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The Best Backpacking Food Ideas for Each Meal & Diet

With so many fancy food options out there, finding good, nourishing food that fits your diet can be challenging, even cooking in your kitchen at home! Throwing in a camping stove and a dirt-floor kitchen certainly doesn’t make things any easier. Below, find a collection of backpacking food ideas for your next overnight, three-day or thru-hike!

Recipe Ideas for Vegetarians

Breakfast:

Egg bombs! Beat some eggs, throw in your favorite omelette ingredients and throw it all in the oven in a muffin tin. You also could bake them in a pie crust for a mini-quiche. Eat them cold while on the run or throw them, foil and all, into a fire or over a stove to warm them up and eat from your sleeping bag!

Trusty instant oatmeal. When backpacking, I like to spice mine up with fresh fruit, nut butters, powdered milk (great for longer trips) and instant coffee when I really need some help. I also find the runnier it is, the less I mind the stickiness of instant oats.

backpacking food ideas peak refuel granola

Freeze-dried breakfast. Several days into a trip, another bowl of oatmeal can look like an uphill battle. So, I will occasionally treat myself. Peak Refuel makes a good strawberry granola (it has berries in a bag! Just add cold water), and many other brands make egg-based breakfasts worth trying.

Lunch:

Veggie cheese wraps. They got me through almost the entire Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. 2,700 miles of bell peppers, soft cheese and seasoning salt wrapped in a hearty tortilla. Of course, ingredients are limited by logistics, but we found cucumbers and bell peppers were robust enough for two to three days of wraps. A soft, white cheese is also important, as no one wants to eat a ¼ pound of cheddar for lunch.

Leftovers. On the first day of any backcountry trip, I treat myself by reheating whatever leftovers I had in the fridge that morning. Hearty dinners are a favorite of mine, and the best backpacking food out there, so anything hard to cook on a camp stove can be a treat. Just reheat and eat.

Dinner:

Instant rice, refried beans, cheese and spinach. I try to keep my dinner simple to prepare and simple to cook. Cook the rice, dump everything in and enjoy all the major macronutrients and some fiber to boot. There are a thousand permutations on this one. Starch, protein, fat, green is my formula, and it rarely steers my wrong. I also find myself cracking eggs into just about everything. Just be careful when you pack the eggs! Plastic egg cradles work, but I find myself leaving them in the cardboard and swaddling them with clothes.

Vegan Backpacking Food Ideas

Breakfast:

Sweet porridge. We’ve all eaten enough oatmeal in our lives, so in the backcountry I mix it up. Common favorites are grits, halwa (made with semolina flour), and polenta. Adding additional fat, usually olive oil, and chia seeds keeps everything tasting like the yummy stuff I eat at home without all the heavy ingredients like coconut milk.

Lunch:

Powdered hummus. It sounds like an abomination, but it genuinely is pretty rad. Especially days into an adventure that fresh hummus just isn’t tough enough for, the powdered stuff is worth its weight in gold. When I’m out of backpacking food ideas, I mix it up and eat it on its own or mix it in with other cooked ingredients for a high-protein sauce in other endeavors.

Backpacking Food Ideas for Dinner:

Grain bowls. Especially for longer trips, whole grains are a very important part of my food planning. Dense and shelf-stable, they are a constant in my pack. Beyond the grain, it all comes down to preference. My dinners, diet to diet, vary in substance but not structure. I try to include a starch, fat, protein and green in each dinner. For vegans, that can look like farro, kalamata olives, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes some fried tofu (if I’ve got any left after nibbling), and a light sauce based on the sun-dried tomato oil. Depending on the trip, I might pre-cook the tofu or broccoli, but if I intend to eat it on the second or third day of a trip, I’ll toss everything into the boiling water sequentially, steaming everything together.

backpacking food ideas hobo dinner

Hobo dinner. If you’re in a place where fires are permitted and convenient, an excellent, low-input option is tossing a potato (sweet is my preference) wrapped in foil into the fire. Once it smells good, pull it out! This works for most vegetables, but if you’re going to throw a container of broccoli in the fire, make sure to oil it a bit first. Once you’ve got the potato cooked, load it up like a baked potato with vegan cheese (if you roll that way), tasty veggies, and maybe some avocado. The meltier the toppings get, the better! And no stove required.

Keto Backpacking Food Ideas

Breakfast:

Eggs bombs! If you can’t tell, I love eggs. Similar to the vegetarian version, throw all the meat, vegetables and cheese you can fit in, then warm them up in foil over a stove. The cheesier they are, often the better they stand up to time in a backpack.

Lunch:

Chicken salad. Especially if it’s avocado-based, it’ll keep well in a backpack longer than cream-based options. Celery is a great add to keep it crunchy on the second or third day.

Bacon Avocado Power Bowl. This is a friend’s invention, mashing crispy bacon, avocado, sauteed greens and sometimes salmon together. The mixture becomes dense, but always tastes so freaking good. Make sure to cook the bacon ahead of time; it gets messy doing it in camp!

Backpacking Food Ideas for Dinner:

backpacking food ideas meat and veggies

Meat and Veggies. If I’m only going out for a day or two or camping somewhere cold, I’ll bring some pre-cooked steak or pork chops. After a long day, it doesn’t matter much if they’re warm or not, but a quick rewarm is easy enough. On longer trips, I’ll bring packet tuna, smash it with avocado and cheese, and toss with some cooked zucchini to keep it from getting too dense. This style of dinner often ends up cold, as the reheating of everything together on a single burner can get complicated.

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Cheap Food Finds in Colorado Ski Towns

Colorado ski towns are notoriously diverse, but one thing that rings true is that they can be expensive. Whether you’re planning a visit to ski in the winter or raft in the summer, we’ve found the cheapest food options to help you stay on budget, from $1.84 for a single scoop of ice cream to $12.95 for a cheesesteak and fries. Here are the best cheap eats in Aspen, Breckenridge, Telluride, Steamboat Springs, and Vail.

Aspen

Zane’s Tavern

https://www.zanestavern.com/

308 S Hunter St #2, Aspen, CO 81611

(970) 544-9263

In a ski town that skews a bit more upscale, Zane’s Tavern remains a classic dive. This sports bar is where you’ll find the locals, and they always have a game on. The order here is a Philly cheesesteak with fries or tater tots for $12.95.

Big Wrap

http://places.singleplatform.com/big-wrap-the/menu?ref=google

520 E Durant Ave #101, Aspen, CO 81611

(970) 544-1700

Big Wrap may always be busy, but it’s by far the best and quickest lunch spot in Aspen. Don’t let the line deter you, you’ll need a minute to go over the eclectic menu. Items like the Hail Caesar and To Thai For are among the favorites, and the price is right at $7.30.

Bamboo Bear

http://www.bamboobearrestaurant.com/

730 E Cooper Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

(970) 710-2094

Bamboo Bear is a small but mighty asian restaurant, serving a menu of Vietnamese and Thai-influenced dishes. Here, you can try a selection of things without breaking the bank, including spring rolls for $2, dumplings for $6, and a killer bahn mi for $12.

Breckenridge

Soupz On

http://www.soupzon.net/

422 North Park Avenue, Breckenridge, CO 80424

(970) 547-4797

Soupz On is a beloved lunch spot that’s perfect for dine-in or grab-and-go. Their soup menu changes daily, but expect a nice range of options like chicken pot pie, meatball marinara, and Thai shrimp tom yum. The meal deal comes with bread and a cookie for $8.95.

Above the Blue

421 S Main St, Breckenridge, CO 80424

(970) 453-3062

Above the Blue, also known as Red’s to the locals, is a food stand with the best cheap eats in Breckenridge. They have a short-and-sweet menu that has something for everyone, including a coney dog for $4, frito chili pie for $5, and a gyro for $10. Bonus: they are open late-night.

Crepes a la Cart

crepesalacarts.com

307 S Main St, Breckenridge, CO 80424

(970) 771-3411

The ideal apres ski treat is a sweet or savory crepe from Crepes a la Cart. This place has a ridiculously huge menu of topping mashups from classic nutella to chicken florentine, and many items are under $8.

Telluride

Steamies Burger Bar

http://www.steamiesburgers.com/

300 W Colorado Ave Suite #1B, Telluride, CO 81435

(844) 843-2867

Located in the heart of downtown, Steamies is a top-rated burger joint that serves their patties steamed rather than grilled or pan-fried. For just $6.25, you can get a classic single with american cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and our signature housemade steamie sauce.

Steamboat Springs

Lyon’s Corner Drug & Soda Fountain

http://www.lyonsofsteamboat.com/

840 Lincoln Ave, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

(970) 879-1114

Lyon’s Corner Drug & Soda Fountain feels completely stuck in time, and we wouldn’t change a thing. This drug store, gift shop, old-fashioned soda fountain hybrid is where you’ll find a single scoop of ice cream for $1.84. They also serve diner classics like grilled cheese and BLTs for under $6.50.

Skull Creek Greek

https://www.skullcreekgreek.com/

635 Lincoln Ave, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

(970) 879-1339

The best value in town is at Skull Creek Greek. At $7.50 for a pita and $10.50 for a plate, you can choose from heaping helpings of roasted lamb or falafel and three different kinds of tzatziki sauce. For something a little sweet, get the life-changing baklava for $3.

Off the Beaten Path

https://www.steamboatbooks.com/

68 9th St, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

(970) 879-6830

A lovely independent bookstore and coffee shop, Off the Beaten Path is a cozy winter reprieve where you can pick up games, cards, puzzles and more. While coffee may seem like the name of the game here, we love the wine and local brew selections for under $5.

Vail

Moe’s Original Barbeque

https://www.moesoriginalbbq.com/lo/vail/

616 W Lionshead Cir, Vail, CO 81657

(970) 479-7888

Just feet away from Vail Mountain, Moe’s Original Barbeque is a super chill, local spot serving Alabama-style barbeque to the masses. The pulled pork sandwich with two sides (see: baked beans, cornbread) and a drink clocks in at just $10, making it an easy and delicious choice for lunch or early dinner (they close at 6 p.m.).

The Red Lion

304 Bridge St #1, Vail, CO 81657

(970) 476-7676

For award-winning chili in Vail Village at $5 a cup, look no further than The Red Lion. This hot spot is known for its live entertainment, with musicians performing daily. It’s a little cozy, so it can get crowded, but you won’t mind one bit.

Yellowbelly

2161 N Frontage Rd W #14, Vail, CO 81657

(970) 343-4340

At Yellowbelly, it’s all about the fried chicken. This counter service restaurant is perfect for a casual meal, and the hot-and-fresh white or dark meat tenders are just $5.50. They also have incredible scratch-made slides for $3, including a ton of healthy options like citrus quinoa and seasonal veggies.

Have another cheap eats spot? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

About the writer:

Christina Cherry is a travel publicist and writer with a knack for last-minute trip planning. When she’s not on the road, she’s in hot pursuit of the world’s best pizza or tending to her houseplants. Keep up with her work at cherrycreativestudio.com and follow along on her blog at everywherewithcherry.com. DM slides also welcome at @everywherewithcherry.