I am married to a serious backpacker. King-Man goes on several backpacking trips a year. He spends 1-2 weeks hiking the Grand Canyon every year (his favorite place on the planet), and in recent years has also hiked to the Mt. Everest Base Camp, Mt. Rainier, and numerous spots in Utah and Colorado. The more he hikes, the more he wants to. It's his thing.
He used to go most often on trips led by Sierra Club or REI where they provided most of the food. But now that he's more experienced, King-Man has been backpacking with a group of hiking friends that has formed through the years. That means he has to take his own food.
This is where I come in. King-Man doesn't cook at all. Since I'm a recipe developer, I thought it would be fun to figure out some tasty, homemade, nutritious food for him to take along on the trail. He had bought and assembled ready-made backpacking food in the past, but I decided to try creating some dried, lightweight recipes suitable for backpacking (or any type of camping, for that matter). That way I could make it as nutritious and tasty as possible. King-Man thinks my homemade instant meals are way better than the store bought stuff.
Requirements for backpacking food:
Hiking into Ptarmigan Creek in Rocky Mountain National Park. (photo shared by King-Man's hiking buddy, Mel)
7 days of recipes and organization tips. In this post, I'll explain how I assembled food for a week of backpacking including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. You may prefer to purchase all of your food rather than make your own instant meals. Either way, I'll show you how to organize and pack it in a bear barrel so there is easy access to each day's food.
Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets. I have a separate post that explains in detail how easy it is to make your own instant oatmeal packets. That way they can be flavored just how you like them, and they are WAY more nutritious than the store bought kind.
King-Man is partial to blueberry instant oats, so I made up multiple packets of those for each of his breakfasts on the trail.
A separate breakfast bag for each day. Included: packets of instant oatmeal, coffee, and pills/vitamins. I used fold-top sandwich bags to hold all 3 items.
(chosen for an energy & protein boost on the trial)
KIND bars recently got the #1 rating from Backpacker magazine for the best nutritional bars to take along hiking. They are so delicious that I prefer them to a candy bar; but they're pricey. After preparing food & photos for the backpacking trip in this post, I developed a recipe for homemade KIND bars that are darn close to the originals. King-Man takes this homemade version along on hikes now. They're much less expensive if you make your own. We keep them on hand in our house now--a favorite of both of us. Here's the post where I explain how to make them:
A separate lunch/snack bag for each day. Included: small sausage, cheese wedge, crackers, KIND bar, peanut butter packet, candy or nut/seed bar, trail mix. I used fold-top sandwich bags to hold a day's lunch and snack food.
view on Amazon: fold-top sandwich bags
view on Amazon: Mountain House freeze dried meals
You can make your own nutritious instant meals with the 6 recipes I created using the healthiest dried ingredients I could find. They're what King-Man takes on his trips now; he likes them all so much that he can't choose a favorite. Just add boiling water, wait a few minutes, and eat. I explain how to make 6 different meal varieties in a separate post:
Here is the backpacking pot & stove system that King-Man recommends for heating water on the trail:
6 breakfast bags (King-Man didn't need one for the 1st day, since he had breakfast before his hike began.)
7 lunch and snack bags
6 dinner bags (On the last day, King-Man didn't need a dinner bag because he hiked out before dinner.)
This made it easy for King-Man to eat each day without having to rummage through his backpack for a lot of miscellaneous kinds of food for each meal. For each day one bag held 3 separate bags for breakfast, lunch/snacks, and dinner. Labeling the bags, made it a no-brainer to eat each meal without any decisions to make. King-Man especially liked this on long days when they set up camp late and it was getting dark near meal time. I used Ziploc quart freezer bags--they're thick enough to hold up well.
Weight: 14.2 oz. for a bag of food for 1 day
view on Amazon: Ziploc quart freezer bags
A midweek birthday treat surprise. It was King-Man's birthday in the middle of his 7-day backpacking trip. So, I sneaked in a bag of chocolate chip cookie bars for him to share with his hiking companions. He said it was the BEST part of the food on the trip, and a welcome treat for everyone. So, I've started making these for all of his trips now--he has one for dessert after dinner each night.
You'll find my recipe for the bars in this post: Whole Grain Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Wrap the cooled bars individually in plastic wrap, and they're ready to pack for the trail.
Weight: 1.43 lbs. for 8 cookie bars
If you're backpacking in bear country, you'll want the protection of a bear barrel (for you and the food!). If not, pack all of your food in one stuff sack. Put the bag of food for the last day in first, and continue stacking the bags horizontally ending with the Day 1 food bag on top. Everything fit--YAY! King-Man loved the convenience of just having to pull out one food bag per day from the top.
UPDATE: Since first writing this post, I've created 8 instant soup recipes that King-Man now takes on his backpacking trips along with the other food in this post. The soups are a great way to help rehydrate and add some calories to the main meal at the end of a long day on the trail. Here's the link.
With the understanding that every backpacker has his/her own way of doing things, I know this system may not work for everyone. But, hopefully there are some tips or recipes here that you will find helpful. If you have any tips to share that are tried-and-true on the trail, please share them in the comments section below. Happy trails to you.
Make it a Yummy day!
Here's King-Man with our two sons, Tyler (aka T-man, techie guy for TheYummyLife) and Bracken. They were taking a break on their descent into the magnificent Grand Canyon. Their backpacks didn't require a bear barrel on this trip, but they had to carry a lot of water.