Our Favorite Three-Ingredient Backpacking Meals

…For When You Hate Everything in Your Food Bag

The first few hundred miles of your hike will be a blissful, face-stuffing party of Snickers and pasta sides, but soon that mail-drop of ramen and power bars sent by your oblivious pre-trail self is going to look pretty unappetizing, and you’ll be combing the stores looking for something you still want to eat. Burning up to 6,000 calories a day on a thru-hike means you have to eat a lot, even when everything starts tasting like paste.

These are meals we made—or saw other people making—starting around mile 700 when our food bags made us want to cry. These ingredients can be found in most trail towns, and some you already have in your food bag… they just need a little flavor boost. The combinations might wrinkle your nose now, but it’s amazing how much your standards tastes change after months of hiking.

You can also read more about our favorite commercial backpacking meals.

3 Ingredient Backpacking Meals


Low-Cash Lo Mein

Ramen + beef jerky + soy Sauce

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Piggy Von Spartacus

Tortillas + cream cheese + bacon bits


Shelterside Chicken Alfredo

Alfredo pasta side + chicken packet + sun-dried tomato



Crackers + almond butter + freeze dried apple slices



Crackers + sharp cheddar + salami


Thru-Hiker’s Carb Bomb

Angel hair pasta + salt and pepper + olive oil


Tuna Fish Crunch Surprise

Pita bread + tuna + Doritos crumbs


White Blazin’ Thanksgivin’

Mashed potatoes + gravy + bacon bits


Calorie-Bomb Mouth Glue

Peanut butter + honey + trail mix


Fire-in-the-Hole Backpacking Bowl

Couscous + freeze-dried veggies + curry powder or Tabasco or bullion


In-tents Breakfast Thing

Cereal / granola + powdered milk + dried blueberries


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Comments 24

  • Carla Robertson : Jan 31st

    This is great. I lived on salami and cheese on those little sandwich rounds for lunch. Made a little better with a squeeze of spicy mustard. Another fave of mine was dried tortellini, dehydrated veggies (tomatoes, kale and peppers sent to me by friends who had my dehydrator) and olive oil. Leave a little water in the pot and it’s like an awesome tortellini soup.

  • Steve : Feb 1st

    Personally they all sound and look fantastic! Except for the sun dried tomatoes. … not a fan. Great job folks!

  • Terry Gandy : Feb 1st

    Thanks for the simple, delicious, creative suggestions. This is just what I’ve been looking for. Definitely a keeper!

  • TRIAN : Feb 1st

    After a while I asked, ‘whats you’re add it?’. Meaning what do you add to the Pasta/Rice side. My favorite tuna & garlic. I ate it with many sides. Also parmesan cheese adds a nice touch to the cream based sides.

    • Lucinda : Feb 8th

      It’s good to see someone thnnikig it through.

  • Sophie : Feb 1st

    I made 159 different dehydrated dinner meals, the most repetition is 20-something pasta with tomato/veggie sauce, and to those I’ll add either salmon, tuna, chicken, or beef… Also have 180 breakfasts… Different kinds of oatmeals, granola, polenta eggs and potatoes.. Hopefully I made enough variety. When we finish at the end of this season I’ll be able to report back and hopefully put out a little cookbook. 🙂

    • Deidre : May 23rd

      I hope I get to see your cookbook!!

  • Wheaties AT NOBO 2015 : Feb 2nd

    Tortilla, salami, cheese was my go-to. Adding tuna packets (to just about everything) saved me from completely withering away, after losing 25% of my body weight in the first 1000 miles. I never got tired of Clif bars by keeping a wide variety of flavors. I also would put together some interesting gorp bags from what I could find in town stores.

  • Kevin Neal : Feb 3rd

    The granola, powdered milk and freeze dried blue berries or strawberries was what I had almost every morning, yum. And instant espresso of course.

    Most others look pretty good too. I tried parts of most too.

    • Gorp-Gobbler : Feb 5th

      What ratio to water did you use for your powdered milk? I have “Milk Man” brand of milk that makes a quart per envelope, but I don’t need that much each morning. Appreciate your feedback on this a-head-of-time.

  • Gorp-Gobbler : Feb 5th

    Far Out!! I like these ideas. Will have to try them.

  • Danny : Feb 5th

    My grandchildren eat Ramen noodles with the seasoning packet emptied on top with no water. Crunchy yet doable. Also they can be eaten with cold water but, for me, cooking is definitely the best.

  • TicTac : Feb 5th

    I love the “mouth glue” recipe. My teethe were sticking together just reading it…

  • Annie Desbiens : Apr 12th

    I laughed a lot reading those suggestions, plus the photos are excellent and inviting !

    My favorite is tortillas + cream cheese + bacon. (And if is were not for the expensive crowns in my mouth, I’d love the ‘glue’ !)


    • J-bird : Apr 12th

      Read that cream cheese one and thought it sounded delicious, but then realized… cream cheese on the trail? Maybe for day one, but soft cheese doesn’t have much of a shelf life. Unless yall know something I dont.

      • Maggie : Apr 12th

        Good call on the cream cheese…. you’ll definitely want to use it up within a day or two, which usually isn’t an issue with thru-hiker’s appetites. We actually only carried cream cheese when it was cold out, and avoided the worry about them going bad. Definitely not an option through Pennsylvania in July though….

  • Curly Turtle : Jul 31st

    I LOVE the simplicity and variety presented in these meals. Old habits kick in when it comes to packing food and even though we crave variety on longer hikes, taking the time to research options never happens because of all the other details that need to be attended to. I saved this to my notes to make it an easy go to! Can’t wait to give it some of it a try!!! Thank you

  • Russ1663 : Aug 6th

    Oh wow Maggie. May have to print and laminate. I do day hikes that can go 20+ miles at times. I hope you do a packable cookbook or e-version. Saving this to device. Thanks much, reminds me of Army MRE days.?

  • Benjamin Greathouse : Oct 30th

    So, when is the cookbook coming out? I might even have to try some of these at home!

  • Lamar : Jan 28th

    Cold weather packing presents challenges AND opportunities. Packing some luxury items for a scrmptous meal right after restocking in trail towns can be rewarding.consider pack of bacon, some taters and an onion or 2 to fry – this will amaze fellow hikers. Also there are hardshell cases that will hold 6 eggs – boil the other 6 right away to add to your lunch cheese and crackers.
    AT thru hiker N to S finished Springer Feb 8, 1974. After ‘Nam service.

  • Lisa : Feb 16th

    Another delicious one is “crepes”–tortilla, nutella and freeze dried strawberries


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