The Essential Weekend Backpacking Menu

Banish blah food with this 3-day guide to quick, delicious meals.

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In the morning, dress up instant oatmeal with some dried cranberries and orange peel; both add color and flavor, as well as muscle-repairing antioxidants. Make chicken-salad wraps with ranch dressing for lunch. For dinner, add kale and pre-cooked sausage to soup mix for a meat-and-potatoes meal that also rehydrates you.


This one-pot salmon dinner is a savory start to your trip.

  • Salmon (in water-filled 7 oz. foil pouch)
  • 16 oz. whole-wheat pasta
  • Rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Crumbled feta
  • Dark chocolate
  • Lexan bottle filled with white wine

Salmon, pasta, and feta are long on flavor, but heavy in weight. Cook them the first night so you’re not carrying the extra ounces into Sunday. Go with whole-grain pasta if possible; the complex carbs will fuel your muscles for the next day’s hike. As soon as you reach your campsite, stash the wine-filled Lexan bottle in a fast-moving stream to keep it chilled. For dessert, nibble dark chocolate, which is rich in heart-healthy antioxidants.


These meals deliver the big doses of flavor and energy you need on your weekend’s biggest day.

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Dried cranberries
  • Orange peel
  • Chicken (in 7 oz. foil pouch)
  • Flour tortillas (8-inch diameter)
  • Ranch dressing packets
  • Bear Creek creamy potato soup mix (5.5 oz. bag)
  • Smoked sausage links
  • Kale or coleslaw mix


This full breakfast fuels your final miles-while leaving room for a post-hike burger and fries.

  • Instant rice
  • Slivered almonds
  • Golden raisins
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • Brown sugar
  • Wheat crackers (e.g. Triscuits)
  • Cashew butter
  • Dried apricots

Make plain rice spicy and exotic for your morning meal by stirring in cinnamon, cardamom, and brown sugar just before serving. Since you’re homeward-bound today, skip lunch to snack during rest breaks. Spread cashew butter and dried fruit on crackers, and tear into string cheese, sesame sticks, or energy bars.

Flavor Boosts

Savory substitutes for tired snacks and drinks


Gorp’s sweet/salty combo of carbs, protein, and fat is a classic fuel for backpackers. For a fresh, antioxidant-rich variation, combine macadamia nuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds, or go tropical by adding dried mango and coconut flakes.


Looking to move beyond wine and beer? Get classy and ounce-conscious all at once by carrying a few drams of port or sherry in a small container like GSI Outdoor’s 10 fl. oz. Lexan hip flask ($10). These sweet, palate-cleansing drinks go well with after-dinner chocolates, cheese, and fruit.

Foods for the Long Haul

  • Durable Greens Coleslaw stays fresh in bags for two days, as does kale, a vitamin-rich leafy vegetable.
  • Super Snacks Hard-boiled eggs are full of protein and virtually mess-free when stashed inside a cook pot. Salty wasabi peas won’t get pulverized in your pack like potato chips.

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