Backpacking Food Ideas

Looking for backpacking food ideas? Some of the savviest backpackers don't head to the local grocery store when they're preparing for a hiking trip. Instead, they look to time-tested alternatives to stay fed while in the woods. There are two main options available: homemade backpacking food, and freeze dried food. The pros and cons of each approach are listed below, along with a short description of these backpacking food ideas. Read on to find out which best matches your needs.

Freeze Dried Food

Developed over the past twenty years, freeze dried food has come a long way from the NASA rip-offs you used to have to force down your throat. Each meal comes in its own little sleeve. Today, there are several different companies that make this kind of food; experiment to discover your favorite brand.


  • Taste: You'll be shocked by how tasty these meals can be, especially once you find your favorite dishes. Freeze dried food incorporates a wide variety of spices and flavors that you simply can't carry into the backcountry.
  • Easy Cooking: It really doesn't get much easier than this. Simply boil the required amount of water (usually 1 to 2 cups), and then carefully pour it into the pouch. Stir, zip the sleeve back up, and sit back and relax for about 10 minutes. Open it up again, and you're ready to go. A gourmet meal, ready for consumption.
  • No cleaning: This might be our favorite aspect of freezedried meals. Nobody likes cleaning, but it's especially annoying without the luxuries of home (garbage disposal, dishwasher,... and even good lighting!). That's why these little packages are one of the best backpacking food ideas around. Once you're done, simply roll up the package and throw it in your garbage bag.
  • Variety: Head to your local camping store to check out your choices. From scrambled eggs to Polynesian chicken to spaghetti with meatballs (to ice cream!), the options really are unlimited.

  • Taste: Wait a second... wasn't this in the pro column? For some reason, when you eat these meals anywhere under a roof, they just don't taste the same. Outside, after a long day of hiking, they're phenomenal. Inside, not so much. As long as you stick to eating them when backpacking and don't try to make them into a regular home meal, you'll be fine.
  • Cost: If you plan on eating freeze dried food for the duration of your trip, keep in mind that the price is significantly higher than the alternative. Each of these babies runs about 10 dollars per meal, plus sides and desserts, if you add those into your cart.

Homemade Backpacking Meals

Homemade backpacking food ideas appeal to health nuts more than anyone else. You'll know exactly what's going into your body, as opposed to the long lists of sketchy ingredients found on the freezedried alternatives.

Even if you don't decide to stock your pack entirely with natural foods, there are some easy, fun things you can add to the menu.

Beef Jerky:Leave the preservative-laden variety on the store shelf. Instead, pick up a nice rump roast, along with soy sauce, teriyaki, and your favorite spices. Marinate the meat for 24 hours, and then string it up in the oven. Keep the oven door open, and cook for approximately 6 hours on the lowest heat setting. The dried meat will last for months, and is a tasty, healthier alternative to store-bought beef jerky.

Make Your Own Trail Mix:Rather than purchasing a bag of ready-made trail mix, throw together your favorite ingredients to create the perfect blend. Do you love dried mango? Go heavy on the mango, and light on the raisins. Or maybe you're allergic to peanuts: simply leave them out.

Think outside the box as you put together the food for your next backpacking trip. Combine all of the approaches above for menus that will keep everyone happy.

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