Planning for a hardy trail meal, snacks, & more

I love food, and I love hiking, so naturally, I love a good, hardy meal during a hike. There is something about hiking for hours, then taking a break to eat a decent meal to refuel your body and mind.

Planning for a meal usually begins a day or two before a hike for me. My hiking buddy and I will get on the phone and brainstorm what we want to eat, and make a list of everything we will need and want. Sometimes a deep plunge into our pantries will suffice, and sometimes a trip to the grocery store is in order. 

There are so many options for trail meals that are inexpensive, lightweight, and delicious. Sometimes I like to throw in a backpacking dehydrated meal because they are easy, fillings, and most of the time yummy. The downfall is that they can be on the pricier side, between $8-$15. I recently found out that Sierra Trading Post will sometimes get dehydrated meals, and if you can find some on clearance, you can save yourself a few bucks. During Christmas time last year, I was able to pick up 4 meals for $2 each, saving around $40! The great thing about these meals is that they have a very long shelf life. So now, if I am at Sierra Trading Post, I always check for clearance food to store away.

One thing I always have in my pack is Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee Packets with Creamer & Sugar. You can get a 10-pack for less than $2, and they last a long time. I used to pack Starbucks VIA Instant packets, and a small frozen container of half and half that would slowly thaw during the hike until I discovered Trader Joe’s coffee packets which are much more convenient. You can’t beat a hot cup of coffee overlooking a mountain range.

My twin sister, Kristen, and I enjoying a cup of hot coffee at the top of Mt. Rose.

Below are a few of my favorite trail meals:

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Meal #1

Enjoying some hot tomato soup and the view of Gladys Lake.

Meal #2 (My grandpa who used to backpack as a young adult introduced me to this one.)

Gramps and I eating our mash potatoes and roast beef on the top of Mt. Townsend.

Meal #3

Checking in on my chicken burrito bowl.

When planning, don’t forget snacks! Especially for longer hikes, you definitely want to have a couple of snacks with you. Some snacks I bring are:

Lastly, when I know I have a long drive to and from a trailhead, I always bring car snacks. Most of the time, my car snacks end up being the leftover snacks from my hike, but sometimes I like to pack something extra. Some of my go-to’s are:

  • Fruit (whatever is in season). A lot of the times I crave fruit on hikes, but won’t bring it because it tends to get beat up in my pack. Knowing it is waiting for me in my car is a treat.

Enjoying a juicy nectarine after a 14.65 mile hike to Buckhorn Lake.
  • Ice water. My mom taught me this trick. Fill your Hyrdroflask to the brim with ice, then fill it up with water and leave it in the car. When you make it back from your hike, you will have a refreshing, icy bottle waiting for you.
  • Chocolate. Just a little something sweet to cap off the day.

There are countless options for trail food out there. Get creative, try out something new, and have fun. Happy meal planning!

Another yummy dehydrated meal: Backpacker's PantryStroganoff Sauce with Beef and Noodles.

Another yummy dehydrated meal: Backpacker’s PantryStroganoff Sauce with Beef and Noodles.