backpacking meals ideas

Backpacking Meal Ideas – Easy and Quick Meal Prep for Sustained Energy 🌲

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Also note: While I am a certified nutrition coach, I am not a medical doctor. Information here is not intended to be a replacement for the advice you should seek from your doctor.

The weather has never been sunnier, kids are home from school, and all we crave is some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city: in just a few words, it’s time to go hiking! However -and I have learned this the hard way- organization is key when embarking on an outdoor adventure, and this is especially true when it comes to our food supply! In this article, I will provide you with some awesome backpacking meal ideas, as well as some general guidelines I use when planning and preparing them! 🌲


Some weeks ago, I went on my first long hike with the family, and I promised myself that I would like to do it more often! It was not only a beautiful opportunity to bond with my kids and husband but also to reconnect with Mother Nature!

At the same time, I am certain that one of the key factors that have contributed to the success of the trip has been meal planning! Backpacking food needs to be lightweight, portable, and easy to prepare, while also providing the necessary energy and nutrition to sustain us throughout the hike.

This is why, the night before the hike, I made sure to prep complete and balanced meals for all of us, including breakfasts, snacks, dinners, and lunches. I then packed each of them in convenient food bags (I used the reusable food bags from Qinline). I love using them as they are way lighter and easier to bring around than the usual lunch boxes!

In this guide, you will find all the tips and tricks I used to plan and prep delicious and energizing recipes, as well as lots of incredible backpacking meal ideas that will help you stay fueled and satisfied throughout your hike!

Strategic Backpacking Meal Prep: 10 Tips to Structure Your Meals Effectively

As hinted above, planning and structuring balanced backpacking meals is key to a successful family hiking trip! More specifically, there are a few key aspects to consider when doing that, including your nutritional and dietary needs (and those of your husband/kids), weight constraints, cooking equipment, and, last but not least, personal preferences.

From a more practical point of view, here are some steps to help you plan and structure your backpacking meal ideas effectively:

  1. Determine your daily caloric needs.
    Calculate the approximate number of calories you’ll need each day based on your activity level, body weight, and the duration of your backpacking trip. This will serve as a guideline for determining the approximate amount of food you’ll need to pack. Repeat the same for each member of the family.
  2. Consider your macronutrient balance.
    Aim for a balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in each of your meals. Complex and simple carbohydrates provide respectively slow-releasing and quick energy, proteins aid in muscle repair and recovery, and fats will help you stay full and satisfied for longer. Customize your meal plan to suit your specific dietary requirements and preferences.
  3. Choose lightweight and compact foods.
    Another key suggestion is to look for foods that are both lightweight and have a high calorie-to-weight ratio. In particular, you can opt for dehydrated or freeze-dried options, as they are lighter and take up less space compared to their fresh counterparts. Examples include dried fruits, nuts, instant rice, powdered milk, and dehydrated meals.
  4. Plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
    Create a rough meal plan that includes all meals and snacks for each day of your backpacking trip. This will help you ensure that you have enough food to sustain you throughout the journey. In doing this, also consider the ease of preparation and the cooking equipment you’ll have available.
  5. Pack versatile ingredients.
    Select ingredients that can be used in multiple meals to save space and reduce weight. For example, instant oats can be used for breakfast or as a base for a savory dinner dish. Tortillas can serve as wraps for lunch or dinner, or even as a snack with nut butter.
  6. Incorporate variety and flavor.
    While it’s important to prioritize weight and nutritional value, don’t forget to include a variety of flavors and textures in your meals. This will help keep your taste buds satisfied and prevent food boredom. Another great tip is to pack spices, condiments, and small flavor enhancers like dried herbs or hot sauce to add some spice -literally- to your meals! In addition, consider the preferences and dietary needs of each family member to ensure everyone can have satisfying and nourishing meals.
  7. Consider cooking methods.
    Evaluate the cooking methods you’ll have access to during your backpacking trip. For example, if you have a stove, you can plan more elaborate meals. If you’re relying on cold soaking or no-cook options, focus on meals that require minimal or no cooking. If possible, consider packing a lightweight stove. And don’t forget cooking utensils!
  8. Factor in perishability and food safety.
    Consider the shelf life of the food you’re packing, particularly if you’ll be out for an extended period. Similarly, make sure to properly store perishable items in order to prevent foodborne illnesses as well as food waste.
  9. Test and adjust.
    Before your trip, try out some of your planned meals at home or during shorter practice hikes. This will help you determine if the meals meet your taste preferences, nutritional needs, and cooking capabilities and, if necessary, make adjustments.
  10. Pack strategically: as mentioned above, organize your food items in reusable bags or containers, separating them by meal or day. This will make it easier to locate and access your meals without having to dig through your backpack.

By following these simple steps, you can effectively plan and structure your backpacking meals to ensure you have nourishing, tasty, and practical options throughout your entire outdoor adventure!

Backpacking Meal Ideas: 3 Nourishing and Delicious Backpacking Food Recipes

Now that I have revealed to you all my secrets for creating balanced and energizing meals for your next outdoor adventure, here are three of my favorite backpacking food recipes. I actually tried all of them on my last trip, and everybody could not stop raving about them! They were all so tasteful, yet easy to digest, and to carry around.

All you have to do is add some water and let everything cook for a couple of minutes. As far as the ratio water-ingredients is concerned, I suggest to stick to a 1:2 ratio of grain to water. (I used approximatively 32oz of water per serving for each of them). My suggestion is to experiment with it and find what best suits your desired consistency!

Before proceeding with the actual recipes, just some quick notes about them. First of all, I tried to keep each portion above 600 calories, but you can tweak them to accommodate your nutritional requirements. For this reason, I won’t disclose full measurements for the ingredients in each recipe: my intent is to give you some great backpacking meal ideas you can draw inspiration from! Lastly, each recipe is complete in all the micro and macronutrients you need for sustained energy. Therefore, I highly suggest including all the food groups in them in your meals!

1. Tuscan Quinoa Orzo 🌿

Mediterranean vibes for this flavorful Tuscan quinoa orzo, packed with slow-releasing carbs, plant-protein, and healthy fats -mainly coming from the flax seeds. A light, yet earthy and comforting backpacking meal idea!

  • Quinoa
  • Orzo
  • Dried vegetables
  • Mediterranean seasoning (rosemary, thyme, and marjoram)
  • Flax seeds

You can bump up the protein content of this recipe by adding some canned tuna, or beans!

2. Brown Rice Ramen with Dried Veggies and Peanuts 🍜

This is one of my all-time favorites: instant ramen with veggies and peanuts. Fully plant-based, easy to make, highly nourishing, and simply delicious!

  • Brown rice ramen noodles (I love these from Lotus Foods)
  • Powdered mushroom
  • Dried vegetables
  • Ginger
  • Salt
  • Sesame seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Seaweed

Add some lean protein -such as canned tuna, meat, or beans- for some extra protein!

3. Coconut and Dried Fruits Breakfast Oatmeal πŸ“

A super easy and convenient breakfast, ready in less than 5 minutes. All you have to do is add some hot water, stir well, and let everything sit for a couple of minutes before serving!

Other great backpacking breakfast options are these Raisin Date Oatmeal and Tropical Coconut Oatmeal recipes. (Just make sure to leave out the liquid components and pack everything in a food bag).

Additionally, I highly suggest bringing some easy to grab, yet nutricious snacks with you. Some of my favorite ones include these Cliff Mini Energy Bars, and these Nature Valley Granola, Nuts, and Dark Chocolate Bars.

And you? What are your go-to meals when hiking? Plese let me know in the comments or head over to my socials. All the links are down below πŸ’—

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