CAMPING & HIKING

Best Backpacking Food: Being Healthy Means Eating Healthy

A jar full of snacks on the side on a wooden table
Mark Foster
Written by Mark Foster

Are you looking for a great food to hit the trail with? Do you need more protein? How do you know if the food you chose has all the important nutrients and ingredients to give you energy on your backpacking adventures? You should consider getting the best backpacking food if you want enough energy to get you through the day in the outdoors.

So, what is backpacking food? It is the one that you don’t have to prepare. If you are looking for a snack food that you can fit into a small backpack or shoulder bag, you’ll need to get creative. But, you don’t have to skimp on nutrition. There are so many different backpacking foods that you can choose from that offer high levels of nutrition, and a range of essential nutrients – with little to no preparation.

backpacking food ideas on a table

In this article, we are going to give you some information on nutrition and how having the right food will help you outdoors, and show you some reviews on products that are delicious, nutritious and are easy to pack with you.

Our top picks

Product NameVeganKosherGluten FreeSpecific FeaturesPack WeightPrice
Nature’s Bakery Whole WeatYesYesYesSmall, great on the go2 ozCheck price on Amazon
Probar Superfood SlamNoNoYesHigh protein, plant based0.78 ozCheck price on Amazon
Kate’s Real Food StashNoNoYesOrganic, soy free, non-GMO2.2 ozCheck price on Amazon
Taste of Nature OrganicYesYesYesOrganic, non-GMO1.4 ozCheck price on Amazon
GoMacro OrganicNoNoYesOrganic, tasty, many flavors1.20 ozCheck price on Amazon
RiseBar High ProteinYesYesYesOrganic, high protein2.1 ozCheck price on Amazon
All Natural 5 BeanNoNoYesAll natural, French style18 ozCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

In this section, we are going to go over many things to take into account when you are looking for a great backpacking food. This will help you to narrow down what to look for before we get to the tasty reviews!

Nutritional Basics

For outdoorsmen, nutrition isn’t just food, it’s fuel. Your body needs more than just a meal when you head out into the wilderness – it needs macronutrients. The best backpacking meals include plenty of the nutritional basics: carbohydrates, fat, and protein, but when it comes to providing your body with what it needs for lasting energy, repair and recovery, you’ll need more than that.

As a rule of thumb, if you are heading out for a long hike or overnight trip in the wilderness, try to consume 45 – 65 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 15-20 percent from protein, and 20-35 percent from fat. This may seem contrary to what you’d usually eat in your day-to-day schedule, but camping isn’t the same was working in the office.

A man with a Meal Go snack in the hands

You’re going to be doing a lot of work, and you’re going to need the calories to burn so you can get a leg up on the day’s journey. Foods in their natural state are the best form of nutrients and Mother Nature has a lot to offer!

Here are just five of the best hiking food choices you should consider packing with you if you’re not interested in eating off the trail.

Dried Fruit  When you are on a long trail, you may need a quick burst of energy. And you will always need a range of nutrients. Fresh fruit can easily (and quickly) spoil, but dried fruit will always keep.

Close-up image of Dried Fruit

Just be careful to check the nutrition label on any dried fruit bag you choose, as many varieties contain up to 25 grams of added sugar per serving. While natural sugar provides a good source of energy, added sugars can include processed, and modified types of artificial sweeteners that ultimately end up draining your energy levels.

Oatmeal – Those tiny packets of oatmeal make a great go-to meal idea early in the morning, but they also make great backpacking food! The kinds where you just add water can be mashed up and added into travel containers of yogurt and granola or you can simply heat up water and add it into the mix for a protein packed snack food that works great on the trail or during overnight trips.

Image showing an oatmeal jar on the side and oatmeal in a spoon and on table

As a note of caution: do not opt for microwave varieties as many contain toxic chemicals that can damage your health. You also won’t have access to a microwave while you’re out in the woods.

Seeds & Nuts – Not all food bars are created equal. Some so-called health food snack bars can contain as many calories as an entire meal, and more sugar than a candy bar! Skip those sugar bombs and opt for an all-natural seed & nut bar instead. The essential fats provided by nuts help to keep tendons, ligaments and muscles loose and also will help keep you mentally sharp even if you are on an Appalachian trial.

Dehydrated Vegetables -Just like Mom used to make… or something like that. Cheap, easy to prepare, and hot on your plate, dried vegetables like potatoe flakes are an exceptional option when you are trying to prepare a back country dinner. The best dehydrated food to pack when you need to replenish your body is undoubtedly dried organic vegetables of all types. They’re rich in nutrients, and the fiber will help to keep you regular.

dehydrating vegetables in a plate on the table

Honey – Sometimes you just need some sugar! Stash local honey packets in your pocket or backpack so you’ll always have a nutrient-dense energy booster when you need one. Honey is one of the only naturally-occurring substances on Earth that contains a blend of sucrose and glucose, and also provides LOADS of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help your body recover from a long trail adventure. Just be careful how you store it, as its sweet scent can attract the local wildlife.

Meal Planning Tips

Before you take to your favorite trail, you will want to set aside healthy and nutritious food options for your journey. Most adults need to consume between 2,500 and 4,500 calories per day when traveling in the backcountry. If you are wondering how much to carry, it is better to pack more than you think you will need instead of not having enough for you to keep going.

But you don’t want to pack too much and weigh yourself down. Follow these simple backpacking meal planning tips:

Pack Food You Like – There is nothing worse than choking down nutritional snacks that you can’t stand the taste of. Choose foods that you will look forward to eating so that your snacks don’t bring you down.

Packed backpacking food on a table

Count Calories – If you are on a diet, calories can seem like your worst enemy. But out on the trail, they are your best friend. You need to get enough calories to provide your body with energy, and they should come from natural sources so that you don’t get an energy burst followed by a crash later. Great sources of lasting energy, including slow-digesting carbohydrates, essential fats and protein.

ConsiderConvenience – You need a snack that fits into your bag without much fuss and you also want to be able to tear into it when hunger strikes. Food bars are a great option for backpacking snacks, as are natural foods like fruits and vegetables.

How to Reduce Backpack Weight

Packing the right food and packing it properly, can reduce the overall weight of your backpack and can distribute the weight evenly across your back. Here is what you need to know to make your back feel less stressed:

Only pack the best foods – If you want to cut the weight of your backpack you’ll need to choose only the most calorie-dense foods. Those included in this article provide all of the essential nutrients your body needs for lasting energy, and recovery after a long day on the trail. Additionally, you can save space and weight by packing a water reservoir (bag) instead of a bottle.

A man cooking protein pasta in the camp

Eat a hearty breakfast – Before you head out for a long outdoor trail adventure, eat a balanced breakfast that includes enough protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats along with essential macronutrients to get your first meal out of the way before you hit the trail. This way, you can eliminate any extra weight by eating your first meal of the day at home. Outdoor backpackers are the most rugged type of endurance athletes out there. And they need good nutrition!

Don’t Skimp on Water

With all of the healthy food options you can choose from, it is very important not to forget one of the most important nutrients your body needs: water. Remember, that if you are thirsty, you are already showing signs of dehydration.

Ten glasses of water on a table

Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. And always prepare for an outdoor adventure ahead of time by drinking water before you head out. This will help to prevent dehydration when you are on the trail.

While most water bottles can take up a lot of space, and weigh you down, there are many different collapsible water containers you can take along. Many fold up tightly and easily clip to your backpack so they don’t take up any extra interior bag space.

Gluten Free Food

Being gluten free means not including any gluten in your diet. This can mean you are not eating a protein that is found in many breads called triticale. Generally, those that are gluten free have celiac disease in which having gluten will hurt their small intestines. Some people are gluten free because of gastrointestinal issues.

A bowl full of nunts on the table

Many foods are gluten free by nature. This can include many fruits, nuts, meats, and vegetables, as well as dairy products. You will also find many foods labeled as gluten free.

Best Products on Today’s Market

You are now about to see several product reviews on healthy foods you can hit the trail with. These foods are often organic, non-GMO and vegetarian or vegan. We sure hope you enjoy some of these on the list!

Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar Variety Pack Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar Variety Pack

Price: Approx. $21

Weight: 2 oz

Specific features: Non-GMO verified, certified vegan, certified kosher, gluten free, dairy free, soy free, cholesterol free

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches.

Description: When you need an on-the-go food you can feel good about, opt for Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar Variety Pack. Made with only the finest ingredients, including ancient grains and figs – you can feel good about enjoying Nature’s Bakery Bars. Variety pack includes these flavors: Strawberry, Raspberry, Apple Cinnamon, Fig, Lemon, and Peach Apricot.

This brand’s snack food supports health conscious people and their active lifestyles with the 4 pinnacles of achieving balance. These 4 pillars are: Nature, Activity, Nutrition, and Community. As a leader in the health food industry, Nature’s Bakery makes only the most delicious food bars with thoughtfully crafted ingredients perfect for packing away on the trail.

You can find these in various sized packs, such as the 36 count twin packs. We like the flavor varieties, and the amount of nutrients within, especially protein. The fact that it is kosher, soy free and cholesterol free makes this treat a hit!

PROS:

  • Great flavors, delicious
  • Great for snacks or anytime!
  • Healthy for everyone

CONS:

  • Can get stale upon arrival
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Can get moldy before expiration

Related: If you are a lover of fruity tasting snacks, then you may also enjoy Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks. Organic, you get your full daily dose of Vitamin C and it comes in delicious flavors.

Check the price on Amazon

Probar Superfood Slam Meal Bars Probar Superfood Slam Meal Bars

Price: Approx. $27

Weight: 0.78 oz

Specific features: Certified organic, non-GMO verified, gluten free, high protein, plant-based food

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches.

Description: The Probar Superfood Slam Meal Bars are convenient, healthy, plant-based food products. As an up and coming provider of REAL FOOD choices, they always maintain a commitment to quality, sustainability and fantastic taste.

With ingredients coming from sustainable, small impact sources, and a significant and positive impact on health, PROBAR does not compromise when it comes to quality, and their Non-GMO Project Verified products are proof that packaged food can maintain quality, sustainability, purity and taste.

With a variety meal bar flavors, PROBAR is the perfect balance of nutrition, taste, and convenience for your on-the-go lifestyle. Variety pack includes these flavors: Original Blend, Whole Berry Blast, Superfood Slam, Superfruit Slam, Superberry & Greens, Almond Crunch, Koka Moka, Chocolate Coconut, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Peanut Butter.

We enjoy these bars because they are easy to take with you anywhere, whether at home or on the go. The flavors are amazing and they offer lots of protein to get you through the day!

PROS:

  • 380 calories each
  • 10 g of protein
  • 6 g of fiber

CONS:

  • Lots of sugar
  • Some taste too sweet
  • Too dry for some

Related: If you are into chocolate type snacks, you can try the RxBar Whole Food Protein Bar, which has protein in it and comes in Chocolate Sea Salt. It includes egg whites, almonds, dates and cashews, too.

Check the price on Amazon

Kate’s Real Food Stash Bars Kate’s Real Food Stash Bars

Price: Approx. $33

Weight: 2.2 oz

Specific features: Organic, soy free options, dairy free options, gluten free options, non-GMO verified

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches

Description: The Kate’s Real Food Stash Bars are meant for anyone and everyone. When it’s time for you to eat and play, these bars are the perfect organic meal bar whether you’re ready for the rugged outdoors or just need some on-the-go nutrition for your active lifestyle.

With a commitment to small batch perfection, these bars, balance sustainability, physical health, and taste. And Kate’s doesn’t skimp. Their wholesome energy bars are made from organic ingredients.

And whether your outdoor play takes you deep into the back country or the urban jungle, Kate’s Real Food Stash Bars are the grab-and-go sustenance you can count on. Offered in Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate flavor, Kate’s Real Food Stash Bars are a healthy and environmentally responsible meal option that never compromises on taste.

PROS:

  • Various flavors
  • Includes dark and milk chocolate options
  • Great on the go

CONS:

  • Flax seeds are whole
  • Somewhat pricey
  • High in calories

Related: If you are looking for more of a bite sized snack, then Kate’s Real Food Grizzly Bites might work for you. It is listed as USDA approved Smart Snack and has a twist and save packaging.

Check the price on Amazon

Taste of Nature Organic Snack BarsTaste of Nature Organic Snack Bars

Price: Approx. $25

Weight: 1.4 oz

Specific features: Organic, non-GMO verified, gluten free, kosher, vegan

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches

Description: Non-GMO, gluten-free, and made only with real ingredients, the Taste of Nature Organic Snack Bars are a nutritious and tasty way to snack.

Using only the finest ingredients, like real nuts, organic fruit, and sweet agave syrup, Taste of Nature is a smart choice for both your body and your taste buds. In addition to creating the tastiest snacks, Taste of Nature is committed to responsible growth and development.

By sourcing products from only the best sustainable farms and powering production centers with 100% green energy, you can be confident that you’re not only getting a great tasting bar that’s good for you, but a product that’s good for the Earth too.

That’s something you can feel good about as you get out there and enjoy everything life has to offer. We like these organic bars because not only are they getting a delicious treat, but they are helping a company that is ethical as well.

PROS:

  • Good for you and the planet
  • Made with real ingredients for maximum health
  • Good for those of all ages

CONS:

  • Must be kept at room temperature
  • Some flavors aren’t as tasty as others

Related: If you want something in terms of popcorn, then SkinnyPop Popcorn is a great tasting treat that could work for you. You can find it in many flavors and its gluten free and low in calories.

Check the price on Amazon

GoMacro Organic Macrobars GoMacro Organic Microbars

Price: Approx. $26

Weight: 1.2 oz

Specific features: Vegan, organic, non-GMO verified, gluten free

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches

Description:The GoMacro Organic Microbars are made with 5 principles in mind: Vegan Eating, Wholesomeness, Macrobiotic Health, Giving Back, and sourced sustainability.

This family owned company prides itself on providing fuel for every aspect of your life. With a variety of unique flavors and ingredients including carob, sesame butter, coconut, and sunflower butter, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect fuel for whatever your lifestyle.

Variety pack includes these flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Cashew Butter, Peanut Butter, Banana and Almond Butter, Sunflower Butter and Chocolate, Almond Butter and Carob, Granola and Coconut, Sesame Butter and Dates, Cherries and Berries, Cashew Caramel, Apples and Walnuts, Coconut with Almond Butter and Chocolate Chips.

We enjoy this tasty snack because of the fuel it gives them and also because the ingredients are plant based. USDA organic, there are no additives and this bar is soy free. You may find that this award winner will keep your immune system healthy and give you energy!

PROS:

  • Great for all ages
  • No additives or preservatives
  • Award winning food

CONS:

  • High in sugar
  • Too many carbs and calories
  • Tastes very sweet for some eaters

Related: Stay hydrated with the Fiji Natural Artesian Water that has a smooth taste and is bottled in the Fiji Islands. Coming in various sized bottles, there’s no reason why you can’t keep one with you wherever you go!

Check the price on Amazon

Risebar Real Food Protein Bars RiseBar Real Food Protein Bars

Price: Approx. $22

Weight: 2.1 oz

Specific features: Non-GMO verified, organic, gluten-free, kosher

Best use: Backpacking, hiking, running, snack food, kid’s lunches

Description: RiseBar Real Food Protein Bars are crafted in small batches to ensure a pure, delicious flavor. With less than five ingredients you can be sure you’re eating 100% real food with the maximum nutrition and protein punch.

With a mission of simplicity, quality, and real energy, RiseBar High-Protein Bars simplify eating and feeling better, while allowing you to focus on the daily tasks and challenges that matter most in life.

And with a variety of flavors like cacao banana and sunflower cinnamon, you’ll be sure to find the perfect flavor of nutrition whether you’re on the trail, on the go, or just hanging out. It’s more than the nutrition you need; it’s the nutrition you deserve.

Protein variety pack includes these flavors: Almond Honey, Carob Chip, Snicker Doodle, Cacao Banana, Vegan Lemon Cashew, and Vegan Sunflower Cinnamon. This product comes in a nice variety and taste, plus its made with real food that is healthy for you!

PROS:

  • Full of protein
  • No peanuts included
  • Great on the go snack

CONS:

  • High in calories and fat
  • Feels greasy to some
  • Gets hard if not in room temperature setting

Related: If you need something that is low in sugar, you can enjoy the ThinkThin High Protein Bars which come in tasty flavors and are affordable. Try the Brownie Crunch or Chunky Peanut Butter!

Check the price on Amazon

All Natural Five Bean Soup All Natural Five Bean Soup

Price: Approx. $20

Weight: 18 oz

Specific features: All Natural, gluten-free, vegan

Best use: Quick meal for 8 – 10 people

Description: French country cooking at its finest with the All Natural Five Bean Soup. Just brown some chicken with an onion, add the colorful mixture of beans and vegetables and the aromatic spice packet to create an easy and delicious dinner in just one pot! It’s all natural, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free.

It will serve many people, which is great for camping with your family, or just making it to have leftovers later. Many people add in other ingredients to enhance the soup overall, without making it less healthy. This soup is easy to make and will definitely fill you up.

We have enjoyed this soup because not only is it delicious and healthy, but it’s easy to make and has recipes on the side of the package. You can consider buying this for your camping trips, or as gifts to other health-minded eaters.

PROS:

  • Can be made on stove top or crock pot
  • Can add other items into it without losing flavor
  • Feeds many people

CONS:

  • Makes too much for smaller groups
  • Too thick for some
  • Packaging is flimsy

Related: If this flavor of soup is not your thing, you can always try Minestrone soup! The Mama Sorrenti’s Minestrone Mix Soup comes with everything you need and its all natural and vegetarian.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

With the French style soup, we have reached the end of our article. By now, you must have realized that the best backpacking foods are those that supply the most nutrition in the smallest amount of space.

However, the most convenient options are not always the healthiest. In order to keep your backpack light, opt for the foods listed above and don’t forget to include a few items straight from Mother Nature.

Image showing vegetables and fruits at the market

These foods all provide a good amount of calories along with essential nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and plant-derived micronutrients to keep you jamming along your favorite trail! Get the fuel your body needs and the nutrients your muscles crave during recovery with these foods. The best foods for backpackers – and the most delicious!

Have you had a great experience with any of the above-mentioned products, or have stories of your own involving other great backpacking meals? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Foster
Mark Foster

Mark Foster loves to push his limits when it comes to survival in the wilderness. He might go for a 30-days adventure without any food or equipment except for a survival kit and a knife. We should mention that his survival kit has 122 items in it, so he know what he is doing. Mark is working on his book to share with the world all his experience gained during those brave adventures.

  • Ursula Mari

    Probar meal bar really keeps you full, and has excellent flavour. Texture is a little firmer than rice krispy treats with nuts in it. This is great emergency food. Way too much sugar for everyday consumption though, but ok since its meant to be a meal replacement.

  • Mark Foster

    It does but you’re right, it’s not for everyday consumption due to its sugar content. There are a lot of options available today, which guarantee that you won’t starve on your next outdoor adventure. One tip: you can dry fruits and vegetables using a dehydrator at home. It’s an excellent to pack nutritious food for people with dietary needs.

  • Luke Carver

    I’ve tried the GoMacro bars before. The taste isn’t too bad, to be fair, and exceeded my expectations. None of that artificial taste that other bars seem to have anyway. They’re somewhat lacking in protein, depending on the flavour you get, yet high in fat and carbs so I only tend to use them as snacks here and there. I like the fact that they don’t have a chocolate coating (or something similar) that can melt over time so they’re pretty good for hiking with.

  • Mark Foster

    Thanks for sharing your experience with the GoMacro bars. Those are packed with lots of nutrients that are good for the body. If you’re vegan, then this is the right food for you, and they’re GMO-free and organic, too. My favorite is their Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip – sooo good!

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