In this article, we share all the plant-based backpacking foods that are now available to vegan backpackers. Discover new products, compare calories, and develop your next vegan backpacking meal plan!
“Wow, what a view! I can’t believe I get to hike through this spectacular landscape. Now, what’s for dinner?!“ Does that sound like a familiar train of thought out on the trail? As backpackers, we find that our minds turn to one of two things: the scenery around us, and thinking about what we get to eat next!
Spending a little bit of time before your next trip to plan out your backpacking meals means that you will always have something tasty to look forward to. Unfortunately, if you walk into a big outdoor retail store right before you hit the trail, you may find a limited selection of vegan-friendly options in stock. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist–you just need to know where to look!
The good news is there are more vegan backpacking food options now than ever before, even if they aren’t always carried in stores. That’s why we scoured the internet to find as many vegan backpacking food options as we could and share them all in one place.
We have also done the work of calculating the total calories per ounce of each meal. Now you can easily tell the calories-to-weight ratio at a glance and quickly compare meals to make sure your meal plan stays weight efficient.
So if you’re a plant-based backpacker, consider this your one-stop-shop!
What to Look for in Backpacking Food
While being entirely plant-based is the first criteria, vegan backpacking food should also be shelf-stable, lightweight, nutrient and calorie-dense, and quick-cooking.
If you’re assembling your own meals, it’s important to use ingredients that can be stored at room temperature. In some ways, vegan backpackers have an advantage here because plant-based foods tend to have a longer shelf-life compared to foods that contain animal products.
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.
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 or more to keep the weight down.
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 day hikes (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.
Vegan Backpacking Breakfasts
Whether it’s adding boiling water to hot breakfast cereal or cold water to make granola with a milk substitute, the convenience of a “just add water” meal is hard to deny out on the trail. Or you can forgo the water altogether and opt for a no-cook bar. Whatever your preference, there are a lot of great vegan breakfast options to explore.
- Organic Blueberry Walnut Oats & Quinoa (115 calories/oz)
- Baked Apple Porridge (112 calories/oz)
Wild Zora Instant Cereals
- Apple Pie with Apples, Walnuts & Cinnamon (145 calories/oz)
- Blueberry Muffin with Blueberry, Almond & Coconut (140 calories/oz)
- Banana Bread with Bananas, Almonds & Cacao Nibs (134 calories/oz)
- Carrot Cake with Carrots, Raisin & Clove (145 calories/oz)
- Tropical Tart with Mango, Pecans, Orange & Lime (151 calories/oz)
- Mountain Berry Granola (110 calories/oz)
Quaker 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 stirring in a packet of nut butter.
I have tried a lot of different vegan shakes and this one 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 DIY or store bought granola. It’s a great way to work some extra protein in your morning meal.
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 flavor combinations – all of which are entirely plant-based.
Vegan Breakfast Recipes
Here are some of the vegan breakfast recipes we have on our website:
- Dehydrated Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Porridge
- Dehydrated Strawberries & Cream Quinoa Porridge
- Coconut Chocolate Granola
- Apricot Ginger Oatmeal
- Raspberry Coconut Quinoa Porridge
Vegan lunches, snacks, and bars
When we’re backpacking, a very blurry line separates snacks from lunch. In fact, from the time we hit the trail in the morning until we set up camp at night, the entire experience is sort of an extended, movable feast. So in this section, we’ll cover all the vegan options for snacks and lunches.
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 vegan product line: GoMacro Bars, LÄRABAR, MunkPack Cookie, Dang Bars, Bearded Brothers, Aloha Bars, 88 Acres Seed Bar. These companies offer many vegan options: Clif Bars, Picky Bars, Bobo Bars, Patagonia Provisions Bars.
On a tortilla or straight from the packet (guilty as charged!). Nut butter packets are a great source of calories (and protein) on the trail, and they make for excellent grab-and-go snacks.
The following companies offer an entirely vegan product line: Performance Nut Butter, 88 Acres Seed Butters, while these companies offer many vegan options: Justin’s Nut Butter, Trail Butter, Yum Butter.
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 Co’s entirely vegan line of powdered hummus, with flavors like: Traditional, Mughali Curry and Chipotle. Or, make your own dehydrated hummus (it’s super easy!).
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, many of which are vegan, worth checking out.
Speaking of something crunchy, Love Corn is an entire vegan line of crunchy corn. Some of their flavors include sea salt, smoked BBQ, salt & vinegar, and habanero chilli. 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.
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.
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.
Nomad Chewy Banana Bites
We’ve all had dehydrated bananas 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 much welcomed change in texture. Add them to your morning oatmeal or enjoy them on their own.
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!
Let’s be honest, there’s no way we’re breaking out our stove and cooking lunch. Thankfully, there are a lot of great “cold-soak” lunches and many of them are vegan! Just add cold water and let stand for 15 minutes.
Food For The Sole: Zesty Miso Broccoli Slaw, Peanut Super Slaw
Bushka’s Kitchen: Lentil Lunch
Outdoor Herbivore: Pacific Crest Vinaigrette, Lazy Lentil Salad, Lemony Herb Quinoa Salad
Vegan Backpacking Snack/Lunch Recipes
- Dehydrated Roasted Pepper Hummus
- Tie-Dye Mango Strawberry Fruit Leathers
- Chili-Spiced Fruit Leathers
- Tropical Fruit Leathers
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
- Chewy Granola Bars
Vegan backpacking dinners
Dinner: the meal we’ve all been waiting for! After a long 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 satisfying note.
- Santa Fe Black Beans & Rice (97 calories/oz)
- Zesty Zoodles in Avocado Sauce (135 calories/oz)
- African Peanut Stew (107 calories/oz)
- Kickin’ Cactus Bowl (100 calories/oz)
- Sweet Potato Chili Mac (110 calories/oz)
- Three Bean Chili Mac (125 calories/oz)
Here are some of our favorite vegan backpacking dinner recipe we’ve developed over the years:
- Red Lentil Chili
- Sweet Potato Stew
- Tortilla Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- Quinoa Chili
- Red Lentil Marinara (omit cheese)
Not only are backpacking desserts an absolute treat, but they can help you meet your caloric needs for the day (without having to resort to just having more dinner).
Food For the Sole
Cinnamon Cherry Crisp (125 calories/oz.)
Unreal Candy Bar
It’s not every day that you can eat an entire candy bar by yourself 1000% guilt free… here’s your chance 🙂 These Unreal chocolate coconut bars would be a great dessert or even a mid-afternoon pick-me-up on a particularly strenuous day.
Treehouse Coconut Drinking Chocolate
If you don’t necessarily want to eat dessert, consider drinking it! This drinking chocolate (see: hot chocolate) is an absolutely lovely way to wind down at camp. While Treehouse’s makes other flavors that do contain milk, this coconut chocolate blend is hands down their best product and it’s 100% vegan.
The 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!
In terms of your overall meal plan, backcountry cocktails are absolutely an “extra” luxury. But they can be wonderful morale boosters! 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.
- Almond Protein Powder
- Pea Protein Powder
- Nutritional Yeast
- Coconut Milk Powder
- Cocoa Creamer
- Olive Oil Packets
- Coconut Oil Packets
- Sriracha Packets
- Chili garlic sauce
- Soy Sauce Packets
- Various hot sauce packets
- True Lemon & True Lime flavor packets
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.
Looking for more backpacking resources? Check out the index of all our vegan backpacking recipes, our ultimate guide to dehydrating food for backpacking, this complete backpacking checklist, and our favorite backpacking cooking gear!
This post was first published June 25, 2017, and last updated March 9, 2021, with up-to-date information.