17 Easy Backpacking Meal Recipes

Updated on June 9th, 2020
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Here is a list of 17 easy backpacking meal recipes. These are all super fast to make and only require 4 ingredients or less. Some are non-cook meals, others just need hot water.

You can find most ingredients at your average grocery store on the Appalachian Trail. Feel free to mix and match any ingredients. Also see our full list of 41 Backpacking Food Ideas.

1. Chili Mac and Cheese

chili mac easy backpacking meal recipe

Dried Beans + Instant Macaroni + Cheddar Cheese + Chili Powder

  1. Boil water (2:1 ratio)
  2. Add beans (10 minutes)
  3. Add noodles (5 minutes)
  4. Add cheese, chili powder

Also referred to as "chili mac". Using macaroni noodle for carbohydrates and bean for protein, the combination creates a hearty dinner. Dehydrated beans can be purchased from Mother Earth Products and Hamony House Foods.

Ingredients Serving Protein Fats Carbs Sodium Fiber Sugar Calories
Dried Beans 80g 17.6 0.0 51.2 0.0 19.2 0.0 256.8
Raw Macaroni Noodles 80g 3.6 1.7 20.0 4.0 1.0 0.3 110.4
Chili Powder 10g              
Cheddar Cheese 80g 20.0 25.7 0.0 514.4 0.0 0.0 314.4
Total 250g 41.2 27.4 71.2 518.4 20.2 0.3 681.6

2. Jerky Noodles

Jerky Noodles easy backpacking meal recipe

Rice Noodles + Beef Jerky + Peanut Butter

  1. Boil water (2:1 ratio)
  2. Add noodles (15 minutes)
  3. Add beef jerky, peanut butter

Lightweight meat, easy-to-make noodles and creamy peanut butter (optional but highly recommended. It's unusual, yet it's probably one of the best recipes on this list. The rice noodles are lightweight and cook fast, and the jerky and peanut butter provide a nice amount of protein to this Asian-inspired backpacking meal.

Serving Protein Fats Carbs Sodium Fiber Sugar Calories
Noodles 80g 4.8 0.4 64.1 145.6 1.3 0.1 291.2
Jerky 50g 16.6 12.8 5.5 1040.5 0.9 4.5 205.0
(Peanut Butter) 30g 7.5 0.0 6.6 117.3 2.8 0.9 178.2
Total 160g 28.9 13.2 76.2 1303.4 5.0 5.5 674.4

3. Mediterranean Couscous

Mediterranean Couscous easy backpacking meal recipe

Couscous + Parmesan Cheese + Pesto Mix + Olives

  1. Boil water (3:1 ratio)
  2. Add couscous (5-10 minutes)
  3. Add pesto, parmesan, and olives

Couscous is a great grain base to use on the trail, since it's light, cooks fast and even has a little protein. Combine with Parmesan and pesto mix for a filling meal. You can replace or complement the olives with sun-dried tomatoes and/or canned fish like salmon or tuna.

Serving Protein Fats Carbs Sodium Fiber Sugar Calories
Couscous 85g 10.8 0.8 61.8 0.0 3.1 0.0 309.4
Parmesan 35g 14.0 10.5 0.0 840.0 0.0 0.0 140.0
Pesto 20g 1.7 11.7 1.2 202.8 0.2 0.1 113.8
Olives 20g 0.0 3.3 2.7 426.6 2.7 0.0 46.6
Total 160g 26.5 26.3 65.7 1469.4 5.9 0.1 609.8

4. Chicken and Rice

Chicken and rice easy backpacking meal recipe

Pre-Cooked Chicken + Instant Rice + Dried Broccoli + Olive Oil + Soy Sauce

  1. Boil water (2:1 ratio)
  2. Add broccoli (5 minutes)
  3. Add rice (5 minutes)
  4. Add chicken, soy sauce and olive oil

Dehydrated broccoli is very lightweight and is a great source of vitamins, potassium and fiber. Combine with chicken (see Valley Fresh) and rice and you have a complete nutritious meal for the trail. Olive oil adds some nice extra flavor and calories. Soy sauce is a nice extra that you can get for free at just about any grocery store.

Serving Protein Fats Carbs Sodium Fiber Sugar Calories
Chicken (or Tuna) 100g 21.4 3.6 0.0 482.1 0.0 0.0 125.0
Rice 80g 5.7 0.5 64.0 4.0 1.0 0.1 292.0
Dried Broccoli 35g 7.5 0.0 22.5 37.5 5.0 7.5 87.5
Olive Oil 20g 0.0 18.7 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 160.0
Soy Sauce 3g 0.2 0.0 0.1 164.8 0.0 0.0 1.6
Total 238g 34.9 22.8 86.6 688.4 6.1 7.6 666.1

5. Lentil Curry

Lentil curry easy backpacking meal recipe

Dried Lentils + Dried Veggie Blend + Curry Powder + Coconut Oil

  1. Boil water (2:1 ratio)
  2. Add lentils and veggies (10-15 minutes)
  3. Add curry powder, coconut oil

You'll find curry paste or powder in the international food section of the supermarket. Coconut oil provides some healthy fats and really enhances the flavor of this dish. With these two ingredients, you have the foundation to create an creamy curry. This trail favorite uses lentils as its source of protein and fiber.

Serving Protein Fats Carbs Sodium Fiber Sugar Calories
Dried Lentils 80g 20.0 0.0 51.4 0.0 17.1 0.0 314.3
Dried Peas 20g 4.3 0.0 14.3 0.0 2.1 0.0 64.3
Dried Carrots 20g 1.4 0.0 16.4 53.6 1.4 10.7 71.4
Dried Corn 20g 0.7 0.3 4.0 0.8 0.2 0.1 22.1
Coconut Oil 18g 0.0 18.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 154.3
Curry Powder 8g              
Total 166g 26.4 18.3 86.1 54.4 20.9 10.8 626.3

Open Full Nutritional Breakdown in Google Sheets

(to make edits, open the spreadsheet and select 'save a copy' from the File dropdown)

6. Eggs and Bacon

easy backpacking meal recipes

Bacon Bits + Mashed Potatoes + Powdered Eggs

The closest thing you can get to a diner on the trail. Potatoes provide carbohydrates and eggs and bacon provide protein and sodium to start the day. Tastes better cooking the eggs separately.

7. Trail Mix Butter

easy backpacking meal recipesHoney + Peanut Butter + Trail Mix 

Dense and easy nutrition. Mixing peanut butter, honey and trail mix together in a bowl provides a breakfast that's rich in calories from protein and healthy fats. 

8. Cereal

best backpacking mealsDried Fruit + Powdered Milk + Cereal/ Granola 

Cereal in the backcountry. Powdered milk is virtually non-perishable and provides a lightweight source of calcium. Chewy dried fruits like apricots and cranberries and blueberries work best.

9. Salmon Bagel

easy backpacking meal recipesSalmon + Bagel + Cream Cheese 

A simple breakfast sandwich that doesn't require any heat, but still provides a tasty protein and carb boost. Single-use cream cheese packets for this recipe can be found at breakfast and brunch restaurants, as well as many coffee shops. There are some great ready-to-eat salmon packets as well. See SeaBear Salmon.

10. Oatmeal

easy backpacking meal recipesNuts + Oatmeal + Raisins 

These three ingredients are backpacking staples for good reason. Accessible, easy to prepare and nutritious. There are a variety of oatmeal flavors to pick from as well. 

11. Nutella Wrap

easy backpacking meal recipesTortilla + Nutella + Banana Chips

An easy wrap. Nutella (available in pouches) is essentially a sweet and chocolaty version of peanut butter. Banana chips give it a nice crunch. Tastes great with peanuts too.

12. Cheese and Crackers

best backpacking mealsCrackers + Cheese + Meat

Hard cheeses are more shelf stable than soft cheeses and cured meats are reliable backpacking staples. May be heavy for some. But, this provides dense nutrition and can be a very rewarding lunch.

13. Pita Wrap

easy backpacking meal recipesFresh Veggies + Pita Bread + Hummus 

Pita bread is nearly as pack-friendly as tortillas and is great for lunch and snacking. Stuff in some hummus and fresh veggies. 

14. Pizza Wrap

easy backpacking meal recipesTortillas + Tomato Sauce + Cheese + Pepperoni

This protein-packed "pizza" wrap can be a yummy and easy trail alternative to the gourmet brick-oven version.

15. Meat and Potatoes

easy backpacking meal recipesSausage + Mashed Potatoes + Chives 

These two things are found at almost any grocery store. Sausage and potatoes are simple are hearty. Feel free to sprinkle on some bacon bits.

16. Cashew Noodle

easy backpacking meal recipesNoodles + Curry Paste + Dried Veggies + Cashews

A vegetarian meal. Curry powder (or a smidge of paste) can be mixed with cashews for protein and nearly any veggies you have on hand.  

17. Burrito

easy backpacking meal recipesTaco Mix + Tortillas + Rice + Black Beans 

If you aren't too tired of tortillas by dinnertime, you can whip up a classic burrito with rice and beans wrapped in a tortilla. Chicken makes a great addition, as do cheese and veggies. 

Chris Cage photo

About Chris Cage

By Chris Cage Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine to Fast Company. He wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe. Instagram: @chrisrcage.
Stoveless Backpacking Meals
  • 650-Calorie Fuel
  • No Cooking
  • No Cleaning