Here is a list of the 17 best backpacking meals. These are all super fast and simple 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 31 Backpacking Food Ideas.
1. Eggs and Bacon
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.
2. Trail Mix Butter
Honey + 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.
Dried 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.
4. Salmon Bagel
Salmon + 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.
Nuts + 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.
6. Nutella Wrap
Tortilla + 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.
7. Cheese and Crackers
Crackers + 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.
8. Pita Wrap
Fresh 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.
9. Pizza Wrap
Tortillas + Tomato Sauce + Cheese + Pepperoni
This protein-packed "pizza" wrap can be a yummy and easy trail alternative to the gourmet brick-oven version.
10. Meat and Potatoes
Sausage + 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.
11. Chicken Couscous
Couscous + Cheese + Chicken + Dried Veggies
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 veggies and chicken for a filling meal. Or checkout Andrew Skurka's Couscous Recipe and Harmony House Veggies.
12. Cashew Noodle
Noodles + 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.
13. Thai Curry
Rice + Tuna + Coconut Milk + Yellow Curry
Powdered coconut milk and yellow curry pastes/ powers can be found in the international food section of the supermarket. With these two ingredients, you have the foundation to create an creamy Thai curry. Add chicken or tuna and serve over rice or noodles.
Taco 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.
15. Jerky Noodle
Noodles + Soy Sauce + Beef Jerky
Lightweight meat, easy-to-make noodles and savory soy sauce. You can create a lo mein-like bowl by tossing beef jerky and soy sauce after the noodles have cooked.
16. Chili Mac
Macaroni Noodle + Red Beans + Chili Mix + Cheese
Also referred to as "chili mac". Using macaroni noodle for carbohydrates and bean for protein, the combination creates a hearty dinner.
17. Tuna Alfredo
Noodles + Pesto/ Alfredo + Olive Oil + Tuna
Pesto and/ or Alfredo sauce can come in a powdered form and is another excellent lightweight flavor option for the trail. Olive oil adds some nice extra flavor and calories.
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 and Bicycling Magazine to Fast Company and Science Alert. He recently wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe.
650-calorie fuel in a ready-to-eat package.