Great Backpacking Foods You Can Find at the Local Market

Don't let food hold you back from your backpacking trip. You can create delicious meals using foods found at your local market.

By: Emily Nielson

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The hardest part of planning a backpacking trip is planning your meals. There are specialty retailers out there that provide some wonderful options for backpacking food, but those aren’t always convenient when you’re planning a last minute escape. Whether you’re trying to accommodate specific dietary needs or you’re leaving early tomorrow morning, it would be nice to be able to get what you need at your local market. Regular markets can provide an array of options to get you what you need for a trip full of personalized good eatin’. Food should never be the limiting factor for whether you can take off into the wild and nurture your soul.

The Base

We generally like one pot meals backpacking, which are quick to cook and usually limit the amount of dishes to wash at the end of the day. Start with something that will take on whatever flavor you have in mind, and provides you with a lot of energy. Best options for this part of your meal that can be easily found at your local market are:

  • Instant mashed potato flakes

  • Parboiled rice

  • Instant grits or oatmeal

  • Quick cooking pastas like ramen, angel hair, couscous, and soba noodles

  • Pancake or biscuit mix

The Bulk

All kinds of delicious things can be added into your one pot masterpiece. Build depth and interest with dehydrated or freeze-dried veggies and meats. As these absorb water and sauce, they’ll come right back to normal and melt into your meal:

  • Dried mushrooms

  • Freeze-dried mixed vegetables

  • Sundried tomatoes

  • Cured meats and jerky

  • Canned tuna and chicken

  • Smoked salmon

  • Silken tofu

The Flavor

You can go any direction with what you’ve built so far, and the spice department is going to help you get where you want to go. The downside of buying pre-constructed backpacking meals is your inability to customize spice and salt levels in your food. Start slow, and build up to perfection. You can also create a sauce at this point with creamy thickening additions.

Our favorite choices are:

  • Bouillon cubes

  • Curry pastes

  • Soup mixes

  • Spice mixes that you buy pre-mixed or make yourself, like our Secret Weapon Spice Rub

  • Powdered milk

  • Peanut butter powder

  • Instant bean flakes

The Toppings

To ensure that you’ll get variation in texture, add some crunchy toppings as a garnish. These can be daytime snacks that serve a dual purpose, or you could keep special toppings aside for a special element to each meal.

  • Nuts (crushed smoked almonds)

  • Seeds (chia, sunflower, hemp, millet)

  • Crushed chips or crackers

  • Bacon bits

  • Shelf-stable cheese

  • Freeze dried fruit

  • Chocolate

Here are some of our favorite recipes that rely mainly on finds from our market.

  1. Loaded Mashed Potatoes
  2. Oatmeal Pancakes with Dried Fruit Compote
  3. Cheesy Mountain Ramen

Cheese Mountain Ramen

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.