Best Backpacking Food - Alpen Fuel Favorites
We are living in the golden age of backpacking food. Never before has there been so many options! This is both a blessing and a curse for the consumer. But at the end of the day, it's pretty simple. Backpackers need food that is heavy on nutrition and calories, and light on bulk and weight. An Army marches on it's stomach, and a backpacker is no different.
Why trust a review by the Alpen Fuel team? Well for starters, we run a backpacking food company and stock many incredible and tasty brands. How do we pick our brands and food products? By tasting them! We have sorted through the options to bring you our Best Backpacking Food of 2019. Let's dig in, shall we? Bring Your Own Spork (BYOS).
Best Backpacking Breakfast
We couldn't decide which breakfast was our favorite so we picked two. First up, Peak Refuel's Strawberry Granola. Not only is it so good you will want to eat it at home, it is super easy to prep and has 530 calories. Make the meal by adding cold water (did I hear no cook?); ready in five minutes! This meal contains powdered milk and reminds us of all the cold cereal we ate growing up. But unlike every box of cold cereal, this meal will actually stick with you.
Oatmeal is a staple backcountry breakfast. Who hasn't dipped into a pack of instant oatmeal at some point in their backpacking career? At home, we eat oatmeal for breakfast a large portion of the time. That being said, we rarely eat it on the trail. Why? Because we haven't found a quick prep oatmeal we really loved! That changed with Trail Fork's Paleoats. Technically it doesn't contain oatmeal, but rather is made up of chia seeds, bits of walnuts and cashews, and coconut milk powder. This results in a fairly low carb meal that has 43g of fat and 540 calories. If you are going to heat water for breakfast, this very tasty meal is worthy of the fuel and time to do so.
Don't want to cook for breakfast? Keep reading!
Best Backpacking No-Cook Meal Bar
No cook backpacking is a popular and practical approach. Even if you don't commit 100% to this approach, it is nice to have a few no cook options on hand for convenience and for times when you are too tired to fire up the stove (or the weather prohibits cooking). When we want a no cook meal for breakfast or need something quick for an on-trail boost, we most often reach for a Pro Bar. Our personal favorite is the chocolate coconut. Probars generally contain around 350 calories and only weigh in at 3oz. With great taste and texture, Pro Bars are easy on your stomach and can be eaten for many days in a row on the trail with no ill effects.
Another meal bar brand worth looking into is Greenbelly Meals. Each Greenbelly meal contains two bars for a whopping 645 calories total. If you don't want both bars at once, eat half and stash the other bar back into the resealable package for later. Borne on the Appalachian Trail, Greenbelly Meals are a legitimate replacement for any dehydrated or freeze dried meal on the market. Our favorite is the Chocolate Banana.
Runner up: Protein Pucks.
Best High Calorie Backpacking Dinner
Most backpacking meals run 500-700 calories. Back in 2018 we came across Peak Refuel out of Utah. They are a brand new company that is focused on putting loads of nutrition, calories, and protein into their meals. We were shocked to see that their Beef Pasta Marinara contains a staggering 990 calories! Yes you read that right. It is super tasty as well - probably because it contains ingredients you can pronounce including garlic, basil, onion, and Parmesan cheese. All those calories and it still only weights 6.35oz!
Best Low Carb Backpacking Dinner
Low carbohydrate diets (keto, paleo, etc.) have come on strong in the past few years. However, trail food options have lagged behind the trend. There are a few options if you are on a paleo diet, but really only one packaged meal option if you are eating keto. That option is Next Mile Meals. All of their meals get great reviews but our favorite is the Italian Meatball. This meal weighs only 3.54oz yet somehow has 570 calories and 7 net carbs! Next Mile Meals are likely the most calories per ounce of any meal on the market currently.
Runner up: Wild Zora Mountain Beef Stew.
Best Backpacking Snack
Backpacking snacks is a huge category of food. Obvious choices include trail mix and jerky. But where do you go if you want something different? When we need to get out of a trail snack rut we turn to two super tasty and nutrient dense products. The first is Heather's Choice Packaroons. Coconut based, packaroons are a dehydrated treat that packs a caloric punch (180 Calories per 1 oz snack). We have heard them described as 'eating a cloud'. Analogies aside, take our word for it the texture is just right and the unique flavors are all above par.
Next up are FBomb Nut Butters. They are made from macadamia nuts which are one of the most calorically dense nuts out there (read rocket fuel). For reference, pure olive oil is arguably the most calorically dense food out there and comes in at 240 calories per ounce. FBomb Nut Butter comes in at around 200 calories per ounce! Justin's Nut Butter comes in only at 165 calories per ounce. If you are eating low carb or just want long-lasting lightweight fuel, give FBomb Nut Butters a hard look.
Best Backpacking Coffee
Good trail coffee is hard to find. As a result, many people pack ground coffee and presses just to get their coffee fix on the trail. As self proclaimed coffee snobs, we are no different. This year we will be taking Tioga Rise Coffee on all of our backpacking trips. Last fall we found Tioga Rise on social media and quickly got our hands on some of their coffee. We were really impressed by how rich and dark the brew is - definitely not standard backpacking coffee! We keep some on hand to drink at home when we don't have time to break out the French press.
Runner up: Alpine Start Coffee.
Best Backpacking Food You Never Knew Existed
Who would have thought you could make shelf stable pulled pork that tastes good? Use it for adding flavor and nutrition to soups, noodles, and freeze-dried meals. The packages are ideal for backpacking and will take up little room in your pack. The shelf stable nature is unique, we haven't come across a product like this before! If you want meat in the backcountry your options are generally pretty limited (jerky, freeze dried meals, or foil packets of chicken or fish). Simply Shredz products are a perfect way to bring pork into the backcountry. Read full review.
Best Backpacking Utensil
In our mind the ideal backpacking spork or spoon would be super light and long enough to not get freeze dried food schmutz on your fingers every time you try and eat. At 0.2oz and 8.5in long, the aluminum Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spoon fits the bill. We picked one up earlier this year and haven't looked back since. It also comes in a spork variation if you are so inclined.
Runner up: Snow Peak Titanium Spork.
Well that should cover it! Let us know if you agree with our choices in the comments. May your stove always be full of fuel and your spork be in the first place you look for it. Happy trails!
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