The best backpacking food items are lightweight, shelf-stable, and full of protein. Ideally, these foods will require no cooking at all. Your backpacking experience should be stress-free, full of adventure, and spent admiring the beautiful trails-- not spent stressing about how you're going to cook your next meal.
Preparing no-cook meals before your hike is a good idea for many different reasons. First, you don't need to lug around heavy equipment like pots or a stove. And second, you can spend more time actually hiking rather than cooking. It makes your trip less stressful, and you can eat whenever you feel like it!
As foodie experts, here is our list of the 25 Best No Cook Backpacking Lunch Ideas for your next hike:
1. Beef Jerky
Our beef jerky is sugar free, high in protein, and easily fits in any kind of backpack. If you want to spend more time hiking rather than preparing a meal, this is the perfect snack for you. Store it easily and grab it anytime you need a little fuel.
Sandwiches are the perfect lunch, regardless if you’re backpacking or not. Prepare this ahead of time, and store it in a plastic baggy or wrapped in aluminum foil to take with you! It’s easy, delicious, and will keep you fueled for your entire journey.
Similar to sandwiches, you can very quickly prepare this before you head out for your backpacking extravaganza. Small and lightweight, bagels are a great lunch option that will keep you focussed on your hike. No worrying about the preparation of your next meal here.
4. Meal Bars
Whether you prefer meal bars or protein bars, both are a great choice to help keep you fueled for your journey. They are easy to pack and easy to eat, saving you both time and energy while on the trail.
5. Overnight Oats
Also easy to prepare ahead of time, overnight oats are one of the best meals you can have with you while backpacking. Not only are they delicious, but they are also extremely healthy and will keep you energized for your whole trip. Just make sure to keep them in a secure container! You don’t want to clean up that mess.
Something you can also prepare ahead of time to save yourself some trouble are burritos. These are great for any meal of the day. For example, for a breakfast burrito, try adding breakfast sausage, egg, pinto beans, and anything else you crave. Make them, wrap them, freeze them, and grab ‘em before you leave!
7. Protein Shakes
Another quick and easy meal to have on the road is a protein shake! They are full of nutritional value, easy to prepare, improve your digestion, and help you build muscle while you're out backpacking all day. Not to mention they are delicious. Store in a to-go bottle and be on your way.
8. Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese
Putting a spin on the usual plain bagel, you can add smoked salmon that comes in a foil pouch. Lightweight with no danger of spoilage, this is a very practical and yummy meal to have with you on your trip. It’s like giving yourself a treat.
9. Chia Pudding
Chia seeds are extremely lightweight, nutritious, and require little to no cooking. The perfect combination for a backpacking snack. For preparation of the pudding all you have to do is add milk and let it sit overnight before taking it on the go. If you’re not a fan of pudding, you can even eat the chia seeds by themselves!
10. Pita Bread and Tuna Wrap
Pita bread is great for backpacking as it’s more durable than other breads and less likely to get squished in your bag. Add some tuna and mayo, wrap it up, and take it with you. There’s nothing better than a yummy meal that requires no cooking or hassle while on the trail.
11. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is lightweight, easy to store, and nutritious. Did we forget to mention it's also incredibly tasty? With no preparation at all besides having to grab the fruit out of your backpack, there is no competition here. Few snacks come close to this one.
12. Rice Noodles
Pre-cook your rice noodles before leaving for your trip to enjoy them as a cold soak meal on your hike! Add a packet of dried peanut butter for a tasty pad-thai like meal that will keep you satisfied all day long.
13. Smoked Sausage and Cheese
Smoked sausage is already pre-cooked, so you don't have to do any preparation while on the trail. Simply cut it up and pair with some cheese for a delicious high protein snack, just like this one.
14. Quinoa salad
Another meal you can prepare before your trip is a quinoa salad! Throw in whatever ingredients you have or eat it by itself. Easily customizable, lightweight, and nutritious. You really can’t go wrong.
15. Chicken Salad Pack
Another delicious meal you can prepare to avoid cooking on the trails is a chicken salad pita! Using shelf stable chicken from a foil pouch, you don’t need to worry about any of the ingredients being perishable.
16. Cold Soaked Pasta Salad
This seems to be a fan favorite amongst many when it comes to no-cook backpacking meals, and for good reason. Nothing is more refreshing than pasta salad on a hot summer day. Pre-cook and dehydrate your pasta, throw in any other ingredients you’d want (like dehydrated chickpeas and veggies), and get on your way! All you have to do is add water, let it sit for an hour before eating, and you’ve got a gourmet meal on the trail.
17. Granola, Milk Powder, and Dried Fruit
This meal is so tasty and simple it's almost too good to be true. One of the best meals while backpacking is simply just granola with powdered milk and dried fruit. It’s full of nutrients and tastes delicious. Pack the ingredients in baggies and just add water to your powdered milk when you're ready to eat! Simple as that.
Nuts are one of the cheapest, most lightweight, and easy-to-pack snacks. Not only are they convenient, but they are also full of great vitamins and minerals too. A staple for many hikers, nuts are sure to keep you healthy and ready to go for your journey!
19. Cheese, Crackers, and Salami
Although all the items on this list are snacks that you don’t have to prepare, this one is too good and easy to pass on. Grab some salami, cheese, and crackers for a little charcuterie action (trail style, of course), or eat them all separately! Salami is the perfect snack for backpacking because it stays stable at room temperature for long periods of time. Whichever way you choose to snack, it'll be a tasty one.
20. Cold Ramen
Using only a pack of ramen and water, this is one of the best and easiest meals to prepare while backpacking. Using the cold-soak method, all you have to do is mix your ramen with cold water and wait a few hours before eating!
Similar to ramen, you can also use the cold-soak method for couscous. It is a delicious and nutritious no-cook meal. An underrated backpacking staple, if we say so ourselves.
Gazpacho is a tomato soup made and served cold. You can easily store this in a thermos to keep it cold and fresh for long periods of time. Gazpacho makes for a delicious and refreshing meal while backpacking through the summer heat.
23. Tuna Packets with Crackers
With each tuna packet containing around 18g of protein, this is definitely one of the most nutritious snacks you can have. Grab some crackers, scoop the tuna straight out of the pouch, and you’re ready to go! Easy, quick, mess-free, AND yummy.
Lightweight, easy to open, and packed full of protein, sardines are a perfect no-cook backpacking lunch idea. You can eat these by themselves or pair them with crackers for a tasty and quick snack.
25. Backpackers Crepes
This list wouldn't be complete without the infamous backpackers crepes! Using simple ingredients like tortillas, peanut butter, dried fruit and nuts, not many meals compare to this one. Prepare ahead of time or quickly put together on the trail. Either way, you'll definitely enjoy this sweet and tasty energy boost! Here's a favorite example of ours.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to eating in the backcountry, the most important thing to remember is simplicity. Make things as simple, as healthy, and as enjoyable as you can. Preparing lunches that are high in protein and require no cooking whatsoever isn't as difficult as it may seem! Make the most out of your next adventure by spending more time on the trails, and less time worrying about what to make for your next meal. You’ll thank us later.Check out more of our Backpacking Food Ideas for your next triumphant trip.