11 Homemade Backpacking Meals

Are you sick of spending money out the wazoo for pre-packaged backpacking meals? Those things are $8-10 a pop, which means my recent 3 day trip with 3 people would have cost ~$180 for food alone!! That’s just crazy. So I decided to start making my own homemade backpacking meals.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

These easy to prepare homemade backpacking meals only cost $1.50-$2.00 each. So now you can spend all that hard earned cash on cool gear instead of food.

All these meals are prepared ahead of time. Store them in the freezer. Recipes with chicken will last about 1 week outside of the freezer. Recipes without chicken will last much longer outside the freezer. I’ve frozen these meals for up to 9 months before and they have still tasted great, although I would recommend eating them within six months.

*Note: I originally planned for these meals to be the boil-water-and-pour-into-bag type (like the typical ready-to-eat backpacking meals at REI), but I found that didn’t really work as well as I’d hoped. The dehydrated vegetables need a bit longer to soften up. If you don’t mind the veggies (especially peas) being a bit “al-dente”, then you can still use this method. If my stove/fuel allows it, I prefer to simmer for a bit. Another option (which I haven’t tried yet) could be to soak it in water for a bit, and then heat it up.

Where to buy Dehydrated/Freeze Dried Ingredients?

Most of these meals use dehydrated ingredients. Here’s where I buy them from. All of these except for Trader Joe’s are in bulk, so it’s a bit of an investment up front but you can make tons of meals from these, and it definitely saves money. I made up the initial cost in my very first trip compared to what I would have spent in pre-packaged freeze dried meals.

  1. Harmony House Foods Dried Vegetable Sampler
  2. Mountain House Cooked Diced Chicken
  3. Hoosier Hill Farm
    1. Butter powder
    2. Parmesan Cheese powder
    3. Big Daddy Mac mix, No Color Added
    4. Peanut Butter Powder
  4. Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Fruit

 

Why use dehydrated/freeze dried ingredients?

  1. Ultralight-taking out the water content saves weight
  2. Saves space-meaning you have a more compact pack, or easily pack more food for a longer trip
  3. Nutrition is mostly preserved
  4. Keeps much longer than fresh food

 

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Breakfast

I like to start my day with something warm in my belly (especially when the air is chilly). Here are my favorite recipes that I’ve eaten for breakfast on multiple trips.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

1. Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

 

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal
 
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The name says it all. Start your day on the trail right with this easy to make ahead backpacking breakfast.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ½ cup rolled oats (or use quick oats to cook faster)
  • ½ cup freeze dried bananas
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except water ahead of time into a sandwich size ziplock bag.
  2. When ready to eat, boil 1 cup water (it's fine to eyeball it), then add oatmeal mixture, reduce heat (if your stove allows), and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Or if you want to save fuel or can't simmer, just add oatmeal to boiling water, cover, and wait 5-10 minutes.

2. Strawberry Banana Oatmeal

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

 

Strawberry Banana Oatmeal
 
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Sweet, fruity, and satisfying light breakfast to get you on the trail quickly.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ½ cup oats (rolled or quick is fine)
  • ¼ cup freeze dried strawberries
  • ¼ cup freeze dried banana
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except water ahead of time into a sandwich size ziplock bag.
  2. When ready to eat, boil 1 cup water (it's fine to eyeball it), then add oatmeal mixture, reduce heat (if your stove allows), and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Or if you want to save fuel or can't simmer, just add oatmeal to boiling water, cover, and wait 5-10 minutes (quick oats would work better in this case).

Notes
I get my freeze dried strawberries and bananas from Trader Joe's.

 

3. Kick’n Grits

My original plan for this recipe was supposed to be shrimp and grits, but I couldn’t find any dehydrated shrimp. So I made this instead.

When my brother ate it, he said he eats better food on the trail with me than the food he normally eats at home. I’d say that makes this recipe a winner!

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Grits
 
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A slightly spicy homemade backpacking meal of grits, cheese, vegetables, and peppers. Enjoy comfort food on the trail!
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup instant grits
  • 1 tbs butter powder
  • 1 tbs parmesan cheese powder
  • 1 tbs dehydrated diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbs dehydrated bell peppers
  • 1 tbs dehydrated white onions
  • 1 tbs dehydrated broccoli
  • 1 pinch dehydrated jalepenos
  • salt to taste
  • summer sausage
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except water and sausage ahead of time into a sandwich size ziplock bag.
  2. When ready to eat, boil 1 cup water (it's fine to eyeball it), then add grits mixture, reduce heat (if your stove allows), and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.Slice sausage, add to grits, and serve.
  3. Or if you want to save fuel or can't simmer, just add grits to boiling water, cover, and wait 5-10 minutes.

 

5. Cheesy Bacon Grits

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

 

Cheesy Bacon Grits
 
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Don't sacrifice flavor just because you're in the woods. Enjoy a hearty dish of grits, bacon, and cheese before your long day on the trail.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 3 tbs instant grits
  • 1 tbs big daddy mac
  • 1 tbs parmesan
  • 2 dried mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pinch dehydrated jalepenos
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 strips cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients ahead of time except for bacon and water into a sandwich size ziplock bag. Keep chopped bacon in a separate baggie.
  2. When ready to eat, boil 1 cup water (it's fine to eyeball it), then add grits mixture, reduce heat (if your stove allows), and let it simmer for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Or if you want to save fuel or can't simmer, just add grits to boiling water, cover, and wait 5-10 minutes.
  4. Before serving, add bacon. Delish!

6. Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

With this one, I make the scrambled eggs ahead of time. I cook them almost all the way, and then I freeze them in a ziplock bag. I’ll leave it frozen until I leave, and then I eat it on the first morning of my trip. It will defrost through the first day/night. I wouldn’t wait any longer than that to eat it unless you are backpacking during the winter. Then in the morning, all I really need to do is heat it up.

My brother and I drinking our coffee on a chilly morning.

This recipe is heavier as it uses fresh ingredients rather than dehydrated. But I like it because it’s delicious and I eat it on the first morning anyway-so I’m not carrying it around for the entire trip.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon
 
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Easy make-ahead scrambled eggs that are cooked almost to completion before freezing. Take them out of the freezer when you leave for your trip and eat them the first morning.
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • 2 pieces bacon
  • 1 pepper, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • handful of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs milk
  • 2 tbs cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
  1. Cook 2 pieces of bacon and set aside.
  2. Using the fat from the bacon, sauté pepper, onion, and mushrooms for about 10 minutes. Add butter if necessary.
  3. Beat eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add to skillet and scramble. About 3-4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Chop bacon and add to eggs. Spoon into a ziplock bag and freeze until you leave for your trip.
  6. When ready to eat, heat up and serve.

 

Lunch/Dinner

I tend to only cook in the morning and night since I’m normally hiking during the day. For lunch, I’ll just graze on snacks. These recipes would work for either lunch or dinner though.

 

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

 

7. Chicken Curry Rice

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Homemade Backpacking Meals-Chicken Curry Rice
 
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Get your carbs and protein in with this chicken curry rice backpacking meal. A tiny bit spicy.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1 generous serving

Ingredients
  • ½ package instant brown rice (125 g)*
  • ¼ cup freeze dried chicken
  • ⅓ cup mixed freeze dried veggies (broccoli, carrots, peppers, etc)
  • 1 tbs dehydrated onions
  • 1 tbs desiccated coconut
  • 1 tbs butter powder
  • ½ tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except for water into a quart sized ziplock baggie.
  2. When ready to cook, boil water, add food, and reduct to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes
*Comes in a package that you would normally microwave.

 

8. Chicken Alfredo (a favorite among my climber friends)

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Homemade Backpacking Meal-Chicken Alfredo
 
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Italians know how to cook, even when they're out on the trail. This chicken alfredo will taste great after a long day of hiking.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Backpacking Italian
Serves: 2, or 1 very generous serving

Ingredients
  • 1 tbs powdered butter
  • 2 tbs powdered parmesan
  • 3 tbs big daddy mac
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup small quicker cooking pasta, like orzo, mini bowtie, pastina, or those little stars
  • ¼ cup freeze dried chicken
  • 1 tbs dehydrated peppers
  • 1 tbs roasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbs dried mushrooms, chopped
  • dried italian seasonings
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1¼ cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except for water into a quart sized ziplock baggie.
  2. When ready to cook, boil water, add food, and reduct to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

9. Chicken and Veggie Couscous

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Homemade Backpacking Meal-Chicken and Veggie Couscous
 
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Chicken, vegetables, and couscous. Lightweight in your pack, but filling once cooked.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1 generous serving

Ingredients
  • 2 tbs powdered butter
  • 1 tbs parmesan powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbs dehydrated onion
  • ¼ cup couscous
  • ¼ cup freeze dried chicken
  • ½ cup freeze dried veggies
  • 1½ cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except for water into a quart sized ziplock baggie.
  2. When ready to cook, boil water, add food, and reduct to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

9. Chicken Noodle Soup

This is my all-time favorite trail meal for when it’s cold out. It also is nice to heat this up for lunch on those frigid late/early season rock climbing days.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Homemade Backpacking Meal-Chicken Noodle Soup
 
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Chicken soup is for the soul. Especially when it's cold out and you're camping in the woods.
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1 generous serving

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup dried pasta (orzo or other small pasta)
  • ¼ cup freeze dried chicken
  • 1 tbs butter powder
  • 2 tbs parmesan powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup mixed dehydrated veggies
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • dash of Italian Seasonings
  • 2½ cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except for water into a quart sized ziplock baggie.
  2. When ready to cook, boil water, add food, and reduct to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

 

10. Mac ‘n Cheese

 

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

I don’t have a picture of the mac ‘n cheese, so hopefully this picture of my handsome dog will make up for it.

 

Homemade Backpacking Meals-Macaroni and Cheese
 
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Cheesy cheesy mac 'n cheese goodness.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Backpacking
Serves: 1-2

Ingredients
  • 1 cup small pasta (orzo, little stars, etc)
  • 1 tbs powdered butter
  • 2 tbs powdered parmesan
  • 3 tbs big daddy mac
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated carrots
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated peas
  • 1 tbsp dehydrated bell peppers
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients except for water into a quart sized ziplock baggie.
  2. When ready to cook, boil water, add food, and reduct to a simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Notes
One time I tried to use elbow macaroni. Even after probably fifteen minutes of simmering, it still was a bit crunchy. I suggest a smaller, faster cooking pasta instead of traditional elbow macaroni.

11. Hamburger Hobo

A boy scout classic, and my Dad’s specialty. Altered a bit for cooking on a stove. This meal weighs more than the others, since it is all fresh ingredients. I like to eat it on the first night so it doesn’t spoil and also so I’m not carrying the extra weight for long.

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

Hamburger Hobo
 
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Ground beef, veggies, and seasonings. Can't get any simpler than that.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Camping
Serves: 1

Ingredients
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • ½ russet potato, cut into wedges
  • 2 carrots, cut into rounds
  • salt/pepper/other seasonings to taste

Instructions
  1. Make this at least 1 night before your trip.
  2. Add all ingredients to skillet. Cook until beef is browned and potatoes are tender. Stir frequently.
  3. Let cool, then spoon into a ziplock baggie and keep in the freezer until the day of your trip.
  4. It will defrost as you hike. Then reheat and serve for dinner.
  5. If you have a campfire, put all ingredients into an aluminum foil pouch and cook on the fire the cowboy way.

Notes
Tip: freeze it in a foil packet instead of ziplock. Then reheat it in your pot inside the foil for easy cleanup. Just make sure to put it in a bag or something while you hike so it doesn't leak. It's best to eat this the first day you are out on the trail. Keep frozen until you are ready to leave on your trip.

 

Stoves

A note on gear-the two stoves pictured in these recipes are the MSR Dragonfly Stove and the Snow Peak Gigapower Auto Stove. I like both. The Snow Peak is a more recent purchase. I’m finding I like the MSR better for when I’m cooking for more people, as it is more stable for a larger pot. It weighs more, so it’s great when I am sharing gear with people. I prefer the Snow Peak when it is just myself or when I’m looking for something more lightweight and compact. It’s incredibly easy to use.

Do you have any delicious trail recipes to add? Let me know. I’m always up for new ideas!

Make your own inexpensive, ultra-light, dehydrated, just add water backpacking meals for hiking or camping when you need an easy and nutritious meal.

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