Many beginner backpackers start out with pre-packaged freeze-dried meals from their local outdoor stores. However they quickly realize how pricey and how unsatisfying those meals can be.
When I started backpacking I had the added challenge of wanting to follow a vegetarian diet. At the time there were very limited choices for vegetarian pre-packaged meals. It wasn’t long before I was looking for alternate ideas of inexpensive, easy to make, tasty, and healthy backpacking meals.
Of course as my backpacking trips get longer, my meal prep gets more intricate. For this year’s thru-hike I’m having to consider more elements such as the weight of my food, resupply stops, and much-needed extra calories.
I thought I’d share my general daily meal plan, as well as some recipes that you can put together with many ingredients found at grocery stores, supplemented by some dehydrated veggies.
Instant Oatmeal – I make my own oatmeal thanks to amazing recipes from The Yummy Life. Many thru-hikers get bored of their morning oats. Food boredom is a lot less likely if you have over a dozen different flavours to rotate through. The base recipe is also full of way more goodness than what you find in the pre-packaged instant oatmeals. My favourite flavour last year was a coconut-macadamia nut creation.
Breakfast Bar – In order to increase my calories and proteins I’ve decided to add a ProBar Meal to every breakfast. They’re pricier, but probably one of the best nutrient-rich bars out there. I’ve also chosen to go with the berry and fruit based bars as a way to increase my vitamin C intake.
I have three lunches I rotate through on the trail:
Hummus & crackers – instant hummus mix, with italian seasoning, sun dried tomato bits and an olive oil packet.
Black bean dip & tortillas – black bean flakes, taco seasoning, onion flakes
Peanut butter & tortillas – powdered peanut butter, olive oil packet
I also bring lots of snacks to get me through my day. These include fish or tofu jerky, dried fruit mix, nut mix, granola bars, mini Snickers, and cheese (Babybel keep particularly well because they’re wrapped in wax!)
I love cooking, and I particularly enjoy eating a variety of good-tasting food. For this year’s thru-hike I developed different meals that are quick to make, high in calories and full of flavour. Most of the base ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. Depending on the meal I also add in a variety of dehydrated vegetables thanks to the Backpacking Kit from Harmony House Foods.
All of these meals require a little bit of reconstituting time. I usually add water to the dehydrated bits at lunchtime and let it reconstitute while I’m hiking. Once in camp I cook the carbs, throw everything in the pot together with whatever sauce mix, let sit another 5 minutes and then enjoy!
DESSERT & DRINKS
At home I’m not much of a dessert person, however on the trail desserts can account for some valuable calories. I’m keeping it simple and easy for this trip: pudding, pudding, pudding, and cookies! I’ve got four different varieties of pudding and mix in cookie crumbles, nuts, or freeze-dried berries.
A hot drink for damp mornings or evenings is a great treat on the trail. I don’t need coffee every morning, but it can certainly be a helpful pick-me-up. Thankfully instant coffees are starting to get better and better. This past year I’ve been strategically taste-testing a handful of the Nescafe instant coffees. I’ve settled on the Hazelnut flavour because it’s sweet enough all by itself and has a decently good flavour. I’m also bringing some hot chocolate and an herbal tea for my evenings.
Putting together your own backpacking meals can seem intimidating at first, however it’s worth the extra effort. It is incredibly satisfying to roll into camp and have full knowledge of what you’re eating for dinner. Somehow it tastes even better that way.