A gluten-free backpacking trip is a time for fun, adventure and exploration. But, for those that are gluten-intolerant, it can also be a challenging experience without a steady supply of gluten-free food options. This is why gluten-free backpacking food preparation should be well thought out so that no matter where you go, you can always have a delicious gluten-free meal or snack to keep you fueled and ready to go.
Here’s the ultimate guide for gluten-free adventurers looking to make the best meals possible from a backpacker’s pantry.
What Constitutes Good Backpacking Food?
When planning for gluten-free hiking food, there are certain guidelines you want to follow.
1. Focus on Foods that Have a High Protein Content
The body burns more calories when hiking than a regular day at home, which requires a steady supply of protein to aid in muscle recovery and energy. Every gluten-free hiking meal should feature a healthy serving of protein — 20g of protein per meal is a great target.
Another great way to introduce protein are gluten-free snacks for hikers that are high in protein, such as gluten-free nuts, peanut butter, or gluten-free jerky.
Click to read our High Protein Hiking Food List that includes both gluten-free and non-gluten-free items.
2. Check that Foods are Non-Perishable
Secondly, gluten-free hiking food should have an extended shelf life so your food will not go bad or spoil on the trail. For example, yogurt and eggs are great gluten-free foods, but they won’t hold up on the trail without refrigeration. Choose foods that are non-perishable so your food stays fresh throughout your trip.
3. Select Gluten-Free Items that are Portable and Easy to Pack
Make sure your gluten-free snacks for hikers are packaged in durable containers that hold up well. We're all about getting fancy on the trail, but we're also realistic. Make sure to pack food that is portable, lightweight, and easy to open and close.
3. Avoid any Food that Requires a Long or Complicated Cooking Time
Thirdly, gluten-free hiking food should be able to cook relatively quickly and without too much preparation. The last thing you’ll want to do after a long day of hiking is cook a gourmet, multi-course meal.
Instead, you’ll want something that is delicious, filling, and easy to cook.
4. Don’t Forget that Taste, Texture & Flavor are King
You don’t have to sacrifice taste, texture, and flavor when it comes to eating gluten-free on a backpacking trip. With a little planning and some creativity, you can enjoy tasty, filling, and unique gluten-free foods that will keep you on the trail and having fun.
What to Pack for Hiking Food?
Plenty of gluten-free snacks may be consumed while on the trail when it comes to gluten-free backpacking food. These gluten-free hiking foods include:
Gluten-Free Snacks On-the-Go
1. Gluten-Free Energy Bars and Granola Bars
Look for gluten-free energy bars that are low in sugar and high in protein. Some good brands to consider are Clif Bar, Larabar, or Pure Organic.
2. Gluten-Free Trail Mixes
Make your own gluten-free trail mixes by combining nuts (almonds, walnuts) with dried fruit (apricots, raisins). You can also add some seeds like pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
3. Gluten-Free Jerky
Jerky is one of the best gluten-free backpacking snacks.
It’s lightweight, nutrient-dense, and packed with flavor. The best part? There are some fantastic gluten-free options on the market.
At People’s Choice Beef Jerky, we handcraft several flavors of gluten-free jerky that are made with simple ingredients in a tradition that spans 90+ years.
Shop: People’s Choice Gluten-Free Beef Jerky Collection | $6 - $25
4. Gluten-Free Protein Bars
Protein bars can also be completely gluten-free. Some good protein bar options for gluten-free include One Bar, RxBar, or Think Thin Bars.
5. Gluten-Free Crackers
Look for gluten-free snack crackers that do not contain any dairy ingredients (since lactose intolerance is common). Gluten-Free Pop Chips by Late July Organic Snacks fit this bill perfectly. Other great options include your classic rice crackers, corn chips or some Mary's Gone Cracker products, Barbara's Bakery products, or Beanitos.
6. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is gluten-free and can be an excellent snack for a hiking day. Dark chocolates are rich in antioxidants and contain caffeine, which can be a nice pick-me-up on the trail.
Some gluten-free chocolate brands to consider are Green & Black, Endangered Species Chocolate, or Theo Chocolate.
7. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits such as banana chips, dried apples, dried mango, or apricots make gluten-free backpacking food choices for hikers who love fruit while out on the trail.
Eating dried fruit products can help prevent hiker fatigue since dried fruits are high in fiber.
Gluten-Free Backpacking Food for Breakfast
8. Gluten-Free Bread
Gluten-free bread is hard to come by but may be worth it for a quick and easy breakfast, especially for day hikes. This is because gluten-free bread tends to be smaller in size and is, therefore, lighter to carry.
Look for gluten-free English muffins or bagels; they make a great gluten-free sandwich with your favorite fillings, nut butter, or hard cheese (gluten-free). But if you cannot find gluten-free bread, consider gluten-free cereal instead.
You can also purchase gluten-free cereal light enough for backpacking food such as gluten-free Rice Krispies, corn flakes, gluten-free oatmeal packets, or gluten-free oats. Cereals are very easy to prepare and can be topped with dried fruits for a quick yet filling breakfast.
10. Oatmeal Packets
If you do not want gluten-free cereal, you can also opt for gluten-free oatmeal packets by Quaker that are very light and easy to prepare. Just add boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes until the oats are fully hydrated.
11. Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is quick to make so that you can get your caffeine fix without too much hassle or preparation time. Instant coffee is perfect for those who are not too keen on brewing coffee using a French press or stove-top espresso maker.
12. Breakfast House Skillet
Mountain House gluten-free freeze-dried breakfast skillet pouch is also a good gluten-free choice as it contains hash browns, scrambled eggs, and bacon or ham. You just have to add boiling water so you can have your gluten-free backpacking food ready in no time!
Backpacking Meals for Lunch and Dinner
13. Gluten-Free Tuna Pouches
Tuna pouches are another hiking food that provides ample protein. Add tuna to slices of gluten-free bread or wraps for a filling sandwich. Tuna is also good on its own as an instant gluten-free snack for those who are always hungry while hiking.
14. Pre-Cooked Rice
Pre-cooked rice rehydrates well in hot water. You may add dried vegetables to pre-cooked rice for an even more fulfilling meal. You can also use pre-cooked rice as an ingredient to paella. Just add sausages, chicken chunks, and shrimp to make a delicious gluten-free meal. But if you’re looking to spice up your regular plain old rice, you can also try making coconut rice by adding coconut milk.
Fresh coconut milk may be next to impossible to pack, but you can always bring coconut milk powder with you. Just add water and you’re all set for your next mile meals.
Other Gluten-Free Backpacking Meals to Consider
15. Dehydrated Meals
Dehydrated gluten-free meals are good for gluten-free backpacking food because they don't need to be refrigerated or cooked. You simply add boiling water, let them sit until fully hydrated, and enjoy.
These dehydrated gluten-free options will give you more energy on the trail with their rich nutrients without weighing your pack down too much.
16. Dehydrated Raw Ingredients
If you're keen on cooking during your trip, consider the dehydrated ingredients at home before leaving. These gluten-free ingredients can be rehydrated later to make a variety of easy-to-cook dishes while camping.
Some ingredients you can prepare are dehydrated veggies such as lentils and sun-dried tomatoes. Others are chicken and vegetable stock, sweet potatoes, canned chili, tomatoes, gluten-free sauces (tomato and pesto), and chicken or beef bouillon.
Harmony House actually offers many options when it comes to finding quality ingredients for backpacking.
Simple Campfire Meal Recipe
A gluten-free campfire meal is very easy to pull together with a few gluten-free ingredients on hand: gluten-free pasta, gluten-free sauce (jarred or homemade), the meat of choice (ground beef works great), and veggies like mushrooms, peppers, and onions all work well. Add olive oil along with salt & pepper for seasoning when cooking over an open flame inside foil packets near the campfire.
Other Quick Tips for Your Hiking Trip
- Bring plenty of water and sports drinks for hydration.
- Check the nearest local grocery store just in case you need something urgent.
- Make sure you have enough food to last a long day or for a few days (at least three days) in case you get stuck out in the wilderness (pack some gluten-free energy bars).
- Consider bringing a lightweight stove if you want hot meals on the trail (make sure it's easy to use and doesn't require any extra pieces like fuel canisters).
- Be sure to pack condiments and sauces for your meals (ketchup, mustard, barbecue sauce, etc.).
- To avoid cross-contamination of food, be sure to use different containers and utensils for raw and cooked meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood. For extra caution, double wrap meat and poultry and place in a cooler to prevent meat juices from dripping.
- Bring a small first aid kit with band-aids, moleskin, and antibiotic ointment just in case something happens while hiking/backpacking.
Planning for a gluten-free backpacking trip can be difficult and time-consuming. There are many considerations to take into account when packing, in addition to making sure that your food is safe from cross-contamination.
But ultimately, preparing for the great outdoors requires planning ahead of time. It will depend on the length of your trip, how much you have access to grocery stores along the way, what type of foods or snacks you want while you're away from home, and if there are other dietary restrictions among those traveling with you. Weighing all these factors might seem overwhelming at first, but it's important because being gluten-free should never mean missing out on an amazing experience like backpacking.
Now that we’ve covered everything, it’s time to pack your bag and begin the adventure!For more great camping and backpacking tips check out Camping Tips: How To Plan A Successful Camping Trip