10 Must-Have Foods for Your Next Backpacking Trip

My family has come a long way from our first backpacking trip where we spent a fortune on meals and lived off Mountain House freeze-dried meals. Since then we have perfected low-cost, high-calorie, and simple meals for our days out on the trail. Here are our 10 must-have foods for your next backpacking trip!

10. Coffee/Tea

My husband and I are big coffee drinkers so this is one item we will not do without. The instant Starbucks packets are awesome! They don’t take up any room, they are super light, and all you need is some boiling water. If you don’t drink coffee, hot tea is always nice on those cool mornings.

backpacking and coffee

9. Pop Tarts

This one is more for my daughter. I still prefer my oatmeal for breakfast, but if you are wanting something quick, pop tarts are the way to go. We don’t usually buy these for our home so when we’re backpacking it’s a special treat.

8. Cheese

Cheese is a nice snack when I get tired of trail mix and granola bars. We use laughing cow. It comes in all different flavors and the little wedges are individually wrapped.

7. Honey

Honey is a great way to give you a natural energy boost. This is the one item that weighs a little more but we feel is essential. You can eat it plain for a snack, throw it on a tortilla with peanut butter for lunch, or top any meal off for some added sweetness. Honey is known for maintaining glycogen levels and improving recovery time which may help on more strenuous hikes.


6. Peanut Butter

This food goes with honey. Wherever I put peanut butter, honey follows. Again, I can use it for multiple meals. I’ll mix peanut butter with oatmeal, spread it on a tortilla, or eat just a spoonful. The best type to pack is the Jif to go containers. They are small and much lighter than a jar.

jif to go

5. Tuna Packets

Tuna is great for lunch or dinner. There are many varieties (buffalo, ranch, smoked, lemon) so you don’t actually feel like you’re eating the same thing over and over again. Our dinner every night consists of couscous and a different flavor tuna packet. They’re also lightweight and take up little space in your backpack.

4. Tortillas

As I already mentioned above you can’t go wrong with peanut butter, honey, and a tortilla. But you can also be creative with tortillas. It’s endless what you can stuff in a tortilla. For lunch, you can add a tuna packet. Another snack idea is spreading cheese in one (I tell my daughter it’s a backpacking quesadilla).

3. Couscous

This was our best discovery for dinners. Couscous is cheap, comes in a variety of flavors, and only requires boiling water. Once the water comes to a boil we pour it straight into our cooking pot. Pasta is good but requires to be cooked in continuously boiling water which uses up more fuel. We usually will save pasta for one night and use couscous the rest of the time.

2. Hot Sauce

On the trail, food can start tasting bland. Hot sauce is a must-have. You can add flavor to anything with a little hot sauce. My suggestion, stop by a Taco Bell on the way to the trailhead and stock up on the little packets!

backpacking- hot sauce

1. Chocolate

I will not hit the trail without making sure I’ve packed some chocolate. Some hikers prefer Snicker bars, I like buying a big Hershey’s bar. This way I can break off the little squares and ration it out throughout my trip. Some evenings when I’m really craving a little dessert I’ll add some peanut butter to a tortilla with chocolate pieces. Now you have a dessert burrito.

meals on the trail

Want more backpacking ideas for your family? Check out our 10 tips for backpacking with a toddler.

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