There are tons of gluten-free backpacking food options out there, but the trick is knowing where to look! In this guide, we’ve collected options as we could find to build a comprehensive resource for gluten-free backpacking meals!
Whether you have Celiac, are gluten intolerant, or just trying to cut down your gluten consumption, trying to find gluten-free backpacking food often requires an exhaustive amount of “label-reading”. This means parsing through every ingredient list with a magnifying glass to ensure some weirdo wheat-derivative wasn’t slipped into an otherwise benign-looking product.
Thankfully the backpacking food industry has realized the growing demand for gluten-free products and has not only started producing more options but properly labeling their gluten-free backpacking meals.
So we scoured the internet to find as many gluten-free freeze-dried and dehydrated meals as we could, and we’re sharing them all in one place. So if you are a gluten-free backpacker — this is your one-stop-shop!
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 115-130+ 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.
How Much Food Should You Pack For Backpacking?
For most backpackers, who plan on hiking all day with a heavier pack, Backpacker.com suggests aiming for 25-30 calories per pound of body weight, per day. For shorter hiking days (less than 2 hours) or if 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.
Again, these are just rough estimations. Everyone’s body burns calories at different rates. So if you are preparing for a longer backpacking trip, you will absolutely want to do a few weekend shakedown trips to get a sense of what your appetite will be like.
Gluten-free backpacking Breakfasts
One of the best things you can do to ensure you have a good day on the trail is to start with a solid breakfast. If you start with an empty tank, you’ll be playing caloric catch-up all day long. Thankfully there are lots of great gluten-free breakfasts, even for those who usually aren’t crazy about breakfast.
Offering healthy backpacking meals for a range of diets, Wild Zora has quite a few breakfast options, namely their grain-free instant cereals.
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.
Gluten Free Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal
Oats have always been gluten-free, however, large manufacturers have struggled with the potential of cross-contamination. Thankfully Quaker has got their act together and developed a process to produce a Gluten-Free 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.
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 meal replacement bars, all of which are gluten-free.
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.
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.
Gluten-Free Breakfast Recipes
- Breakfast Scramble with Spinach and Sun-Dried Peppers
- Pecan and Maple Granola in a Bag
- Coconut Chocolate Granola
- Apricot Ginger Oatmeal
- Raspberry Coconut Quinoa Porridge
Gluten-free lunches, snacks, and bars
When we’re backpacking, we like to maintain a steady drip of calories over the course of the day. This keeps our blood sugar up and provides our muscles with a steady source of energy. We accomplish this via constant snacking.
Morning snacks end with a large mid-day snack (aka lunch), which marks the start of our afternoon snacking. The whole hike is just one big movable feast!
Tuna & Chicken Packets
These might not be the most weight-efficient items, 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 Chicken, Chicken Salad, Deli Style Tuna Salad, and Lemon Pepper Tuna.
*While the products we listed above are gluten-free, Starkist does have other varieties that are not.*
SPAM: It might have 99 ingredients, but gluten ain’t one! We were ere surprised to learn that SPAM comes in backpacking-friendly foil packets. After a nonstop diet of tuna, we were offered some SPAM on the JMT by a fellow hiker and found it to be quite enjoyable.
With over x3 times the calories of a traditional energy bar, GreenBelly Meals2Go contain a whopping 650 calories per serving. This makes them a complete no-cook lunch that you can enjoy on the trail. They are also gluten-free.
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. Find a few you like, mix it up.
The following companies offer an entirely gluten-free line of energy 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. On longer multi-day hikes, these are good to eat towards the end of the day to help your body repair muscle tissue.
Quinn Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
We have no idea how they do it, but Quinn’s line of peanut butter-filled pretzels is certified gluten-free! They have a variety of flavors worth checking out. Maple Almond Butter, Dark Chocolate-y, and classic peanut butter.
Love Corn is an entire gluten-free product line of crunchy corn that’s perfect for backpacking. 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.
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. Our favorite places for nuts and dried fruit in bulk are Nuts.com and Trader Joe’s.
Mush is one of the defining textures of backpacking food, which is why we like to pack along something with a little CRUNCH. There are many hearty gluten-free options that hold up well in a pack like these Deli-Style Rye Pretzel Rods.
Hard cheese and cheeses that are individually packaged are great options. We also love Parmesan or Cheddar Whisps.
Honey Stinger Waffles
A quick hit of energy, Honey Stingers Waffles makes a gluten-free line! 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.
The solid, chewy form of a gel, there are a variety of energy gummies like Clif Shot Bloks, GU Energy Chews, Honey Stinger Chews, and Scratch Lab Chews These are great to have on hand if you ever start to feel yourself bonking. They contain quick-releasing sugars and easily process calories to stabilize your blood sugar. We think of these as a “Break Glass If In Need of Calories” type of emergency snack.
Wildway Snack Mix
These grain-free 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!
Chewy Banana Bites
We’ve all had dried 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.
Let’s be honest, there’s no way we’re breaking out our stove and cooking lunch. But…there are a lot of great “cold-soak” lunches that need only cold water and can be rehydrated in 15 minutes. These are our favorite gluten-free options.
Bushka’s Kitchen: Lentil Lunch
For a quick (and economical) hit of calories, the answer is simple: candy! While some popular backpacking candies contain gluten (Haribo Gummy bears for example) many do not. A few good gluten-free candies include Swedish Fish or Jelly Belly’s Sports Beans. Whatever you pick, make sure it won’t be too melty.
Gluten-Free Snack/Lunch Recipes
- Dehydrated Roasted Pepper Hummus
- Tie-Dye Mango Strawberry Fruit Leathers
- Tropical Fruit Leathers
- Maple Glazed Trail Mix
Gluten-free backpacking dinners
Dinner, the main event. We spent an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about dinner throughout the day, so it’s really nice when it lives up to expectations! There are a lot more gluten-free options now than ever before. Some from brands you know, but many more from new startups. We hit many of the highlights below.
New to the freeze-dried backpacking meal scene, San Francisco-based Bushka’s Kitchen has some incredible gluten-free options that feature large, easily identifiable whole ingredients. While these meals are gluten-free, they are currently processed in a shared facility that also processes wheat. Meals to check out:
Some of our absolute favorites dinners on the JMT were produced by Backpacker’s Pantry. They also have a lot of gluten-free options. Meals to check out:
Fernweh Food Company
Producing dehydrated backpacking meals with low-impact packaging, Fernweh Food Company is another recent addition to the backpacking meal market offering gluten-free meals. Their product is fairly small right now, offering two dinner options, but we’ve got high hopes for them.
A new freeze-dried meal producer from rural England, Firepot offers a range of gluten-free dinners. 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
Started by a mom and son team in Bend, Oregon, Food For The Sole are hometown heroes for us! They are an entirely gluten-free company that operates their own facility to ensure there is zero cross-contamination. Their wholesome dehydrated meals can be ordered as “full” or “lunch” sizes. Meals to check out:
Producing dehydrated backpacking meals from quality ingredients, Good To-Go has a large number of gluten-free options. 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. (We’re looking at you Mexican Quinoa Bowl) Meals to check out:
Based in Anchorage, Alaska, Heather’s Choice is another 100% gluten-free operation. They use high-quality, whole-food ingredients to create packable, dehydrated provisions. We’re really excited about these guys! Meals to check out:
The OG of backpacking meals, Mountain House has been making freeze-dried meals since the 1970s. While many of their more iconic meals contain gluten (beef stroganoff), they do have a surprising number that do not. Meals to check out:
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. While all of their meals are gluten-free, they are processed in a shared facility. Meals to check out:
Another recent addition to the freeze-dried backpacking market, Peak ReFuel has one gluten-free dinner option: Sweet Pork & Rice.
If you’re seeking gluten-free backpacking meals, Wild Zora is a wonderful resource. Providing gluten-free products is part of their company’s core values, so you can be assured everything you find from them will be compliant. We’ve heard great things about their Chili and Chicken Curry and Bedrock Beef Chili.
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.
Condiments and extras
These are some of our favorite extras to add either calories or flavor to our meals.
- Almond Protein Powder
- Pea Protein Powder
- GF Cheddar Cheese Powder
- GF Butter Powder
- GF Whole Milk Powder
- GF Coconut Milk Powder
- GF Heavy Cream Powder
- Cocoa Creamer
- Olive Oil Packets
- Coconut Oil Packets
- GF Tamari Packets
- Sriracha Packets
- Chili garlic sauce
- Various hot sauce packets
- True Lemon & True Lime flavor packets
DIY Backpacking Recipes
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!)
If you’re backpacking then you’re technically on vacation and dessert shouldn’t be out of the question! Kidding aside, backpacking desserts can be great to have on hand for special occasions, like on your last night out or as a morale booster after a rough day. They can also be a great way to pad out your dinner’s calorie count.
Dehydrated / Freeze Dried Desserts
There are a lot of “just add water” desserts on the market. So boil a little extra water for dinner and make yourself a little something sweet for afterward!
Heather’s Choice Packaroons
What a genius idea! And completely gluten-free! 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.
Trailtopia creates a line of gluten-free fruit crisps for dessert, including Peach Blueberry, Apple, and Blueberry.
Cosmik Ice Cream
Freeze-dried ice cream is its own unique experience that many backpackers have come to love. While the most iconic brand, Astronaut Ice Cream, contains gluten, there is a new startup called Cosmik that offers a few gluten-free options. The Mint Chocolate Chip is well-reviewed.
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.
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!
Favorite backpacking cooking gear
We have a whole post dedicated to our backpacking cooking gear picks, but here are some of the basics:
Check out our in-depth post about the best backpacking stoves on the market.
Backpacking Mug: GSI Infinity Mug
Weighing only 3.5 oz, this is our go-to mug for backpacking trips. It has enough insulation to keep our coffee warm in the morning and costs a fraction of the price of a double-walled titanium mug.
This post was first published March 1, 2018 and last updated on March 12, 2021 with up to date information.