Making the Most of Trail Food

NoodlesWe’re living in an age when food is incredibly easy. If we get hungry, we can walk over to the refrigerator, grab some sandwich fixings, and satisfy that hunger nearly instantly. We can pop some frozen chicken nuggets into the oven and have a warm snack with minimal effort in a matter of minutes. If we’re feeling especially lazy, we can race to the nearest drive through, or send a picture of pizza to a pizza place and have piping hot pizza delivered to our doorstep.

Of course, we don’t have any of these luxuries while backpacking. Hauling a cooler out while hiking isn’t practical, there’s no way to power a microwave oven, and the pizza man won’t step foot on the trail (even if he had his hiking boots and were inclined to make the trek, the pizza would be cold and the delivery fee would cost a fortune).

This means that you have to put much more thought into the foods that you bring while hiking, and the types of food that are available to you while hiking are limited. Perishables, foods that require a lot of preparation, and foods that can’t be cooked with boiling water or over a small camp stove aren’t practical. In other words, frozen pizza is not an option while backpacking.

You want foods that are non-perishable, require minimal preparation, are easy to cook, easy to carry, don’t make a lot of mess, don’t generate lots of trash or waste, have a high caloric density, are nutritious, and are tasty. Also consider the weight of your food. This is why dried/freeze-dried foods are so popular among backpackers.

The ideal trail foods would satisfy all of these categories, but sometimes there’s a bit of give and take. Some foods might be high enough in nutritional value, and super easy to cook, despite tasting a little… underwhelming.

You might have to decide where you place more value. Do you prefer food that’s easy? Is simple clean-up a must-have? Are you willing to dirty up a cook pot in order to have a truly tasty dinner? These are just a handful of things that you must think about when writing out your trail dinner menu.

There are plenty of trail foods that are easy and satisfying enough to handle your hunger while hiking. Here are a few food options to consider taking on your next backpacking trip.

Backpacking meals

  • Rice medleys
  • Boil in bag meals
  • Dehydrated meals
  • Instant rice
  • Ramen noodles are perfect for backpacking, but any dried noodles are easy trail food
  • Tuna or chicken packets
  • Instant soup (but not cans of soup)
  • Instant oatmeal makes for a great breakfast
  • Olive oil adds extra flavor and precious calories to meals
  • Spices can make any meal more enjoyable

Backpacking snacks

  • Food bars
  • Trail mix
  • Peanut butter
  • Tortillas
  • Granola
  • Jerky
  • Vegetables like carrots or celery keep well and generate little waste
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashews, etc.


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