The Formula for Making Backpacking Meals

formula of backpacking meal, meal planning for multi-day hiking trip

Cooking a great backpacking meal is absolutely possible and you don’t need to have any trail chef level skills to do it. All you need to do is follow a formula guaranteed to help you create a surprising number of tasty recipes for your outdoor adventures.

The formula for healthy, tasty and nutritious backpacking meals I came to after my 4-year journey of trail cooking is super simple. It’s based on the hiker’s diet of essential elements and contains ingredients from five food groups.

The formula of backpacking meals

Follow the steps below to develop your own backpacking recipe:

  1. Start with a whole grain base of whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, faro or barley.
  2. Add your favorite veggies/fruits. Try to choose non-starchy or green-leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and/or asparagus.
  3. Add your protein source. The best options to choose from are freeze-dried or dehydrated chicken, beef, fish and seafood. If you are vegetarian, replace the fish and meat with beans or tofu.
  4. Add some healthy fats. The best sources of healthy fats are nuts and seeds, nut butters, coconut oil and milk, olive oil, fatty fish, chocolate, full fat milk and cheeses.
  5. Spice it up! By adding some spices you can significantly improve the taste of your food. Try ready herb and spice blends (Italian, Herbs de Provence, Cajun) or make your own to create uniquely flavored combinations.

Once you start using this formula, you’ll never fall into the rut of making the same recipe for the whole hiking trip. Play with ingredients and discover your own delicious takes on them!

Some examples

Here are some examples of backpacking meals you can create using the formula:

Whole Grain Base Proteins Vegs/Fruits Fats Herbs & Spices Meal
Whole wheat pasta Freeze-dried cheese, anchovies Freeze-dried or dehydrated olives, capers, tomato sauce powder Olive oil Italian Seasoning Penne Puttanesca
Brown Rice Dehydrated seafood Onion powder, garlic powder, tomato sauce powder Coconut milk powder Curry powder Seafood Curry
Macaroni Dehydrated ground beef Dried mushrooms Full fat milk powder, ghee Thyme Mushroom Mac’n’Cheese
Rolled Oats Chia seeds Dried blueberries Coconut milk powder Cinnamon Overnight Oat and Chia Pudding
Quinoa Lentils Kale powder, freeze-dried caramelized onions Olive oil Cumin, coriander, paprika Quinoa, Kale and Lentil stew

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  1. Ken T on October 9, 2019 at 10:57 pm

    Do you add the fat in camp when making the meal? Or can you add it to the bag before sealing it up?

    • Tanya Krezevska on October 10, 2019 at 9:35 am

      In order to avoid food spoilage, better to add fat during the cooking process at camp.

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