Whether you’re planning a weekend trip or months of non-stop hiking, it’s important to prepare your meals as best you can. Sadly, many prepackaged and over-processed vegan backpacking foods are not always healthy or long-lasting. Because of this, you’ll want to look for foods that preserve well and are lightweight and full of nutrients. Once you know which ingredients are ideal for your trip, you can begin to make your meals ahead of time to save money and energy. Here are our tips for making sure your vegan backpacking adventure is as healthy and hearty as possible.
Before your trip, determine how much you’re willing to spend based on how long you’ll be gone. Then, think about which foods you want to make yourself and which foods you want to purchase. Many backpackers prefer keeping dehydrated seasonal fruit such as raisins, bananas, apricots, dates, and mangoes on hand for those moments when hunger hits. Energy bars and fruit leather are also simple snacks that you can make before you head out on the trail.
Many backpackers like to have a cold meal to begin their days for optimal efficiency. To accomplish this, add water to instant oats as you’re breaking down camp. With oats, you can mix dehydrated apples, cinnamon, and raisins. For even more energy, try nut butter, sunflower seeds, and dried apricots, as these breakfast combinations are great for adding iron and protein-rich foods to your diet, which help repair muscle tissues and also increase the oxygen in the blood. Bagels are also a satisfying option because they are high in calories and can be stored for days. Mix some dehydrated hummus with water and olive oil, and make a paste to add to your bagel. Coupled with sprouts and sundried tomatoes, this meal will keep you full for miles. Having a quick bowl of granola with dehydrated soy or rice milk is also an easy option.
Tortillas are a perfect lunchtime staple with which to get creative. Unlike bread, tortillas preserve longer and won’t deflate when pressed to the side of your pack. Try adding tahini, sunflower seeds, kale chips, and nutritional yeast to a wrap, or even dehydrated refried bean paste with hot sauce, garlic powder, and sprouts. For something a little sweeter, spread your favorite nut butter on a tortilla with dark chocolate hazelnut spread and dried cherries. For a classic option, combine peanut butter with strawberry baby food, which can be used as a jam alternative for backpackers as it often comes in a lightweight pouch, making it easier to carry. Many baby foods also contain no refined sugar, meaning they are less diluted than conventional jams and contain more fruit-derived vitamins per serving. Bringing a dehydrated green juice drink that you can add to your water bottle is another quick way to get necessary vitamins and minerals into one meal.
For many backpackers, dinner is cooked on either a warm fire or a camp stove, and when preparing warm meals in advance, it’s important to consider the amount of cook time needed in order to save fuel. Dehydrated refried beans and instant rice don’t require much energy and contain optimal calories and protein—two things you’ll need on days when you’re hiking from sunrise to sunset. Ramen noodles are also ideal because they are lightweight, filling, and can cook in a short amount of time. Purchasing ramen from Lotus Foods can save time, while buying one of their bulk options and making your own seasonings can be slightly cheaper. Furthermore, bringing a small tube of tomato paste is a great way to cut water weight when packing these foods. Paring tomato sauce with dried polenta and dehydrated vegetables makes for a meal that is lightweight, filling, and bursting with vitamin C. For a curry style dish, add dehydrated vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, and zucchini to the sauce.
When looking for snacks between meals, many backpackers make personalized trail mix. Include a variety of nuts, seeds, and dehydrated fruit such as apples, apricots, bananas, cherries, and raisins, as these items preserve well and are easy to grab. For a quick snack, Lärabar energy bars and Primal Strips vegan jerky are high in potassium and sodium, two electrolytes you will need to be replacing as you hike. When you’re out on the trail, let your creativity flourish by leaving dehydrated pineapple, peaches, persimmons, and mangoes immersed in your water bottle as you hike.
Sierra Sander-Hewitt is an anthropology graduate with a passion for adventure that includes hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.