After a full day in the wilderness, the last thing you have energy for is cooking an elaborate dinner. But, hiking to or around your campsite is sure to work up a big appetite. Without the option to call for take-out, here are three quick and easy backpacking meals you can rely on to fill you up without taxing your end of the day energy supply. With a little pre-planning, these three meals have only one step: just add water. The added bonus? Clean up is a breeze.

Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by Matt Matches

Loaded Potatoes

Instant mashed potatoes are a great way to fill up on comfort food. Add in a little dried gravy mix, bacon bits and chives. If you’re planning to chow down on this meal during the first day of your trip, you may even be able to get away with packing in a little fancy cheese. This quick fix gets a gold star for packing light.

*This dish makes a great side to fresh-caught fish cooked over an open flame (caught with a permit, of course).


Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by OakleyOriginals

Trail Mix Oatmeal

Whether you choose to bring the pre-packaged individual servings or a big bag of quick oats, both will result in a thick, tasty cereal that will stick to your ribs for hours in the backcountry. Just add boiling water and stir. For added protein and flavor, sprinkle in some of the dried nuts and berries left over from your trail mix. Have a sweet tooth? Add a scoop of peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for a melt-in-your mouth peanut butter cup flavor. Stir in a toasted marshmellow for a seriously sweet late night treat around the fire.


Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ramen noodles get a bad rap for being overly processed, but if you ditch the flavor packet before you go, you’re saving yourself from a lot of unnecessary sodium and crud. The plain noodles cook quickly in boiled water. Drain the excess water (away from camp) and add in a package of tuna, chicken or salmon. You can find all three in easy-open foil packets that are lightweight and easy to pack out. Chili flakes or your favor hot sauce will seal the deal on this easy meal. (Hint: the little packets from Taco Bell are great!) If space and weight aren’t an issue, a can of peas can up the caloric intake and flavor. Bring everything you need for this meal in a Zip-lock bag that can double as a sealable trash bag for the hike out.

Easy Backpacking Meals
Photo by OakleyOriginals

Helpful hints:

  • Anything you can find at the grocery store that is dehydrated can make a great addition to “just add water” meals– but watch out for over-processed products high in MSG.
  • If something you purchase comes in heavy packaging, see if you can break it down into smaller Zip-lock bags that can be reused and recycled. They are much easier to pack and you will have less trash to worry about in the wilderness.
  • Keep in mind, when you’re in the backcountry the only calories you should be worried about are the ones you haven’t eaten yet. Your body needs tons of extra energy when you’re hiking, climbing and exploring the wilderness.
  • Enjoy the fact that everything tastes better when you’re camping, and don’t be afraid to eat enough to keep your energy high. Stay fueled with added proteins like tuna, nuts and peanut butter.

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