Top 10 best backpacking foods

Bringing the right amount and the right kind of food with you on a backpacking trip can be the difference between a fun adventure and a sluggish trek. While we all have different foods we think that we should bring, there are, without a doubt, some foods that are better for you than others.

You need to factor in the amount of calories you are burning and need to replace, making sure you are fueling your body with good protein, and making sure you are not eating anything that is going to cause you gastric discomfort; having a stomach ache on a backpacking trip can be a nightmare. Here are some of the best backpacking foods out there.


Trail Mix

Trail mix
Trail mix

Let’s start off our list with the classic backpacking fuel. Trail mix gets its name because it is an excellent combination of nutrients to help keep you going along the trail. There are many varieties of trail mix out there too so you are not limited to the classic peanut/chocolate/raisin combination.

You can also throw together your own mix. They typically have nuts, some dried fruit, granola and often some chocolate candy thrown in to give you an added sugar boost, but if you make your own, it can have whatever combination you would like to keep you going.

Dried Meats

When you are burning a lot of calories, your muscles really need to bulk up on the protein. Bringing dried meats, which includes jerky or dry salami, can really help give you the protein you need. If you are a vegetarian, there are soy jerkies out there as well. Though soy is not as high in calories as meat is, you will still get the added protein you need.


Cheese is great energy and protein packed snack
Cheese is great energy and protein packed snack

Cheese is also a great backpacking snack or can be added to other foods that you may already be eating. Cheese does not perish as quickly as you may think, especially if you go with a hard cheese, such as Gouda. The cheese will hold up for weeks without refrigeration, give you some added protein, and add some extra deliciousness to your meals.



Oatmeal is filling, warm, and really easy to carry around. This classic breakfast food can get your day started off on the right foot. The individual packets of oatmeal also easily double up as the bowl, so you just pour in the boiling water and eat it up.

Energy Bars

Energy bars are easy and convenient foods to add to your pack
Energy bars are easy and convenient foods to add to your pack

Breakfast does not have a lot of variety when backpacking. While you can get dehydrated eggs or attempt makeshift pancakes, they are more trouble than its worth. Do not skip breakfast, however. If oatmeal is not what you would like to eat, you still need to get something in your stomach before you set out on moving again. Energy bars can work in this case. Whether you are going for a full nutrition supplemental bar or even just a regular granola bar with chocolate in it, a bar is at least going to get some calories in you before you get going for the day.

Instant Coffee

Just because you are backpacking does not mean that you should be depriving yourself of your daily cup of coffee. If you are a tea drinker, tea bags would also work here. You will give yourself a little bit of warmth and a little bit of caffeine to really help wake up your senses and get moving. Some of the individual packs of instant coffee even have milk and sugar already added in, making it easier than ever before to enjoy a good, hot drink before you get started for the day.



Carry tuna packaged in pouches as it will be lighter and makes easier garbage than tins
Carry tuna packaged in pouches as it will be lighter and makes easier garbage than tins

Tuna is without a doubt one of the best sources of protein with very little work involved. Cans of tuna do add up weight-wise, which is not ideal when backpacking, but you can get the tuna pouches instead, which are much lighter. Sealed tuna does not require any refrigeration and can make a fast and delicious lunch in no time. If you throw in some crackers, you can have mini tuna sandwiches.

Tortilla Sandwiches

You will naturally be hesitant to throw a loaf of bread in your backpack. Not only would it take up precious space, but the bread will inevitably get squished. The alternative here is to pack sandwiches or sandwich supplies using tortillas instead. You can roll your sandwiches up like burritos and not worry that things are getting squished. Really this can work for any type of sandwich you may like, whether that be peanut butter and jelly, which would be a great combination of protein and carbs, or something like hummus and peppers. Tortillas are extremely versatile.


Dried Vegetables

You can get packets of dehydrated vegetables to take along with you. It can be challenging to eat adequate nutrition on the trail simply due to the issue of carrying the supplies you need, as well as the challenge of the cooking kit, but dried vegetables can help. Because they are dried, you are not going to haul around big clunky cans. They can also be easily added to things like couscous to create a full and balanced meal.


Just add hot water and wait five minutes
Just add hot water and wait five minutes

Couscous is amazingly fast to cook. Most of the couscous available in stores comes precooked, so it really just requires hot water and it will take care of itself if you leave it for a few minutes. It has a good balance of fiber as well as carbohydrates, though it may not stick to the ribs as well as rice does. But you cannot argue with the ease of cooking it, or cleaning it up, for backpacking, I think couscous is just the simplest way to go.

Regardless of what you decide to take with you, just remember you do need to eat, take in calories, and not bring anything that is going to make your back hurt. The further you go, the less food you will have to carry, but don’t wear yourself out in the beginning.

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marion-fernandez is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival