The types of food you take on outdoor adventures depends on the length of your trip, and also personal preference. If you are planning a multi-day hike or strenuous expedition, then high energy lightweight food is a must. Your body needs adequate calories and fuel to keep going. Many adventurers go by the idea that food is fuel, choosing food sources based on calorific content rather than taste or nutritional value.
Another important factor to consider is how easy it is to prepare the food. Will you need a stove? Will it take a long time to cook and use up a lot of gas? Does it need to be refrigerated? Can it be cooked in one pot? In this article, we’re going to go through some of our favourite backpacker recipes. Some of these will require a stove, others require very minimal preparation.
Lightweight, High Energy Foods
We’ve made it easier for you to decide what kind of foods to take with you on your next trip. Taking into consideration weight, energy, nutritional value, and ease-of-preparation, our list below gives you an idea of some good high-calorie, lightweight food and snack options.
Dehydrated staple foods such as rice, pasta, instant potato, and oats are incredibly valuable food sources when choosing lightweight food that is high in energy. These carbohydrates are cheap, non-perishable, lightweight, widely available, and easy to cook. You can often buy sachets of rice and pasta with powdered sauce. It’s also easy to combine these with tomato puree, spices, tinned fish or vegetables to make a delicious camp meal.
Great staple carbs:
Instant mashed potato
Bachelor’s Pasta ‘n’ Sauce
Knorr Risotto Italian Rice
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds aren’t only high energy but also rich in many essential fatty acids and protein. Trail mixes with a combination of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit are ideal as snacks to sustain you on the go. They taste good and contain a mix of nutritional ingredients such as iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Nuts and seeds also have a high shelf life and don’t require any preparation. Be careful to choose an unsalted version so as not to end up dehydrated.
Great nuts and seeds:
Omega seed mix
High Octane Energy Mix
When you think of dried fruits, you probably picture the humble raisin. But the fact is that there are lots of other tasty dried fruits available for a much-needed burst of sugar and vitamins on the trail. High in fibre and nutrients and less perishable than fresh fruits, they are an ideal source of high-energy food.
Great dried fruits:
Organic Mango Strips
Dried Sweetened Cranberries
Sweets and jellies
Although they’re not exactly ‘nutritious’ due to their high content of refined sugar, sweets and jellies provide a sugar-kick that is sometimes needed to get you to the top of that mountain. They shouldn’t be relied upon for sustained energy, but we recommend keeping a stash of sugary treats in your rucksack in case of emergency.
Great sweets and jellies:
Maynards Bassetts Jelly Babies
Hartleys Strawbery Jelly
As the name suggests, energy bars are designed to provide as much energy as possible. There are many bars on the market that have been adapted to contain as much protein and long-lasting energy as possible. Energy bars make a great breakfast on days when you don’t want to cook your oats.
Great energy bars:
Nature Valley Protein Cereal Bars
Pure Protein Bars
Eat Natural Bar
There is something incredibly indulgent about diving into a jar of peanut butter with a spork. Nut butters are high in fats, protein, and energy. There are lots more varieties of nut butters than just peanut butter. We recommend choosing a nut butter in a plastic pot or decanting it to avoid carrying a heavy glass jar.
Great nut butters:
Crunchy Peanut Butter
Pip & Nut Almond Butter
Biona Organic Milk Chocolate Hazel Spread
Freeze-dried and ‘pouch’ meals
Freeze dried meals are often the most nutritious option for lightweight high energy food. Although one of the pricier options, they are easy to prepare and specially created as high energy meals for explorers. There is little better than a hot and tasty meal before climbing into your sleeping back at the end of a hard day adventuring. There are also usually plenty of options available if you’re vegetarian or have other specific dietary requirements.
Great freeze-dried backpacking meals:
Expedition Foods Spaghetti Bolognese
Mountain House Lasagna With Meat Sauce
Alpine Spicy Pork Sausage
So, now that you have an idea of good staple foods to take with you on the trail, the question is what to do with them!? In this section, we’ll be going through some of our favorite backpacker recipes. Some of these don’t require cooking, others will need a stove. Whatever your setup, we’ve got you covered!
Breakfast Backpacker Recipes (that need a stove)
Bacon And Eggs
It just ain’t breakfast without bacon and eggs. But how to take it on the trail? Easy, with some veggie-friendly bacon-flavor bits and Ova Easy powdered eggs. All you’ll need is a little water for the eggs, a stoke to cook them, and to decide how you’re gonna have it. On that note, our next recommendation may come in handy…
I’ve got a lot of time for the humble fried slice. It’s never failed to cheer me up! It’s a perfect little taste of home when I’m on the trail. And that’s not to mention the fact that making it is simplicity itself: just soak some bread in a little oil, and fry it at a hot temperature for several minutes. If I can’t have toast on the trail, I’m damn sure gonna have a fried slice!
When it comes to porridge, your options are pretty much limitless. Some puritans swear by the ‘just a little salt’ method. Personally, I think of porridge as an opportunity to get creative. You can add fruit, spice, and everything nice. Not to mention that oats are incredibly filling and cheap. Great thrifty points.
Scrambled Eggs (Or an Omelet!)
Scrambled eggs and omelets are a great way to use practically any veggies you have on hand. This is because they’re both very forgiving recipes that lend themselves to a bit of experimentation. And now, you can take it with you on the trail, thanks to Ova Easy powdered eggs. Check out this great recipe from Fresh Off The Grid!
Banana & Egg Pancakes
Another recipe where Ova Easy comes in handy is for gluten-free pancakes. Just make up your powdered egg, mix it in with some mashed up banana to make a ‘batter’, and then fry it like you would any other pancake. Just don’t forget the maple syrup!
Breakfast Backpacking Recipes that don’t require cooking
Overnight Oats have become a huge trend over the last few years, and it’s not hard to see why. Apart from being cheap and tasty, it’s also something you can make ahead and then grab the next morning. Simply add milk or water to oats, throw in some of your favorite berries, and leave it overnight.
Okay, so it might be a stretch to call this a backpacker ‘recipe’! But breakfast bars are a fantastic grab and go option when you need to hit the trail early. There are some great options out there, but I personally love the taste of these Nature Valley Bars.
Nut & Seed Mix
A great DIY breakfast option is to simply mix and match your own nuts and seeds. After all, they don’t call it ‘trail mix’ for nothing! Nuts and seeds will give you the energy needed for a long day’s march. You can even pre-portion out your mix into separate bags, so that each morning you just grab your breakfast bag, and hit the road!
Pop-Tarts are another great taste of home that I love taking on the trail. They can be eaten hot or cold, and give you that boost of sugar that you need to get moving! They also have a great shelf life, making them all-round perfect trail food.
Apple And Peanut Butter Wrap
This scrummy recipe from iFit makes a great breakfast or dessert. Apples are a pretty hardy fruit to take with you on the trail, and peanut butter keeps just about forever. Combine the two in a wrap, and you’ve got a meal that packs a punch!
Backpacking Lunches & Dinners (with a stove)
Meatballs and Mashed Potatoes
Using a longlife vegan ‘meatball’ mix, and some powdered mashed potatoes, it’s possible to recreate a veritable IKEA classic out on the trail! You can add some mixed herbs for a little extra flavour. And don’t forget the gravy!
Crazy-Simple Chilli Beans & Rice
There’s something about a nice big chilli that just hits the spot, especially if you end up cold or wet at the end of a long day’s hike. When I’m at home, I go to town on my chilli. But when I’m out on the trail, I keep it about as simple as it gets: a tin or two of mixed beans and chopped tomatoes, fried and seasoned with my favourite spices (cajun for the win!). Serve with some rice, and enjoy!
Freeze-dried Backpacking Meals
As we saw earlier, sometimes you just have to phone it in and get a pre-made meal in a pouch! These pouch meals tend to be on the pricier side compared to anything you can make yourself, but they’re also carefully calibrated to give a lot of nutrient bang for your buck!
Mac & Cheese
Another recipe that is simplicity itself! Bring some water to the boil, add the macaroni and some dried beans if you like, and cook for around ten minutes. At the end of the cooking time, simply add in some grated cheddar and your favorite seasoning.
Ham & Ramen Noodle Toss
Check out this great recipe on Taste Of Home – it’s practically tailor-made for backpackers! The ham is the most immediately perishable item in the ingredients, so be sure to cook this early on in your trip if you do decide to make it. Alternatively, you could always opt for a vegan substitute.
Backpacking lunches and dinners that don’t require cooking
PB & J
“No thanks, no PB & J for me” – said no-one, ever! You just can’t go wrong with a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich, especially when you’re out on the trail. This meal will provide you with a great hit of sugar, protein, and carbohydrates – just what you need after a long day of hiking!
This one may be a bit of an unorthodox suggestion, but something I’ve come around to in the last year. Huel is designed to be a complete meal replacement drink, both in terms of nutrients and the calories your body needs. To make it, you simply add water to the mixture and shake well. There are lots of different flavors to choose from, and you can experiment by adding in your own ingredients such as milk, peanut butter, or banana. For a lot of folks, a complete meal in powdered form is the dream when it comes to backpacking food!
It’s important to stay healthy on the trail. Yes, calories and weight are important. But so is your health! And there’s nothing like some fresh vegetables in a salad to break the monotony of pouch meals. This super quick 10-minute couscous salad recipe is about as easy as it gets!
Tuna & Cream Cheese Bagel
There are two things I love about this backpacking recipe (besides the taste!). First, it’s so simple that even after a hard day of walking, it’s a breeze to make. Three ingredients!? What’s not to like. Second, by using a (less perishable) vegan alternative to the cream cheese, this meal has a pretty good shelf life on the trail!
Tortilla Wrap ‘Pizza’
Here’s another great backpacker recipe that’s just as happy in the office as it is on the trail. Using a tortilla and some pizza sauce, it’s possible to make your own cold ‘pizzas’. The best part? You choose the toppings! No Hawaiian for me 🙂
Getting Hungry yet!?
We hope you enjoyed this roundup of our favorite backpacker recipes. Whether you’re climbing a mountain or just going out for a hike in your local area, there are plenty of options available for when you get hungry out on the trail. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more tips, tricks, and gear reviews from the trail. Until next time!