If you’re not savoring every delicious meal on the trail, you’re doing it wrong…or you just don’t have enough ideas for easy backpacking meals.
“We all eat, and it would be a sad waste of opportunity to eat badly.” -Anna Thomas
Too many people over-complicate trail food because they don’t know how to make easy backpacking meals.
Who says you can’t have a delicious Thai curry from scratch in the backcountry? And what if it’s easy to make and light to carry?
After today, you will never be short on delicious, easy backpacking meals because you have now discovered…
Easy Backpacking Meals: Things to Consider
Weight – Of course the first thing every backpacker thinks about before they put anything in their pack is “How heavy is it?” This is why freeze dried and dehydrated meals are so popular. Depending on how difficult the hike is going to be for you, you might be willing to carry a little extra weight in exchange for a little extra taste (I love bringing cheese for the first day or two).
Calories – No matter how good of shape you are in, backpacking uses a lot of energy and you’re going to need calories when you’re on the trail. You should consider the calorie to weight ratio of your food. How many calories does a food item have per ounce? Calculate this for a bunch of foods and you’ll start to see a wide range and some are better than others. Shoot for at least 120 calories per ounce. If your meals are less than 100 calories per ounce, you should consider switching out some of your food for more calorie-dense foods.
Packability – Some foods pack into a backpack better than others. Tortillas are probably a better choice than bread. An avocado might be ok on the first day but it will likely get smushed and bruised after packing and unpacking a few times.
Simplicity – Remember, you’re going to be tired and hungry when you make your dinner. You might be ok with a little food prep on the trail but there’s a huge benefit to having a simple, easy meal. Some people are huge advocates of stoveless backpacking meals for this reason but if you’re not willing to go that far, consider a simple freeze dried meal.
How This List is Categorized
This list of easy backpacking meals is organized into categories in the order of easiest to hardest to prepare beforehand (they are all easy to prepare on the trail):
- Best Freeze Dried Backpacking Meals
- Best Dehydrated Backpacking Meals
- Best Combos of Powders and Dehydrated Ingredients
- Best Stoveless Backpacking Meals
- Dehydrating Your Own Backpacking Meals
Best Freeze Dried Backpacking Meals
The easiest of easy backpacking meals require zero prep work: just go buy some freeze dried meals. These are made for backpackers so they’re lightweight, easy to prepare on the trail, and some can be pretty tasty.
Here I’ve assembled the best of the best freeze dried backpacking meals. Not only does this list contain my personal favorites but these appear on other bloggers “best freeze dried backpacking meals” lists too!
1. MaryJanesFarm Organic Shepherd’s Meat Pie
The number one freeze dried meal (and my favorite too!) is this hearty, organic, tasty shepherd’s pie from MaryJanesFarm. A little pricey but there’s a reason – it’s the best! Get it from REI here.
2. Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles
Mountain House is a staple for freeze dried food and this flavor is their best. Hearty and tasty. You can buy it here.
3. GOOD TO-GO Thai Curry
If you want a little Asian zing, this is the best freeze dried curry around. With 380 calories per serving, the Good-To-Go Thai Curry gives you a bit more than most.
4. Mountain House Chili Mac With Beef
Another solid meal from Mountain House. It’s hard to go wrong with chili mac. Here’s a link to get in on REI.
5. Backpacker’s Pantry Louisiana Red Beans and Rice
Backpacker’s Pantry is a solid choice for freeze dried meals that won’t break the bank. This rice and beans bowl is super tasty with cajun flavors!
6. Patagonia Provisions Red Bean Chili
Patagonia has a reputation for high-end outdoor clothing, earning it the nickname Pata-gucci. But their line of food items is well priced and tasty. They are also organic and sustainably sourced (you wouldn’t expect less from Patagonia). Order yours here.
7. Packit Gourmet Dottie’s Chicken and Dumplings
A family company based in Austin, Texas, Packit Gourmet can make some tasty eats! There are many good flavors but this one is our favorite!
8. Nomad Nutrition – Hungarian Goulash
Nomad Nutrition fares from British Columbia, Canada and is focused on making paleo meals for backpackers. This Hungarian Goulash is free from gluten, dairy, soy, palm oil, and GMOs.
9. Mountain House – Breakfast Skillet
Hash browns, scrambled eggs, crumbled pork patty, peppers and onions for breakfast! Or lunch. Or dinner.
10. Backpacker’s Pantry – Granola with Bananas, Almonds & Milk
Not a big fan of eggs and potatoes for breakfast? Try this easy-to-eat yet filling breakfast.
11. Packit Gourmet – Mom’s Banana Puddin’
No cook required and absolutely delicious. You can have this for desert or even breakfast if you’re so inclined.
12. Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
Why not treat yourself on a backpacking trip? You earned it. This is another winner from Backpacker’s Pantry and totally indulgent.
These are not freeze dried meals and on the heavy side for backpacking but they are an option. The best part is they heat themselves. So if you’re out for a short trip and don’t mind carrying the weight, you can leave your stove at home and still have a hot meal.
Best Dehydrated Easy Backpacking Meals
Dehydrated meals are a little different than freeze dried. The process of preparing them takes longer and re-hydrating them on the trail takes slightly longer.
Many people prefer dehydrated meals over freeze dried because the end result is more similar to a home cooked meal (other’s might argue with that statement). So it’s a matter of preference.
Speaking of home-cooked, you can make plenty of dehydrated easy backpacking meals yourself if you have a food dehydrator! Keep scrolling down to find a whole section devoted to homemade, dehydrated easy backpacking meals.
If you prefer to just buy them and be done with it, Harmony House is the king of dehydrated (not freeze dried) meals.
Pro-tip: you can add a half a cup of water to your dehydrated meals earlier in the day (in a well-sealed container!) to reduce waiting time when you’re hungry. Do it at lunch or during an afternoon break and by dinner, you just have to heat it up. No waiting for re-hydration.
14. Southwest Style Mixed Bean Chili
Harmony House really is the king of dehydrated food. They sell individual ingredients as well as whole meals. This three-bean chili is vegetarian and contains vegetable “beef” for extra sustenance. You get a discount if you buy several at a time (but it’s well priced to begin with!)
15. Creamy Good Corn Chowder
This is a vegetarian meal but the potatoes and corn will fill you up!
16. Backpacking Soup & Chili Kit
If you’re ready to dive in and try all the good stuff from Harmony House, this kit is a really good deal! The kit contains 18 soups and chilis, coming out at an unbelievable $3.89 per meal!
Best Combos of Powdered and Lightweight Foods
17. The Diner Breakfast
18. Cereal and Milk
If this is a staple for you at home, why not replicate it on the trail? Cereal is light enough to carry into the backcountry so all you need is some powdered milk. Add some trail mix for some extra calories.
19. Kicked up Oatmeal
Throw a handful of cashews or trail mix into some instant oatmeal and you’ll be surprised how long it keeps you full! Oatmeal is a great breakfast on the trail. Kick it up even more with some of these recipes:
20. Creamy Salmon Pasta
Pasta of your choice, powdered pesto or alfredo, a pouch of salmon. Mmmmm….
21. Rice and Bean Burrito
Instant Rice, Tortilla, Dehydrated beans
Rice and beans together have all the amino acids to make a complete protein. Remember, dehydrated beans are not the same as uncooked beans – these have been cooked…then dehydrated. And don’t forget a hot sauce packet for flavor!
22. Chocolate Banana Sandwich
Nutella, dehydrated banana chips, bagel
You can substitute pita bread or a tortilla for the bagel if you like. This is a great breakfast or any time of the day.
23. Tortilla Pizza
Tomato powder, tortilla, hard cheese, pepperoni
Yes, tomato powder is a real thing. Make tomato sauce by mixing 1 part powder with 6 parts water. Hard cheese is good for a few days on a backpacking trip and cured meats like pepperoni last a while. Feel free to use salami if preferred. You can try to melt the cheese by placing it close to the camp fire but I usually just eat it as is.
24. Thanksgiving Dinner
Turkey jerky, dehydrated mashed potatoes, and stuffing mix
Ok, it doesn’t compare to the real thing but everything tastes better in the woods so it’s close. Bring some instant gravy or dried cranberries to really make your backpacking buddies jealous!
25. Carbonara Pasta
Angel hair pasta, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, powdered eggs, bacon jerky
This is a little more complicated that the other recipes but well worth it.
26. Chicken Curry
Instant rice, powdered coconut milk, curry paste, bagged chicken
You need two pots for this on – one for the rice and one for the other three ingredients. Or substitute the rice with naan bread!
27. Bangers and Mash
Bangers and mash is Australian for sausage and mashed potatoes. Get some summer sausage and dehydrated mashed potatoes and you’re good to go. Prep some chopped chives beforehand and carry in a plastic baggy for a super fancy, gourmet garnish.
28. Chicken Couscous
Couscous is pretty great on the trail because it’s filling and gives you a little protein but you can get more protein from a pouch of chicken. Add some dehydrated veggies from harmony house and you’ve got a complete meal. But wait…add some cheese (hard cheese) and now you’ve got a delicious, complete meal! This recipe idea came from Green Belly.
29. Asian Beef Noodle Soup
One pack dried noodles (ramen), a packet of soy sauce, and beef jerky.
Does it get simpler than this? No, it doesn’t.
30. Chili Mac
Dried pasta (macaroni or other), hard cheese, dehydrated beans
Best Stoveless Backpacking Meals
Ever think about going stoveless? It’s a lifestyle choice.
It’s not for everyone and not for every trip (don’t go stoveless in winter). But the simplicity of not having to cook at end of a long day can be pretty awesome. And there are plenty of delicious meals that don’t require a stove at all.
For more info, including tips on stoveless backpacking, check out 25 Delicious Stoveless Backpacking Meals to Warm Your Taste Buds.
I have also picked out some of the best here:
31. Outdoor Herbivore Fiesta Quinoa Salad
This is a store-bought freeze dried meal that is meant to be served cold. Just add water! It’s also vegetarian so…there’s that.
32. Protein Powder with Granola
Protein powder is pretty awesome when you’re backpacking. Make your protein mix and add granola for very filling breakfast.
33. Pita Chips with Instant Hummus
Pita chips can be super filling and can be eaten on their own. Also, feel free to substitute anything “dip-able” for hummus. For example, lentils or peanut butter.
34. Baked Goods
These are best for the first day or two but most people don’t think of stopping by a bakery before heading out on the trail…and they’re missing out!
35. Tortilla with Nut Butter
Discover Justin’s Nut Butter (get the pouches, mine favorite is almond butter). You don’t have to worry about smushing tortillas in your pack. Optional: bring packets of honey to have nut butter and honey.
36. Energy Bars
Yes, these can be a meal. Bring one protein bar and one granola bar to get protein and carbs. No prep, no cooking, just pull them out and you’re good to go!
37. Salmon Bagel
38. Carnation Instant Breakfast
Giving you a little extra calories and a few extra grams of protein, there is a lot you can do with these packets. Combine with powdered milk and add to cereal or add them to your coffee. I recommend getting the high protein packets when you’re hiking.
39. Native American Pemmican
This one takes some prep work so it’s not easy to prepare but easy on the trail. You can find the recipe here. Pemmican is a great combination of protein and fat, it’s easy to carry, and calorie-dense.
Warning: pemmican is not for everyone. I recommend trying it before you find yourself two days into a backpacking trip with nothing but pemmican. You might love it, you might hate it.
Dehydrating Your Own Easy Backpacking Meals
If you have a food dehydrator and don’t mind putting in a little prep work, you can make some really impressive backpacking meals that are still easy to make while you’re on the trail.
There are tons of tips and tricks for dehydrating different kinds of food (for example, add bread crumbs to ground beef to help them re-hydrate…genius), so instead of writing a whole guide here, I will refer you to Backpacking Chef.
There’s two ways to go about dehydrating your own meals to make easy backpacking meals:
- You can make a meal at home and dehydrate the entire thing. Then on the trail, you just need to reconstitute it OR
- You can dehydrate only the ingredients that need to be dehydrated and combine with other ingredients while on the trail. This may require slightly more prep on the trail but it’s kinda fun.
Here, we provide both options.
40. Pad Thai
Yep, you can totally prep Pad Thai into nothing but dehydrated food so that on the trail, you just add hot water! Check out this recipe from Cloudline.
41. Thai Red Curry Rice with Peanut Coconut Sauce
You can choose to dehydrate your own veggies for this recipe or buy them already dehydrated. I love this recipe from Fresh Off the Grid!
42. Mac N’ Cheese
Want to know what’s better than an awesome backpacker mac n’ cheese recipe? How about 5 awesome backpacker mac n’ cheese recipes?!? I recommend the chili mac for a little extra heartiness.
Feijoada is a Brazilian casserole that is hearty and delicious. It’s got beans, it’s got rice, and it’s got meat. In other words, it’s got what you need! And you can get the recipe here.
44. Unstuffed Peppers
It’s got all the ingredients of stuffed peppers at home, it’s just not in the pepper. Check out this recipe from Seattle Backpackers Magazine.
45. Root Bark Stew
Don’t worry, there is not actual bark in this. This is a delicious stew that dries into sheets so you can snack on it while hiking or re-hydrate and heat for dinner. Very versatile!
46. Roasted Ratatouille
Vegan, paleo, delicious. This recipe has you do all the cooking at home and then dehydrate for easy prep on the trail. It is a little light on calories so consider combining with something heartier.
47. Mushroom and Veggie Risotto
This recipe from Fresh Off the Grid uses mushrooms, zucchini, peas, and onions. They give step-by-step instructions, both written and in a video, for dehydrating the right ingredients to make it backpacker friendly.
48. Beef and Barley Stew
This recipe is hearty and filling but also includes several veggies! You can buy all the ingredients already dehydrated or do it yourself.
49. Beef Alfredo
Doesn’t a nice creamy pasta loaded with meat sound amazing on the trail?? This recipe from Great Walks calls for some dehydrated and some powdered ingredients. They call for freeze dried beef but you can dehydrate beef in your dehydrator if you want.
Bonus Snacks and Flavors
GORP: Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts
Super easy to make and super delicious on the trail. There are two ingredients: peanuts and raisins. The ratio is flexible as well, I have seen anything from 4 parts peanuts, 1 part raisins to a 50/50 mix so do as you please. Throw in some M&Ms if you’d like. There are no rules here.
Dehydrate Sriracha Coins
Lay parchment out on your dehydrator and make quarter-sized pools of sriracha. Dehydrate and pack in a baggy. Add it to soup or really any any meal with water for some flavor and a little kick.
Here is a list of packets and small items to add flavor to any meal (each links to amazon):
- Hot sauce packets (did you know sriracha comes in packets too?!)
- Soy sauce packets
- Honey packets
- Knorr chicken bouillon (these are delicious in more than just soup)
- Mayo packets
- Olive oil packets
- Coconut oil packets
- True Lemon flavoring
- True Lime flavoring
Planning your backpacking trip can be simple if you know how to make easy backpacking meals. These can range from simply buying a freeze dried meal to intricate recipes where you dehydrate all your own ingredients. But all 49 easy backpacking meals listed here are simple to prepare while you’re on the trail.
Have you ever tried a foil dinner when you’re camping? You really should try this Garlic Butter Shrimp and Veggie Foil Dinner. Or for something a little heartier, try this Beef and Veggie Foil Dinner – the Easiest and Most Delicious Camping Dinner Ever!
Don’t forget to pin this page to find it later!