Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

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Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by donkasaurus » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:02 pm

Hello fellow nature lovers,

I'll be up front and let you know that this is my first time being a part of a forum for anything. So I'm not positive how this all works, but I am excited to find out! So here goes. Please, if I'm not using this correctly or breaking any etiquette rules, let me know.

I'll be heading to Isle Royale at the end of August/beginning of summer. It will be my first week long backpacking trip and I am most concerned about what to pack for our meals. If anyone has an excel document or something of that nature with a list of their past trips meal plan along with recipes, that would be amazing! But also most likely too much to ask for. So really, any tips or maybe just sharing your favorite meals, that would be wonderful! I am aware of the prepared meals you can purchase, however I am hoping to save a bit and make my own or at least make 1/2 and buy 1/2.

Thank You!



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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Tom » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:27 am

Welcome Cj/donkasaurus, we're glad you chose our forum to be your first. 8)

Camp dining (backpack) need not be overly complex; you're looking for nutrient rich foods that pack well. Suffice it to say if you don't like an item during the normal week, you're probably not going to start liking it when on the trail, so keep to things you know you'll eat. (Although, as all backpackers can attest, there is a certain mysterious component that makes any food taste quite good after a long day on the trail.)

My typical go-to plan to start a trip is as such:

Breakfasts: Instant oatmeal (packets), Via instant coffee. Sometimes I'll use a Clif Bar as a fast-start breakfast, too, depending on what the day is looking like weather wise, and my timeline.

Lunches: Recently it's been fry breads (I prepack them from basic ingredients) and then tuna packets. You can mix and match both fry bread flavors, as well as the tuna packet styles.

Dinners: This is when I incorporate pre-fab meals the most; usually an entrée and perhaps a side dish for variety. I personally like Mountain House brand (beef stroganoff is the BEST), mainly because it's a true "directly add hot water, mix, wait" meal that's easy to prep in all type of weather. As you are purchasing such meals, be sure to be reading the instructions as to the preparatory requirements, and make sure it's something you're willing to do, or if you need to bring other products. (For instance, some meals require multiple steps in separate containers - Are you prepared and willing to do that after a long day? Also, it may require additional food not included - Mountain House "wraps" come to mind.)

Good luck in your planning! We're a good group (if I do say so myself) so don't feel any question is too simple. Ask away!

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Vandy » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:44 am

Here is what I brought for a 1 week trip:

Count Item
8 Pure Protein Bars
8 Oatmeal
3 Cereal/Instant Milk
14 Instant Coffee
14 Creamer

Chicken packets
4 Snickers
2 Tortilla Soup
2 Chx Dumplings
2 Gumbo
6 Pop Tarts

Peanut Butter
16 Gatorade

The tortilla soup, chicken dumplings and gumbo were purchased from and only require hot water.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by tree rattt » Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:37 am

I am an eater .....if I am hungry I am cranky! So I pack food heavy :)


A few examples.
Oatmeal, Mh Bisquits and gravy, granola bars, shelf stable bacon & Mh eggs, cream o wheat. Coffee of course....started making my own dip packets using coffee filter and tying shut.


Usually a sandwich !
I find a good sturdy type of has to be! I don't like the bread smooshed. I stock up on packets of condiments. For meat We do spam , chicken, tuna, salmon, shelf stable bacon, pepperoni, a good summer sausage, canadian name a few.
We also carry cheese. I carry pepper jack, my daughter carrys cheddar. I also have carried tortillas and made dehydrated refried beans and rice. This required some prep though ...rehydrating was required.
We also carry some soup mixes...goood on a cold wet day!


We do ramen, instant potatoes, knorr pasta sides, mac & cheese, spagetti with dehydrated jar sauce works well...add some burger crumbles mmmmmm gooood! Pancakes ...yes for supper :) these meals are usually complimented with a meat if sorts ....covered in lunch.

Snacks: beef sticks, bars, cookies...homemade ...of course :) chocolate in various forms! Dehydrated fruits or veggies, jerky, did I mention chocolate?


Mio, cofffee, emergenC, gatoraid powder, milk powder, hot chocolate :)

Well that is a few things we have carried :) be creative ...have fun well :)

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by JerryB » Thu Apr 07, 2016 7:47 am

Welcome to the Forum!

For breakfast, I usually do instant oatmeal with some dried fruit and Starbuck's Via. On some days, I will do an egg dish on a tortilla. You have lots of freeze-dried options.
For lunch, tortilla and PB&J or salmon (foil packet).
For dinner, Mountain House, or something similar. I usually include a dessert too.

A couple of other thoughts: When you are on the island, you should be able to easily get thimbleberries, blueberries and raspberries, almost anywhere. Do some quick research so you know what to pick. They are all great in oatmeal and as a snack. You may want to start out simply, with add-boiling-water meals. That is certainly my mainstay of food on trips. If you feel more adventurous, consider pancakes in the morning (you will need to pack a small fry pan and, I suggest, a heat diffuser to prevent burning).

On a trip to the island on the Minong a few years ago, I ran into a hiker at Windigo (sorry, I can't remember his name; he was a veteran) who told me about Alaska Appetites. The link is below. More work is involved in these meals but they make for a very nice change from the standard fare. Also, check out Packit Gourmet, both for meals and for condiments, etc. (Individual packets of mayo, for example, really make the tortilla and salmon lunches.) You can also get packets of freeze-dried blueberries and strawberries from them. Pick up some packets of fudge sauce, for a super easy dessert with fruit. Finally, remember some sort of powdered drink mix. Maybe tea or hot chocolate. Anything. Plain old water gets boring eventually.

Have fun!

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by JerryB » Thu Apr 07, 2016 2:59 pm

One final thought just occurred to me--I usually bring one extra meal. Just in case a ferry is delayed.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by donkasaurus » Thu Apr 07, 2016 9:22 pm

You're all so incredibly wonderful, kind and speedy if I may add! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your days to respond to my question. Fantastic answers! Again, thank you! Peace.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Midwest Ed » Thu Apr 07, 2016 11:40 pm

Excellent advice thus far. Everyone's relationship with food is different. There's not just eating but preparation and cleanup. And now with backpacking, there's the additional factor of having to carry ALL your nourishment around for a week or more. I love to eat. I like to cook. I hate the cleanup and I would deplore having to carrying around all day at home, my typical meals for a week. Some people will sacrifice a bit of weight or bulk to get that added pleasure of a few fresh ingredients such as cheese, or some meats that keep un-refrigerated, especially when they eat those first. My goal for any trip longer than 2 to 3 days is to go with totally freeze dried and dehydrated. I like to consider my palate as a bit refined but when camping I simply have minimum standards. The previously mentioned "hungry man" effect kicks in but only goes so far. I think if you pick 7 different Mountain House meals (or any brand) at random or even based on your suspected tastes, I'd wager at least one maybe two will not be very tasty. None look very good but most will be well received with a couple quite excellent.

If you have the luxury to figure that out ahead of time, I'd rather eat the same 2 or 3 selections repeatedly. I'll second my appreciation of the beef stroganoff. Also the chicken & rice or noodle dishes, lasagna and chili-mac I’d recommend, but that’s just me. The biggest mistake people make (usually only once) is to not let them rehydrate long enough. A pouch advertised as dinner for two is just about right for one hungry person.

A daily menu starts with a couple of flavored instant oat meal pouches with extra sugar added (I’ve got a sweet tooth) with some added dehydrated fruit and coffee. With dinners taken care of with freeze dried pouches that leaves lunch. There many opportunities to make your own repackaged lunches that can be quite inexpensive. The grocery stores are packed with microwave “convenience” foods packed in disposable plastic and Styrofoam bowls and foil pouches. I repackage 2 (or 3) of them in zip lock bags for rehydration in my large plastic mug. You can also get the same plastic bags that stand up on their own that Mountain House uses to repackage them. They’re all mostly carbs so for added protein and flavor I’ll add some crumbled bacon.

Don't forget the salt and pepper, well, mostly pepper since most of the packaged food already has a ton of salt.
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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Base654 » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:09 am

I'm a bachelor and I tend to take my standby quick meals from home.

breakfast: instant oats orange Mio drink mix or Tang, some fresh fruits carry well, oranges apples, bananas if you get the very green ones and top pack them. instant coffee, tea...

lunch is usually Knor side dishes, read the labels some want butter or other ingredients. artificial "Butter Buds" can be found at most grocery stores. add some packaged chicken ( like tuna in the flexible packs, but chicken) for extra protein. I have also taken a summer sausage and some cheese and cracker.

dinner is ramen with chicken or more Knor ( I love those things).

I usually have one can of Chunky Pot Roast and instant potatoes (my favorite quick meal) for the night I spend at my favorite campground to add some extra joy.

This is me going for a week and not caring about gourmet food, I typically am happier eating less and saving the weight.

I stopped carrying extra meals as long as the stores will be open. I figure I can buy something if I run out. My last day of meals (dinner one night and breakfast the next morn) is usually at the restaurant with a pint as most of my trips are from Rock harbor.

I am fit, but I carry a few extra pounds, so I don't really calories count. If the day before I leave the weather is expected to be cold I add extra food for dinners most of the time an extra Knor.

I'll be there the end of august, if you see a red kayak wave.


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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by sauce71 » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:54 am

I'm new to the forum as well. If you have a trader Joe's near you, they have some packaged meals and soups that could work for variety. We also use MH, and many of the other suggestions above.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Kelly » Fri Apr 08, 2016 6:38 am

Here's what I have settled on this year:
  • For breakfast, I'll often have granola and milk (using full-fat powdered milk) and a hot drink. For a hot breakfast, I might do a variation on this breakfast couscous.
  • For lunch, I eat some combination of nuts, dried fruit, cheese, and a homemade granola bar or savory waffle or breakfast bar.
  • Supper is always a hot meal. Pasta, or chili, or soup, or rice, or instant polenta. I might dehydrate a bag of broccoli to add to macaroni and cheese. This summer we're trying fondue for a meal early in the trip. And it's nice to have a hot drink at the end of the day.
And a jar of Nutella, to fill in the cracks.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by hooky » Fri Apr 08, 2016 9:53 am

Like a lot of the others, I do oatmeal and dried fruit for breakfast with Via coffee. When the boy is with me, he likes potatoes and sausage in a tortilla.

Lunch is either a clif bar type item or summer sausage & cheese. Really something that doesn't require any prep or cleanup is all I'm after.

Dinner is a hot meal. I've learned how to dehydrate and make freezer bag meals. Lots of options if you have a dehydrator. If you don't, Hawk Vittles is a good option. A buddy swears by them and what I've had is really pretty good.

Snacks are GORP, peanut M&Ms, dried fruit, etc...

I take an extra day of meals in case the boat is weather delayed.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by 3MTA3 » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:54 pm

My food bag often has dried fruit, trail mix/gorp, beef jerky, ClifBars/ granola bars, Mountain House meals, Lipton Cup o' Soups, kimchi flavored ramen noodles, instant potatoes, instant oatmeal, a little hot cider and drink mix (to mix it up), fruit snacks, & Knorr sides.

On occasion I'll take some sort of a recipe published in Backpacker magazine online that will require some oil to fry, cheese, or perishables. It all depends on the trip.

I usually go with 1 Mountain House & 1 Knorr side for every 2 people per dinner, per day with an occasional cheap dinner mixed in (like ramen). I ration out 2 fruit snacks and 2 granola/Cliff bars per day, too. For a 10 day trip I also got 1 box of trail mix from GFS, 1-2 packages of beef jerky, 1 bag of dried fruit (like banana chips) from Meijer, & a few random items like candy for each person. It worked out perfect the last trip as we ran out of food (except for the extra just-in-case-dinner) when we got back to Rock Harbor. Perfect excuse to get a bag of chips and some cold beverages.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by Stephen » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:59 pm

Breakfast, tuna packets with chopped nuts and chopped crackers, Lunch freeze dried SantaFe black beans with crumbled freeze dried sausage, Supper MH meal 1/2 of one bag with either freeze dried meat balls or grilled freeze dried beef added. For dessert freeze dried chocolate chip ice cream. Snack between meals freeze dried chicken or turkey eaten dry. Two meals a day require heated water lunch and supper. I prefer to get up while its still kinda dark, pack up eat and as first light hits, I am on the trail. I am going for 10 days in May.

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Re: Novice Backpacker in search of a Solid Meal Plan:-)

Post by DonNewcomb » Tue Apr 19, 2016 5:09 pm

The first thing you need to do is decide is if you want to cook or just boil water. Many backpackers just boil water and pour it over prepackaged instant food. Others like to put on their chef hats and chop onions, mix ingredients, add spices and cook their dinners, at least partially, from scratch. Which you prefer will decide what sort of meals you plan.

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