Vegan Backpacking Food: Take Healthy Eating On the Trail
From coconut curries to overnight oats and fruit roll-ups, it’s easy (and delicious) to eat vegan in the backcountry. Bon appetit!
Your plans for next weekend are finally coming together: a two-night backpacking trip with friends. Gear is simple — you’ve got your personal kit dialed, and the others are packing the tent and cooking supplies — but food is a more complex issue. The quintessential mac & cheese with sausage is out, as is beef jerky and oatmeal with powdered milk and butter. You’re vegan, and prefer not to compromise your diet choices for adventure. Fortunately, there’s no need.
Lightweight, calorie-dense, and easy-to-prepare plant-based meals might be the greatest oxymoron, but there are more options available to the vegan hiker now than ever. You might choose to pack your own meals, a cheaper and at times healthier option, providing the enjoyable process of preparing a more complex dish in the backcountry. Alternatively, pre-packaged meals certainly offer convenience for the busy hiker: they are simple to pack, easy and quick to prepare, and require no clean-up. A variety of companies make prepared meals, and one in particular — Outdoor Herbivore — focuses entirely on vegan and vegetarian meals. We’ll include a range of suggestions of both recipes and prepared meals in our plan below.
We have the perfect vegan menu plan for your weekend trip. Here we’ll provide enough delicious food ideas for two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners, and four snacks. Now off to the grocery store — it’s Thursday and the great beyond awaits!
Vegan breakfast ideas
Often touted as the most important meal of the day, breakfast before a long day of hiking is especially vital to your success on the trail. Make sure your breakfasts are calorie-packed, include fiber and protein, and remember to start your morning off with a healthy dose of hydration as well.
Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Overnight Oats — any variation on the overnight oats theme will be a good one; by mixing up the ingredients, you can keep the meal fresh. Use water or plant-based milk powder, add maple syrup, fruit and nuts, coconut, chia seeds, or any combination. We especially like this recipe because it incorporates peanut butter for a calorie-dense breakfast to start your day out right.
Pre-Packaged: Sunrise Tofu Scramble from Outdoor Herbivore — check out the ingredients on this breakfast: tofu, onion, potato, bell pepper, tomato, carrot, parsley, spinach, black pepper, sea salt, and turmeric. You won’t be sacrificing one ounce of your morning nutrition with this tofu scramble — add extra calories by putting it into a tortilla and adding salsa!
- Coconut Millet Porridge with Forest Berries
- Super Greens Instant Smoothie – Alpine Aire
- Pumpkin Wild Rice Hot Cereal – Simply Native Foods
Vegan lunch ideas
It might be tempting to snack your way through the day on the trail, with bars and handfuls of GORP, but settling down for a brief lunch has many benefits, from making sure you’re getting proper nutrition to providing a reason to pause at a beautiful spot for a while. We’ve included some no-cook ideas here so you can bury the stove deep and still have a hearty mid-day meal.
Recipe: Super Berries and Almond Salami on crackers — a simple job on the food processor before leaving home will yield this incredible vegan salami roll with the protein and calories. Slice it up and eat on crackers or with pre-cooked rice.
Pre-packaged: Pacific Crest Vinaigrette from Outdoor Herbivore — this is as close as you’ll come to fresh salad in a pre-packaged backpacking meal; a raw broccoli salad with almonds, raisins, cranberries, and a tasty vinaigrette dressing. Consider wrapping this salad in a tortilla and adding hummus or guacamole for a full meal.
- Long live the backcountry quesadilla, and feel free to get creative by stuffing your tortilla with guacamole, hummus, Lemon Quinoa Tabbouleh, bean dip, olives, or even fresh foods such as avocados and tomatoes.
- Sunny Sunflower Salad — Outdoor Herbivore
Vegan snack ideas
Snacks, mmmm, snacks. Are snacks not the reason we exercise in the first place? When moving consistently throughout the day, it is important to stay energized by eating small bites every half hour to hour. Here are some ideas for easy snacks that can be accessed from your pocket or backpack lid.
- No Bake Energy Bites — a delicious mix of energy-laden dates, pecans, and coconut, I would snack on these at home or in the office, which is saying a lot for backcountry food. Energy bites are easy to prepare a day ahead or weeks before heading out into the backcountry.
- Corn Flake Energy Bars — add corn flakes and sunflower seeds to dates, and then a layer of chocolate on top. A perfect mix of energy and tasty goodness, as long as they don’t all get eaten during the car ride to the trailhead. When grocery shopping, be sure to scan the list of ingredients on your chocolate choice to confirm it’s vegan.
- Bars — bars, bars, and more bars: bars are hands-down the easiest way to fill up on calories and nutrients in the backcountry. Grab a handful from the store, stick them in your pocket, and you’re set on snacks for the weekend. Many are vegan, and our favorites include PROBAR, Larabar, GoMacro Bar, and Patagonia Provisions fruit and nut bars.
- Primal Strips Soy Jerky — snacks can often be sweet, and trail cravings are at times for more salty and savory foods. Check out Primal Strip’s jerky made of soy, seitan, and shiitake mushrooms; eat the jerky plain or chop it up to put in meals or on crackers. Other savory snacks we recommend include salted nuts, peanut butter pretzel bites, and Chex Mix.
- GORP (or any spin on “good ol’ raisins and peanuts” — add almonds, dried fruit, coconut, pretzels, and seeds to your mix!)
- Blueberry Nutty Munch — Outdoor Herbivore
- Mango, Rhubarb, and Raspberry Fruit Rolls-Ups
After a long day on the trail and in the elements, you’ll want a hearty and warm meal to fill you up and keep your body fueled for the next day’s activities. We recommend starting with a simple round of soup or ramen for warmth and hydration while you cook the main dish.
Recipe: Vegetable Yellow Curry — curry is an excellent spice when you’re often cooking meals that include some sort of legume and rice/quinoa/couscous. For a weekend trip, consider just bringing frozen vegetables; if you’re heading out for longer, you can easily purchase dehydrated vegetables online for a lightweight, long-lasting option.
Pre-packaged: Louisiana Red Beans & Rice from Backpacker’s Pantry — a Cajun spin on the classic rice and beans dish, this meal is hearty enough to fill up a hungry hiker. Rice and beans is always a good option for vegan dinner in the backcountry; if you’re hoping to prepare your own meal, consider trying Fantastic Foods or Santa Fe Bean Company dehydrated beans and instant rice or pre-cooked rice in a microwave package.