a hard one to find so cherish it when you do). A recent discovery is Tasty Bite Indian food- a variety of Indian dishes like madras lentils, channa masala, and rice packaged in bags that you boil in hot water for five minutes. Delish on a cold night after hiking all day 🙂
Kristen you have a very Informative site. Glad I chanced upon this via the ig. While you gave dwelled a lot on nonveg food, you could think of including veg/egg vegetarian food also for people who are off nonveg. One lady named Linda has given few nice alternatives in the comments which include hard boiled eggs,preprepared Indian food packs, flat breads etc.
Regarding powdered cold drinks – another reason to bring them along is for energy in case you get sick. I was on the last day of a 4 day trip and woke up with a wonky stomach — let’s just say solid food wasn’t doing me much good. I tried hiking out 8 miles without eating breakfast and darn near passed out. I then ate something :)…
Someone pointed out to me later that a sugary drink like Tang or Koolaid would have at least given me some calories to hike on…
Man, that sounds really tough! Glad you were able to make it out. That must have been scary. And that’s a really good point that I hadn’t thought of regarding the drink powder. I’m definitely going to remember to pack some next time.
I just discovered your website – you have some great stuff here! I love this article. It’s always difficult to plan meals for long treks, so this is super helpful. I’ll definitely be bookmarking it for future use!
Also, I love that you included Maxim coffee in there!! We are currently living in South Korea and that stuff is ADDICTIVE! It’s good to know we’ll be able to order it online even after we leave Korea 🙂
Katie – I’m glad this was helpful! And that’s so awesome that you drink the Maxim. Totally addictive. I’m drinking it right now in fact…leftovers from my trip. And it’s dirt cheap. Thanks again! -Kristen
I love this article! My sister (who blogs with me) and I grew up on a Girl Scout Camp — our parents ran it — and it reminds me so much of the camp food we would eat over fires. Haven’t done a big trek yet, but it’s on my list! Definitely will be back here for tips!!
Awesome Holly! Let me know what you think once you get to try some of this stuff.
Love your site! Great tips on backpacking foods! A few of my own: love to have powdered country time lemonade!! Cuts through those salty meals and goes great with a snickers! For added taste and a little extra protein I put some powdered milk into the oatmeal- makes it richer and creamier. Looking forward to reading through all of your website!!
Thanks for those awesome tips Julie! I really like the idea of the milk in the oatmeal. And the lemonade sounds great too. Always nice to have a little sweet treat. Thanks! Kristen
As far as Mountain House I liked the spaghetti and stroganoff too. The only candy I brought were PayDay candy bars. They didn’t melt and that salty sweetness was awesome.
I just came back from an epic mountain bike where I set a record for riding to Everest Base Camp at 18,000 plus feet in elevation. The eight weeks prior I ate 80% fat, 15% protein and 5% carbohydrates (about 50g per day of carbs) and my body started producing ketones to burn fat constantly as fuel. Getting “fat adapted” is an amazing strategy for mountaineers and endurance athletes. read more by @ProfTimeNoakes.
PS – Kristen if you like to MTB you’ll like this video from my YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wITw3UHZi6c
Thanks for the tips Patrick. And I just checked out your video. Very cool! I’ve been trying to figure out the best places to go mountain biking in Vegas. I’ll have to check out some of the trails you recommend. Thanks again! Kristen
Cottonwood Canyon in Vegas is the best place to mountain bike
Try drinking Tang hot; it’s delicious! Also, hot jello (the gelatin has protein) totally hits the spot.
Oooh hot Tang? Sounds interesting. Will have to give that one a try. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Thanks for this list! We live in AK now and my 13 yr old and husband have been doing longer and longer hikes every year! (2nd summer here)This yr they are up to 4 days, and I always have trouble thinking about thier food! We recently got a JetBoil, so this is perfect!
Awesome Andy! I’m glad this post was helpful. Let me know how you like the jetboil! Thanks! Kristen
So, I saw that you mentioned tortillas. Could I send tortillas in my resupply? I’m going in July and was just wondering if they will get moldy, or if they will be ok? Also, the Babybels cheeses, could those go in resupplies too? Thank you!
Chris – I sent both Mission brand tortillas and babybel cheese in my resupply boxes and they were all fine…no mold and perfectly good to eat. Hope thats helpful! -Kristen
My husband and I are planning a few backpacking trips this fall and love this site. . I purchased bobo boars, Maxim coffee, and powdered humus to try (on amazon prime) for our next trip. Thanks for the ideas!
Amy – That’s great to hear! I’m glad you like my site and have found it helpful. I hope you like everything you bought! Definitely come back and let me know what you think. Cheers, Kristen
I’m not even a backpacker but loved this article. My son’s are getting into backpacking and your article caught my eye. Great information!
Thanks so much Elaine! Maybe you should venture out with your sons on a quick weekend excursion sometime! Thanks for stopping by. -Kristen
Great tips! Can you tell me what the start weight of just your food was without the bear container? I am planning a JMT hike the last week in Aug 2016 and I am trying to determine the ever important pack weight.
Hello! Congrats on making the decision to hike the JMT. You’re going to have an amazing time. You know, I’m not sure what the starting weight of my food was. My guess 7 days worth probably weighed about 15 pounds. But I never weighed it so I’m not sure. With 7 days of food and 3 liters of water I was at about 43 pounds total. If you have any other questions, just let me know! -Kristen
Oh my goodness! I am so thankful to have found your blog! Just started planning my 2016 JMT hike and feeling very overwhelmed. So much to think about and to prepare. Thank you for this detailed site. I will be referring to it lots!. 🙂
Hey Laura – Good to connect and excited for your JMT adventure. Have a look around and if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch! Kristen
Thanks for the great ideas! I am getting ready to hike the Ozark Trail in MO next year and need a few starter ideas on food instead of packing the heavy military MREs. Just skimming through the article I saw Tapatio so I knew that I had to read the whole article. Thank you.
Glad you liked it Ryan. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch and have fun on your trip! Would love to see some pictures when you finish! -Kristen
My suggestion is do NOT take MREs! My husband & I made that mistake on our 1st backpacking trip. They are heavy & create a lot of trash.
Love this article and love your blog! If you’re looking for another nutritious and lightweight backpacking food option you have to checkout http://www.heatherschoice.com. We’re a startup based out of Birdsong, Alaska dedicated to changing the way backpackers eat! We’re creating gluten-free, dairy-free dehydrated backpacking meals with organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. Our founder, Heather Kelly, uses her nutrition background to craft every meal for nutrient density and flavor. You can’t imagine how yummy a bowl of Alaskan Salmon Chowder tastes after a full day on the trail! Please check us out and grab some Heather’s Choice for your next adventure!
Hey Kayleen – Sounds tasty! Would love to give it a try. Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com if you want to chat more. -Kristen
I just want to say THANK YOU.
So many great ideas, I’m planing my JMT this summer and this is right place to be on it.
No problem Sam! Stoked for ya
Great article!! Thank You
Great article! I just found your site as we are prepping for our southern Utah trip. Thanks to your essential hiking guides we decided to swap backpacking the narrows and hit Paria instead, your Paria canyon post looked so awesome! As we are gearing up I am always looking for awesome backpacking food tips. As a vegetarian though I was hoping for a bit more variation in your post! I wanted to add a few of my favorites in the comments for those other veggies out there! 🙂
1. Nut butters and Jelly sandwiches/tortillas
2. Sundried tomatoes, cheese, dehydrated hummus on tortilla
3. Thai pnut cous cous or rice noodles
4. Dehydrated beans and rice burritos
5. Dehydrated soups
6. Pesto pasta with veggies
While bringing fresh veggies can add a lot of extra weight, I feel they add so much flavor at the end of a long day! Onions, beets, carrots, and cauliflower can hold up well for a few days.
Thanks Molly! I totally appreciate these suggestions. You’re right….I should definitely do a post on vegetarian backpacking food…I bet a ton of people would be interested. Thanks for following along on my site!
Great ideas here, the fact that you found a way to use cheese makes me very happy, I’ve gone without up until now. Another thing to mention is the Mountain House meals seem to go a little too soupy for me- there’s always extra water. Sometimes I just use 2-4 oz less water than prescribed, or you can use the instant mashed potatoes to thicken it up. This especially works well with the chili mac or spaghetti.
The Chicken and Rice is my jam.
Great tips! And totally agree about the water. Slightly less is usually what I do to.
All my friends were bringing Mountain House meals on our last camping trip and I was quite skeptical. I had a taste of the Beef Stroganoff and was pleasantly surprised. I ended up going the cheap easy route with a package of ramen, added dehydrated veggies and chunks of ham. Loving the couscous idea and all your other suggestions. Thanks for the ideas!
Katie @ Katie Wanders
yea, i mean it’s no homemade, but they aren’t bad. Some good, easy ideas for your first backpacking trip!
I’m planning on a JMT solo though hike this summer and being from England, I am getting to grips with the brands and (in some cases) translating some of these foods into our terminology! Obviously, I don’t want to bring loads of food from home, so your guide will help choose locally. Many thanks.
I thru-hiked the JMT in 2000, and made many similar meal choices, though, heading NOBO and without any stove, all the meals were cold for the first 100 miles as I was above tree line and out of the region where one can gather firewood. My first hot meal, after descending the golden staircase, linguine and diced salami, was heaven-sent!
So, here it is 16 years later and I’m in my mid-sixties, planning to repeat the trek. This time I’m taking my MSR Whisper lite stove and planning to have a couple more warm meals. And further, it’s meal planning time again. Given the time in between trips, my memory seems to have faded a bit on the particulars of what I did last time. Your suggestions are excellent! To further reduce any post meal clean-up I’m thinking I’ll bring some boiling bags, which I can then pack out in the bear cannister. Mostly, I don’t want to have any food scent on the camping cooking utensils attracting unwanted visitors.
Great site and thanks for the good suggestions.
Hey Bob – That’s amazing you are going back. And yea, I rehydrate the food right in a freezer ziplock to avoid any mess. Have fun and come back and tell me how it goes!
>I rehydrate the food right in a freezer ziplock to avoid any mess.
Seems like a great plan, since I plan to package my meals in ziplocks – No Muss; No Fuss! 🙂
>come back and tell me how it goes!
If all goes well, I’ll have a detailed video diary of both the planning and the trek. Right now I’m capturing the prep, maps & mapping (I carry both 7.5 minute topos and compass as well as my old Garmin 12 GPS), and organization in anticipation of the trek. For this trip I’m taking a Canon HF 200 video camera, my Canon 60D (for both stills and secondary video), and a Tascam DR-100 MK II audio recorder. Not wanting to repeat my ’99 debacle when I added some 40 pounds of camera gear at the last minute – leading to an unplanned exit over Whitney after realizing I’d never be able to complete the trip with my 75-80 pound pack. This time I’m training with the equipment I’ll be using (which including batteries & lightweight tripod, is under 10 pounds), and am also using the training hikes to test out some of my video and still image concepts.
I guess I’m hoping I’ll be able to produce something both useful and inspirational. FWIW – Mile, Mile and a Half reawakened my long-held desire to repeat the trek with quality, light, equipment.
Thanks a lot for this wonderful post. Quick question related to the Mountain House dry-freezer food.
I’m also a big fan of Mountain House because of its taste and convenience but they take up so much space and leave lots of trash.
Did you have any ways around to bring all those food in a more compact way and minimize the trash?
Yes, I repackaged all of my mountain house meals in freezer ziplock bags. Then I push all the air out and pack away. Then you can rehydrate with boiling water right in the ziplock, and I usually stick that in a beanie or a jacket so it stays more insulated.
Wondering if you packed corn tortillas or flour?
Flour all the way!
Great list. I used this as a basis to start my own list for future use.
Just wanted to check one more time on the torillas. Did you ship these ahead of time to the last drop point? How long did you have them (from ship date to when you finished eating them)? Sorry, one last question, what time of year was it? I’m just amazed they stayed good.
I did ship these ahead of time and it was probably a month that they were in the bin before we eat them. This was in late August/early September
My tortillas lasted well over a month by the time we got to our last resupply box.
If you’re only going out for a night or two, I recommend cucumber. You can put on pitas, tortillas, or just eat plain. After so much relatively dry food, it tastes great. It doesn’t hold too long, but it’s not nearly as delicate as other options.
Another are the ‘Tasty Bite’ packs. Decent Indian food, veggie options, and you can cram some naan in your pack and (the best part) you don’t need to dirty any dishes. Just toss the pouch in boiling water for a bit and eat straight out of the pouch. Only downside is that Indian food while backpacking doesn’t always make for the best smelling tent later at night.
Nice list Kristen! I would never have thought of packing Nutella 😀
Hi Kristen, I haven’t visited your blog in over a year and boy has it blossomed. I’m looking for a recipes that I’m pretty sure you posted once for homemade granola. Any chance of a re-post or is it here and I just can’t find it.
hey Laurel – Thinking that maybe that was someone else’s blog. But maybe I’ll share something like that here soon. Thanks for stopping by!
Getting into backpacking after 10+ years. So many great suggestions here! Powdered hummus?? I’m all over that… It’s essential for me to have variety, I get palette numb very quickly so this is wonder info.
My go-to cold drink is Emergen-C. It gives me a healthy, refreshing boost, and like another commenter said, it’s nice to have if youre not feeling too well. But lemonade sounds pretty darn awesome too.
Doing the JMT is on my bucket list. Through hiking hasn’t really called to me yet but that trail…for some reason it’s like a siren song.
Totally a hiking/backpacking guru! Love love love your posts 🙂
What a treasure trove of information! Thanks for all your blogs. We are doing havasupai next month and hopefully some of your other destinations in the near future as we are retiring this year.
Thanks Mike! Enjoy the adventures and hopefully some great food as well!
I haven’t seen pouched chicken in forever. What’s your source??
You can usually find it in the grocery store near the tuna. Or you can buy in bulk on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2mZftoj
Thanks for a great blog. I keep coming back to this and other posts, and finding new helpful stuff. My problem is that I hate tuna, so the Sunkist stuff gives me the creep. Any alternatives you can suggest with similar nutritional values? Appreciate the help.
Great to hear the blog is helpful for you Herb. I don’t like tuna either. Have you thought about trying beef or turkey jerky instead? There is also Spam or canned chicken–have you tried those yet?
Thanks, Kim. Jerky is definitely a go for me. Haven’t even thought of it as similar nutritional values. I’m new to this calorie stuff. Thanks again.
This is epic. I’m about to go on my first backpacking trip and this is literally exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much!
RAMEN is a favorite base of mine for meals. Add 8 oz container of chicken bone stock (or veggie if you swing that way) and let the RAMEN cook in that rather than pure water. I burn the cardboard in the fire if we can have one, or pack it out. As for what I add. well, tomato paste, garlic and onion powder make Italian Ramen; and cheese, powdered milk, couple envelopes of chicken give RAMEN and cheese; Dehydrated tortellini can be used in place of RAMEN, and makes for new meals; At home make meat sauce and freeze 2 cups of it in the container you plan to cook it in, then add it to the RAMEN cooking in the stock, add a couple tablespoons of frozen ricotta cheese and you get a CAMP ZITI kinda meal. Wonderful on cold nights.
Chris, this is really interesting! Thanks so much for the unique idea to use frozen ricotta cheese.
Always, planning a menu for backpacking is a must. Of course, you are right at the point, no one wants to eat the same food daily. It is a great idea to have a lot of mix of variety food. Your John Muir Trail food list is awesome. Your collection is outstanding.
Hey great article, this food will help a lot of persons who do tracking or hiking. Thank you for the article,
Great for people like me that go hiking a lot. Will use the next time I go, thanks!
Thanks for all this info!! Gave me some fresh ideas to add to my list backpacking meals.
Dry soup + powered mash potatoes are an old time, change of pace. You can use onion soup, split pea, lentil, vege, whatever. More cals, more hot liquids.
This is so great! I’ve been wanting to hear reviews of lots of the Mountain House meals and other freeze dried packs. The few I’ve tried have been great, but I’ve stuck to what I know. Looking forward to trying a few new flavors in the coming months. Thanks so much for the recommendations!
My family of 3 are getting ready to do the Bubbs Creek thru trip from the west side to the east side of Sierras this weekend. Exchanging keys with a group coming the opposite way. We’ve been doing some meal cooking and sampling to see what works for us and our so-picky-teen eater. Can I share some of what worked for us in cooking and tasting as I didn’t see these items in this particular blog article?
Easy Mac and Cheese packets (the kind for microwave) 5 minutes rehydrate in freezer ziplock bag for 5 minutes (10 minutes made mush, yuck).
Mary Janes Farm Organic Garlic Pesto Fry Bread-easy to knead in bag and cut off corner to squeeze on cooking surface (recommend dab of butter or oil on pan). Tasted pretty good like a flatbread, but I found them to be oddly sweet with an overly strong rosemary flavor. The package contains 12gm of sugar?!
Mountain House Freeze Dried Granola w/ milk and blueberries. Hands down fabulous cold or hot! I think one person can eat a whole bag on their own. A little on sweet side.
Patagonia Organic Creamy Banana Breakfast Grains- Cooking is slightly more involved than an instant oatmeal and rehydrates slower, but good flavor and not overly sweet. I added cinnamon and brown sugar after tasting. Good nutty flavor and texture. Not a fan though of those rehydrated bananas. They taste sour to me.
What didn’t work: Barilla Ready Pasta Gemelli shapes. Tried cooking in a freezer bag and they stayed chewy till I transferred them to a pan and cooked with a dab of oil. Didn’t work, too time consuming.
Simply Organics Alfredo Sauce Mix- although I was able to make this sauce with powdered milk and some oil it contains 4 gms of sugar and it tastes weird with sweetness in it.
Can I also recommend: Skratch Exercise Hydration Mix in lemon/lime flavor. Single serving packet is for 16oz of water. Does not have that weird artificial sweetener flavor.
Found at Lassens Health Food Stores: Barney Butter- Almond butter w/ honey+ flax. Artisana Organics raw pecan butter w/ cashews. RXBAR- RX Butters . All in single serving packets.
Lastly, the Ozery Bakery Morning Rounds (come in 4″ and 2″ rounds). Good for the 1st couple days out. Pack in parchment and then in plastic bag to control moisture. Good to combine with nut butters, hummus, salami, etc.
Happy trails to you all and thank you Kristen for this great blog (with photos!) It’s given me some MORE great ideas!
Thanks so much for your awesome suggestions! We mentioned Mountain House Granola in our Pacific Crest Trail Thru-Hiker Resupply Guide, it is definitely a favorite breakfast on my list. I’ll have to try the Patagonia Breakfast Grains & Mary Janes Farm Fry Bread! Those both sound interesting! I enjoy Skratch as well and RXBars–have you tried ProBars? You might like them as well & we are big fans of Nuun (similar to Skratch).
This post is like a grocery store for Backpacking food. Thanks alot for sharing
Thanks so much for sharing all of these great ideas! We love eating healthy while we’re on the go 🙂
Thank you SO much for sharing the specific products that you enjoy on the trail. Takes a lot of guesswork out of the meal planning process for us vegetarians!
ooof I do struggle when I see all the small sachets.. so much waste… Would love to see more food options that can be prepared at home, like the quick cooking oats? Easily to just put any oats you want in a blender, pulse a few times and you got quick oats for your trip.. bring some seeds, dried fruits, etc. mix it, pack into reusable bags and your good to go with breakfast. 🙂
It would also be a good idea to know the types of peppers that you are looking for before you start shopping. There are many types of chilies out there, and they all have different flavors, depending on where they were grown and what season they are, so it is a good idea to do your research before you start cooking.
Wow, you eat a lot of packaged/processed foods! Not a cook? There are a lot of easy vegan recipes you can make in camp that are a lot healthier and a lot more satisfying when you are the chef! If you go the pre-packaged route, make sure to check the sodium content – it’s often very high!
We actually cook a lot when we’re home, but find that for backpacking, dehydrated meals work best for us.