Best Backpacking Food How to Choose Healthy Meals on the Go

Last Updated on July 7, 2022 by Alice Benny

Backpacking Food – Spending money on food while traveling in Europe, or backpacking, is probably one of the most difficult things to handle when it comes to budgeting. You always spend more than you had planned, and yet, it’s hard to cut down since you need it to live. However, just because you need to cut down on your food budget, doesn’t mean you should have to cut down on your health.

Whether you’re a veteran backpacker or a beginner, it’s important to have a list of foods that are nutritious, filling, packable and lightweight.

Backpacking food is not just about your food. It is also about how the food tastes, how healthy it is, and how it will keep you fueled for hours. To ensure that you are making the best decisions when it comes to backpacking food, keep reading this article.

Backpacking food is a must-have for those looking for a good time on the trails. But it can be hard to decide what food to take with you. So we have assembled the best backpacking meals to make your decision easy.

Different types of backpacking foods:

  • dehydrated food
  • quick, lightweight, and compact snacks
  • freeze dried food
  • instant foods
  • canned food

Backpacking Food Ideas

If you’re planning to go backpacking in the wilderness then you’ll need to be very mindful of the food that you will bring with you. The following backpacking food ideas can provide a good foundation for your journey.

It’s important when selecting backpackers food to consider what your nutritional needs will be. For example, if you’re going to be hiking long distances and need to consume a lot of calories for fuel, it would be best not to pack too many carbohydrates such as bread or pasta because it’s hard for our bodies to digest these types of foods while we’re on the go.

Some carbs are important but you will need protein for endurance.

The thought of packing for a backpacking trip can be daunting and overwhelming. But there are some tricks and tips that can make it much easier.

To stay on budget and healthy, a backpacking food idea is to buy a bunch of cans of beans, tomatoes, and vegetables at the grocery store. Add some olive oil and spice packets to the cans before you leave for your trip. Cans of tuna, chicken and sardines also are excellent for protein and simple to prepare.

While this is budget friendly and healthy, cans are heavy. It is important to be mindful of how far you will be hiking. If you are backpacking for days, it will be important to eat the canned goods first to lighten your load.

Backpacking food ideas are a must-have for everyone who is going to go on a backpacking trip. You need to make sure that you have the right supplies and food with you before you set out on your journey.

There are a lot of backpacking food ideas that can help you keep hunger at bay and keep your stomach full. This includes instant noodles, dried fruits, nuts, jerky or beef sticks, granola bars or cereal bars as well as canned foods such as beans and sardines.

Freeze Dried Backpacking Food

Freeze dried food is a convenient way of getting your food for long journeys. It has the advantage that it does not need to be cooked. This makes it useful for backpackers, campers, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. They can also be taken on trips with airplane or boat because they don’t need to be refrigerated.

Freeze dried backpacking food is food that can be eaten without cooking. It includes meals in pouches, bars, and other easy to carry forms.

We all have that one friend who is always bragging about being in the wilderness or hiking some mountain. And when you ask them how they survive they say “I just bring my freeze dried backpacking food”.

There are many advantages to freeze dried backpacking food: it is lightweight and simple to prepare: just add water and you have a meal. The disadvantages of freeze dried backpacking food include the high costs and the peculiar taste.

Freeze-drying is a preservation technique that removes water from food by freezing it and then removing the ice. This process makes it possible for us to have food in a lightweight package that doesn’t need refrigeration.

Different from canned foods, freeze dried backpacking food retains its nutritional value as well as flavor and texture. These foods are also easy to rehydrate with water or other liquids.

If you’re planning on going camping or backpacking, you should definitely think about packing some of these foods with you!

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy Options

Cooking your own food is the cheapest way to get around when traveling, especially in western countries. Tips For Successful Mountaineering that You Should Know It’s easy to just fall back on the typical student food with pasta and tomato sauce, which is fine, but if you want to eat a little healthier and have a more varied diet, check out these alternatives:

Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy
Backpacking Food Cheap Healthy

Healthy Lentils

Lentils are my favorite food. I used to absolutely hate them, but once I found out their possibilities I’ve made some amazing meals with them. A very simple and cheap meal to make is Faki Lentil Soup. Lentils are high in fiber and helps to prevent heart disease. The magnesium content found in lentils contributes to blood flow and the passage of oxygen through the body. But best of all, lentils are high in iron, and are also surprisingly filling.

Canned Corn

Fry it, boil it or eat it raw, no matter how you eat it it’s always tasty. Corn is high in Vitamin B, which gives you some good energy – mix in with rice and tuna, or have it in your bean wrap, tortilla or couscous salad. Again, be mindful of the weight of canned goods. Finding it in a freeze dried option will be better.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas (also known as Garbanzo beans) are fat free and packed with protein. Since they’re so high in fiber they help your digestion, which can be very helpful when traveling. They also keep blood sugar levels stabilized making you feel full longer. One of my favorite snacks is hummus (an Arabic dip), great as a spread, in hot meals, to the salad or as a side dish, where the main ingredient is chickpeas. They’re also great in salads, pots and curries.

Black Beans and Quinoa couscous
Black Beans and Quinoa couscous

Black Beans

I’ve already talked about couscous and all the amazing recipes you can make with it. Well, couscous (or Quinoa, quite similar type of food), can make a great meal with black beans. And why not add some of that canned corn to it as well. Spice it with some cayenne pepper, garlic, onion and vegetable broth – and you have a hearty meal in front of you. Health in a can, black beans contain a compound that significantly reduce pre-cancerous cells. Black beans are also loaded with anthocyanins, specifically ten times more when compared to other dark colored fruits and vegetables. You can also use the black beans in the bean wrap recipe, it works great.

Oatmeal
Oatmeal

Oatmeal

It’s filling, cheap and among other minerals and vitamins it’s a very good source of fiber. It’s a great food to have for breakfast, either dry, soaked (together with raisins in hot water) or cooked as porridge. Oats helps to relieve constipation, a pretty common problem for travelers. Add some prunes in the breakfast and you double the effect!

Canned Tuna

Tuna is also a food that easily can be mixed in countless of variations; On the sandwich, in the rice, in the salad etc. Protein, omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, potassium, selenium, vitamin B12, niacin and phosphorus – the list of the great nutrients you get from canned Tuna is long. Plus, it’s easy to carry along for a backpacker since it doesn’t need to be in a cool environment, and it’s in a good packable size.

Backpacking Food Healthy Recipes

When backpacking and traveling around Europe on a budget, having the ability to cook cheap but tasty meals with as few ingredients as possible is a great way to save money and stay on the road longer.

Greek Lentil Soup

The recipes we share is one of our best and most enjoyable and is something we like to make often while traveling – it’s a simplified travel version of

Greek Faki (Lentil) Soup

  • Makes enough for 2 people.
  • 1 Cup of Green Lentils (red works fine too, but gives a different flavor)
  • 2 Garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 Small onion
  • Salt
  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Water (depending on how thick you like it)
  • Cover the lentils with water and bring to the boil – then pour out the water.
  • Add chopped onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes and a pinch of salt (and any other spice you have) into the pot.
  • Cover everything with fresh water, then re-heat and bring it to the boil again.
  • Let it boil until the lentils are soft and slightly over cooked so the soup gets thicker.
  • Serve into bowls, let it cool down sightly, and then enjoy your meal!

Serve with a few slices of bread. If you happen to have a bit of stale bread left over from the day before, use it for dipping in soup instead of just throwing it away!

The Spicy Bean Wrap

We tend to use a lot of canned food when we cook while traveling – canned food is cheap, it lasts for a longer time, and it is also easier to bring with you in your backpack. Using canned beans is ideal for backpacker meals. They’re cheap, healthy and also can be used in many different combinations. 

Spicy Bean Wrap

  • makes enough for 2 people
  • prep & cooking duration: around 15-20 mins
  • 1 Can of  Kidney beans (or Mixed beans)
  • 1 Can of Crushed Tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Hot Spice (like chili, Cayenne pepper or similar)
  • 1 Onion
  • 1-2 Garlic cloves
  • Tortilla bread or any other wheat or corn wrap
  • Oil / Butter (if you don’t have any oil)
  • Heat a frying pan with oil
  • Chop the onions and garlic. By first crushing the garlic with the flat wide side of the knife you bring out more flavor.
  • Fry the onion and garlic until golden brown.
  • Add the beans into the frying pan, and mix.
  • Pour in the crushed tomatoes, add spice and salt and let it cook for about 5 more minutes.
  • Serve on a plate by filling your tortilla wrap(s) with the spicy bean mix.

What I love about this meal is that it can be remixed in so many ways. If you have some left overs for the next day you can just add some fresh veggies in the wrap, frozen veggies in the pan or some sour cream on top. This is a really healthy meal in every way, especially if you use a full grain tortilla – we hope you test it out and enjoy! ;)

Backpacking Food Recipe – Quick and Tasty Couscous Salad

For me one of the most versatile foods ever is probably couscous, you can eat it with practically anything. What makes it such a great backpacking food is the fact it’s super quick, easy and cheap. A box of couscous lasts for a long time (for one person you only need half a cup of couscous per meal!) – combine that with an easy salad and you can’t go wrong. Here is a quick and very simple recipe, which is one of my favorites for hot days. It’s a little luxurious, but the vegetables used are generally quite cheap, and pesto is something we always have since we use it for so many things (pasta, sandwiches, gnocchi etc). Enjoy!

Quick & Tasty Couscous Salad

  • Serves 2
  • Estimated prep. time: 10 min
  • 100 g or 1 cup Couscous
  • 200 ml (or 3/4 of a cup) of vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion (or 2 spring onions if you have them)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 red pepper
  • (optional: any other vege you like and want to add to the salad)
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 50 gram feta cheese

Put the couscous in a bowl and add the stock (200 ml of boiled water mixed with vegetable stock, cubicles is fine). Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes until it’s fluffy and has absorbed the water/stock. Meanwhile, dice the cucumber and slice the onion and pepper. Add this to the couscous, mix with some pesto and crumble in the feta cheese.  Plate it and then EAT! ;) If you can afford splurging out, the salad is even nicer with some pine nuts sprinkled on top, it really adds that extra flavor!

How to Stay Healthy While Traveling

( photo credits: perspicaciousstep1networkveganfeast wordriddenroland )