What Should You Have For Lunch While Backpacking?

There's nothing quite like the feeling of embarking on a new backpacking adventure. However, with long hours of strenuous physical activity ahead, it's essential to fuel your body with nutritious meals - especially at lunchtime, when a quick and satisfying break can make all the difference. That's why mastering the art of meal planning is a crucial skill for any backpacker looking to make the most of their adventure.

Check out our guide below to learn more about meal planning while backpacking!

Backpacking Sandwich

Meal Planning Basics

The best food for backpacking is nutrient dense, lightweight, shelf-stable, and easy to prepare. You likely won't have the tools to prepare complex meals on the trail, nor will you want to carry avoidable extra weight - so simple meals are important.

For nutrition, expect to consume in excess of your normal daily caloric intake, typically between 2,500 to 4,000 calories. This might sound like a lot, but backpacking is strenuous and you'll need the additional calories to keep your energy up.

Eating a homemade bar while backpacking on Ross Lake

When choosing shelf-stable food, there's a a lot pick from, and it largely comes down to personal preference. When I'm planning my meals, I try to select different textures (like crispy or creamy) and flavors to help keep my palate motivated.

These are a few examples of our go-to shelf-stable backpacking foods:
  • Hard cheeses and cured meats like salami, smoked salmon, or jerky.
  • Pasta, ramen, rice, and oatmeal.
  • Instant or freeze-dried meal packages.
  • Energy bars or meal replacement bars.
  • Nuts and nut butters (like peanut butter!).
  • Packets of tuna, salmon, or chicken.
  • Tortillas, pita bread, or bagels.
  • Chocolate, pop tarts, and other packaged deserts.
  • Dried fruit like apricots or apples.
Spread of food while backpacking

When picking your backpacking food, it's also important to choose food that You know you'll enjoy eating.

Even if you've selected the "ideal" backpacking food according to some list or article (like this one), if you don't enjoy the food you've brought, you'll be less than happy at mealtime.

When meal planning, we balance tastiness with how "backpackable" something is. For example, we like to bring large home-made deli sandwiches for the first day's lunch: they're not lightweight, but definitely taste amazing!

Ideas for Lunches and Snacks

Mac & Cheese

Mac & Cheese is lightweight, tastes great, and has a lot of variety depending on how you choose to prepare it. Take your favorite brand of store-bought mac & cheese (or use plain pasta), and level it up by adding your favorite mix-ins.

Potential mix-ins for prepackaged Mac & Cheese:
  • Dried Jalapeños.
  • Salami or other cured meats.
  • Powdered milk.
  • Bacon bits.
  • Shelf stable cheeses like cheddar.
Prepping lunch at Tank Lakes

Tortilla and Pita Wraps

Tortilla and Pita bread wraps make a good base for a backpacking lunch, as they are lightweight, quick to assemble, and versatile.

Check out our favorite wrap fillings, or use your imagination to pick what's right for you!
  • Peanut butter, crumbled Oreos/Poptarts, and banana chips.
  • Cheddar or cream cheese, tuna/salmon packets, and hot sauce.
  • Instant or freeze dried meals.
  • Literally anything combined with peanut butter. We seriously love peanut butter for backpacking!


The incredible thing about Oatmeal is how customizable it is. With the right combination of mix-ins, plain oats transforms into something magically delicious. Experiment with nuts, dried fruit, coconut, chocolate, peanut butter, or fresh-picked berries off the trail!

Oatmeal made on the trail

Chocolate-covered peanut butter dates

Our favorite trail snack (and all-around amazing treat) is chocolate-covered peanut butter filled dates, AKA "healthy snickers". These taste amazing, are easy to prep, and pack well on trips.

During warm weather the dates will get melty, so they are best packed in their own container.

Cheese & Crackers

We'll eat cheese and crackers as a midday snack, topping each bite with cured meat like salami. Hard cheeses and cured meats are shelf stable, and should remain fresh during a backpacking trip.

"Trail Curry"

"Trail Curry" is our go-to backpacking meal: a simple mixture of minute rice, prepackaged curry, and tuna. Cook the minute rice, stir in the curry, top with tuna, and serve!

Trail Curry


While not the lightest on the list, we love to prepare homemade sandwiches to eat within the first or second day of a backpacking trip. Homemade sandwiches are always shelf-stable (depending on your ingredients), so we generally eat these pretty quickly.

Sandwiches made with ingredients like peanut butter, nutella, and honey will last longer and may be kept wrapped for several days, or prepared on the trail.

Homemade backpacking sandwich

Other Tips

  • When possible, lunch near streams, rivers, or lakes. Having a water source nearby is useful for cooking and refilling water.
  • Try to balance protein, fat, and carbohydrates in your meals, so they are more sustaining and filling.
  • Packing hot sauce, spices, and other condiments adds much-needed flavor to food that would be otherwise bland and boring.
  • Plan to eat your heaviest food first instead than saving it for later. Lightening your pack early on will make the longer miles easier.

Still have questions? Send me a message over email to connect. Happy Trails!
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About Us

Heart Rock at Joshua Tree
Thanks for visiting our travel blog, Trails And Trekking! We're Lauren and Anders - an adventure loving couple currently stationed in the Pacific Northwest. We're avid hikers, backpackers, and travelers. We're both originally from Oregon, but we've spent the last two years traveling the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We created this blog to share our passion for exploring the outdoors, and to inspire you to get outside.