17 Best Backpacking Meals | Simple Recipes with 4 Ingredients or Less - Greenbelly Meals

17 Best Backpacking Meals with 4 Ingredients Or Less


best backpacking meals

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

best backpacking meals

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

best backpacking mealsHoney + 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. 

3. 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.

4. Salmon Bagel

best backpacking mealsSalmon + 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.

5. Oatmeal

best backpacking mealsNuts + 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

best backpacking mealsTortilla + 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

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.

8. Pita Wrap

best backpacking mealsFresh 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

best backpacking mealsTortillas + 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

best backpacking mealsSausage + 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

best backpacking mealsCouscous + 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

best backpacking mealsNoodles + 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

best backpacking mealsRice + 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. 

14. Burrito

best backpacking mealsTaco 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

best backpacking mealsNoodles + 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

best backpacking mealsMacaroni 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

best backpacking mealsNoodles + 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.