It’s simple. 

Fresh air + sunshine + the outdoors + miles on a hiking trail = End of Day Replenishment.  

We have put together a simple, yet comprehensive list of the best backpacking foods. Whether an easy eat as you go hiking snack, or an end of the day backpacking meal. It’s important to replenish lost calories with the right food. 

 We like to cover all the bases. Our recommendations are based on what backpackers, hikers, and campers are looking for after a long day in the great outdoors.

 

Our reviews and recommendations are based on the below specifications:

  • Preparation time (how long to go from backpack to mouth)
  • Weight (what is the dry carrying weight)
  • Nutritional value (actual good for my body)
  • Taste (excellent, good enough, barely passable?)
  • Cleanup (none, simple enough, or a hassle)
  • Cost

We believe this checklist of attributes  are foremost in importance to choosing the best backpacking meals.

Best Budget Backpacking Meal: Backpacker’s Pantry Kathmandu Curry

We like this budget backpackers meal as it provides good value for the money. It tends to be rated on the mild to medium spicy side. This particular brand has become increasingly popular as it’s made for any backpacker, including vegetarian or vegan.

Backpackers Pantry has been in the business for several decades now. There is a reason why they are still around. Quality backpacking food, good prices, and a name backpackers & campers trust.

Prep Time: 15-20 min

Weight: 6.6z

Nutritional Value: 32 g of protein, 330 calories per pouch

Taste: curry profile, excellent

Cleanup: none

Cost: $7/pouch

What we like:

  • is popular for a reason
  • price
  • great value for the money
  • 4 other options for those not liking curry
  • very simple cleanup

 What we wish was better: 

  • garlic in meal can be a bit on the strong side
  • leftovers do not hold up taste wise

     

    Best Backpacking Meal For Calorie Replenishment: Peak Refuel Chicken Coconut Curry

    This is perhaps one of the heartier backpacking meals available. While a single pouch is considered large enough for two people, keep in mind you will be hungry at dinner time. Our recommendation is to count this as a large single meal. If you find it is too much, you have leftovers for the next day. If you decide to make it a dinner meal for both you and a hiking partner, we recommend you supplement with other hiking snacks or foods.

    Prep Time: 10 min

    Weight: 5.36 z

    Nutritional Value: 44 g of protein, 852 calories per pouch

    Taste: coconut & curry, excellent

    Cleanup: none

    Cost: $13/pouch

    What we like:

    • has good overall reviews
    • price is great if you can get two meals out of it
    • 15 options for those not liking coconut or curry
    • very simple cleanup
    • great caloric replenishment

    What we wish was better:

    • some claim it lacks a little bit of flavor
    • 2 meals from 1 pouch is a bit of a stretch

       

       

      Most Convenient Backpacking Meal:Mountain House Spicy Southwest Style Skillet

      Realistically, most hot backpacking meals are the same principal. Hot or boiling water added to a pouch of freeze dried or dehydrated food. 

      We picked this as the most convenient b/c the cook time is less than 10 minutes, and there is no mess to clean up. Simply toss your empty pouch into the trash.

      Prep Time: 10 min or less

      Weight: 3.9z

      Nutritional Value: 20 g of protein

      Taste: good enough, medium to hot spice profile

      Cleanup: none

      Cost: $8.75/pouch

      What we like:

      • has overall very positive reviews
      • price
      • shorter yet wider pouch allows for easier bowl like consumption
      • 6 options for those not necessary wanting breakfast for dinner
      • very simple cleanup
      • 1 very large meal, or two smaller ones

        What we wish was better:

        • is on the spicy side (maybe this is a positive?)
        • 2 meals from 1 pouch is a stretch

           

          Best Backpacking Meal for Kids: KIDS MRE  Full Meal Several Entrée Options w/ Play Pack & more!

          Every heard of the expression ‘one unhappy camper’? Anyone who has hiked, backpacked, or camped with children likely understands that things can go south in a hurry.

          What better way to motivate and rejuvinate a cranky child? This kids MRE will tickle them with enough options they are bound to enjoy something, even if picky eaters.

          Prep Time: 10+ min  (heat up entree, mix the drink powder)

          Weight: depending on which child MRE, 10-20z

          Nutritional Value: Yogurt/Fruit Squeezie

          Taste: most reviews say it tastes good

          Cleanup: simple enough, lots of little packages

          Cost: $15.00/kit

          What we like:

          • lots of meal options
          • super hero mask included
          • dessert and applesauce/yogurt included
          • drink mix included
          • meals packets can be ordered for boys or girls
          • many extras included if child does not like the entree

          What we wish was better:

          • price is a little on the higher side
          • lots of little packages can create a mess for cleanup

          Best Splurge Backpacking Meal: GOOD TO-GO Bibimbap

          This backpackers meal from Good To Go is one of the more filling end of the day meals you can find. This one in particular is an actual meal for two. This of course makes the price point more attractive.

          Prep Time: 20 min

          Weight: 6.7z

          Nutritional Value: 17 grams of protein, 730 calories per pouch

          Taste: Excellent (on the spicy side)

          Cleanup: none

          Cost: $14.25/pouch

          What we like:

          • 1 pouch can feed up to 2 people
          • gluten free, vegan, yet not sacrificing taste
          • simple clean up
          • lots of calories for replenishment
          • comes in 6 different options if spicy is not your thing

          What we wish was better:

          • prep time is longer than others
          • some reviews claim it’s too spicy

            Best Overall Dehydrated Backpacking Meal:Backpacker’s Pantry Shepherds Potato Stew/Beef

             

            Backpacker’s Pantry has been in the business of dehydrated camping/hiking meals for decades. They have managed to keep up with the most popular flavor and meal profiles on the market. Offering a 7 year shelf life, you won’t have to worry about not using it in time before expiry. 

            Backpackers Pantry is better known for their taste, which comes at the cost of a longer prep time.

            Prep Time: 15-20 mins

            Weight: 5.1z

            Nutritional Value: 26 grams of protein, 460 calories

            Taste: excellent, shepherds pie meets beef stew

            Cleanup: none

            Cost: $10/pouch

            What we like:

            • reviews about taste are positive
            • good caloric replenishment
            • 1 very large meal, or two smaller ones per pouch
            • easy clean up
            • 12 different meal options
            • good price point

             What we wish was better: 

            • a few complaints about the consistency 
            • some have recommended pepper or salt to enhance the  flavor

               

              Best Eat as you go snacks

              We have a few go to favorites if we are running behind and need to snack while on the move. It’s important to remember if you plan to eat/hike at the same time, to eat small morsels. We further recommend to stop, take a 5 min or less break, and replenish as necessary. 

              Nomads USO Granola blend

              Prep Time: none

              Weight: comes in 1z or 4z size

              Nutritional Value: fruits and proteins

              Taste: unique combination of fruits, nuts, and honey

              Cleanup: none

              Cost: $5+

               

              What we like:

              •  very positive taste profile
              • good caloric replenishment
              • healthy hiking snack
              • zero clean up

                 What we wish was better:

                •  price 

                 

                Old Trapper Beef Jerky

                Some will argue that jerky is jerky, and they have a point. This mostly comes down to personal preference. Many hikers/campers like to make their own. It’s a bit of a time commitment, so we prefer to buy ours. 

                Regardless, jerky is a  fantastic walking replenishment snack. We recommend you balance some jerky with a piece of fruit. The two can be combined as a light meal, yet keep you on your feet for hours.

                Prep Time: none

                Weight: 10z

                Nutritional Value: 

                Taste: whatever flavor is chosen

                Cleanup: none

                Cost: $14 (US Outdoor) $17 (Amazon)

                 

                What we like:

                • quick, easy, convenient 
                • great taste profile
                • comes in 3 flavours
                • no clean up

                 What we wish was better:

                • price 

                 

                Things to Know

                Dehydrated or freeze dried backpacking meals need hot water added. Usually between 1 ½ to 2 ½  cups. You will need some sort of heating element and or way to build a fire. 

                If you plan on carrying all your water during your trek, please factor in how much you will need for your meals. 

                If you plan on getting water from an alternate source (stream, creek, lake, spring) it’s highly recommended you take along some sort of purification device.

                Our first choice would be to boil water where possible (boil for a minimum of 5 minutes). If you have no way to boil water, we would then try for a purification device such as a water bottle purifier. Finally our last choice but certainly still a good option, is to take purification tablets

                As most of these meals are freeze dried or dehydrated, you can dehydrate your own food if preferred. We recommend checking out methods and equipment for dehydrating before jumping in full bore.

                 

                Time for an Outdoor Adventure?

                 It doesn’t matter if you are going for a week-long backpacking adventure, or just a single day hiking trip. Our bodies will burn calories and crave replenishment at day end. Our recommended options for some of the best backpacking meals will hopefully give you a head start for your next camping or backpacking adventure. We wish you the best in your travels!

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