Ultralight Backpack – The Food You Carry Should Be Lightweight

ultralight backpack
on’t Weigh Your Hiking Bag Down With Canned Goods

Ultralight backpack trips over several days of backpacking require careful planning of the food you pack and eat. Transporting this food on your back is very different from camping where you can bring all sorts of canned goods and heavy items in your car. Hiking food must be lightweight to carry and very portable without need for refrigeration. Let’s explore ways to trek lighter without sacrificing good eats on the trail. Here’s a few ideas for great food in the wilderness that won’t pack heavy.

Backpack Bags – Hiking Burns Calories

Ultralight backpack hiking is hard work and utilizes many calories and nutrients. It’s important for your food to replace those nutrients and calories in order to refuel your body. Even if you aren’t a cook at home, some simple preparation can produce a happy belly when you settle in for the night. This may mean buying a few specialty foods but many times you can find these items in your local grocery store. One investment that is worth ten times its weight in gold, is a backpack hiking stove. 

Backpack Bags Carry Many Hiking Necessities

I’ve had good luck with the MSR Rocket-Pocket2.  It’s an ultra-compact cook-and-eat kit for backpackers. This stove is perfectly sized to make hot water for a one-pouch meal or a cup of coffee. The nesting design of the stove and pot saves precious space and slips easily into my smaller backpack. Its pot doubles as your eat-and-drink vessel and nests the stove and a 4 oz MSR fuel canister. The entire thing weighs less than 10 ounces and can boil 1 liter of water in just 3.5 minutes. There are other backpacker’s stoves on the market that work great, it’s worth exploring some options.

Why Cook On The Backpack Hiking Trail?

An ultralight backpack bag travels lighter when you plan ahead. When you’re on a backpack trekking excursion you may think, why would I want to cook something when I can have bagels or granola bars and beef jerky?  Because hot feels better in your belly. After hiking and climbing for miles, and it is proven to be more satisfying as a dinner meal both physically and psychologically. 

Let’s examine some ideas using pre-made or homemade meal packets. You’ll like the ones that only require some boiling water to hydrate the starch and veggies. You can buy these in places like Trader Joe’s, REI, Amazon or Whole Foods stores, plus other online stores. Google search “boil-in-bag dehydrated backpacking bag meals.” You’ll be amazed at the variety.

You Can Make Your Own Hiking Bag Dinner

Ultralight backpack explorers don’t have to be kitchen chefs. It’s easy to make your own flavor combinations and combine proteins with carbs. You’ll work with a base such as protein-packed buckwheat soba noodles, which are usually found in the Asian section of your grocery store. I like that they are protein packed and keep me full longer. You can also use couscous, instant rice or thai peanut noodles.

Keep in mind that thinner pastas cook faster and conserves fuel. I personally don’t care for Ramen noodles because they are bleached noodles with an overly salted preservative flavor packet.

You can just as easily mix the following at home to replace that flavor packet:

1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce

 1 tsp. of toasted sesame oil

1 tsp Sriracha, for a bit of spice.

I have made bigger batches of this (just quadruple the recipe) as a broth to flavor my food. Separate portions into small salad dressing plastic containers. 

Hot, Hearty And Satisfying On The Hiking Trail

Ultralight backpack packs can easily accommodate the weight of freeze dried foods. You can cook your choice of starch for 4-5 min. Then add whatever protein you are in the mood for, such as a packet of chicken or tuna. Add some dehydrated veggies you brought in a ziploc bag, and you have a nice hearty and tasty hot meal fit for a king hiker.

I have also added beef jerky to rice with the above-mentioned homemade “dressing.” You can also pack Stove Top Stuffing or Idahoan instant potatoes, That way all you have to do is hydrate with boiling water, add dehydrated veggies and chicken for a quick and easy dinner that sticks to your ribs.

You Can Make Delicious Trail Dinners In The Wild

Ultralight backpack meals have hundreds of possibilities. Hiking meal ideas are endless when you start with a starch base and add veggies, a flavorful “dressing” and protein of your choice from packets. Another  flavor for dressing could be olive oil in place of sesame oil and garlic powder and ginger, instead of sriracha (but only use 1/8 tsp. each instead)

You can also buy packets of salad dressing, which make easy and yummy additions to a cooked meal. I love adding Italian dressing to cooked couscous and pepperoni.  Yum! Explore some flavor options of your own.

Backpack Hikers Give Others Your Feedback

I would love to hear what you come up with and try some new recipes myself! Please share your easy carry and prepare meal hacks with your fellow hikers. We welcome your ideas and concoctions in the comments below. Thanks and happy hiking!


We love the great outdoors, backpack hiking, fishing, camping and experiencing nature's beauty.

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