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Cooking in the Backcountry

Most everyone’s favorite topic of discussion on a backpacking trip is dinner. After all, when you’re hiking with a pack for hours everyday you’re working up quite an appetite. And while it’s true that everything tastes better on the trail, packing tasty and nutritious meals is a great way to wow your hiking companions. Don’t just stick to store-bought dehydrated fare; get creative and make your own meals for the full backcountry experience.

The two biggest cooking limitations while backpacking are weight and lack of a refrigerator. Obviously, you’re going to have to carry all of your food on your back, so you want to be conscious of how much it weighs. You should consider the calorie-to-weight ratio of the food you bring along. Nuts, for instance, pack a lot of healthy calories in a small package. On the flip side, though, are things like rice cakes. They may be lightweight, but rice cakes provide few calories for the amount of room they take up in your pack.

Unless you are winter camping, you don’t want to bring very many perishable items with you on a backpacking trip -- at least if it's longer than three days. Try dried fruits and veggies instead; they won’t go bad after several days in the sun, plus they’re lighter. When you do bring fresh veggies and cheese, it’s best to plan on eating them earlier in the trip while they are still good.

Don’t let fear of spoiled food send you to the dehydrated meals section of your favorite outdoor store, though. There are hundreds of great backpacking meals that you can make that aren’t too heavy or likely to spoil before you’re ready to eat them. When shopping, look for staples like beans, lentils, cheese, pasta, and oatmeal. Sure, lentil soup can be good on the trail, but you can also make pasta with pesto sauce, burritos with fixings, and even pizza.

For more ideas and tips, visit the Trail Food and Recipes section of our Forums. You'll find suggested recipes, discussions about vegan-friendly food, a poll about s'mores, and much more!