DIY Backpacking Meals on a Budget: No Dehydrator Required

As outdoor enthusiasts, we all know that proper nutrition is crucial for a successful backpacking trip. Whether you’re embarking on a multi-day trek through the mountains or a weekend camping trip, having enough energy to power through the day is essential.

However, pre-packaged backpacking meals can be expensive and often contain unnecessary preservatives and additives. That’s why making your own DIY backpacking meals is not only a great way to save money but also allows you to customize your meals to your specific dietary needs and preferences.

In this article, we’ll explore some budget-friendly DIY backpacking meal ideas that don’t require a dehydrator. That’s right – you don’t need a fancy dehydrator to create delicious and nutritious backpacking meals. By using simple ingredients and basic cooking techniques, you can create meals that will keep you fueled and satisfied on the trail without breaking the bank.

So, whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or just starting out, these DIY meal ideas are perfect for anyone looking to save money while still enjoying tasty and healthy meals on their outdoor adventures.

Planning Your Backpacking Meals

Before hitting the trail, it’s important to plan your backpacking meals to ensure that you’re getting the nutrients and energy your body needs. When planning your meals, it’s important to consider your caloric and nutritional needs based on your activity level, body weight, and personal preferences.

Aim for a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy and should make up the majority of your meals. Good sources of carbohydrates for backpacking include rice, pasta, quinoa, and bread. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, so be sure to include protein-rich foods in your meals.

Examples of high-protein backpacking foods include beans, nuts, seeds, and jerky. Don’t forget to include healthy fats in your meals, which provide a long-lasting source of energy. Some good sources of healthy fats for backpacking include avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

To determine how many calories you need per day on the trail, consider your activity level, body weight, and the length of your trip. Generally, backpackers should aim for 2,500-4,500 calories per day, depending on these factors. However, it’s important to note that everyone’s caloric needs are different, so be sure to adjust your meal plan based on your individual needs.

In addition to considering caloric and nutritional needs, it’s important to also factor in the weight and portability of your backpacking meals. Choose lightweight ingredients that are easy to pack and won’t spoil quickly. When it comes to packing food for a backpacking trip, be sure to use resealable bags to keep your food fresh and prevent any spills.

Consider packing your meals in advance to save time and ensure that you have everything you need for your trip.

Overall, planning your backpacking meals ahead of time will ensure that you’re properly fueled for your outdoor adventure. By considering your caloric and nutritional needs and choosing lightweight and portable ingredients, you’ll be able to create meals that are both delicious and practical for the trail.

Related: Trail-Tested Vegan & Gluten-Free Backpacking Food Ideas

DIY Backpacking Meal Ideas – No Dehydrator Required

Now that you’ve got a handle on planning your backpacking meals, it’s time to start brainstorming some DIY meal ideas. These budget-friendly meal ideas are perfect for anyone looking to create tasty and nutritious meals on the trail without the need for a dehydrator.

1. Trail Mix

Trail mix is a classic backpacking snack that is both lightweight and packed with energy. Create your own trail mix by combining nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolate chips. You can even add some protein powder for an extra boost of energy.

2. Rice and Bean Bowl

Rice and bean bowls are a filling and protein-packed meal idea that is easy to make on the trail. Simply cook some rice and beans (canned or dehydrated) and add in some spices and vegetables for flavor. Consider adding some avocado for a healthy dose of fats.

3. Oatmeal with Dried Fruit

Oatmeal is a great breakfast option for backpacking and can easily be made by adding hot water. Spice up your oatmeal by adding some dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, or apricots. Consider adding some nuts or chia seeds for extra protein and healthy fats.

4. Wraps

Wraps are a versatile meal idea that can be customized to your liking. Simply bring some tortillas and fillings like cheese, hummus, vegetables, and canned meats or fish. These can be assembled on the trail for a quick and easy meal.

5. Couscous Salad

Couscous is a great alternative to pasta or rice and is easy to prepare on the trail. Mix cooked couscous with canned vegetables like chickpeas, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes for a flavorful and filling salad.

These are just a few examples of budget-friendly DIY backpacking meal ideas. By using simple ingredients and a little bit of creativity, you can create tasty and nutritious meals that will fuel you on your outdoor adventure.

Ingredient and Equipment Tips

When it comes to DIY backpacking meals, choosing the right ingredients and equipment can make all the difference. Here are some tips to help you select the best ingredients and equipment for your budget-friendly backpacking meals.

1. Ingredients

  • Choose lightweight and non-perishable ingredients: This will make it easier to carry your food and prevent it from going bad. Look for ingredients like dried fruits, nuts, seeds, canned meats or fish, and dehydrated vegetables.
  • Opt for nutrient-dense ingredients: Since you’ll be expending a lot of energy on your backpacking trip, it’s important to choose ingredients that will fuel your body. Look for ingredients like whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits that are high in nutrients and energy.
  • Don’t forget spices: Adding spices to your meals can make all the difference in terms of flavor. Bring along some of your favorite spices to add some variety to your meals.


  • Lightweight and compact cookware: When it comes to backpacking, every ounce counts. Look for lightweight and compact cookware like a backpacking stove, a pot, a cup, and utensils.
  • A reliable water filter: Since you’ll be relying on natural water sources, it’s important to have a reliable water filter to remove any impurities or bacteria.
  • Airtight food containers: To keep your food fresh and prevent any spills or leaks, bring along some airtight food containers.

By selecting the right ingredients and equipment, you can create delicious and nutritious DIY backpacking meals without breaking the bank.

Just remember to pack light and plan ahead to ensure you have everything you need for your outdoor adventure.

DIY Backpacking Meals – Final Thoughts

To conclude, creating DIY backpacking meals on a budget is easier than you might think. With some planning, creativity, and the right ingredients and equipment, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals on your next outdoor adventure without breaking the bank.

Remember to prioritize lightweight and non-perishable ingredients that are high in nutrients and energy. And don’t forget to add some spices to your meals to add variety and flavor. By following these tips, you can create meals that not only fuel your body but also satisfy your taste buds.

Another advantage of creating your own backpacking meals is that you have complete control over what you’re eating. You can customize your meals to meet your dietary needs and preferences, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or have other dietary restrictions.

So, next time you’re planning a backpacking trip, consider creating your own DIY meals. With some creativity and planning, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals on a budget, all while enjoying the great outdoors.

Happy backpacking!

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