What Food to Bring on a Backpacking Trip: A Complete Guide

Discover essential tips on selecting the best food for your next backpacking adventure. Learn how to choose nutritious and easy-to-prepare meals that fuel you and maximize enjoyment on the trail.

Embarking on a backpacking adventure is exhilarating and offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature's beauty while exploring breathtaking landscapes. Properly fueling your body with the right food during your trek is essential to ensure optimal energy levels and maintain overall well-being. Nobody likes getting hungry while on the trail after all! When planning your backpacking food, consider weight, nutritional value, ease of preparation, and durability while satisfying your taste buds.

Preparation is crucial to ensuring you have a well-rounded diet while backpacking. In this article we’ll guide you through selecting the best food choices for your next outdoor expedition. We'll also share valuable tips and ideas on choosing lightweight, nutritious, and tasty meals to keep your energy and spirits high as you conquer the trails.

Backpacking food

As you plan your backpacking menu, bear in mind the following key aspects:

  1. Caloric Density: Opt for high-calorie foods to provide the energy needed for long hikes without adding unnecessary weight to your backpack.

  2. Meal Variety: Incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to maintain a balanced diet and entertain your taste buds during your journey.

  3. Easy Preparation: Choose meals that are easy to prepare with minimal cookware, fuel, and water requirements, saving you valuable time and resources.

  4. Non-perishable Items: Prioritize non-perishable food that can withstand fluctuating temperatures and storage conditions without spoiling or getting crushed.

  5. Personal Preferences: Account for your dietary needs and taste preferences when selecting your meals to ensure you enjoy your food as much as the adventure.

In this article, we'll dive deeper into each aspect, providing practical tips, meal ideas, and insights to ensure an enjoyable and fulfilling backpacking experience. So gear up, pack your perfect backpacking meals, and hit the trails with confidence, knowing you're well-equipped to fuel your body and mind every step!

High-Energy, Calorie-Dense Food Options for the Trail

When planning your backpacking menu, focus on high-calorie, energy-rich food options to fuel your body throughout your trek. Consuming calorie-dense foods helps to maintain energy levels without adding excessive weight to your pack. Some delicious and calorie-rich options to consider include:

  • Nut Butter: Peanut, almond, or cashew butter is packed with protein, healthy fats, and calories, making it an excellent energy source for backpackers. Carry it in a squeezable pouch or small plastic container for easy consumption.

  • Trail Mix: Customize your trail mix with a blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and dark chocolate chunks for a tasty and energy-boosting snack.

  • Jerky: Beef, turkey, or even vegan jerky is an easily packable and protein-rich food option, providing a satisfying energy boost.

  • Energy Bars: Choose from various energy bar options made from grains, nuts, and fruits for a quick and convenient calorie-rich snack.

Balancing Your Backpacking Diet with a Mix of Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats

Maintaining a balanced diet on the trail is crucial for optimal performance and overall health. Ensure that your backpacking menu includes a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stay satiated and nourished. Here are some food options to incorporate into your meal plan:


  1. Whole Grain Products: Opt for whole grain crackers, tortillas, or pita bread as sources of complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy throughout your hikes.

  2. Instant Oats: Pre-packaged instant oatmeal or individually portioned ziplock bags of rolled oats make for an easy, carbohydrate-rich breakfast.

  3. Rice or Pasta: Instant rice or pasta is a simple and versatile option for carb-loading at dinner. Choose whole grain varieties for added fiber and nutrients.


  1. Dehydrated Meals: Consider pre-packaged or home-prepared dehydrated meals, like chili or curry, which contain protein-rich ingredients such as beans, lentils, or lean meat.

  2. Pouches of Tuna or Chicken: Single-serving pouches of tuna, chicken, or salmon are lightweight and easy to prepare, offering a protein boost to any meal.


  1. Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats and can be mixed into various meals or consumed as snacks.

  2. Coconut Oil: Pack a small container of coconut oil, which is useful for cooking meals and providing an additional source of healthy fats.

Easy-to-Prepare, Lightweight Meal Ideas for Backpacking

Convenience is key when it comes to preparing meals on the trail. Look for food options that require minimal cookware, fuel, and water consumption. The following meal ideas are easy-to-prepare, lightweight, and satisfying:

  • Breakfast: Pre-packaged instant oatmeal, granola with powdered milk, or a combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits make for quick, energy-boosting breakfast options.

  • Lunch: Tortillas or crackers with pouches of tuna, chicken, or nut butter, accompanied by cheese slices or vegetables such as bell peppers or cucumbers, create a satisfying mid-day meal.

  • Dinner: Instant rice or pasta dishes, like mac and cheese or a selection of dehydrated meals, provide a nourishing and comforting dinner option.

  • Snacks: Trail mix, energy bars, jerky, and fresh or dried fruits make easily accessible, energy-rich snacks to enjoy throughout the day.

Pack Non-Perishable Foods for a Reliable and Durable Backpacking Meal Plan

Prioritize non-perishable food items for your backpacking trip to avoid spoilage and ensure your meals remain delicious and safe. Non-perishable foods can withstand varying temperatures and are often resistant to crushing and damage.

Freeze dried backpacking food

Some excellent non-perishable food options include:

  • Dehydrated or Freeze-dried Meals

  • Instant Rice or Pasta

  • Pouches of Tuna, Chicken, or Salmon

  • Granola Bars and Energy Bars

  • Dried Fruits and Nuts

You'll be sure to have a well-rounded, satisfying backpacking meal plan by carefully selecting your food choices, considering weight, durability, and preparation requirements.

Food fuels the fun!

Well-planned and balanced meals are crucial for a successful and enjoyable backpacking trip. By incorporating a mix of calorie-dense, easy-to-prepare, and non-perishable food options, you can provide your body with the necessary fuel to power your outdoor adventure. As you organize your gear for your next expedition, don't forget to explore the outdoor gear we have available for rent!

GeerGarage outdoor gear rentals in Seattle, WA, can help you find and rent the perfect equipment for your backpacking journey. So, get ready to hit the trails confidently, equipped with knowledge and nutritious meals that will keep your energy levels high, your spirits lifted, and your taste buds satisfied.

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