Hiking Bag | Quick And Easy Meal Ideas On The Trail

hiking bag

Your hiking bag must contain food and snacks for your entire trip because your body needs nourishment for the calories you will burn. Meal planning can be overwhelming when you are home, but it doesn’t have to be for your backpacking trek. Let’s focus on what foods you can make while hiking; no chef degree needed.

Packing Hiking Foods Correctly

A good hiking bag should have easy to reach snacks on the exterior so you can grab them and keep hiking. That way you are energized on the go without stopping. Even packaged foods have odors so keep them securely inside your pack using a metal bear canister, which I recommend because wild animals have an incredible sense of smell. You don’t want them tracking your food scent and finding you. Your meal foods will be reserved for after you make camp or take a break.

hiking bag food
An example of Foods Packed And Ready

Hiking Bag Simple Rules That Make Sense

There are three backpacking food requirements to consider when you pack. Consider these for a more comfortable hike because every ounce counts when you have to carry it.

Keep It Lightweight

  • Dehydrated foods are lightweight and contain little to no water. They are easy to transport without weighing you down. The less packaging the better, because it all contributes to extra weight.
  • Remove dry foods from store packaging and place in zip lock bags, such as cereals, granola, oatmeal and beans, again because weight adds up.

Minimal Preparation

  • For dinners at camp, most backpackers prefer to cook easy and uncomplicated single-pot meals. You’ll be tired and hungry, so quick and easy is the key.
  • Dehydrated noodles, potatoes and vegetables can easily be hydrated with boiled camp water. Add a few spices and packaged protein and ta-da, you have a hearty meal.
  • There are many ready-made freeze-dried meals available that actually taste good and are simple to prepare.

Hiking Bags Should Carry High Nutrition

  • Hikers have been known to burn up to 6,000 calories a day. High calorie foods, carbohydrates, protein, fats, fiber and electrolytes (mainly sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) are a must because your body will be exerting itself and you’ll need to have nutrients replenished.
  • Proper balance of fats and protein may be tricky to some, so let’s explore examples of meals for some carefree ideas.

Trail Breakfast Ideas

Oatmeal In It’s Own Bowl
  • Oatmeal Packets are a backpackers food staple. The best thing about these packets is that they serve as a bowl. Just add hot water to heat the oats inside.
  • Grits are prepared like oatmeal so all that is needed is hot water. Grits can be a nice addition for a change of pace. Pack a couple of maple syrup packets or jelly to put on top so your food has flavor.
  • Dried Fruits can be added to grits or oatmeal to provide dense sugar and flavor, and be a healthier alternative to candy.
  • Powdered eggs are extremely popular on the trail because they are easy, lightweight and a cheap protein. You can add taste like ketchup packets or hard cheese.
  • Powdered Instant Breakfast can be mixed with water and some dried fruit so you can make a quick shake.
  • Powdered Milk is a great source of protein, potassium, fat and calories. You could mix it with some granola and dried fruit for breakfast and make your oatmeal a little creamier. 

Trail Lunch Ideas

Packet Full Of Protein
  • Dried meats like beef jerky and salami deliver great flavor. Even tuna and chicken are great non-cook meats for the trail. None of them need refrigeration. All of them are tasty and high in protein and sodium.
  • What are the most popular meats for hikers? Tuna and salmon are probably the most chosen by hikers because they have lightweight packaging, are inexpensive and easy to find in stores. Choose meats packed in olive oil for healthy fat and additional calories.
  • A bagel by itself is boring, but with a packet of cream cheese paired with your favorite non-perishable meat, you now have a hearty option.
  • Tortilla wrap and cheese with or without meats can provide a lot of calories and fat. Use hard cheeses or hummus that are shelf stable and require no refrigeration. Peanut butter and jelly work well also.
  • Who doesn’t love crackers? Add peanut butter or almond butter to make them tasty and nourishing. Crackers are high in carbohydrates and sodium, making them a wise choice. Fats from the nuts like Nutrella or other nut butter are great to pack in your hiking pack also.

Trail Dinner Ideas

Dehydrated Noodles At Camp
  • Every hiker can cook noodles like Ramen, with dehydrated veggies. They are so easy to prepare with just boiling water. In 5 minutes dinner is ready. You can add so many things to noodles for variety, such as herbs/spices or packaged meat, so give it a try.
  • You can do virtually the same with instant potatoes, rice or couscous by adding vegetables, meats and flavorings of your choice. carry some condiments and spices like olive oil, honey or balsamic vinegar using old digital film canisters or small pill bottles after washing them out. Be sure to protect from leakage just by adding an extra zip lock bag around these items.
  • There is always the option of pre-packaged meals at your fingertips in minutes. They are lightweight in your hiking bag and quick to prepare. Grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and online stores carry these, and many taste great. After a long day of hiking you will just want to keep it simple.

Trail Snacks During The Day and Bedtime

Great choices like chocolate, nuts, seeds, energy chews and fruit leather are all used in backpacking. If you want get in some dense calories, protein and healthy fats while you hike, try adding things like granola bars, trail mix or crunchy chick peas to your hiking snack list.

A candy bar (especially dark chocolate) will give you energy and taste good. It can be a snack at between-meal breaks, or dessert just before you turn in for the night. For example, a Hershey bar with almonds or Reese Peanut Butter Cups will satisfy.

Pork rinds are ultra crisp and crunchy. Their “puffy” volume can take up more space. But, the benefit is that they are loaded with protein.

There are so many protein bars, energy bars, and nutrition bars available. These ready-to-eat gems are usually high in nutrition. Look for minimally processed natural choice brands like Cliff Bars.

Dark Chocolate, Nuts And Seeds – Yum!

Hiking Bag Food Choices

There are literally thousands of ideas from experienced backpack hikers because they know what works. Ask people like forest rangers, other hikers and backpackers that you meet on the trail. Most folks are happy to share trail food recipes. It can be fun to mix something from bare minimum foods and have it taste awesome. Whatever trail foods you bring, keep the lightweight, easy-to-prepare and nutritious key factors in mind.

Share Hiking Bag Food Ideas

Feel free to comment below any ideas like foods you bring, nutritional advice or experiences you’ve had on the trail. We feel that hikers are a community of their own with new and experienced trekking bag trail blazers seeking information every day.  Thank you for helping fellow hikers.  Happy backpack hiking!


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

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