You spent good money on your backpacking stove.
So, why not put it to good use by cooking a variety of delicious backpacking meals rather than the same old grub time after time again?
But wait – each style of backpacking stove is best suited to cooking different meals. Below I break down the best backpacking meals for each type of stove, including small canister, integrated canister, and liquid fuel models. I also list my favorite stoveless meals.
Once you know the best meals to cook on your backpacking stove, you can begin your backpacking meal planning with complete confidence.
Quick Meal Planning Tips
Selecting your favorite recipes and stocking up on supplies is only one part of planning the best backpacking meals.
- Weight – Select lightweight, compact ingredients that don’t take much cooking gear to prepare.
- Calories & Nutrition – Outdoor Herbivore Blog recommends at least 2,000 calories a day for easy hiking and over 5,000 calories a day for difficult terrain. Make sure that the foods you select have a good weight-to-calorie ratio. Dehydrated and freeze-dried meals are lightweight, calorie-dense, and retain most of their nutrients.
- Packaging – Never bring food in its bulky original packaging. Always pack into lightweight containers like plastic freezer bags. Look for single-use condiments or put condiments into small, reusable containers.
- Make Ahead – Prepare all or most of your meals at home to reduce weight/bulk and make cooking easier. Just put the ingredients on your backpacking stove and reheat.
- Fuel Usage – Consider how much fuel each meal will use. Meals that require boiling use more fuel. An alternative option is to soak foods like pasta in cold water for 30 minutes before boiling to reduce boil time to just a minute or two.
- Water Availability – Most backpacking meals require water to cook or reheat. Consider meals that don’t use much water if you won’t have easy water access on your trip.
* Stay tuned for our backpacking meal planning guide for even more tips!
You can’t go wrong with a sandwich for lunch on a short backpacking trip.
Like any backpacking meal, always use only non-perishable ingredients that won’t go bad when left unrefrigerated. Foods like salami, cheese (mini Babybel cheese in the wax wrappers is my favorite), and peanut butter are a good start.
Classic peanut butter and jelly is a good go-to, although I prefer a cinnamon-raison peanut butter sandwich. Mix peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon together, slather on two slices of bread, add a few raisons, and you’re good to go.
I usually prefer to make my sandwiches with pita bread, sandwich wraps, or tortillas as they hold up better than standard sandwich bread to the bangs and bruises of backpacking. Plus, they won’t get soggy before lunchtime.
Check out Backpacker’s hearty trail sandwiches for four quick and convenient backcountry sandwich ideas.
For short backpacking trips, you can probably get away with your favorite fresh salad recipe packed in a lightweight container.
However, dehydrated backpacking salad is the way to go on longer trips to limit the risk of spoiling and lower overall weight. Luckily, your salad options are nearly limitless as you can dehydrate and rehydrate just about any vegetables you want (although shredded veggies are best). I almost always add in beans (usually garbanzo) into all my camping salads.
Check out the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s best trail salad recipes for more ideas.