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:

Penne Puttanesca

  1. Whole-wheat pasta
  2. Freeze-dried cheese, anchovies
  3. Freeze-dried or dehydrated olives, capers, tomato sauce powder
  4. Olive oil
  5. Italian Seasoning
penne puttanesca in freezer bag, freezer bag cooking recipes

Seafood Curry

  1. Brown rice
  2. Dehydrated seafood
  3. Tomato powder
  4. Coconut milk powder
  5. Curry powder
simple seafood curry, dehydrated backpacking meals, trail recipes

Mushroom Mac’n’Cheese

  1. Macaroni
  2. Dehydrated or freeze-dried ground beef
  3. Dried mushrooms
  4. Full fat milk powder, ghee
  5. Thyme
mushroom mac and cheese, backpacking meals, backpacking dinner ideas, trail recipes, backpacking food

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  1. Alisha on May 16, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    I woke up this morning at home after three day backcountry trip wondering about my fav yogurt granola morning mix …decided to have a look at what others were doing
    This is a great resource thank you for sharing !
    For this trip I made quinoa corn/bean chilli as I normally do then spread on trays and dehydrated for about 9 hours at 135. This was my first time dehydrating more than fruit!
    I couldn’t believe how amazing it was! Never buying dehydrated high sodium crapy mass produced good again!

  2. Anonymous on May 20, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Don’t forget the grains.
    Professional mountaineer who has climbed Everest, Denali, Kilimanjaro. Freeze dried foods have become too pricey so I make my own equivalent using pasta, rice, tuna, chicken envelopes, add freeze-dried vegetables if you want. Add virgin olive oil. Powdered eggs work great when reconstituted and fried lightly in olive oil, margarine adding Spam chunks from evevelope. Don;t forget the grains. Bagels and English Muffins pack best, add egg, strips of pre-cooked bacon from store for quick, easy, breakfast sandwich. The secret for backpackers at high altitude, quick and easy one-pot meals.

  3. 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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