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Best Backpacking Food

Packing food for your next adventure doesn’t have to be time-consuming or overwhelming. The best backpacking food is lightweight, has low bulk, is easy and quick to prepare, and will give you the calories you need to keep going. There are many options for backpacking food, whether you prefer to prepare your own packages or enjoy buying pouches of freeze-dried meals.

If you need to boil water or cook a meal during your next adventure, we have also reviewed some of the best backpacking stoves.

What types of food are best for backpacking?

Choose lightweight, low bulk food as much as possible. Freeze-dried backpacking meals are more expensive, but at the end of a long day you will be happy that all you need to do is boil water to have dinner made.

Dry foods such as pasta, instant rice and soup mixes are lightweight and take up very little room in your pack. Bring along spices such as garlic, salt, pepper, basil, or crushed red pepper to add some flavor to your meals.

Dried fruits, nuts, jerky, and instant hot cereals are also good food choices.

How much food will I need for a 3-day backpacking trip?

It’s better to pack just a bit too much food rather than too little. Aim for 2,500-4,500 calories per person per day. This amount will vary based on your weight, size, and exertion level, but after some experience you will know better what to pack. Don’t overload yourself but do plan on packing an extra meal or two.

How should backpacking food be stored overnight?

To keep wild animals from getting into your food, put all loose food into your vehicle or a metal bear box overnight. Some areas have their own recommendations and regulations for overnight food storage.

You may want to choose a bear canister to keep in your pack. Although this will add to your weight, it can keep your food safe in areas with bears, and in some areas park rangers will fine you for not having them.

Another option is to hang your food in your pack by throwing a rope over a branch, about 10-15 feet in the air so a bear cannot reach it.

Related: Best Backpacking Canister Stoves

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Mountain House Breakfast Skillet

This breakfast skillet contains hashbrowns, scrambled eggs, crumbled pork patty, peppers, and onion.

Mountain House’s freeze-dried backpacking food is lightweight and easy to cook. Simply tear open the package, remove the oxygen absorber, and add boiling water to cook your meal. In less than ten minutes, your food is ready.

Mountain House has the longest proven shelf life in the industry, so this product is ideal to keep on hand for emergencies or backpacking trips. Personal tastes will vary, and some people may find this one a bit salty.

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Backpacker’s Pantry Fettucini Alfredo

This lightweight, just-add-water meal contains a creamy Alfredo sauce, roasted red peppers, egg-noodle pasta, and all-natural chicken.

Ideal for the backpacker who doesn’t want to compromise on their meals, Backpacker’s Pantry prides themselves on meals that are never pre-cooked, so the food tastes fresh.

At higher altitudes, the cooking time will need to be extended and may result in the food being cold by the time everything is rehydrated. There are other brands that make food pouches specifically designed for higher altitudes, so some hikers may prefer those instead.

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Heather’s Choice Dark Chocolate Chili with Grass-Fed Bison

This dark chocolate chili is made with large chunks of 100% grass-fed bison and seasoned with cocoa powder and a touch of espresso.

Ideal for those with dietary restrictions, Heather’s Choice is paleo-friendly and free from soy, dairy, gluten, peanuts, eggs, and tree nuts. These packs are lightweight and easy to carry, and cook in minutes with boiling water.

One package will cost you around $20, so if you are looking for cheap backpacking food, this is not it. Still, it can be difficult to find backpacking food for people with food allergies, so it may be worth the cost for you.

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Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, 6 Pack

Containing tender beef, noodles, and mushrooms in a rich sour cream sauce, this is a backpacking meal you’ll want to bring on your next trip.

The 6 pack of Mountain House beef stroganoff is perfect for those with a bigger appetite or people who will be sharing a meal on the trail. All you need is boiling water directly in the package, and after ten minutes you’ll have a tasty meal ready to be served.

Mountain House is one of the most popular brands of backpacking food due to its ease of use and extremely long shelf life. Many people either love it or hate it, and the most common complaint among those who dislike it is the flavor of the food. You’ll have to try it yourself to see which side of the debate you land on.

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Wild Zora Paleo Meals Mountain Beef Stew

This beef stew is made from grass-fed beef and organic ingredients.

For people who are following a paleo diet and looking for high-calorie backpacking food, Wild Zora is one of the few brands that offers paleo backpacking meals. The short, wide packages make it easier to eat from the pouches and saves you from having to use and wash dishes.

The biggest drawback to this product is the price. The pouches are quite expensive as this is a small mom-and-son startup company who can’t currently compete with the prices offered by big names like Mountain House or Backpacker’s Pantry. The shelf-life is also only two years, unlike some of the other brands that last much longer.

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OMEALS 6-Pack of Self-Heating Portable Meals

This six-pack from OMEALS contains two pouches of cheese tortellini in tomato sauce, two pouches of turkey chili with beans, and two pouches of southwest chicken with rice.

Ideal for people who don’t want to pack fuel or a stove but are still looking for a high protein meal, these backpacking meals are self-heating. Activate the heating pack, add any required liquid, and wait up to five minutes for a delicious meal with 0g of trans fat.

Take care with the package as it heats up. The heater gets very hot and will boil the water to cook your food thoroughly and quickly.

There are many options when it comes to backpacking food, even for people on a restrictive diet. Freeze-dried meals don’t weigh much and don’t take up a lot of room in a pack, and have the added advantage of being incredibly easy to cook at the end of a long day.

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