10 Healthy Ultralight Backpacking Foods for Your Next Trip

Ultralight backpacking foods can get a little tricky. First, you have to make sure you have enough food depending on your trip length. Second, you have to plan out all your meals and what ingredients you’ll need. Oh yeah, then there’s that part where you have to go to the store and buy everything! So much meal prepping seems to take away the adventurous part of any backpacking trip, doesn’t it? 

So I used to think that there were only two ways to cook ultralight backpacking foods: the easy way with as many pre-made packaged meals (usually very high in sodium) vs the healthy way in which you spend hours prepping meals and figuring out how long the dehydrator will take to finish your first batch of snacks.
I don’t have anything against packaged foods as long as you balance it out with the other non-packaged foods. Remember bulk is always better! Ideally making your own home-cooked meals and snacks is better but it’s also very time-consuming.
My philosophy on ultralight backpacking foods is that they should be nutritious, simple, be bought in bulk as much as possible, should be lightweight, and should be quick to prepare. Here is a list of my 10 favorite healthy ultralight backpacking foods: 5 snacks, 5 breakfast, and 5 dinner ideas. Feel free to use them interchangeably. I love a good breakfast food for dinner once in a while anyway.

10 Healthy Ultralight Backpacking Foods for Your Next Trip

Table of Contents:

1. Trail Mix

2. Dried Fruit

3. Crackers and Cheese

4. Fruit Leathers

5. Veggie Chips

6. Oatmeal

7. Pancakes

8. Egg and Cheese Burritos

9. Powdered Milk

10. Granola

11. Dehydrated Veggies

12. Ramen

13. Pasta

14. Couscous

15. Lentils

1. Trail Mix, Snack

Oh, what would we do without GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts)? If you’re bored of GORP, try mixing it up. It’s called trail mix for a reason! My recommendation is to add some dried fruit to it so it’s not as dry. My favorite mix is raw pumpkin seeds, pecans, raisins, cashews, raw sunflower seeds, and some prunes. I find that the raw and unsalted style works best. It’s already a dry snack, you don’t want to make yourself extra thirsty with so much added salt. If you like a little salt, maybe buy one of the seeds with salt to balance it out. Prunes are sweet and delicious and it’s a hack for avoiding elevation constipation! Trust me on this one, you’ll thank me later!

2. Dried fruit, Snack

Again, dried fruit is a healthy alternative to fresh fruits. Even though I love having fresh fruit all the time and I’d love to have it for my morning breakfast, it simply adds too much weight. If I really want a fresh piece of fruit, I might carry two or three mandarins and have them as a snack along the trail. Consider making your own dried fruits with a dehydrator. Pop in a variety of fruits in one batch for quick snacks. I personally will try to make dehydrated watermelon next. 

3. Crackers and Cheese, Snack

Crackers are a great choice as long as you get the tough kind. Trust me, Ritz crackers won’t make it. They barely make it in their own packaging. If you want a healthy option that will actually make it for the duration of the trip get crackers made with whole grains and seeds. They usually pack better and have an added crunch. I also love pairing my crackers with some cheese, but if I’m going on a trip in the summer, I’ll leave the cheese at home. I’ve had experience with cheese packets becoming oil packets so no thank you. I’m loving Trader Joe’s Almond Cheese. It doesn’t melt as fast, which can be great as a backpacking snack! 

4. Fruit Leathers, Snack

Fruit leathers are like the adult version of fruit snacks. When you’re on the trail you’ll definitely crave something sweet. And as much as I love chocolate, I don’t like bringing along melted chocolate. Fruit leathers are a healthy alternative to candies. You can even fit them into your back pants pocket for easy access and they’ll be soft from the warmth of your bum. Yes, I’ve tried it and it works! No more tough fruit leathers.

5. Veggie Chips, Snack

If you’re like me, you probably crave chips all the time. I mean who can’t resist the crunchiness of potato chips and cheese Cheetos? But if you want something that’s a bit healthier you can include Snapea Crisps, and Trader Joe’s Veggie Straws or Chips. Now there’s no guarantee any of these won’t be crushed to bits in your pack but they are tasty to have on the trail. You can even use the crushed bits as a crunchy topping to your ramen or pasta. Because what’s the number one rule of a camp kitchen?… Be resourceful!

6. Oatmeal, Breakfast

I used to buy individually packed oatmeal for my backpacking breakfasts until I figured I could just make my own with a lot less sugar! Plus if you’re backpacking with more than 3 people you might want to make a big batch anyways. Just buy oats in bulk, a little cinnamon, freeze-dried fruits like blueberries or apples, some chia seeds, and a bit of sugar or no sugar at all. All you need is boiling water to cook it all in or you can use powdered milk to give it some extra flavor. 

7. Pancakes, Breakfast

Pancakes are a staple breakfast food, but how to manage the process of making pancakes while backpacking? It’s actually easier than you think. Just buy the pancake mix that only requires water and voila! But if you want to add a touch of nutrition to it, add some flaxseed meal to the mix and some crushed almonds. You can even add a little bit more baking powder for extra fluffy pancakes. I find it easier to mix all of the dry ingredients together and place them into a labeled baggie before the trip. If only there was a way to make waffles while backpacking! Somebody, please invent an ultralight waffle maker!

8. Egg and Cheese Burritos, Breakfast

Tortillas, tortillas, tortillas! Flour tortillas pack so well for backpacking trips. They’ll fit in any crevice you have left in your backpack. I’ve even used them to roll up socks and underwear before. How nifty of me! Ok well maybe I’m kidding on that one but they really do pack well inside your pack and don’t crumble like bread or break like crackers. Plus they pair up great with some powdered eggs and cheese for a quick breakfast burrito. 

9. Powdered Milk, Breakfast

Powdered milk is good to have with granola cereals or to cook your whole grain cereals in. If you eat dairy free, you can substitute it with powdered coconut milk or soy protein powder.  

10. Granola, Breakfast

Granola cereal makes a great breakfast in the mornings. You can eat it dry or have it in a bowl with some powdered milk and hot water. You can even add some dried fruits for extra flavor and a balance of crunchy to chewy ratio. Food texture ratios are more important than you think! 

11. Dehydrated Veggies, Dinner

I don’t necessarily crave plain veggies by themselves, I mean who does? But they are a great option to have on your backpacking trips. You can add them to anything as a topping for dinners or you can have them as a snack just add a little salt and pepper and they’re ready to go. You can find a variety of dehydrated veggies at your local supermarket. A quick tip: Trader Joe’s has a great variety of dehydrated goods. They even have dried okra!

12. Ramen, Dinner

Ok, who doesn’t love a good hot ramen while out in the backcountry?! It’s noodly, it’s soupy, it’s anything you want it to be. I love ramen and even though I try not to buy so much packaged food, when I’m backpacking, who can resist Maggi masala Noodles? If you like spicy food, this is your go-to ramen. I know instant noodles don’t really scream “healthy food” but life is about living in balance no?! And if you want to make your own style you could always buy unflavored freeze-dried ramen noodles and bring along some spices for your ramen concoction. 

13. Pasta, Dinner

Pasta is a quick dinner option just bring along your favorite pasta, tomato paste, and spices. Trader Joe’s has some healthy pasta alternatives like quinoa and brown rice pasta. Just keep in mind these do take longer to cook. You might want to make these on your second night of backpacking. The first night I’m so hungry and tired, I usually will make whatever is quickest. Trader Joe’s also carries a tomato paste that’s perfect for adding flavor. Just top it with some parmesan cheese, basil, and chili flakes, a couple of dried veggies and it’s ready. 

14. Couscous, Dinner

Couscous is one of my favorite dinners to make with some chicken and veggies. All you need is freeze-dried chicken and veggies, and some whole wheat couscous. It’s so easy to make and it’s a healthy dinner option. Couscous is fluffy and it cooks in 5 minutes, which is faster than rice or noodles.

15. Lentils, Dinner

Lentils are one of my favorite dinners because of how easy it is to combine with other ingredients. You could practically mix anything with and it’ll taste great! Lentils do however take longer to cook, about 15-20 minutes. You could soak them overnight, but that’s extra work. Instead, buy split red lentils, these will cook in 7 minutes! 

Ultralight backpacking foods can be healthy too, it just requires a bit of creativity and planning when grocery shopping around at your local market. Though I was not sponsored by Trader Joe’s to write this post, I do mention them a lot because I’ve found it very easy to find ultralight food options here. Plus I already shop here weekly so it makes sense to pick up a couple more items for my outdoor trips. I hope this list has given you some meal ideas food your next trip as well!

Happy Backpacking!
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