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Top 10 non-cook backpacking foods

Updated on April 14, 2016

If you are tired of huddling over a camp-stove when backpacking, this is the site for you!

I started out years ago cooking on one of those big, heavy, noisy Whisperlite stoves for various backpacking trips. I soon got tired of them not working, and having to fuss around so I made the switch to a pop-can stove for my thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. The pop-can stove that runs on denatured alcohol is genius! If I need a stove, this is the one I use. However, that soon got old as well and so I gave it away about 1/2 way through my hike.

From then on, I just ate cold food when backpacking. There was no clean-up, no cooking, no hassle. And that's what I've done ever since on the trail. I'll never go back to cooking in the back-country again.

This site gives my Top 10 Ideas for non-cook backpacking food when you're out in the wilderness. And don't forget to check out Iherb, which is my favorite site for cheap and healthy food that you can use for backpacking. Shipping is fast and often free.

trail mix, raisins and peanuts
trail mix, raisins and peanuts

Trail Mix

The ultimate backpacking food

Everyone knows trail mix is the best hiking food! Lots of protein and energy to propel you on your way. But instead of buying the pre-packaged stuff that is not all that delicious, why not make your own? Here is my fabulously delicious trail mix recipe:

Nuts (Cashew, walnuts, almonds, peanuts)

Cereal (cheerios, shreddies, corn flakes, etc)

Candy (gummy bears, jelly beans, M&M's, etc)

Crunchy things (pretzels, broken up ramen noodles)

Dried fruit (raisins, craisins, apricots, prunes)

My favorite place to get trail mix and ingredients to make your own is Iherb. It's cheaper than the supermarket, often has free shipping and also has an unbeatable selection.

Chocolate in your Trail Mix?

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Peanut Butter and Nutella: the perfect backpacking foods

These two things are your best friend when you're out in the wilderness. Packed with calories, and delicious, you really should be putting at least one of these things on almost everything you eat! I put them on:


Granola Bars




Peanut Butter: nobody would consider hiking the Appalachian Trail without it!

Peanut Butter or Nutella...Which is more Delicious?

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pudding, chocolate pudding
pudding, chocolate pudding

Instant Pudding with Milk Powder, an easy, quick and delicious camping food

This is the perfect treat for when you're craving something sweet. Mix up some water with milk powder. Then, add in your chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla, banana, pistachio, or fudge pudding. Mix well. Enjoy! So delicious! Lots of calories and nutrients, but light in your pack. It's perfect for hiking with kids.

granola bar
granola bar

Granola Bars

When I'm out in the back-country, I have a serious addiction to granola bars. I usually eat 5-10/day. I never get sick of them because I change up the flavors each time I went shopping. There are A LOT of good ones out there. They are light, (somewhat) nutritious and filled with calories. Perfect for a quick snack on the go.

You can even make homemade granola bars if you want to make sure they're extra-nutritious. I have my recipe picks for homemade granola bars listed below.

Your Pick

To stove, or not to stove, that is the question

potato chips, potato chip, eating potato chips
potato chips, potato chip, eating potato chips

Potato Chips make a delicious snack!

Back a few years ago, I was watching this show on TV about extreme long-distance, self-supporting races across deserts. They were profiling the teams and talking about what they ate. A few of the teams ate a significant amount of potato chips, because they taste good, and just about the lightest thing you can eat/calories contained. The only downside is that they are bulky.

So, on my way out on the trail, I always strap a few bags to my pack using the bungee cords that most bags have. It's really not inconvenient at all, and you get a lot of calories for the weight. Plus, you'll be so popular around camp because they're salty good.

chocolate bar, hiking food, trail snack
chocolate bar, hiking food, trail snack

Chocolate Bars: the perfect hiking snack

One of the best things about hiking is that you can eat junk food and it's not a big deal. When I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, most of my fellow hikers would eat 3, 5, or even 7 bars a day! Portable, delicious and packed with calories. Snickers seemed to be the favorite.

cheddar cheese, cheddar
cheddar cheese, cheddar

Cheese: a healthy snack for out in the wilderness

Cheese is one of those things that I always carry on the trail. It can keep for a long time if you're hiking in cooler weather, but even in the heat of summer can last a couple days if you choose the right one. Think the harder the cheese, the better. I usually went with sharp cheddar. I would eat it on bagels or crackers usually, something with sausage, or avocado, but sometimes not.

Some tips for keeping it fresh are to get it in a block form, instead of grated or sliced. And, when you're slicing it, be careful to not touch the parts that you're not eating with yours fingers because you'll introduce bad bacteria which could spoil it. And of course, make eating the cheese your priority for the first couple days over less perishable things.

summer sausage, sausage, trail food, trail snack
summer sausage, sausage, trail food, trail snack

Summer Sausage

This is another one of those things that you normally keep in the fridge, but that actually can last a long time outside of it. Again, think block or roll form, as opposed to the sliced. My favorite way to eat it was on some crunchy crackers, with a slice of cheddar perhaps.

The protein will keep you going for at least a couple of hours!

Are you a Hiker?

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raisin bran, trail food, trail breakfast
raisin bran, trail food, trail breakfast


An unusual, but delicious backpacking food

One of my favorite things to have on the trail to kick-start my morning is a big bowl of cereal. Often, I couldn't get enough and I'd have a big bowl for a snack later too. For some reason when I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I couldn't get enough Raisin Bran. Anyway, I carried milk power, so I'd mix up a pot of it, and then dump some cereal in. Cereal often has a lot of sugar, which makes it not so good to eat in normal life, but out on the trail, it's no problem. The good thing is that cereal is fortified with a lot of vitamins and minerals, and can have a lot of fiber if you choose the right on. This is great for when you're on the trail for a while and may have a diet that is a bit lacking.

avocado, trail food, trail snack, hiking food
avocado, trail food, trail snack, hiking food

Avocado: the ultimate healthy backpacking food

This vegetable has serious amount of calories, and fat. Except, it's the good fat that doesn't clog up your arteries. And the best thing about them is that you generally buy them under ripe, so you can eat them when all your cheese and summer sausage is wearing thin. They keep really well in a pack too and don't bruise that easily.

I'd slice them up and eat them straight up, or put them on crackers, bagels or tortillas.


My most favorite trail food ever!

Nutella: the Ultimate Backpacking Cold Food

Backpacking Food Ideas

Backpacking without a stove - Crazy or not?

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I've hiked in cold, wet weather and dealt with near-hypothermia. While I usually don't cook my meals, I consider a stove - along with a cup and hot drinks - to be a survival item. So, backpacking without a stove is a bad idea.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Not crazy, there are a bunch of different options available.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Not crazy. Especially if one can hop off the trail every so often for civilized meal.

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 

      9 years ago from Ljubljana


    • Rosaquid profile image


      9 years ago

      I chose your lens for my Trail Mix quest. Thanks!

    • JenwithMisty profile image

      Jen withFlash 

      9 years ago

      Sounds like a great idea to me!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If I take a stove depends on the trek.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very cool lens. Gave me ideas for food to take on outdoor excursions.

      Li Li

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 

      9 years ago from Texas

      It's summer sausage, cheese & granola bars for me on short hikes. Otherwise, I prefer a campfire to my stove.

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 

      9 years ago

      Why did I never think of avocados? If you carry them unripe, they'll ripen for the last days of your backpacking trek.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      9 years ago from Coastal Alabama, USA

      I love hiking and camping, but I married a wonderful man whose idea of roughing it is when he has to stay at a Days Inn. His words, not mine. Needless to say, we don't camp or hike. At least I get to stay at the Marriott or Sheraton, etc., on trips.

    • KandH profile image


      9 years ago

      Yup sounds good to me - easy, fun food!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      If no stove, then I would certainly be sure to carry some method of starting a fire.

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for the ideas. I hadn't thought of taking avocados. I had a "brownie" recipe I made on the trail: chocolate chips, powdered milk, graham cracker crumbs in a ziplock. Add hot water and knead until mixed. Yummy!

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      9 years ago from Alabama USA

      No stove! great ideal, love the list of foods.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      9 years ago

      Nice lens

    • Frugal Bride profile image

      Frugal Bride 

      9 years ago

      Without a stove! If you're going to live in nature, you have to live off nature

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Personally I like to switch off. I tend to keep a little on the healthier side and I avoid gluten and processed sugars (even hiking they aren't good for you). I never thought of summer sausage though! Dry salami, beef jerky, and smoked salmon are also great protein sources. And boiled eggs can keep for 3-4 days without refrigeration. Don't forget some vegetables! Dried cucumber and carrots are actually quite delicious and contain vital vitamins and minerals!

    • JJNW profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      Avocado! Now that is yummy! I like campfire cooking on a stick : ).

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      My sister sends me the Old Wisconsin sausage and it is very good and even better heated over a campfire, that's not really cooking. Pudding would be a wonderful surprise to have along on a hitke.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      What great trek treats!

    • CruiseReady profile image


      10 years ago from East Central Florida

      The cheese and avacados would be my favorite of the ones you presented. Those are great foods, anyway!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      10 years ago from Colorado

      Cereal is always a great alternative. Fruit, too. Can't go wrong with that combo. Granola bars are my staple when hiking and camping.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      10 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      All the food you placed here are my favourites as I don't cook so when my cook (my husband) is away, I practically live on these and there are many restaurants around. Enjoyed this lens.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Most of my hiking is day trips. Cold food is not a problem.

    • Cinnamonbite profile image


      10 years ago

      Ah, avocado! Didn't think of that. I have the extra burden of all their food has to be period--so homemade bread for sandwiches and things like apple butter (not nutella). I had meant to dehydrate some fruit but ran out of time. How do you keep your candy bars from melting and your cheese and meat from rotting? I'm in Florida, btw. Today's high is 78F. It's much warmer in the spring and summer...and fall and early winter. Pudding--never thought of it. Genius!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens, found it really interesting

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Good choices! There is something here that will appeal to anyone you're hiking with.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Looks like good food to me! And healthy. Thanks


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