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Backpacking Meals: 3-Day Trip Menu

Need a backpacking meal plan for your next trip? Check out this 3-day plan filled with easy, tasty backpacking meals.

This is a picture of a girl with a backpacking backpack on standing in front of the mountains. The words "3 day menu for a backpacking trip" are also on the image.

Backpacking Meals

Imagine your pantry (or whatever your food storage situation might be).

It might be freshly-stocked, or it might be in need of a resupply. Might as well be full if you're imagining, right?

Either way, take stock of what you have in there. What are your staples? What do you try to never go without? Trying anything new?

Okay, almost done. Now, imagine that, for the next few days, you have to carry around everything you plan on eating. How do you respond?

You could decide to go hungry, determining the task isn't worth the struggle. After all, someone on the internet is simply asking you to imagine it, so what good could come of it?

I'm obviously asking you to think like you're backpacking, where the situation holds true. You (or a combination of you and other members of your group) are carrying all the food you're going to eat for the duration of the trip, assuming you're not planning on eating everything.

The point of the imagination exercise is to help you realize that you're probably going to be looking for different things at the grocery store than you might if you were just going on a normal day.

What food is best for backpacking?

What you'll end up deciding on for your backpacking meals is up to you, but there are plenty of options. Sometimes it's nice to take out the guesswork and opt for pre-made freeze-dried or dehydrated meals. You gain convenience, but it certainly comes at a cost.

Most backpacking meal plans are going to be a mix of raw goodies (like nuts and fruits), snack-style options (bars, crackers, etc.), and entree-style dishes (red beans & rice, pasta dishes, and so on).

This is a girl with blonde hair and a black shirt kneeling over and eating a s'mores.

Backpacking Food Ideas

Here's a (non-exhaustive) list of things to start thinking about when making your backpacking meal plan:

  • Jerky
  • Fig bars
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Gummy candy
  • Rice Cakes & Peanut Butter
  • Tuna Packets & Crackers
  • Trail Mix
  • Nut Packets
  • Crispy Chickpeas
  • Protein Bars
  • Fruit Leather / Fruit Snacks
  • Dehydrated Meals
  • Bagels & Peanut Butter
  • Pita Pizzas
  • Chicken Pesto Tortellini
  • Red Beans & Rice

What food do you eat while backpacking?

That list might have seemed to be a random hodge-podge of (relatively) non-perishable food items. Yet there are more commonalities than it seems. When backpacking, you want foods that are:

  • Nutrient-dense
  • Lightweight
  • Packable
  • Convenient to eat

Bonus points for foods that are

  • Shelf- (or pack-) stable
  • Delicious
  • Affordable

It might seem hard to hit the sweet spot on all of those metrics, but it's certainly possible to do a good job. Read on for some principles I like to keep in mind when planning backpacking meals for a trip.

Tips for making a backpacking meal plan

  • Keep it simple - you'll thank yourself on trail.
  • Choose meals that sound good - if it doesn't sound good when you're planning, why would you look forward to eating it out there?
  • Keep nutrition in mind - while everyone has different needs, a high-protein, higher-carb breakdown with enough calories to keep you fueled will be great.
  • Consider how you'll cook - are you bringing a camp stove? Will a fire be allowed? Or do you need to go for no-cook options?
  • Plan around your schedule - are you just hiking? Or are you going to be climbing/swimming/spelunking or any number of other activities? Think about how your food needs will be affected by your plans.
  • Lunch vs. Dinner - as a general rule, I like to limit my lunches to no-cook meals and go for a heartier cooked option at the end of the day.
  • Build in some variety - just because you're backpacking doesn't mean you have to eat the same thing over and over.
This is a picture of a girl standing in front of mountains with a backpacking backpack on.

What food should I bring on a 3-day hike?

Obviously, the food situation can vary significantly depending on the length of your trip. For a shorter, 3-day trip, you can make a meal plan like the one below. This meal plan includes meal ideas, recipes, and instructions.

Backpacking Meal Plan

This backpacking meal plan is split between breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a 3-day hiking trip.


Most important meal yadda yadda yadda, right? Whatever your normal stance on breakfast may be—superfan or skipper—breakfast gains additional importance out on trail. Why's that? You're often doing some strenuous activity, and your body really needs something to work from.

Protein Oatmeal (hot)


  • 1 or 2 Instant Protein Oatmeal Packets
  • Hot water
  • Peanut Butter Packet
  • Granola 


  • Pour protein oatmeal packet into a bowl.
  • Add hot water & let the oatmeal soak.
  • Drizzle with peanut butter and sprinkle with granola. 

Overnight Protein Oats (cold-soaked)


  • Oats or Muesli
  • Chia Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dried Fruit
  • Cinnamon
  • Almond Milk (or instant milk + water)


  • Add oats (or muesli), chia seeds, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, and almond milk (or instant milk + water) into a jar or bowl with a lid.
  • Shake well and let sit overnight. 
This is a picture of a recipe for overnight protein oats.

Dehydrated Breakfast Skillet Meal



  • Cook by following instructions on the package.


As I mentioned above, I like to avoid lunches that require a stove or a fire to put together. Easy, no-cook meals come in clutch in the middle of a long day of activity.

Bagel Sandwiches 

There are plenty of different ways to use bagels, and I think all of them are delicious.


  • 1: Bagel + Peanut Butter + Jelly 
  • 2: Bagel + Cream Cheese + Salami + Pickles
  • 3: Bagel + Turkey + Cheese 
  • 4: Bagel + Peanut Butter + Banana


  • Cut the bagel in half. Add desired topping combinations. Store in a reusable bag until ready to enjoy. 


Again: you can be fancy without a fire.


  • Tortillas 
  • Cream Cheese
  • Salami
  • Pickles
  • Spinach
  • Optional: Extra Veggies 


  • Gather ingredients. 
  • Spread cream cheese on tortilla. 
  • Layer with pieces of salami. 
  • Top with pickles, spinach, and your favorite veggies. 
  • Roll the tortilla into a thin log. Slice horizontally into small pieces. 
  • Enjoy!

Pita Pizzas

If takeout won't quite make it to the campsite, why not make some pizzas yourself? It's never the wrong time for a pita pizza (or, as I've heard them called, "adult lunchables").


  • Pitas
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Pepperonis
  • Optional: Olives, Bacon, or other favorite pizza toppings


  • Gather all ingredients. 
  • Place pitas on a flat surface. 
  • Use a spoon to scoop and spread pizza sauce into a thin layer covering the entire pita. 
  • Sprinkle a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Place pepperonis on top. Add optional toppings if you’d like. 
  • Enjoy!


You made it through the day, so you deserve something to keep you satisfied through the night. High-protein, high-calorie dishes are the name of the game here, and if you're using heat, feel free to go all out.

Rice & Beans 

What You Need: Box of Red Beans & Rice (like this), Summer Sausage, Sriracha (for serving)

How To Make: Boil a pot of water. Prepare the rice & beans according to the directions on the box. Add chopped summer sausage. Drizzle with sriracha. 

Tuna Mac 

What You Need: Box of Mac & Cheese, Tuna Packet

How To Make: Boil a pot of water. Prepare mac & cheese according to the directions on the box. Add a tuna packer (or other protein packet like chicken or salmon) to the mac & cheese. 

Fancy Ramen 

What You Need:

Ramen Packet + Chicken Packet (or can) + Bell Pepper + Green Onions + Mushrooms + Sriracha + Whatever Else You Want in Ramen

How To Make: Add ramen packet to a bowl. Boil water and pour the water of the ramen noodles. Add the seasoning packet & let sit for a few minutes. Chop vegetables and add in what you want! Add packet of protein. Serve with sriracha and enjoy! 

This is a picture of a recipe for fancy ramen.

Dehydrated Backpacking Meals

Dehydrated meals can provide a good mix of great flavor and convenience (again, for a price). If I'm going for one of these, I like Backpacker's Pantry meals like this one:

This is a picture of a dehydrated backpacking meal being held by a hand in front of a lake and mountain.

Backpacking Snacks

Not to be overlooked, a good collection of backpacking snacks can act as the glue to hold your whole trip together. Here's a few that I keep in heavy rotation:

  • Jerky
  • Fig Bars
  • Cheese & Crackers
  • Gummy Bears
  • Rice Cake + Nut Butter Packet
  • Tuna Packet + Crackers
  • Trail Mix
  • Individual Nut Packet
  • Dried Fruit 
  • Crispy Chickpeas 
  • Protein Bars
  • Fruit Leather / Fruit Snacks  


Coffee (instant OR bring a coffee system)

Aeropress Go - Travel Coffee Press, 1-3 Cups - Makes Delicious Coffee, Espresso and Cold Brew in 1 Minute

For instant coffee, I either bring Starbucks packets or these Alpine Start packets.

For electrolytes, I've been using these LiquidIV packets, specifically for hotter weather where I'm losing a lot of sweat.

Camping and backpacking foods from Amazon: (link to my affiliate page)

This is a picture of a girl with blonde hair, kneeling over and scooping food out of a pot.

What food should I bring on a 5 day hike?

Add a few meals on from this post: No-Cook Camping Meals as a reference

What do you eat for breakfast while backpacking?

In addition to the meals above, here's a list of breakfast inspiration for your backpacking meals:

  • instant oatmeal
  • overnight oats
  • granola and milk
  • protein bars
  • coffee
  • dehydrated eggs & tortillas
  • poptarts
  • bagels & peanut butter & honey

Is pasta good for backpacking?

Pasta is absolutely good for backpacking. If you can heat up some water, there's no reason you can't make some seriously good pasta dishes that you'd be proud to have at home.

Choosing non-snappable noodles (sorry spaghetti!) like tortellini or rigatoni is a good idea, but you can bring all the sauces you want. Canned tuna/chicken/salmon all mix right in, and pesto can be a real hero on trail.

How do you pack food for backpacking?

I always waterproof and seal all my meals. Store all ingredients in ziplocs with air out of the bags, and put another one over the top for good measure.

I also bring an extra bag for storing trash.

Check the area you're going to for food storage guidelines. Depending on where you're backpacking, you might need to use a bear canister or bear bag.

Backpacking Meals Resources

Need some more inspiration? Check these out:


Saturday 25th of June 2022

Great list! So helpful. We go backpacking in Durango next week. I also love a good tortilla/nut butter/honey snack or breakfast! I make homemade honey straws by melting one end closed on a regular straw, using a syringe to shoot the honey in, then melting the top closed!