A Backpacker's Tale

Travel Bloggers Share Their ideas for
Backpacking Meals

Have some on the fly ideas for Backpacking Meals is important! To some of us they are a way tighten the purse strings and stay under budget, to others an opportunity to place our own mark on local ingredients.

I believe many of us have succumbed to the myth that most of the time backpacking meals are gross.

Or that we should go for dehydrated backpacking meals, or raid the hostel fridge to combined cheap produce and leftovers to create somethings halfway edible.

This isn’t the way it should be! 

And they can be more than just a way to sustain the tidal wave of hunger when we are in a pinch.

Personally, I don’t believe that is the truth. I thrive of finding and using cheap local sourced products to find and create some epic meals. One of my favorite options – when in Europe anyway – is just hitting up a deli / bakery. For under 5 Euros you can have a feast of fresh cheese, bread, and meats! Life doesn’t get better.

And I am not the only one who thinks that way! So I asked some of my travel blogger amigo’s to help me out by sharing some of their best backpacking meals!

Enjoy!

Travel Bloggers Share Their
Best Backpacking Meals

Hobo Stew (backpacking dinner recipes)

My favorite backpacking meal is called hobo stew. 

You throw in whatever veggies you like, though I usually go for squash, onion, carrot, and broccoli, and meat or a meat substitute like tofu or seitan, a splash of BBQ sauce and an optional dash of whiskey. Pile it onto a square of tin foil and push up the sides so that it resembles an open volcano and throw it on the fire.

Boom you have an easy meal with super easy cleanup and no pots and pans!

This only works if you have a fire pit with a grille and I’d do it on day one if you’re using meat. Enjoy! 

Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse (Further Reading Backpacking Checklist)

Minimalistic burritos

Ok, this might sound a little weird. But stick with me.

On my first backpacking trip through Central America, I was clueless. After getting stranded with no food a couple times, I made myself a promise—never again would l leave the safety of my hostel without snacks in my backpack.

But what to choose for my “go-to snack”? I needed something that wouldn’t spoil, wouldn’t melt, and wouldn’t spill in the depths of my bag. It also needed to be cheap, widely available, easy to prepare, and somewhat nutritious.

I know, kind of a tall order, right? I knew if I found something that met all these requirements, I couldn’t be picky about taste.

So, as I strolled through a Guatemalan supermarket wracking my brain, it finally hit me—Burritos. But not your typical messy burritos crammed with toppings. Minimalistic burritos.

I decided to give it a try. Tortillas, hot sauce, and a resealable bag of refried beans (yum!). Squirting refried beans onto tortillas and sprinkling on hot sauce sounds pretty basic, but you’d be surprised how delicious it tastes after being stranded on a bus all day with no food. And best of all, the beans fill you right up!

The cool part of carrying around tortillas, beans, and hot sauce in your bag is the versatility. If you’re on the road and have a hunger emergency, you can whip up the basic version. But once you settle in at your hostel, you can hit up a market and buy ingredients for a burrito supreme.

This is an especially useful backpacking meal for travelers on a budget. A bag of tortillas and beans will only run you a few bucks and will last for several meals. This is a great backpacking food ideas beginners

Bon appetit!

Mitchell Glass from Project Untethered (Further Reading – Best Travel Jobs)

muesli cereal and milk (day hiking food ideas)

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One of my favorite ways to start a day while hiking is to have a strengthening breakfast. Usually, I take some muesli cereal and milk with me, which reminds me of home even when I’m halfway around the world from it.
 
It is actually pretty easy to prepare for this breakfast. Before I go on a hike, I divide my muesli into smaller Ziploc bags – one for each day. 
Then I go to a store and buy some milk in a 200 ml packet that has a best before date long into the future. I also pack a travel mug, which is my main container of food for each meal.
 
When it is time to prepare breakfast, I just mix all ingredients together, find the best view, and enjoy. A wuick and easy idea for a backpacking meal. 

UNA from Wandernity

hard-boiled egg & fruit

When traveling, my favorite on-the-go snack is a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit.  The fruit gives you that instant hit of sugar and energy while the egg gives you longer-laster protein: the perfect combination to tide you over until the next meal.  

You’d be amazed at how easy it is to source both ingredients, obviously at grocery stores but in some countries, also convenience stores or gas stations (yes, really!).  I have fun sampling local fruits, when available, and you never feel guilty eating this type of healthy snack. 

Backpacking Meal Pro Tip: if all you can’t find pre-made eggs, just stick a fresh one in a mug of water in the microwave at half power for 4 minutes and voila, you’re good to go for $1 or less

Best of all, they’re both packed in their own biodegradable containers, so it’s easy to carry!

Becky Pokora from Sightdoing

RX Bars

Packing for and planning a backpacking hike can be anxiety ridden at times, particularly when it comes to figuring out how to beat the exhaustion and lack of energy that accompanies long hikes.  

Ensuring you have a high carbohydrate meal is necessary in order to get long burning energy and protein is needed to feed your muscles as well.  However, if you have any dietary restrictions, it can put an additional damper on your hike if the proper food isn’t available.

There are a variety of protein and energy bars that suit the needs of backpackers.  However, one stands out in the crowd that meets the needs of adults, the RX Bar.

The RX Bar is made from simple ingredients, all listed on the front of the bar.  Its sweetness comes from dates that have been mixed together with egg whites and a variety of other ingredients to provide great flavors.  

It is an all-natural bar, full of protein and energy in each bar.  

The RX Bar currently comes in 14 varieties including chocolate sea salt, mint chocolate, mixed berry, chocolate chip and coffee chocolate.  

The bars also come nut free and they are all very easy to eat.  The prices of the bars vary, with some places selling it as low as $2 a bar, however it is well worth the investment as the chocolate hazelnut bar, as an example, has 12 grams of protein and 23 grams of carbohydrates, which packs a lot of energy and protein after a few hours of hiking. 

Throw a few of these in your pack and you will have a great snack for any hike, anywhere.  Only sold in the United States.

silicone foldable lunchbox

These days more and more people emphasis on the environmental issues and the waste amount aspect. And I think that travelers should be aware of this in a special way to give an example to other communities all over the world. We can manifest it in such small gestures as for a trip at home.
 
My best solution for preparing meals while going outside is turning zero waste. I am always equipped with a silicone foldable lunchbox, refillable water bottle, and camping cutlery set. This travel kit allows me to stay independent on the road.
 
I am a big fan of staying in Couchsurfing, Airbnb, or hotels equipped with a kitchen, so I can prepare my meals on my own. And benefit the goods of local cuisines to the fullest. This way, I can make grocery shopping at a local market, and prepare the food at my temporary home.
 

By doing so, you will also fully immerse in local life. Because McDonald’s tastes almost the same all around the world. And highly processed pre-prepared food, like shop sandwiches wrapped in plastic, usually doesn’t taste so good. But French baguette with delicious coco jam prepared on your own tastes the best in the Caribbean. 

Fresh bread with serrano ham is absolutely the tastiest in Spain. And nothing feels better than local sheep cheese and sausage shared with travel friends in the mountains of Greece.

 
In my opinion, traveling lunchbox set is a must-have on the road.
 
Sometimes, local ingredients bought spontaneously in the city market tastes much better than a fancy dish in a touristic restaurant. Plus, it lets you help the local farmers and merchants to increase their economy. Very often, it is also the cheapest option for a backpacker. And the biggest advantage for you will be to eat like a local which is something all the travelers look for. What do you think of this idea for a backpacking meal? 

Dominika from Sunday In Wonderland

Instant Noodles (With a Twist)

Maybe it is because of my Asian heritage, but instant noodles are one of my all-time favorite travel snacks. These small packs are not only super affordable, but also very easy to carry around. They can be purchased in any grocery store, and there are usually a number of flavors to choose from. 

If I’m somewhere with easy access to hot water, I’d have the noodles heated and boiled. 

If I’m not around a source of hot water, I’d have them dry. To do so, I’d create an opening in the packaging, take out and sprinkle the flavoring onto the noodles, and crush the noodles within the bag.

Clearly, they are not only a travel snack but can substitute as one of the best backpacking meals in times of need. 

That’s why I usually have a pack with me on any trip. In terms of pricing, instant noodles differ based on the brand, quality, and size. However, a pack rarely goes above $3, and can be found for as low as $0.99.

My favorite is the Shin Ramyun Black Spicy Korean Instant Noodle. They are just under $3/pack and belong to one of the most popular brands. The broth is rich and flavorful, and the noodles are super chewy. 

Best of all, it is spicy. I mean, everything tastes good spicy.  

Daisy from Beyond My Border 

baguette & meat/cheese(BACKPACKING FOOD IDEAS BEGINNERS)

When I’m on the road, I usually grab a baguette from the bakery section of the nearest supermarket and then fill that baguette with meat or cheese.

Supermarkets in many places around the world, but especially in Europe and North America, will often have a deli section where you can buy cooked chicken. 

In Portugal, where I travel a lot, half a cooked chicken normally costs a little over €2 and you can buy it at most city-centre supermarkets like Pingo Doce and Minipreço

It’s not quite the same as the piri-piri chicken that Portugal is famous for, as the supermarket chicken is usually cooked on a rotisserie rather than a grill, but most places will put piri-piri sauce on the chicken if you want a similar flavour.

Alternatively, if you travel with a butter knife, it’s very easy to make a cheese or peanut butter sandwich instead.

It’s not the healthiest meal that you can eat on the road – although you can improve it by adding a few slices of tomato, for example – but it’s cheap and reasonably easy to make. 

The only downside is that it can be a bit messy, so make sure you have some napkins or there’s somewhere nearby to wash your hands. 

James from the Portugalist (Further Reading Guide to Piri Piri Chicken)

Thupkas

My preferred backpacking meal is obviously noodles and thupkas as they can be consumed much faster and acts as the biggest strength while backpacking mountains, lakes and other places of natural interest.

Thupkas are my favorite ones as they can be taken with or without noodles and are available in Tibetan and Chinese outlets.

The dish contains more liquid and served gravy with other ingredients and vegetables.

They normally cost around 2 bucks and can be taken or consumed in half or full. They are mostly served on plastic bowls in the restaurants and acts as the biggest source of protein at higher altitudes which makes it a top choice when picking your backpacking meals.

They can be taken with eggs with either chicken or vegetables.They are served red hot with chilies and other ingredients. Noodles remain the preferred dish for most backpackers as it is widely available in all outlets.

They are more popular than thupkas and momos as they are cheaper and easily consumable and available when the backpacker wants it. 

Thupkas however remain my popular dish and protein food while backpacking and I prefer it with vegetables and gravy.

Somnath Roy from the Travel Crusade

Buckwheat

Every time I set off on an adventure that includes hopping through a few countries, camping, going on long hikes or simply to an expensive destination, I always pack a box of buckwheat in my bag. 

As someone who was born and raised in Eastern Europe, where everyone eats buckwheat at least a few times per month, I learned quickly how healthy, fulfilling and easy to make buckwheat is.

It normalizes blood pressure, lowers blood sugar levels and with a high level of iron boosts the production of hemoglobin. It is a great source of protein, vitamins B and E, and full of antioxidants

Also, buckwheat enhances the mood (I tested myself) and is an excellent option for those who are sensitive to gluten.

And what is also important for a budget traveler like me, buckwheat is really cheap. One pound box usually costs between $2 to $5 (depending on a store and country) and makes more than 10 servings.  

I like the fact that this superfood can be eaten boiled, fried or even raw. It is delicious on its own and goes well with anything sweet, salty or sour. 

Two of my favorite buckwheat dishes are sauteed buckwheat with veggies and buckwheat with almond milk, seeds, and honey. Either of them is scrumptious enough when served hot or cold.

For the first option, all I have to do is to boil buckwheat for 20 minutes in a pot with a lid. At the same time on a separate pan saute garlic and onion, add any vegetables I want (eggplant, broccoli, peppers, cauliflower,) add spices, saute a few more minutes until veggies are cooked and then mix buckwheat in. Voila, and it is ready to eat. 

For the second meal, I can use boiled or raw buckwheat (raw will have to soak a few hours.) And I would say it looks more like buckwheat (or granola) bowl. I just pour almond or coconut milk over buckwheat, add seeds or dry fruit and top it with honey. For a light version, it can be just honey, almond meal, and buckwheat. It is still nutritious enough.  

Either one of these dishes is good for any time of the day and can be packed as lunch or snack on the go.  

Since it is less popular in the Americas, Oceania and Southeast Asia, it may be challenging to find buckwheat anywhere there. I do recommend packing some with you. If you are looking for a healthy idea for backpacking meals. This is it! 

Anya Kay from Road Is Calling ( Further Reading – Be A Budget Traveler Like Me)

Oreos

I think every backpacker can relate to this, Oreos is a life-safer when you’re on a tight budget. Not only is it delicious, but it’s quite filling too, and cheap of course. Oreos is also widely available all over the world, and even comes in different flavors. 

Some of the cheapest oreos I’ve found has been around 0.5 dollars per package. Usually you can get oreos in the pack of 2 for around 1 USD or 1.5 USD in more developed countries. 

Oreos are also great as back-up snacks as they are full of energy, and you can easily pack them in your backpack or daypack. If you’re a travel couple, you will also be lucky enough to avoid the hangry situations. 

Alex Waltner from the Swedish Nomad

Animal Crackers

Two facts about my younger days are that I was physically capable (i.e., my knees worked) and I was a pretty picky eater.

So I backpacked and hiked a lot in the mountains and other wilderness areas, but never enjoyed the food options … not a big fan of trail mix or power bars, get tired of jerky and crackers after awhile.

Backpacking with my family, my dad always cooked a pot of tasteless cream of rice every single morning for breakfast. Occasionally punctuated by a pot of oatmeal.

About the time I was in college, I hit on frosted animal cookies as the solution to my problems.

 Specifically: Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies.

They’re versatile, working well as a snack or sugar rush, and working equally well to fix up bland meals like oatmeal by crushing them up and stirring them in.

And they have a quality unlike typical backpacking meals in the intellectual stimulation they provide in selecting a theme by which to eat them, so they are also the perfect food to combat boredom or tedium.

OK, well, at least mildly relieve it.

Should I sort them by color — eat all the pinks first, then the whites, or alternate colors?

Should I sort them by animal — eat only camels one time, and elephants the next?

Maybe only white camels and pink lions this time? Or each cookie has to be different from the last one I ate?

Maybe this amuses me more than it would the average person, but they still make a great snack and sweet fixer-upper. 

They run about $3.00 a bag. 

Shara Johnson from SKJ Travel

Pizza

The truth is that either traveling or at my base, pizza has been, is, and will be one of my favorite foods and something I need to eat once a week at least.

How could anyone not love something that includes dough with melted cheese plus all the toppings you might think of?

It’s perfect for cleaning the fridge, it does not take more than 10 minutes to cook, its ingredients are easy to find and usually budget-friendly, and it always tastes delicious.

As the whole world knows its pros, smart business owners populated the world slowly but surely with Italian inspired restaurants – one of the best countries for food in the world – serving pizza. 

Hence, nowadays it is very easy to find a pizzeria wherever you go, and if that was not enough, it is usually one of the cheapest restaurants too (or at least, this dish).
 
On many occasions and even in some of the most expensive cities in the world, it is possible to buy pizza slices for as little as $1. Could there be a better backpacking meals? 

I doubt it, but if you find it, please come and tell me. Cheers!

Inma Gregorio from A World to Travel ( Further Reading –  Best Countries for Food in the World)

Chesse & Crackers

My go-to snack while backpacking abroad has always been cheese and crackers. Why? Because it is cheap, easy and available everywhere.

Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can stop off at supermarket and navigated your way around the aisles to find those cheese and crackers. The great thing about this option is that you can keep it nice and simple – go for a hard cheese and a cheap box of crackers. Cheap and cheerful for the win!

If you are looking to splurge, you can choose a variety of cheeses, add a quince paste, maybe look for some grapes or some dried fruits to add to it – and voila, you have a feast fit for a King (or Queen) that is also nice and easy to eat on the go.

I always eat on the go while travelling, which means a balancing act on a train or bus, a nibble while I am wandering the sites, or sitting on a park bench for a little more stableness.

Cheese and crackers can suit all these situations. 

Backpacking Meals Pro Tip: Don’t forget to grab a plastic knife as well so you can chop up that cheese, otherwise look for a pre-cut option, otherwise you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle.

Felicity Frankish from Baby Vine

Overnight Oats

Oatmeal is one of my favorite foods, and thankfully I don’t have to give it up while traveling. It’s actually really simple to make, even if you don’t have access to a stove!

 Just soak some oats in fruit juice, plant-based milk, or any other liquid. I recommend using about half a cup of dry oats and two-thirds of a cup of liquid. You can also add chunks of fruit, nuts, or even a chopped up bar of chocolate.

 
I like to mash up a banana and mix it in with the oats. It makes a great natural sweetener and also adds more bulk to the meal. Chia seeds, if you happen to have them on hand, are also great for thickening up the oats and adding extra nutrition.
 

This type of oat dish is often called “overnight oats”, and ideally you would let it soak overnight. Then you’ve got breakfast ready and waiting for you as soon as you wake up in the morning! 

It’s not strictly necessary to soak the oats all night long, though. About four hours should be enough for them to soften up and soak up most of the liquid. 

 
A refrigerator is not necessary either. If you don’t have access to one, you can just leave the oats sitting out at room temperature. As long as you’re not using cow’s milk as your liquid, you don’t need to worry about it going off.
 
Oats are widely available in many parts of the world and are very cheap, so this is an easy and inexpensive vegan meal you can make while traveling no matter where you are.

Wendy Werneth from The Nomadic Vegan (Further Reading – Vegan Travel Food Ideas)

Uncrustables

It can be challenging for any traveler to find a trusty, go-to snack that will satisfy your craving, whether you’re climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or you’re shopping in Tokyo’s Ginza District. 

And  for me, as a vegan traveler, my snack options can even be a bit more limited. So what has kept me sated as I hiked through the Grand Canyon or awaited a layover in Amsterdam’s airport?

Uncrustables, a sealed, crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in a handy individually-sealed package that’s totally portable, widely available in big box stores around my home country of the United States, reasonably inexpensive and, at 210 calories a pop, offers the perfect amount of food as a substantive snack between meals.

 And with protein dense peanut butter (6 grams!) and that sweet sugar rush from the grape jelly, Uncrustables, in terms of providing a solid level of satiety and energy, punch far above their weight.

Better yet, Uncrustables are perfect for a quick breakfast or a midnight snack- no one is going to give you side-eye for partaking in a good ol’ PB&J, no matter the time of day. 

Which brings me to my favorite thing about Uncrustables- the comforting, even nostalgic tastes of a plain and simple white bread peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

When I’m off exploring new faraway lands or the remote backounty, the familiar taste of my childhood favorite can offer me a little bit of a security blanket.- what more could you possibly ask for in a travel snack?!

Quick Veggie Couscous

Cooking is one of the things I miss most when I’m traveling. So as often as possible, I like to book Airbnbs or hostels with a kitchen. Over the years, I’ve gotten really creative with coming up with easy, cheap (and healthy!) meals that I can make no matter where in the world I am – whether it’s in a campervan or a tiny hostel kitchen.

One of my go-to meals is a one-pot veggie couscous. (If it’s available, I like to switch out the couscous for quinoa because it’s more nutritious.)

You can use any vegetables that are in season (I like to check out the local farmers market)

Plus, you can experiment with different seasoning combinations: You can go as simple as salt and pepper, or you can get creative with pesto, fresh lemon, and vegetable bouillon cubes.

Basically, you put all the chopped vegetables in a pot and steam with a bit of water for a few minutes. Add the grains and enough water to be absorbed (quinoa needs more water and more time to cook than couscous). 

Lastly, season according to your taste and what you have on hand. Now it’s time to enjoy this healthy, cheap and delicious meal! And be sure to pack up any leftovers in a Tupperware container so it doesn’t go to waste! And if that sounds good, check out more of my easy backpacking meals.

Katie & Ben Zweber from Two Wandering Souls (Further Reading Backpacking Recipes)

Powdered Peanut butter

When I’m traveling, whether I’m backpacking, staying in a hostel, a hotel, or an AirBnB, I don’t always feel like eating in a restaurant or preparing anything complicated. I want something quick, healthy, and filling. 

My favorite easily packable food is Powdered Peanut Butter. 

Basically, it’s simply powdered peanuts, perhaps with sugar or salt added. Just mix it with water and surprise! You’ve got smooth, creamy peanut butter that’s hard to tell from any you’d scoop out of a jar, but with 80-90% less fat, 1/3 the calories, and about 6 grams of protein per serving

I’ve tried two different brands, Jiffy Peanut Powder and PB2, in both the regular and the organic varieties. I don’t find a lot of difference between them. All gave me a nice smooth result with very little work. 

Spread it on whole-grain crackers, a baguette fresh from a Parisian bakery, or a ripe apple, and you have a mini-meal that can get you a good distance. Since it’s a powder, it’s extremely light and easy to carry. And here’s more great news—it also comes with cocoa added! The PB2 brand also offers a powdered almond butter. 

I haven’t tried it yet, but you can bet I’m going to. I’ve bought Powdered Peanut Butter in US supermarket chains. I’ve even found PB2 in Mexican supermarkets.

It’s also available online in several different brands.

 A small 6.5 oz jar of PB2 costs $3.00 on Amazon, 16 oz costs $8-8.50. Other brands and sizes have comparable pricing.

Donna from Nomad Women

Biltong

Whilst visiting South Africa, we came across the dried meat snack which the country is so famous for – biltong! 

Whilst you can buy biltong in many supermarkets and local shops at home, you can be sure that it is nothing like what you can find at its origin. Most often made from beef, but also with lots of different game varietals, like springbok, impala and wildebeest, biltong can make a very easy and tasty snack to travel with. 

The snack is first rubbed with salt and a spice mixture and then either traditionally dried in the open air or using heat for between 4 hours and up to many days. It is often compared to the snack commonly found in the USA – jerky, although with the key difference being the lack of smoking in making biltong.

 Although usually eaten as a snack, it is also sometimes used locally for cooking in stews and casseroles with great depth of flavour – its high protein content makes it a healthy and delicious treat.

Laura & Charlie FROM THE TRAVELLING STOMACH 

Fruit Leather

When I’m on the trail, I often like something sweet and sour that will help boost my sugar levels without making me feel overly full and allow me to think I’m having a decadent treat. Homemade fruit leather is my go-to for short day hikes or for planning ahead on longer treks. 

Snacks can be heavy and expensive, but blending and boiling down tasty fruits and veggies lightens the load and is friendly to your wallet. I try to choose whatever fruits and veggies are in-season that would go well together, and if in the off-season, I select frozen fruits and veggie blend juices to make a tasty snack. 

Keep in mind that fruit leather is dehydrated, with all water removed from the product before packing up for the trail – this means whatever flavors are in your initial food product will be exemplified ten-fold. 

Because of this, selecting fresh and tastier fruit and veggie options is always optimal. My go-to fruit leather recipe is taking fresh strawberries and banana, along with mango and carrot juice for some added natural sugar, blending them together with some water and a tad of lemon juice, then boiling them down until it reaches a chutney consistency. 

Pour the mixture in a thin layer over some parchment paper in a baking pan, or in a dehydrator, low and slow, ideally 200 degrees for 8 hours, depending on your heating unit. 

The product is delicious, full of those fruits and veggies we often miss on the trail, and light enough to not worry about carrying it along.

 FROM THE Expedition Wildlife (Further Reading Hiking Corsica’s GR 20 Guide )

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