A backpacker prepares Patagonia Provisions Red Bean Chili over an open fire near a tent

Backpacking Food Ideas

For the Big Days, Chill Days, and
Everything in Between

 

Miles Wheatcroft cooks it up in Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains. Photo by Woods Wheatcroft

Nothing tastes better than the first bite of dinner when you’ve just hiked 10 miles with 35 pounds on your back and you’re hungry enough to eat a pinecone. Thankfully, with this backpacking food planning guide, you won’t have to! Figuring out how to eat while backpacking can be as simple or as complex as you like; there isn’t a right or a wrong way. As long as you’re nourished, satisfied, and ready to hit the trail in the morning, you’re doing backpacking food right.

A backpacker sits on the ground surrounded by Patagonia Provisions packages of foods, planning a trip
Big mile days ahead: Shanjean Lee starts stuffing the pack. Photo by Mikey Schaefer

How do you plan for backpacking meals?

It’s best to break down a backpacking meal plan in stages. Start with how many days and nights you’ll be out there. Figure out how many meals that’ll mean. Then, decide what kind of trip is it. Are you planning huge mile days with massive vert gains? Best to keep your food lightweight, calorie-dense and simple to prepare. A casual romp on flatland? You can make more complex meals because you’ll have more energy at the end of the day, and a little extra weight from more ingredients won’t feel as punishing.

How much backpacking food should you bring?

Plan on breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks daily. Roughly 3,000 to 4,000 calories per day per person is a good, healthy starting point, since even a mellow backpacking trip means hunger-boosting exertion. Count up the meals, then plan enough food for backpacking one extra day—unexpected nights out can happen. Bringing a little too much food is always better than too little. Plus, it means you can pig out on the last night.

Two MiiR containers sit on rocks, filled with Patagonia Provisions Savory Grains and Mussels
Easy pack eats--a trail dinner of Lemon Herb Mussels over Organic Savory Grains. Photo by Eric Bissell

Food Packing Tips for Backpacking

Containers are key

You’re gonna want to get inventive with containers. We use MiiR canisters for keeping soups, stews and grains hot. Reusable plastic bottles are good for olive oil and hot sauce—seal them in reusable baggies. Same for nut butter, honey, anything that could leak inside your pack. Baggies work for salt, pepper and a few tablespoons of a versatile spice like our Organic Taco Seasoning Spice Blend; mayo and mustard packets can go in baggies too. Are you bringing alcohol? If so, you’ll want to tote it in small plastic bladders to save weight.

Bonus tip for cleanup: A small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap is a must. You can wash pots, plates and utensils with it as well as your hands and face. And never, ever, go backpacking without a trusty microfiber towel for drying.

Packing it up

Food will often be the heaviest thing you bring, so it’s best to store it in the middle of your pack to keep the weight centered on your back. Store snacks where you can easily reach them, in stash pockets, hip belt pockets and the top lid of your pack. If you’re bringing a bear-proof canister, stuff everything in that. If not, keep food in a closed dry sack.

Two backpackers prepare Patagonia Provisions soup over a small backpacking stove, with mountains rising in the background
Alexander and Jen Watt with their mobile pantry, aka a bear canister. Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, CA. Photo by Jeremiah Watt

How to Store Food While Backpacking

First thing to do is check requirements for food storage where you’re headed. Even if bear- proof food canisters are not required, they’re generally a good idea anyway: They protect your food from being crushed, prevent spills, and keep other non-bear critters out of your stash.

Note: In bear country, according to the National Park Service, always store your food 100 feet from your tent, sealed in a canister or a food locker. Bears have a keen sense of smell, and anything with a scent will draw them—soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste, trash, sunscreen, bug repellant, fuel, and even canned goods. Store these in canisters or lockers too.

A close shot of pans cooking over open campfire, beside feet in hiking shoes, and packages of Patagonia Provisions Red Bean Chili

Backpacking Meal Ideas

Brittany Griffith adds a little extra to her Red Bean Chili. Mt. Ololokwe, Kenya. Photo by Eric Bissell

If you’re humping big-time miles, it’s best to keep things nice and simple. Breakfast can be a couple of nutrition bars; lunch some hard cheese, nuts, and dried meats and fruits; and dinner a simple rehydrated meal that’s big on calories and requires little more than boiling water and stirring. If you’re on a more casual backcountry trip, hot breakfasts of cereals or powdered eggs are a nice camp luxury; sandwiches or wraps with condiments are great lunch; and a dinner that requires a bit more effort to prepare, with more ingredients to pack, will be well worth it. Backpacker food should be stuff you can eat right out of the pack while you’re on the move. If you’re in a group of at least two people, bring two backpacking stoves. That way you can boil water in one and cook something in another, especially useful at breakfast when coffee is just as important as food.

We’ve laid out some of our favorite backpacking meals below. Fatty, salty, highly processed food might taste great after a long day on the trail, but you’ll want solidly nutritious meals instead, to boost your stamina for whatever the following day may bring—including a hike out of the backcountry to that favorite burger joint.

A climber sits nestled in a sleeping bag on rocks, eating Patagonia Provisions Breakfast Grains
Andy Anderson’s sleeping-bag breakfast: Organic Creamy Banana Breakfast Grains hot cereal. Wind River Range, WY. Photo by Drew Smith

Backpacking Breakfast Ideas

Organic Red Raspberry Breakfast Grains topped with dried raspberries and walnuts

Our tart Organic Red Raspberry Breakfast Grains cereal cooks up in minutes for a hearty meal on its own. Add dried raspberries from your snack stash and a handful of Old Dog Ranch Maple Walnuts for a sweet, crunchy bonus.

Eggs and Black Pepper Wild Pink Salmon Wrap

Boil water, pour it over powdered eggs, stir, and presto—surprisingly serviceable scrambled eggs, no frying pan needed. Flake in some of our Black Pepper Wild Pink Salmon, wrap it all in a warmed flour tortilla, and you’ll forget you’re a dozen miles from your car.

Apples + walnut butter

When you just wanna hit the trail at dawn, apples will do the trick deliciously—either sliced fresh or from a bag of Sauk Farm Organic Dried Honeycrisp Apples. Eat ‘em with a few spoonfuls of Organic Just Walnut Butter.

Two backpackers pause on mountain rocks high above a lake, and share a lunch of Patagonia Provisions Mackerel, Savory Seeds, Breadfruit Crackers, and Chili Lime Mango
Rockin’ lunch on the John Muir / Pacific Crest Trail. Sierra Nevada, CA. Photo by Dan Patitucci

Backpacking Lunch Ideas

Tinned anchovies and crackers

Simple but elegant. Just open a tin of our Roasted Garlic Spanish White Anchovies and scoop them up with our crisp, slightly spicy Aji Molido Breadfruit Crackers.

Almond butter + honey on pita

For a satisfying energy boost with a sweet pick-me-up, stuff some knifefuls of The Philosopher’s Stoneground Naked Crunchy Sprouted Almond Butter into a pita’s pocket with some smears of Organic Moloka’i Honey. Nut butters and honey can be stored in small, lightweight plastic containers and pita will last a few days in a backpack.

Venison Links, dried fruits + parmesan

As easy as a backpacking meal gets. Pick out a flat rock, spread out a bandanna and assemble a mini charcuterie board, loaded with our Lightly Smoked Venison Links and your favorite dried fruits along with a few hunks of parmesan. Hard cheeses will be just fine in a backpack for days, provided the weather isn’t sweltering.

Two red speckled campfire mugs are filled with Patagonia Provisions Tsampa Soup and Mackerel
Nourishing, hearty tsampa soup with tinned wild Atlantic mackerel fillets. Photo by Thomas J. Story

Backpacking Dinner Ideas

Lemon Caper Mackerel and Organic Tsampa Soup

Tsampa (roasted barley) soup makes a great base for our Lemon Caper Mackerel. Cook up a pack of Organic Tsampa Soup and layer the mackerel on top, drizzling the oil from the can over everything.

Organic Red Bean Chili with crushed corn chips

Chili is fantastic after a strenuous day on the trail—tasty and filling. Load a hot bowl of protein-rich red-bean chili with your favorite corn chips for a satisfying crunch. If your chips get crushed in your pack while hiking, that’s great; your pack is like a sous chef.

Seafood Paella

Meals on the last night of a backpacking trip can often mean scrounging for whatever you have left, but don’t do that. Instead, plan ahead and savor the hike’s final evening with a luxurious seafood “paella” that’s far easier to prepare than it sounds.

Two children in wet weather gear sit together on rocks, sharing a package of Patagonia Provisions Buffalo Jerky
Four days of backpacking in southern Norway, and every bite is the best bite. The route went from Dalsbygda to Middagsfjellet mountain and down to Kvanndal. Photo by Lars Scheider

Backpacking Snack Ideas

Buffalo Jerky

Few foods are as satisfying as savory, chewy jerky when you’re trail weary. Either our Savory or Spicy Buffalo Jerky will help you make those last few miles to camp.

Dried nuts and fruit

Make your own trail mix by combining Old Dog Ranch Golden Herb Walnuts with your favorite dried fruits for a sweet-and-savory mix.

Fresh fruits and veggies

Hard fruits--like apples, not-quite-ripe pears and oranges--and sturdy veggies like carrots and snap peas will keep just fine in a backpack for a few days.

Energy Clusters

Imlak’esh ChargeBoss Clusters, made with cashews, cacao nibs, maca powder and coconut-blossom nectar, are little cubes of pure energy goodness. Bonus: A handful of these bad boys can make a quick breakfast.

A backpacker reaches out from a bright green tent to tend to a camp stove set up beside backpacks and gear

A Backpacking Food Plan Your Way

Good food helps you get through when the weather’s raging. Photo by Ryan Creary

Backpacking isn’t exactly the time to dive into complex culinary adventures, but it also doesn’t have to be one sodium-bomb after another of ramen or boil-in-a-bag dehydrated meals. Backcountry trips will be more enjoyable if your meals are something you look forward to, rather than fuel-ups to be endured. Plan to eat well, stick to that plan, and your food will help make the trip a great one.

A camper sitting on rocks uses a bamboo fork to scoop Patagonia Provisions Savory Grains and Mackerel from a metal pot

Shop Backpacking Food

Anjuli Deb digs into some favorite backpacking food: Kale Savory Grains and Lemon Caper Mackerel. Muriel Lake, Sierra Nevada range, CA. Photo by Bernd Zeugswetter