sahale glacier camp backpacking

9 delicious backpacking meal ideas you’ll love on your trek

As you plan your backpacking trip, you’ll eventually run head first into the “what are we going to eat” question. For some, it’s easy: whatever freeze-dried meal you find at REI. For others, though, backpacking meal ideas can be a little more challenging if you don’t want to spend $13 for dehydrated meals.

I know for me, the ease of freeze-dried meals is unrivaled. Additionally, no matter where I am, having a hot meal to end the day is *chef’s kiss*. But sometimes you want to go a bit cheaper and healthier. If that’s you, enjoy these backpacking meal ideas below.

Backpacking Meal Ideas for Your Next Trip

9 Backpacking Meal Ideas

So, whatever you do go with, make sure it’s tasty and brings you joy. I hope the following backpacking meal ideas spark some ideas and you can create your own backcountry masterpieces.

Dinner Meals

  1. Instant noodles with added vegetables and protein, such as canned tuna or chicken.
  2. Quinoa and bean salad with mixed vegetables and a dressing
  3. Tortilla wraps with avocado, protein, hummus, cheese, and various sliced vegetables.
  4. Pack in a sandwich from the trailhead. (Usually only good on day 1.)
  5. Energy bars or balls made with oats, nuts, and dried fruit.
  6. Freeze-dried meals including various kinds of pasta, curry, lasagna, or quinoa bowls.
  7. Rice and beans with spices and vegetables.
  8. Soup in a bag, made by dehydrating vegetables and protein, such as lentils or chicken. Add water to rehydrate.
  9. Cold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are easy and cheap for backpacking meal ideas.

What are some quick breakfasts for backpacking?

Dehydrated meals for breakfast still cost $9-$13, which is NOT CHEAP! And they can upset the tummy a bit. So, I’ve got you covered if you’re looking for quicker and cheaper meals. Below are my go-to breakfast backpacking meal ideas.

Cheap Breakfast Meals

  • Oatmeal Packets – They’re light and inexpensive, and you’ll have your meal ready in a minute after you boil water. Add these PB packets for more protein/calories.
  • Granola – bulk buy at the grocery store
  • Protein Bars – These cliff bars have good protein and caloric levels
  • Pop Tarts – probably a weird one, but they have everything you need for a hiking trek, minus lots of protein
  • Dried or Regular Fruit (combine with another of the above)
  • Tortillas and PB&Jelly

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backpacking meal ideas north cascades national park
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

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How to be safe with food while backpacking

Eating away from your campsite

This applies primarily to bear areas. You want to eat away from where you will sleep to decrease the chances of a bear cuddling up as you sleep. Think of your zone as a triangle: Sleep in one corner, eat in another, and store your food/do your business in the final corner.

This means a bear will not come sniffing around your tent site for food.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

How to Store Your Food While Backpacking

Bear Canister

Bear canisters are required for all National Park’s backpacking trips, so you probably need one.

Best practices say to store your bear canister at least 100 yards from your tent when you sleep. I also wedge it into a tight space or put rocks on top to discourage animals from accessing it. Additionally, bring a quarter to help open up the lid easier.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hanging your food

If you aren’t required to bring a canister, you should still hang your food bag to keep critters from getting to it. There’s nothing worse than having your backpacking food eaten by an animal!

Backpacking Snack Ideas

Looking for backpacking snack ideas? I wrote an entire article on it. Read it here.

Gear that I may need for backpacking meals

  • Backpacking stove
  • Long Spork
  • Collapsible Mug and Bowl
backpacking meal ideas
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Commonly asked questions about Backpacking Food Ideas

What food to pack for a three-day backpacking trip?

A three-day trip is a sweet spot for backpacking meal ideas. You can theoretically bring something fresh for the first evening and maybe even squeeze in some fresh fruit for the following day without risking it getting squished or bruised.

Backpacking meal ideas for a three-day trip

Day 1


  • A perfect chance to pack something in from town that’s tasty and isn’t boring backpacking food
  • Beef Jerky
  • Apple


  • Dehydrated meal or pack in your own sandwich (Chicken Alfredo is great)
  • Any of the backpacking meal ideas above
  • Candy for dessert

Day 2


  • Oatmeal or a protein bar for breakfast
  • Fruit
  • Coffee


  • Cheese/Crackers/Salami
  • PB&J Sandwich
  • Tuna, Crackers, and Avocado


  • Dehydrated meal or pack in your own sandwich (Lasagna or Spaghetti)
  • Any of the backpacking meal ideas above
  • Candy for dessert

Day 3


  • Oatmeal or a protein bar for breakfast
  • Fruit
  • Coffee


  • Whatever snacks you still have left, as there’s no point in carrying more weight than you need to

Then, find a yummy place and stuff your face in town!

Are backpacking meals really two servings?

Ha. This is a funny question. So, for those who may be confused, most dehydrated meals say they’re two servings. But in actuality, they’re one meal. I sometimes want more than one, especially after a long hard day on the trail.

Backpacking Meal Ideas – Wrapping up

By the end of each day, you’ll want to consume at least 3000 calories (though that is a rough estimate depending on effort, metabolism, etc.). And remember not to try to use a backpacking trip as a way to cut weight. Being calorie-deficient on purpose can lead to burnout, bonking, and not having a good time.

So when planning your backpacking meal ideas, make sure they are hearty and tasty, and give you everything you need for a great trip!

Until next time adventurers, take care and be safe.

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