CAMPING & HIKING

Backpacking Lunch Ideas: The Best Meals For Your Time Away From Home

hiking snacks
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Are you an outdoors enthusiast? Spending your time in the outdoors is a great experience where you get the opportunity to explore nature and your inner self. But you certainly agree that preparing the food before a camping or a hiking trip is not such an easy task.

Of course, you can stick to premade food and snacks but then they would cancel out all the idea of getting in touch with nature, now wouldn’t they? This is why we greatly appreciate the importance of coming up with the best backpacking lunch ideas.

There are endless types of canned food, cookies, snacks and instant types of dry food that only need a small amount of hot water to be ready. But is this the kind of food you want to solely depend on and consume along with your family and friends?

Before you head to the supermarket, premade and pre-manufactured food goes through a lot of handling and processing. Your food has a limited expiry away from the fridge for a reason, but these types of premade and manufactured foods can last for months and even years even in the most severe weather conditions.

buying food

Think of all the chemicals, preservatives and additives that manufacturers add to their products to make them last for years. Is this what you really want to eat? These chemicals are not the best to consume and can have an adverse effect on your body.

We certainly all consume processed food in our day to day life, unless you are vegan. But adding some processed food to your meals is something and eating only processed food for days is another.

If you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle by being vegetarian or vegan, if you are diabetic or suffering from high blood pressure then you have more than one good reason to prepare your food at home. At the same time, if you are introducing your kids to the world of camping and hiking to experience a healthier lifestyle, then eating only artificial food is not really the best thing to do. See our earlier article on how to hike with your kids to learn more.

Make it home, enjoy it outside

Preparing your food at home allows you to control the contents and percentage of every ingredient used. It is the best option for kids, people who have lactose or gluten intolerance and everybody else who is trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

cooking in a pan

Homemade food is healthier than packed food because it contains healthier ingredients. You get to control the amount of calories in your food in addition to your salt and sugar content.

See also: Dehydrated Food Recipes: Delicious Treats for Your Camping Trip

This is particularly important for people who have certain dietary needs or want to exclude certain elements from their diet. Homemade food gives you this kind of control over what is being eaten away from home.

At the same time, let’s not forget that preparing your food at home and packing your lunch is cost-efficient compared to buying a lot of pre-made snacks and foods.

meal 2 go for hiking

But it is hard to keep some kinds of food fresh for a long time especially if you are spending a lot of time in hot or humid weather. This is why you need to think a lot about the types of food you are packing with regards to the nature of your trip and choose the most appropriate choices.

What should I take into consideration?

When you are thinking about the best hiking lunch ideas, there are a lot of factors that will affect your choices. You need to pack the right amount of food that will keep you nourished and healthy on your time away from home.

If you are traveling with kids, this becomes even more important. Theoretically speaking, you want to pack enough food to provide enough calories (1500 – 3000) per day per person, depending on the body weight. See our safety tips when traveling with kids to learn more.

The time you spend on a safari or a hiking trip is not the right time to go on a weight loss diet. Generally speaking, you will be doing different activities that you normally don’t do and this means that you need to have all the necessary calories and water to fight off fatigue.

3 people eat hiking snack

An outdoors experience will involve spending a lot of time walking, hiking, climbing, maybe setting up tents or fishing. You need to make sure that your body is receiving all the necessary nutrients.

But before thinking about packing your homemade lunch, there are a few factors that you need to take into consideration. These factors will affect your food choices and the amount that you may want to pack:

Where are you going?

Are you spending time in a beach camp? Are you going to sleep in a tent in the woods? Is this is a desert safari trip? Where you are going will affect the type of food you are going to pack. The weather condition will affect the speed by which your food will go bad.

hiker on uphill

If you are going on a mountain climbing expedition in the Alps, you can get away with packing some dry food that doesn’t need to be put in a fridge to stay fresh. Cold cuts, fruit, and vegetables will stay fresh and edible in the cold weather.

But this might not be the case if you are spending time on a tropical island. The sun and the humidity will affect the quality of your food fast. You are better off using dry ingredients.

Where you are going to spend your outdoors trip also says a lot about the activities that you will engage in. If you are going to do some rock climbing or will be carrying your backpack on a long hiking trip, then you may want to stay away from fresh fruits and vegetables because they are heavy to carry. Canned tuna or beans add an unnecessary weight to your luggage.

What amenities do you have?

Today you can find a lot of camping gear that is designed to make life easier wherever you go. You can buy camping cookware that is designed to keep your food hot for hours. These pots will be easy to pack and will keep different kinds of food separate and ready if you are spending a camping weekend.

pots

If you are on a long trip with your family or friends, you might want to buy a special oven or heater that you can actually use to cook and heat different homemade meal. Hot water can transfer any dry food to a healthy tasty hot meal. Check out our review of alcohol stoves to keep you well-informed.

You should also consider the weight of the fuel because it could be an issue if you are going to carry it for a long time. If you happen to have an ice box, you can keep different items cold until they are ready to use. Carrying such equipment is not the best option if you are mountain climbing or hiking.

What is the weight limit?

The amount of food and amenities you carry will add to the weight of your luggage. If you will be carrying your bag a lot like on a hiking or a mountain climbing trip then carrying cookware and a stove is not a feasible option.

Hiking basics

You will find that there are other options that will allow you to have a homemade meal without having to use a stove.

Do you have a lot of water available?

If you are on a desert safari trip, you will realize that getting fresh water is not such an easy task. This means that you are better off with packing food that doesn’t require a lot of water for preparation. But if you are camping with your friends at a campsite where water is no issue, then you have more options with regards to preparing homemade food that you can enjoy.

The best backpacking lunch ideas

Taking cost, time and space into consideration, you can easily prepare your meal plan for your time away from home. Make sure that you pack different food items into labeled plastic bags. If there is an item that you think will get squashed, you can hang it on the outside of your backpack.

Here is the list of some of the easy food items that you can pack for different meals per day:

Breakfast options

Granola bars

If you are looking for a healthy meal that will give you a healthy boost of energy then this is the one for you. Eating 2 bars in the morning will give you the calories you need to start your day fresh and healthy without feeling stuffed or heavy.

trail granola bars

There are a lot of tastes and varieties to choose from. The bars can be stuffed anywhere in your backpack, they won’t take much space and they are light. They won’t get squashed and you can eat them whenever you want to.

Honey

Honey doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. Spread your honey on some dry cookies or toast and it’s good to go. Honey will stay good to eat whether you are in a sub-degree climate or exploring the hot desert.

The best thing about honey is that it gives you the necessary amount of healthy sugars that you need to stay healthy and fresh. You can also use it to sweeten different drinks.

Oatmeal

Who said that you can’t have a nutritious hot meal even when you don’t have an oven? Using a few twigs you can light a campfire to heat some water, add the water to the oatmeal and voila!

oatmeal

A healthy hot meal that will keep you warm and nourished. Oats are rich in fibers and will keep you full for a while. You will not feel as hungry even if you don’t eat all the time.

Nuts and seeds

These are the healthiest snacks to have or to add to your oatmeal. Nuts are rich in healthy fats that will keep you feeling warm and strong. Have them salted if you want to indulge in a healthy savory option or just sprinkle them on top of your oats with a large spoon of honey for a healthy breakfast.

Lunch options

Dried vegetables and fruits

If you don’t have a dehydrator then you probably should. Dehydrators allow you to dry fruit, vegetables and make your own jerky meat. It is good to use one at home because it can help you have fresh fruits even when they are out of season. But if you tend to spend a lot of time outdoors, you will realize that buying one is probably the best investment you’ve ever made.

Dried fruits are vegetables don’t take much space. They are light to pack and packed with vitamins and minerals.Dried fruits are very tasty and are packed with healthy nutrients. Many people prefer them over fresh ones because they will live longer and are lighter and less bulky.

different kinds of dried fruit

There are a lot of recipes that you can prepare using dried vegetables. You can either eat dried vegetables without any preparation, or you can add some hot water to prepare the best vegetables soup. Don’t forget to season your cooked dried vegetables and you will have the best home taste wherever you are.

Dried meats

Dried meats can be consumed as is, without cooking. No preparation, no refrigerating and they taste delicious every single time. When you prepare your own dry meat at home using a dehydrator, you can control the amount of salt included and you make sure that there are no preservatives or chemicals added.

Tortillas and crackers

Bread can be too bulky and will go bad fast without a fridge. But tortillas and crackers are dry and can survive longer. They are also less bulky and won’t take a space in your backpack.

Dinner options

Couscous

Couscous is a popular Moroccan dish. It cooks in less than 5 minutes by simply adding hot water. It multiplies and grows because it is very high in fiber content and is very nice to have as a hot dinner.

bowl of couscous

Couscous can be served cold, warm, sweet or savory. You can add some honey and nuts for a nice meal. Mix some powder milk with hot water to make it warmer for cold nights in the mountains. Add some cinnamon for an extra kick of warmth mixed with some dried fruits. You can serve it with jerky meat or cooked dried vegetables.

Instant foods

These types of food are very convenient to use because they are not bulky and will not take a space in your backpack. Every now and then you can crack a pack and have a fast hot meal. Just add water and you will have a tasty meal that is ready any time of the day.

instant food

Instant rice, noodles, and potatoes are very easy to prepare. Just add some hot water and your hot delicious meal will be ready. You can add vegetables or meat to your dish for more variationsand make your dish tastier. If you are not sure about the packed seasoning, you can prepare your own at home.

Dehydrated eggs

These are easy to use and are very tasty to have. Just add some powdered milk, some water and mix. If you have oil or butter, your dish will be a lot tastier. Eggs are rich in proteins and vitamins that you need to stay healthy and nourished.

Extras that you need to pack

Spices and seasonings

Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, coriander, garlic powder and onion powder are just some of the many spices that you can pack to season different dishes.

You can even prepare your pre-made mixes and save them in zip lock bags to save space and weight. Keep these labeled bags ready for use and they can add the needed zest to your noodles, couscous, rice or potatoes.

Add some olive oil to your seasoning and keep it in a sealed bottle. Sprinkle the dressing over vegetables, couscous, tortilla or anything else for a delicious healthy snack.

Tabs

These are very important to keep your body nourished especially in hot weather. They will provide your body with the needed electrolytes and will add a delicious taste to your plain water.

There are also some powder mixes that are available in different tastes. Some of them have vitamin and mineral enhancements and will keep you well hydrated on your time away from home.

Instant beverages

Who said that you can’t have your most favorite drink wherever you are? You can pack some fruit powder to prepare your most favorite juice. These powders have the nutrients and taste of the real fruit minus the weight.

You can just add some water and your juice will be ready to serve. Instant coffee and tea bags are so easy to prepare. They can do wonders to help you deal with the night’s chill.

Wrapping it up

Preparing for your outdoors trip is not such a difficult task. Of course, you need to spend an adequate amount of time for preparation because this will make things easier for you.

These types of food are not difficult to find or prepare. In fact, you will be saving a lot of money preparing your food this way, rather than packing an endless amount of crisps, chips and premade food that will take up so much space in your backpack and won’t necessarily satisfy your hunger.

Remember that nothing beats homemade food. This way you are taking the taste of home wherever you go. For more information on how to choose the best camping food, see our earlier article on this topic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

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