87 Easy Backpacking Food Ideas

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Meal planning for your next backpacking trip? We’ve compiled our favorite backpacking food, ingredients, and meal ideas to help you get started. Find out what food is best for hiking, discover new ingredients, and get inspired by some delicious new backpacking meals.

Michael sitting with backpacking gear around him and mountains in the distance

Let’s clear the air here: There is no shame in relying on packaged food for your backpacking trips! We get it. Not everyone has time to make their own backpacking meals before setting off on a trip (if you do have time, we have a whole post about dehydrating food for backpacking!).

We’re speaking from experience here: In 2019, we hiked the JMT for our honeymoon. Organizing and dehydrating 18 days’ worth of food was the last thing we had time for while planning a wedding.

So, we did what many people do before a backpacking trip: raid the shelves of REI and our grocery store for anything and everything that looks tasty!

In this post, we share our favorite backpacking food ideas from hundreds of miles hiked over the past few years. We hope this article gives you some new delicious trail food ideas!

Megan is sitting on the ground and is reaching into a bear barrel

What makes for good backpacking food?

There are a few factors to keep in mind when determining whether a food is good for backpacking: shelf-stable, weight, calorie density, and cook speed.

Shelf-Stable: It’s important to use ingredients that can be stored at room temperature. You can get away with bringing some things like cheese or salami if you eat them in the first few days, but for the most part, you want to skip anything perishable.

Lightweight: Since you have to carry it every step of the way, backpacking food should be as lightweight as possible. Dehydrated and freeze-dried foods tend to be lightest, though there are plenty of grocery store options we’ll review as well.

Calorie Dense: Backpacking takes a lot of energy, so you need food that can properly refuel you. When we plan our backpacking food, we try to average 125+ calories per ounce to keep the weight down.

Cooking Time: Consider how much patience you have to cook your food and how much fuel you will be bringing. Quicker cooking foods tend to be preferred by most backpackers for fuel conservation.

Megan sorting through backpacking food that is spread out on a picnic table

How much food should you pack for backpacking?

Backpacker.com suggests that for most backpackers who plan on hiking all day with a heavier pack, you should aim for 25-30 calories per pound of body weight, per day. If you’re going to do a shorter day of hiking (less than 2 hours) or covering less strenuous terrain, you can scale it down to 21-25 calories per pound of body weight, per day.

Instead of eating just three meals per day like you might at home, aim to eat throughout the day and consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour (source) to keep your energy high and prevent hitting the wall.

These, of course, are just a starting point and you should adjust based on your own experience. If you’re going to do a longer backpacking trip like the JMT, do a few weekend shakedown trips to get a sense of what your appetite is like.

Megan sitting at a campground making coffee

Backpacking breakfasts

A good day on the trail starts with a solid breakfast. If you want to get through the morning without “bonking”, it’s best to start with some calories in the tank. Thankfully there’s a lot more on the menu than just instant oats. Here are some great backpacking breakfasts to check out.

Backpackers pantry granola

Backpacker’s Pantry

One of our top brands, Backpacker’s Pantry consistently made some of our favorite meals on the JMT. For breakfast, we were really impressed with their Granola with Blueberries and Almonds, which has a whopping 620 calories.

Mountain house biscuits and gravy

Mountain House 

One of the original freeze-dried brands, Mountain House has worked hard to improve upon some of their many classics.  On the JMT, we were big fans of their Breakfast Skillet, Biscuits & Gravy, and Southwest Style Skillet

Next mile meals breakfasts

Next Mile Meals 

Focusing on producing ketogenic (keto) freeze-dried backpacking meals, Next Mile Meals offers two hearty breakfasts that even non-keto hikers will enjoy: Sausage Scramble and Steak Omelette.

Patagonia Provisions packaging

Patagonia Provisions

Expanding their commitment to ethical sourcing and accountability to food, Patagonia Provisions is raising the bar in the backpacking meal market. A step beyond oatmeal, Patagonia Provisions Hot Cereal combines toasted buckwheat kasha, cracked whole barley, rolled oats, and flax seeds and comes in flavors like Creamy Banana, Raspberry, and Tart Apple. Just add hot water and enjoy.

Peak refuel granola

Peak Refuel 

Another freeze-dried brand that was recently picked up by REI is Peak Refuel. Their breakfast offerings include Mountain Berry Granola, Strawberry Granola, and Breakfast Skillet.

Trailtopia Breakfasts

Trailtopia 

With their expanded lineup of instant oatmeals, Trailtopia has a lot to offer in the breakfast department. A few of their top mixes are Mango, Blueberry, Cinnamon Apple, and Chocolate Raspberry.

Wild zora breakfasts

Wild Zora 

Offering healthy backpacking meals for a range of diets, Wild Zora has quite a few breakfast options. Their signature grain-free instant breakfast cereal is available in Apple Pie, Blueberry Muffin, Banana Bread, Carrot Cake, Tropical Tart. They also have a limited line of AIP (auto-immune protocol) breakfasts as well!

Ovaeasy Packpaging

OvaEasy Eggs

If you don’t mind cooking in the morning, OvaEasy’s powdered egg crystals are surprisingly close to the real thing! Enjoy them on their own, with dehydrated hash browns, or as a veggie scramble.

Instant oatmeal package

Instant oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is quick, easy, cheap, and totally customizable. Just add hot water. Pro Tip: Use the packet as your bowl. Just tear off the top, pour the water in, and stir. The bag will get hot, but won’t leak. Up the calories by adding coconut or whole milk powder, or stirring in a packet of nut butter.

Assorted Probar Meals

ProBar Meals 

A no-cook “breakfast” bar is a great grab-and-go option for any who want to streamline their morning routine. It can also be nice for people who don’t wake up hungry and like to wait a little bit before eating. ProBar offers a large variety of flavors that would work well for breakfast.

Vegansmart shake

VeganSmart All-in-One Shake

I have tried a lot of different protein shakes over the years, but VeganSmart is by far my favorite. You can either drink this in the morning as a stand-alone shake or, you can mix it up with some granola. It’s a great way to work some extra protein in your morning meal.

Three instant coffee packets

Instant Coffee

There has been a huge improvement in the QUALITY of instant coffee in recent years. Our top go-to favorites are Mt. Hagen and Alpine Start. But if you’re seeking an exceptional cup of instant coffee, look no further than Voila. They’re hands down the Rolls Royce of instant coffee. You can’t even tell it’s instant.

Wild Zora tea packaging

Instant Tea 

Prefer tea over coffee? No worries. There are now a bunch of instant tea options available from brands like Cusa and Wild Zora. These tea packets dissolve entirely into the water, so there’s no soggy tea bag to pack out with you.

Laird product image

Laird InstantFuel Coffee + Creamer 

If you are going to make yourself a cup of coffee in the morning, then you might as well add some calories to the mix with Laird Instant Coffee & Creamer. This blend of instant coffee and plant-based creamer is a great way to enjoy a couple of calories with your caffeine.

Michael sitting at the top of a mountain pass eating lunch

Backpacking lunches, snacks, and bars

When backpacking, the goal is to consume a constant stream of calories throughout the day. This slow-drip offers your body a consistent and stable fuel source, preventing your blood sugar from taking a nosedive (i.e. bonking). 

So we like to think of hiking as one long, moveable feast. Lots of little snacks here and there, a big snack in the middle of the day (otherwise called lunch) and then more snacking throughout the afternoon. The key to making this work is variety. Don’t get burnt out eating the same thing over and over.

4 chicken and tuna pouches

Chicken, tuna, or SPAM packets

These might not be the most weight-efficient items in your bear barrel, but they do a great job of providing protein. Buy them plain and doctor them up with condiments, or buy some of the many flavor options. Our favorites were Buffalo ChickenChicken SaladDeli Style Tuna Salad and Lemon Pepper Tuna.

Tuna, spam, and salmon packages

These premium grade, line-caught tuna packets are packed in oil for extra calories.

If salmon is more your speed, Patagonia Provisions has some awesome options.

SPAM also comes in a foil packet and can be a nice change of pace from seafood. We were hesitant about this one, but it’s actually very tasty.

NB: Make sure you’re buying the foil packets, not cans!

Food for the Sole packaging

No-cook meals

There are a variety of no-cook meal options available, such as Food for the Sole’s Triple Peanut Slaw or Zesty Miso Broccoli Slaw, Outdoor Herbivore’s Waldorf Slaw and Lazy Lentil Salad, and Packit Gourmet’s Curry Mango or Cajun Ranch Chicken Salads.

Packaroons package

Packaroons

These macaroons boast 170 calories per ounce, so they definitely pull their weight (pun intended) in your pack. They come in a few flavors including Amaretto, Blueberry Almond, and Sweet Coconut.

Greenbelly Meals

Greenbelly meal bars

Greenbelly meal bars boast 650 calories per serving and come in a bunch of flavors. They are basically a full meal that requires zero cooking–perfect for lunch on the trail!

Vegan Bars

Energy Bars

Our best advice when packing bars is to go for VARIETY. Don’t just load up on your favorite bar for a multi-day hike. Because after your trip, it won’t be your favorite anymore. There are more energy bar companies out there then we can keep track of, but here are some of our favorite brands: Bobo, RX Bars, Patagonia Provisions, GoMacro, Lara Bar, Dang, Bearded Brothers, Aloha, and 88 Acres Seed Bars.

Munkpack Cookies

Energy Cookies 

If you prefer your energy bars in a circular shape, then may we suggest the burgeoning energy cookie scene. ( I swear this is just a way to stand out from the 8 billion energy bar brands!) Nevertheless, we are fans of MunckPack Cookies and Lenny & Larry Cookies.

A variety of nut butter packets

Nut butter

On a tortilla or straight from the packet (guilty as charged!), nut butter is a great addition to trail lunches. Justin’sRx, and TrailButter are all great places to start. Our favorite on the JMT was RX Vanilla Almond Butter (sweet manna from heaven!).

88 Acres seed butter packets

Seed Butter 

Allergic to nuts? No worries, 88 Seed Butters is a nut-free company that offers a wide range of packable seed butter. 

Assorted Wild Zora bars

Jerky and meat bars

Jerky and meat bars tend to be a little low on calories, but high in protein – which is critical for muscle repair. We like Epic Provisions and Wild Zora. On longer multi-day hikes, these are good to eat towards the end of the day to help your body repair.

Louisville vegan jerky

Vegan Jerky

Just a few years ago “jerky” was an exclusively meat-based category, but today there are many plant-based vegan options. Some of our favorites are Primal Spirit Food and Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.

Honey Stinger Waffles

Honey Stinger Waffles 

A quick hit of energy, Honey Stingers Waffles are a great little maintenance snack. Perfect for when you’re feeling a little low-energy and need a little extra zip to get you up the next hill. They have a variety of flavors to choose from, and some even have a bit of caffeine for an extra little boost.

Honey Stinger Energy Chews

Energy Gummies 

The solid, chewy form of a gel, there are a variety of energy gummies like Honey Stinger Chews, Clif Shot Bloks, GU Energy Chews, and Scratch Lab Chews These are great to have on hand if you ever start to feel yourself bonking. We think of these as a “Break Glass If In Need of Calories” type of emergency snack.

Hummus Co. packets

Powdered Hummus

Just mix cold water, some powdered hummus, drizzle with olive oil, and you’ve got delicious hummus spread for lunch! Enjoy with sturdy crackers, pretzel sticks, or veggie sticks. 

Check out The Hummus Company’s entirely vegan line of powdered hummus, with flavors like Traditional, Mughali Curry, and ChipotleOr, you can make your own dehydrated hummus (it’s super easy!)

Quinn Peanut butter pretzels

Quinn Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels 

We are absolute fiends for peanut butter-filled pretzels. What mad hatter came up with the crazy idea, we don’t know. But they’re amazing. Quinn has a variety of flavors worth checking out like Maple Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate-y, and classic peanut butter.

Love corn snacks

Love Corn

Speaking of something crunchy, Love Corn is a line of crunchy corn (remember Corn Nuts?). Some of their flavors include sea salt, smoked BBQ, salt & vinegar, and habanero chili. Obviously, these are great by the handful, but they can also be added to any freeze-dried or dehydrated meal to give them a little crispy, crunchy texture.

Oloves packet

Oloves 

We absolutely love olives when backpacking. Not only are they loaded with calories, but they offer a momentary burst of savory refinement that is hard to compare. Instant morale booster. We are therefore big fans of Oloves packable olives. Enjoy them on their own, or with the above-mentioned hummus and chips spread.

Whisps packaging

Cheese

Hard cheese and cheeses that are individually packaged are great options. We also LOVE the Trader Joe’s Baked Cheese Bites as well as Parmesan or Cheddar Whisps (the latter are a bit less sturdy though).

Other cheesy snacks we’re looking forward to trying: Pepper Jack Moon Cheese and Keto Goat Cheese Crunch

Nuts, apricots, and banana chips

Trail mix, nuts, and dried fruit

Packing an assortment of trail mix, nuts, and dried fruits is a great way to have some calorie-boosts on hand to eat while hiking (there’s a reason GORP has been handed down through the generations!). Our favorite places for nuts and dried fruit in bulk are Nuts.com and Trader Joe’s. You can find some of our favorite trail mix recipes here.

Nomad Chewy Banana Bites

Nomad Chewy Banana Bites 

We’ve all had dehydrated banana chips before that feel like you’re biting into a poker chip. These are not those. Soft and chewy like a marshmallow, these Banana Bites by Nomad Nutrition offer a much-welcomed change in texture.  Add them to your morning oatmeal or enjoy them on their own.

Wildway snack mixes

Wildway Snack Mix 

These fun fruit and nut snack packs from Wild Way Of Life are a nice change of pace from the standard GORP style trail mix. Their sample pack contains Toasted Coconut Latte, Salted Chocolate Truffle, and Pineapple Mojito. Sounds good to us!

Gummy bears package

Candy

The snack we didn’t pack for the JMT but we wish we did? Candy! We’re not candy people normally, but the calorie and mid-day sugar boost would have been awesome. Haribo Gummy Bears, Swedish Fish, or Jelly Belly’s “Sports Beans” are all good picks. Whatever you pick, make sure it won’t be too melty.

Michael sitting on the ground with a camp scene and sunset

Backpacking dinners

After a long and exhausting day on the trail, we can’t help but develop great expectations for dinner. Which is why it’s so important to find a meal that will end your day on a happy and satisfying note. 

While there are more backpacking dinner options to choose from than ever before, our suggestion is to pick meals that sound appetizing to you now. If you’re not an adventurous eater at home, then you’re likely not going to magically become one on the trail.

Backpacker's Pantry packaging

Backpacker’s Pantry

Backpacker’s Pantry is one of our favorite freeze-dried meal brands. Over the past few years, they have really dialed in most of their recipes and now they’re absolutely crushing it. One of the BEST backpacking meals we’ve had is their Pad Thai. It’s just awesome. Other dinners we really enjoyed were the Three Cheese Mac & Cheese and the Fettuccini Alfredo.

Bushka's Kitchen Zoodles

Bushka’s Kitchen 

New to the freeze-dried backpacking meal scene, San Francisco-based Bushka’s Kitchen has some incredible meal options that feature large, easily identifiable whole ingredients. They also offer some eclectic protein sources to keep things interesting. Meals to check out: 

Fernweh foods dinners

Fernweh Food Company

Producing dehydrated backpacking meals with low-impact packaging and seasonal local produce, Fernweh Food Company is another recent addition to the backpacking meal market. Their product is fairly small right now, offering Mushroom Pot Pie and Southwest Stew, but we’ve got high hopes for them.

Firepot dinners

FirePot

A new freeze-dried meal producer from rural England, Firepot’s bright yellow packaging immediately grabbed our eye the last time we were in REI. They provide full-spectrum nutrition with locally sourced ingredients that are all cooked together before freeze-drying. This “slow-cooking” technique produces a depth of flavor that can’t be replicated when ingredients are freeze-dried separately and then combined into a “meal”.  Meals to check out: 

food for the sole dinners

Food For the Sole

Started by a mom and son team in Bend, Oregon, Food For The Sole are hometown heroes for us. They specialized in wholesome dehydrated meals that can be ordered as “full” or “lunch” sizes. Meals to check out: 

Good to Go Thai Curry package

Good-To-Go

Producing dehydrated backpacking meals from quality ingredients, Good To-Go has really expanded its lineup in the past few years. We’ll be honest, in our personal experience, we’ve had some winner and loser meals from them. Nothing was bad, we just found a few meals to be tragically undersalted. Meals to check out: 

Heathers Choice Packaging

Heather’s Choice

Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Heather’s Choice uses high-quality, whole foods ingredients to create packable, dehydrated provisions. We have not personally tried these meals yet, BUT they get great reviews online. They are gluten and dairy-free and have a diverse range of flavors like African Peanut StewDark Chocolate Bison Chili, and Chicken Mole with Rice.

Mountain House packaging

Mountain House

The OG of backpacking meals, Mountain House has been making freeze-dried meals since the 1970s. Over the years they have developed some absolute classic meals that remain some of our favorites: Beef StroganoffChili Mac with Beef, and Lasagna.

Next Mile Meals packaging

Next Mile Meals

Next Mile Meals is a newer company based in Oregon that focuses on keto-friendly backpacking meals. These meals are high in fats and proteins, and low in carbs and sugars. Even if you’re not following a Keto diet, their meals sound like a fresh approach compared to other carb-heavy brands. They have a small product line but with meals like Italian Meatball and Chicken & Broccoli Casserole, they sound promising!

Nomad Nutrition backpacking meals

Nomad Nutrition

Based in British Columbia, Canada, Nomad Nutrition offers an entirely plant-based line of dehydrated backpacking meals. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or just looking to scale down your meat consumption on the trail, this is a great company to look into. Meals to check out: 

Outdoor Herbivore meal

Outdoor Herbivore

Vegetarian and vegan hikers will find tons of options at Outdoor Herbivore. The Chickpea Sesame Ziti and Switchback Burrito Stuffer sound great.

Peak refuel vegan dinner

Peak ReFuel 

Even though they are relatively new to the space, Peak ReFuel feels like it’s been around for a while. That might be because their founder spent nearly a decade in the freeze-dried world before branching out to launch Peak ReFuel. They offer a lot of comfort-food classics that are sure to hit the spot. Meals to check out: 

Patagonia provisions vegan dinners

Patagonia Provisions

Considering every aspect of a product life cycle (including responsible sourcing, processing, packaging) Patagonia Provisions is seeking to revolutionize the backpacking food market. For those looking for a well-considered backpacking meal, Patagonia is setting the gold standard. Meals to check out: 

Packit Gourmet logo

Packit Gourmet

This is a small company out of Texas that specializes in dehydrated fare. We’re looking forward to trying the Beef BologneseCajun Gumbo, or Chicken and Dumplings on our next trip!

Wild Zora packaging

Wild Zora

Based in Colorado, Wild Zora specializes in low sugar, high-protein, gluten-free, and Paleo backpacking meals. They also offer a line of AIP (autoimmune protocol) meals. If you have any dietary restrictions, this is a great company to check out. We’ve heard great things about the Chili and Chicken Curry and the Bedrock Beef Chili.

Megan holding a bear barrel standing next to a backpacking tent

Grocery Store Favorites

Whether you’re making your own meals or looking for a way to stretch a freeze-dried meal, there are a bunch of store-bought ingredients you can pack along.

  • Idahoan Potatoes: These are great to add to freeze-dried meals that are on the saucy side (like beef stroganoff).
  • Stovetop Stuffing: Another favorite to have on hand as a “side” or in packaged meals. Combine it with instant potatoes for a Thanksgiving Bowl!
  • Ramen: Does it get more basic than ramen? It’s cheap, lightweight, and calorie-dense. Toss the sodium packet and doctor it up – see our Revamped Ramen recipe for ideas.
  • Knorr Pasta and Rice Sides: These are great (and cheap) building blocks for meals. Add chicken, tuna, or TVP for protein.
  • Annie’s Mac and Cheese: Add chicken, tuna, or TVP for protein, and throw in some dried veggies (see below) to make a full meal.

Bulk Freeze-Dried / Dehydrated Ingredients

If you’re building your own backpacking meals from scratch, it can be nice to buy some individual freeze-dried and/or dehydrated ingredients in bulk. Here are some of the resources we personally use when developing our own backpacking recipes. 

  • Nuts.com: Yes, they carry nuts. But also so so much more! Nuts.com is a cornucopia of specialty ingredients that are perfect for backpacking. 
  • Harmony House: With an unbelievable selection of freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients, Harmony House is another online bazaar filled with backpacking-friendly foodstuffs. 
  • Emergency Essentials: Emergency Essentials specializes in bulk freeze-dried ingredients. Fruits, veggies, eggs, and even hard to find stuff like butter and cheese. They’ve got it all! If you’re building your own backpacking meals from scratch, this can be a great way to get access to individual freeze-dried ingredients.
  • Dried Vegetables: We tend to find a lot of backpacking meals light on the vegetables. If you don’t need the bulk sizes of Emergency Essentials, you can pick up dehydrated or freeze-dried vegetables from places like Nuts.com and Karen’s Naturals to add to packaged or DIY meals for a nutrient boost.

DIY meals

The sky’s the limit if you’re up to making your own meals. While we’ve developed a lot of different backpacking recipes over there years, we’ll give you our personal favorites here (ssh, don’t tell the others!)

Dehydrator Recipes: 

No Dehydrator Required:

Michael sitting on a rock with a lake and mountains in the background

Desserts

When developing your backpacking meal plan, desserts absolutely have a place! As a special treat to mark a notable day, a morale booster after a real doozy, or just a way to pad out your dinner’s calorie count, backpacking desserts are a great trick to have in your back pocket.

Assorted backpacking dessert packages

Freeze-dried desserts

There are a number of freeze-dried dessert options on the market, whether you prefer something homey like Cinnamon Apple Crisp, something fancy like Creme Brulee or Chocolate Cheesecake, or something totally space-age like this Neapolitan Ice Cream.

cosmik ice cream

Cosmik Ice Cream

Another fantastic freeze-dried ice cream brand to try is Cosmik. They have all the classic flavors like Mint Chocolate Chip, Strawberry, and Cookie’s & Cream.

Treehouse coconut drinking chocolate

Treehouse Drinking Chocolate 

If you don’t necessarily want to eat dessert, consider drinking it! This drinking chocolate (AKA totally indulgent hot chocolate) is an absolutely lovely way to wind down at camp.

Nutella product image

Nutella

This chocolate hazelnut spread is packed with calories that are derived mostly from fats, making it well worth the weight. A scoop here and there will give your body plenty of long-lasting fuel to burn. Plus, it’s freaking delicious!

Nutiva chocolate hazelnut spread packet

Nutiva

The dairy-free/vegan-alternative to Nutella, Nutiva is a plant-based chocolate-y spread that is absolutely loaded with calories! Enjoy spread on a tortilla, straight from the packet, or mix a little into a mug of hot water for a trailside hot chocolate!

Stroopwafel packaging

Stroopwafels

A delicious Dutch treat, stroopwafels are soft, toasted waffles filled with caramel. They’re loaded with calories and pretty durable. Try spreading a little Nutella between two of them and make yourself a “ice cream” sandwich.

Barcountry product image

BarCountry Cocktails

What better way to celebrate a gorgeous vista than with a cocktail? Pack along one of these pocket cocktail mixers and a little nip of liquor and offer a toast to your trail mates.

Condiments and extras

These are some of our favorite extras to add either calories or flavor to our meals.

Michael sitting at a backpacking camp site cooking dinner

Where to buy backpacking food

If you know what you’re looking for you can find backpacking food all over the place! But here are a few good places to start your search:

REI: REI has lots of backpacking food and snacks. Plus they offer 10% off your meals if you buy 8 or more meals at once!

Amazon: They sell virtually everything. If you know what you’re looking for, there is a good chance Amazon has it.

Nuts.com: Want great prices on bulk freeze-dried ingredients? Nuts.com is an incredible resource for those looking to build their own backpacking meals and snacks.

Trader Joe’s: Everyone’s favorite pirate-themed grocery store actually has a lot of great backpacking foods throughout the store. We particularly love their reasonably priced selection of dried fruits and nuts.

Walmart: Aside from the staples like instant oatmeal, snacks, and whatnot, many Walmart stores have a decent selection of freeze-dried ingredients! We’ve picked up everything from butter powder to freeze-dried fruits and vegetables there. They also often carry Mountain House and other freeze-dried meal pouches.

Target: We would never have thought it, but the grocery section in Target has a bunch of great backpacking food options. They have great snacks, nut butter packets, tuna and chicken packets, and instant oatmeals.

World Market: If you have a Cost Plus World Market nearby, check out their food section! We found loads of fun stuff like dried salami, individually packaged cheese, single-serving condiments, fancy ramen noodles, and tons of snacks.

Megan sitting with her backpacking cooking gear at a campsite with mountains in the background

Favorite backpacking cooking gear

We have a whole post dedicated to backpacking cooking gear, but here are some of the basics:

MSR pot and backpacking stove

Multi-Use Setup: MSR Pocket Rocket and 1.3L Ceramic Pot

We use a Pocket Rocket stove with this ceramic-coated pot when we plan on doing a mix of commercial freeze-dried meals and DIY meals. It’s fairly light at a total weight of 10.1 oz.

Green GSI mug

Backpacking Mug: GSI Infinity Mug

This insulated mug is just 3.5 oz and is great for morning coffee.

Blue Morsel spoon

Favorite utensil: Morsel

We love the spatula-inspired design of the Morsel spoon – perfect for scraping up every last bit of your delicious meal. (Psst, Fresh Off The Grid readers get 10% off their order using “FOTG10”)

Looking for more backpacking food resources? Check out our guides to vegan backpacking food, gluten-free backpacking food, these lightweight backpacking recipes, and our ultimate guide to dehydrating food for backpacking!

This post was first published November 9, 2017 and was updated March 11, 2021. There are a ton of new great backpacking food products that we included!

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29 Comments

  1. Oh, I didn’t realize that Mount Hagen had single serve! Thanks for tip!

  2. Tom Haselton says:

    I want to go stoveless. Can you separate out the food that works without a stove?

    1. Thanks for sharing. That’s definitely a good idea for a future article. I think the stoveless movement is growing with backpackers, so perhaps creating a dedicated resource for them would helpful.

  3. Crawfather says:

    Great article. You have great suggestions.I like to take summer sausage, pepperoni, chorizo, single spam servings, ready bacon, Thai style fried beef jerky or salmon jerky. Then eat it with instant rice. Rice with fried pepperoni on it is great. I’m Asian, so give me a few ounces of protein and some rice, that’s a full meal.

    1. That all sounds great. So many different protein options. Add in some fast cooking instant rice (maybe some spices or sauce) and bam! You’ve got dinner.

  4. Good list.

    You should add Moose Goo in several categories.

    The best SS condiment I’ve ever found is chopped onions. Make ramen palatable.

  5. You should really include Tasty Bites. I know they’re kind of heavy, but they are amazing, there’s a ton of them, they’re vegetarian, and can be eaten cold, too. You can find them at Fred Meyers (North-West US)

  6. GMOs are totally safe? According to who? Weird how so many other countries which are not largely controlled by corporations have banned them…

  7. Totally agree! I will buy the brand that does not tote itself as “GMO Free.” GMOs are incredibly safe and important.

  8. What about cream cheese in the foil pouches. The box says to keep refrigerated but I’m wondering if it would remain stable for a couple days in your pack if the pouch is unopened?

    1. We’ve seen Philadephia cream cheese in condiment packets before. Basically personal sized foil packets. I bet those would last for a few days. Probably wouldn’t want them out sitting in the sun, but if they were kept reasonably cool I think they’d probably be fine.

  9. Timm Hines says:

    This was super helpful. Can’t wait to implement your suggestions. Thanks a bunch.

  10. I remember when the food looked and tasted terrible. I’m glad to see that there are better options.

    1. There has been a lot of improvement in the high calorie to weight genre of food. And we are very thankful for that.

  11. Harper Hatheway says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions.
    We have found that using Medi-Lyte tablets help maintain electrolytes. Easy to use packets keep frequent water drinking from washing out calcium, potassium and magnesium. You can order 100 tablets in 50×2 packets.
    Leukotape is now an essential in our group. This tape applied to a hot spot prevents blisters, and will not tear or peel skin when removing. Other first aid uses too. Great stuff, someone is always asking me for a few inches and I barter for chocolate.

  12. I’m an experienced thru hiker. And I’m always looking for ultra lite suggestions. In this case reviewing backpacking meals was spot on. Thumbs up!

  13. Great list! Ramen is always my go-to cause it’s so filling. It’s just that, all the sodium makes me dehydrated after. What your take on those type of salts that help store water in your body?

    1. After a long hot sweaty day on the trail, we definitely feel depleted of electrolytes (salts included). While some sodium is needed (along with a lot of water) to properly rehydrate, we doubt whatever is in those sodium bomb flavor packet would be considered healthy. We’re fans of electrolyte tablets by Nuun instead.

      1. Asian stores have round ramen noodle cakes, a little smaller than the square ramen cake packets. They do not have all the sodium and are not oil fried. They come in packages of usually 8 or 16 cakes, with no flavor packets, and cook in the same 3 min. You can add a little boullion (Orrington Farm), Celtic Sea Salt (mineral rich) etc.

        I take 2-3 round cakes and crumble them, drop in boiling water and add a little Chinese 5 spice powder, a good squirt of soy sauce, then when almost cooked, add 4-5 eggs, and about 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil, or other oil, cook till done, and that is a good meal for 2. A plastic bottle of soy sauce is always in my pack, along with other spices. I saw a picture of a large/XL one week pill holder with 7 compartments that snap shut, holding 7 spices, I need to try that.

  14. Total wines and More has a nice assortment of cheese and salami. Plus small bottles of various liquor that are light weight.

  15. Great info and ideas. I had backpacked for years until a back injury. Now I am looking at adapting to using an ATV with the love of backpacking in mind. I have been out of the backpacking world for a long time. You gave me some great ideas and info to re-learn what I need to do.

  16. Your blog is incredible! easily the most helpful and thorough in all the articles i’ve read so far!

  17. Carole Spencer says:

    Thanks so much for your article–extensive resources of food. For the beginners, it is a treasure trove saving us a lot of hardships and dissappointments.
    Thanks again.

  18. Excellent info. Thank you for the research and sharing!

  19. Mick Flannigan says:

    Great article. A lot of good information there. Pack it gourmet has some nice no cook, cold water options.

  20. Mile High Mike says:

    This is a great list! I’ll use it to supplement my daily diet of Grape Nuts every meal, every day.

  21. Backcountry Wok is my favourite dehydrated meal brand for backpacking. They make yummy vegan Asian dishes and their packaging is 100% compostable.