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I’ve long wondered why oatmeal is the default backpacking breakfast even though so many of my friends seem to hate it. Sure, it’s nutritious, lightweight, and easy to whip up with a single-burner stove and a Nalgene of stream water. But that doesn’t make up for the experience of choking down sporkful after sporkful of gluey, bland glop just to fill your belly. Breakfast should be enjoyable on and off the trail—it sets the tone and your energy levels for the day, after all.
There are plenty of dehydrated egg and sausage scrambles on the market, but I often find these equally as unpalatable: Inevitably, I end up with crunchy egg bits or biscuit-and-gravy-soup. Plus, the price tags on these commercial meals are so eye-watering, they almost have me reaching for the oatmeal again.
More often than not, I find myself wishing to skip the routine of cooking in the morning altogether. By packing up the stove and doing dishes the night before, I can break camp more quickly, which means more time spent in my cozy sleeping bag or a jumpstart on my daily mileage. No-cook breakfasts also offer flexibility. Not hungry for your alpine start, or too chilled to go for cold breakfast? Opt to start hiking and chow down at your first sun-soaked view spot instead.
Sounds great, you might say, but I’m firing up the stove anyway for coffee. You can still save time by boiling water the night before and keeping it overnight in an insulated mug. It’ll be piping hot for your instant java come morning, and you can enjoy the first sip from the comfort of your tent.
Pop-Tarts and bars are the go-to cold breakfast options for many backpackers, but these lack well-balanced nutrition, and don’t offer much more flavor than oatmeal. Here are 10 energizing no-cook camp breakfast ideas you can assemble in minutes.
Who says this filling staple is only for bougie coffee shops? Avocados are great backpacking food—they’re easy to pack, don’t squish, and are ready to eat when you’re hungry. Spread some on a tortilla with salt, red pepper flakes, or your favorite seasoning. Add a packet of olive oil for extra calories.
Cereal and Powdered Milk
It’s unclear to me why this most common breakfast combo is less popular on the trail. The perfect alternative for oatmeal-haters, a healthy cereal can offer similar nutritional value (plus added protein and calcium from the milk), and is as simple as adding cold water. Pack your favorite cereal in the same bag or container as the milk powder, then just add water and stir. Add dried fruit for a heartier meal.
Smoothies and Meal-Replacement Shakes
We’ve long been a fan of Backcountry Foodie’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake as a meal alternative at high altitudes when appetite is scarce, and it’s a great way to start the day, too. You can consume liquid breakfast on the move, and powdered ingredients like peanut butter, protein powder, and shake mix take up little room in your pack. You can also dehydrate your favorite breakfast smoothie at home—just blend, spread on dehydrator trays, and dry the mixture at 125°F until brittle. The mixture will rehydrate right away for a fresh-tasting instant breakfast.
Waffles and Peanut Butter
Pre-packaged Belgian waffles are shelf stable, ready to eat, and more filling than their toastable counterparts, especially when paired with a protein-packed spread like nut butter (or Nutella, why not). Need more energy? Stroopwafels are a favorite amongst endurance athletes for a reason.
Dehydrated yogurt is widely available, or easy to make at home. (Adventurous? You can also ferment your own on the trail.) Add some cold water and top it with dried fruit, granola, chocolate chips, or any topping of your choosing for a luxurious parfait. Don’t want to DIY? This yogurt bowl from Stowaway Gourmet is the best freeze-dried breakfast I’ve tasted.
Chia Pudding and Dried Fruit
Chia seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making them a great way to start a day of hiking. Soak them in water, powdered milk, or nut milk while you hike the first mile of the day, and add mix-ins like dried mango, honey, nuts, maple syrup, coconut, or cocoa powder. Tip: Too much chia can cause stomach upset, so mix it with your favorite grain to aid in digestion.
If you don’t mind some inevitable squishing from being stuffed in your pack, a bagel makes a convenient and tasty cold breakfast on the trail. Top it with cream cheese (buy shelf-stable packets), pouched salmon, or any spread of your choosing.
I know I already denounced oatmeal, but bear with me: overnight oats are creamier and easier than their cooked counterparts, with a chewier texture that could convert even the most oat-opposed. Stir in a sweetener of your choice when you wake up, plus fruit, chocolate, nuts, or whatever you like, and you’ll have breakfast ready after you break camp two hours later (or on your first hiking break). On colder nights, you can soak them overnight to have breakfast ready when you wake up. Still not a fan? Cold soak grits, ramen noodles, or dehydrated potatoes and dress it up with bacon bits for a savory breakfast.
A granola bar alone might make a sad camp breakfast, but pair it with your favorite trail snacks and you’ve got a hearty meal. We like homemade energy balls, trail mix, fruit, and jerky to start the day.
Eggless Breakfast Burrito or Tacos
You don’t need to fire up the stove to whip up a perfectly delicious breakfast burrito. A combination of cheese, salsa, avocado, prepackaged beans, and veggies tastes just as good cold. Packaged, seasoned jackfruit is a great no-cook, vegetarian alternative to meat or eggs. Just spoon it onto a tortilla, add your favorite toppings, fold, and hit the trail.