High quality, nutritious meals are a must while hiking in the backcountry. After a long day of burning calories on the trail, I can’t think of anything better than cooking a hot meal to replenish energy and boost morale. There are a lot of different options out there to choose from. On my backpacking trips, I like to have a few options when packing for a trip to mix up the menu a little. It is also nice to throw in a ready meal option like an MRE every now and then, but they can be on the heavy side and won’t really work so well in an ultralight situation. Let’s take a look at 5 delicious and easy backpacking dinners below.
Meal #1 – Spicy Fried Rice – Approximately 600 calories
Fried rice is an excellent meal to have on the trail, and it isn’t as complicated as you might think. Here are the ingredients for this easy to make night one dinner:
- 1 cup of instant rice
- 2 tablespoons of dehydrated onions
- ¼ cup of dehydrated peppers (of your choice, mix and match to add spice)
- Kikkoman fried rice mix
- 1/8 tsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- .5 L water
Pack all of the dry ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag, shaking them up to mix well. When you’re ready to cook and eat, boil the water and add it to the bag directly (it is recommended to have the bag in another pot or bowl). Stir and cover for 5-10 minutes until everything is re-hydrated and cooked. Mix in the olive oil and it is read to eat with trail crackers.
Meal #2 – Mountain Chicken Pasta – Approximately 500 calories
This is one of my favorite backcountry recipes. It is delicious and very easy to make on the trail. Here is the ingredient list:
- 2 Knorr butter and herb pasta packets (8 total ounces)
- 1 3-5 ounce packet of chicken
- 3 ounces sun dried tomatoes
- 5 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
- 2 ounces of dehydrated onions
- 2 ounces of dehydrated assorted peppers
Pack the tomatoes, pasta, parmesan cheese and all the other ingredients in separate bags, and keep the chicken in the pouch. When cooking, boil 1 cup of water and pour over the tomatoes. Let sit while you cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. When 5 minutes remain, add the mixed herbs, dried veges and chicken to the pasta. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pasta. Pour in the cheese, stir, and enjoy!
Meal #3 – MRE Of Your Choice – Approximately 1250 calories
You’re probably thinking, “wait a minute, I wouldn’t count any MRE as delicious.” Maybe you’re right. But there are a few MRE options out there that I really don’t mind eating at all. You might even say I like them. But only in a certain context: the middle (or towards the end) night of a grueling backpacking trip. By this point, I’m usually expending more energy than I am taking in and in need of a surge of calories. This is what a full MRE meal offers. They aren’t lightweight (not dehydrated and full of water weight), don’t pack very well, and lack a bit of sophistication, but it’s hard to beat the per ounce caloric intake from an MRE. Throw in an MRE heater, and you don’t even need to get your stove or cooking gear out. It is the perfect mid-trip meal all around. A few that I enjoy include: beef stew, meat loaf with gravy, the beef patty, and spaghetti with meat sauce. Avoid the jambalaya, anything with ‘chicken’ in the title, and the tuna options.
MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat) – Two Course Fresh MREs with Heaters – 5 Year Shelf Life (Pack of 6)
Meal #4 – Cheesy Potatoes – Approximately 500 calories
Idahoan Real Mashed Gable Carton, Premium, 52 Ounce
Instant potatoes are a common staple for backpacking because they cook ‘instantly’ and are filling and hearty. My cheesy potatoes recipe is easy and requires the following ingredients:
- 2 ¼ cups of instant mashed potatoes
- ½ cup of instant dry milk
- 1 cup of crumbled bacon
- 1 package of powdered cheese spread
- 2 tbsp dried onions
- 2 tbsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp of butter powder
- 4 ½ cups of water
Mix all of the ingredients in a quart sized Ziploc bag. Boil 4 ½ cups of water and add to the bag (place bag in another bowl for easy mixing and eating) and stir well. Wait for about 5 minutes, and add additional water if necessary. Enjoy your cheesy potatoes with camp crackers.
Meal #5 – Sweet Chicken and Rice – Approximately 500 calories
Because I’m such a rice fan, there are two recipes with rice on this list. It is easy to make, and perfect for the last night on a five day excursion. Here is what you need:
- The seasoning packet from 1 box of instant wild rice (my favorite is the toasted almond flavor)
- 1 cup of dried cranberries
- 1 7-ounce packet of chicken
- 2 cups instant rice
- 3 cups of water
Boil 3 cups of water and add the instant rice with the seasoning packet. Stir in the chicken and cranberries. Let stand for 5 minutes and that’s all she wrote!
Nutritious meals are essential for backpacking success, but it isn’t as easy as grilling up a burger or cooking with refrigerated ingredients in your spacious kitchen. It takes a little more planning to pack lightweight, easy to cook meals. The five meals listed above are easy to make, packed full of calories and flavor, and did I mention delicious?
What are your favorite easy backpacking dinners? Have you tried one of the recipes (or a variation on one) above? Let us know the recipes in the comment section below. Thanks for reading and happy trails!