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Matt Johnson

6 of Our Favorite Backpacking Meal Ideas

MattGlamperGear
Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Feb 21, 2024

When the great outdoors calls, answering it with a backpack on your shoulders promises an adventure that’s as rewarding as it is challenging. Yet, there’s no reason why such escapades should compromise on your gut. Gone are the days when backpacking meals were synonymous with bland, freeze-dried options that barely fueled the journey.

Today, the trail menu can be as gourmet as you dare it to be, blending the thrill of exploration with the joy of cooking. After all, you need the nutrients to tackle whatever is in front of you, so you might as well enjoy it, too.

That’s why we’ve put together a few of our favorite backpacking meal ideas to help spur your own thoughts on how you’ll sustain yourself on your next trip.

A culinary twist on trail food.

Transforming basic ingredients into gourmet meals while miles away from a fully stocked kitchen is an art form.

It starts with the selection of lightweight, non-perishable ingredients that pack a punch in flavor.

Think quinoa, couscous, and dehydrated beans—carbs that provide the necessary energy for trekking and serve as a blank canvas for culinary creativity.

Spices and herbs play a crucial role here, allowing you to traverse global cuisines from the comfort of your campsite. A pinch of curry powder, a dash of cumin, or a sprinkle of dried basil can transport you from the Appalachian Trail to the streets of Marrakech or the hills of Tuscany.

The magic of modern dehydration.

Dehydrating Food for a Backpacking Trip

In recent years, the art of dehydrating food has seen a remarkable revival, transforming the way we think about and prepare meals for outdoor adventures.

The technique of drying out your homemade meals not only safeguards the food’s original taste and nutritional content but also significantly lightens your load.

Imagine the convenience of carrying your kitchen creations into the great outdoors, with the assurance that you can relish in the flavors of home with minimal fuss.

So, why dehydrate your meals?

  • Preservation of quality. Dehydrating food helps maintain its integrity and nutritional value, ensuring you’re fueled by wholesome meals even miles away from home.
  • Enhanced portability. Dried meals are lightweight and compact, making them perfect for backpacking, hiking, or any outdoor excursion where space and weight are at a premium.
  • Convenience and taste. Adding hot water, you can enjoy gourmet meals like dehydrated ratatouille or a savory beef stew beneath the stars. The real magic lies in the preparation process—cooking your meals at home, dehydrating them carefully, and then sealing them in vacuum-packed bags.

This method is a game-changer for outdoor enthusiasts. It not only locks in the flavors, ensuring that each bite is as delicious as it was fresh but also offers a way to have access to high-quality, tasty meals that only require minimal prep time at your campsite.

Whether you’re gazing at the starlit sky or gearing up for the next day’s adventure, modern dehydration technology means you’re never too far from a comforting, homemade meal.

Cooking in the great outdoors.

Cooking gourmet meals in the wilderness is an adventure in itself. It’s about more than just sustenance; it’s the whole experience.

The trick lies in mastering the use of portable cooking gear like lightweight stoves and compact cookware. There are plenty of options out there; it just depends on how lightweight you want to go.

A single-burner stove might seem limiting, but it’s more than enough with the right technique.

Whether you’re simmering, sautéing, or boiling, managing your heat source efficiently is key. A small backpacking burner can go a long way.

On top of that, investing in a set of durable, lightweight utensils and cookware can make a significant difference in what you’re able to whip up on the trail.

We found this really awesome backpacking utensil kit on Amazon that has everything you need to start cooking on the trail. It has a heavy-duty but lightweight case and includes—

  • One stainless steel spatula
  • One stainless steel soup ladle
  • One stainless steel steak fork
  • One camping towel
  • One plastic cutting board with non-slip silicon edges
  • One stainless steel tong with silicon handle and locking feature
  • One food scissors that can be used as a nutcracker
  • Two pieces plastic spice shakers with two feature lid
  • Two knives with plastic covers

So, pretty much everything you need, and it’s inexpensive.

Cook anywhere with ease – Order your Camp Kitchen Cooking Utensil Set now!

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Backpacking meal ideas to inspire your culinary journey.

Heading out on a backpacking trip doesn’t mean you have to compromise on the quality of your meals. With a little creativity and preparation, you can enjoy gourmet dishes that are both nutritious and energizing. 

So, we’ve put together some of our favorite DIY backpacking meals we’ve had over the years.

Breakfast: A hearty start to the day.

Quinoa Porridge with a Twist
  • Quinoa porridge with a twist. Begin your day with a warm bowl of quinoa porridge. Elevate this dish by mixing in dried fruits and nuts for added texture and flavor. A sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey will sweeten the deal, providing a delicious and nutritious start to your morning.
  • Scrambled delight. Who says scrambled eggs are boring? Add dehydrated spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese to your eggs. This combination not only packs a flavor punch but also gives you a protein boost to kickstart your day of adventure.

Lunch: Light and energizing.

  • Couscous salad with a twist. For a light yet fulfilling midday meal, toss together some couscous with dehydrated vegetables and chickpeas. Dress it up with a zesty lemon herb dressing for a refreshing lunch that will recharge your batteries for the afternoon trek.
  • Thai-inspired peanut noodles. Add some international flair to your lunch with Thai-inspired peanut noodles. Use dehydrated veggies and chicken to keep it lightweight. The rich flavors of peanut sauce mingled with the hearty textures make this a lunch to look forward to.
Thai-inspired Peanut Noodles

Dinner: Indulgent and comforting.

  • Gourmet mac and cheese. Easily, one of our favorite backpacking meal ideas we’ve cooked on hiking trips is a creamy and luxurious mac and cheese. The addition of dehydrated mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil transforms this classic comfort food into a gourmet delight.
  • Spicy chili. Warm up with a bowl of spicy chili made from dehydrated beef, beans, and a colorful mix of bell peppers. Serve it alongside cornbread for a comforting and satisfying end to your day.

These menu ideas are designed to show that gourmet backpacking cuisine is possible and can be a delightful and rewarding aspect of your outdoor adventure.

Focusing on nutrition and flavor ensures that your body is well-fueled for the journey ahead.

What are your favorite backpacker meals?

The idea of gourmet meals while backpacking might once have seemed far-fetched, but it’s now a delicious reality. You probably have some of your favorites from your time on the trail. We’d love to hear about your backpacking meal ideas in the comments.

But if you’re new to the game, with a bit of preparation, the right equipment, and a passion for cooking, you can turn your next backpacking trip into a culinary adventure.

It’s about blending the simplicity of nature with the complexity of flavors, creating a dining experience that’s as unforgettable as the journey itself.

MattGlamperGear

Matt Johnson


Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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