Best Backpacking Foods: Carry a Healthy Meal on the Trail

Maintain good nutrition while you on the trail with these top backpacking foods

TheDrive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

It’s possible to eat healthy foods when backpacking, so you don’t always have to wait to get home to have a decent meal. If your backpacking trip is a full-day activity, you will definitely get hungry and crave something more than just a snack. Here’s a rundown of some of the best backpacking foods that will work for a long backpacking trip. 

  • Best Overall
    Mountain House Classic Bucket
    Summary
    Summary
    A bucket containing 12 pouches of assorted foods, including flavored noodles, beef stew, rice, granola, and lasagna.
    Pros
    Pros
    A variety to choose from for a long backpacking trip. The 29 servings are enough for a frequent backpacker. Has a 30-year shelf life. It can be used as an emergency food supply. Rich in flavor and nutrients.
    Cons
    Cons
    It contains allergens like soy, wheat, egg, coconut, and milk. The bucket may come with insufficient pouches.
  • Best Value
    Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala
    Summary
    Summary
    One pouch contains two servings of dried Indian curry rice and chickpeas with coconut milk sauce.
    Pros
    Pros
    Affordable and delicious. Highly nutritious. Vegan-friendly. Gluten-free. Rich in protein. Long shelf life. Enough to serve two people. Easy add-water-to-taste formula. USDA tested and non-GMO certified.
    Cons
    Cons
    You need to wait for about 20 minutes to eat it. It doesn’t come in an eco-friendly bag.
  • Honorable Mention
    Peak Fuel Premium Freeze-Dried Food
    Summary
    Summary
    A high-protein diet for backpackers and campers made of shredded pork, rice, and vegetables with the brown sugar glaze. 
    Pros
    Pros
    Great taste. It contains non-GMO ingredients. Easy preparation. It comes in lightweight pouches. Offers two servings per pouch. It contains 100 percent real pork meat. Inspected by the USDA.
    Cons
    Cons
    Not vegan-friendly. High onion content. Expensive for only two servings.

Tips

  • When backpacking, always keep it simple with your meal choices. Choose meals that are easy to prepare or ready-to-eat options. 
  • Backpacking is not the place to try out new foods. You may end up throwing them in the campfire. Buy dry foods that you are familiar with and prioritize flavored brands. 
  • You will waste a lot of time taking breaks in the middle of your trip to prepare a meal. Consider packing a few snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, energy drinks, and nuts. 
  • If you are winter camping, consider carrying your ready-to-eat foods close to your body so that they do not freeze. 
  • If you would like to pack fresh foods, consider one or two apples or carrots, which last longer than some other options. 
  • Carry a multitool. It will help you open canned food and peel some of your fruits. 

FAQs

Q: Should I eat a heavy breakfast before a backpacking trip?

A: A hot, heavy meal in the morning will give you a great energy start for the day, and you will only need a few snacks for an energy boost. Just don’t eat too much that it dampens your backpacking spirit. You can also opt for a light breakfast snack, such as an energy bar, which means no cleanup and a quicker start to your backpacking trip. 

Q: Do spicy foods make you thirsty? 

A: Most spicy foods can make you thirsty or even dehydrated, especially if they have a high salt or sugar content. Consider eating a bowl of juicy fruits or drinking water before and after eating the food. Alternatively, you could avoid spicy foods altogether, since there’s no way of telling the effect it will have on your digestion and general backpacking experience. 

Q: How much food should I carry for backpacking?

A: It depends on how many days you will be out backpacking and how much weight you can carry. For instance, if you weigh 150 pounds, the total weight of your backpack should be about 30 pounds. Anything more will weigh you down. You can carry about three pounds of food per person. Make a meal plan to stretch it out for the number of days you’ll be backpacking. 

Final Thoughts

Our top pick for the best backpacking food is the Mountain House Classic Bucket. It offers a wide selection of foods to choose from for your trip, and there will be food pouches left over for the next trip. 

If you are looking for cheaper backpacking food, consider the Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala