Lunch in the trail

1:12 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
4 reviewer rep
10 forum posts

My friend and I are about to go on our first multinight backpacking trip, 4 days on the Alabama Pinhoti. We just don't exactly know how we should plan our lunches on the trail. Any tips from experienced hikers would be helpful.

1:21 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
351 reviewer rep
287 forum posts

Hi acwatts,

Really cool you and your friend are getting out for a fun camping adventure.  

One of the things I like to do is freeze a couple sandwiches like egg salad or chicken salad or turkey and then insulate them best I can in my pack.  I haven't got sick yet so knock on wood.  That will cover lunch for a day or two.  Snack items like jerky, trail mix, energy bars, crackers, smoked salmon, kipper snacks, candy bars and stuff like that usually will serve as my lunches later on in the trip.  Sometimes I get that bacon that doesn't need refrigerated and will snack on that too.  You can also take tortillas and fill them with things like spanish rice, etc if you like that.  Those are just a couple ideas of the things I do personally.  

Have fun out there.  

2:22 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
179 reviewer rep
192 forum posts

How exciting!

Me, I prefer a hot lunch. Oh, I can do without it but for me hot food ( and tea! ) picks me up better than anything else.

A simple low cost mega carbo load hot lunch is a pack of ramen cooked up and thickened with instant potatoes. I use less water than the ramen pack calls for.

With this I'll have a cup of tea and also eat one of these -


3.7 ounces per bar, 400 to 440 calories. Plenty of other bars on the market but they are mostly just candy and you don't want those! 

Thus, the ramen is 380 calories, the food bar 400 + calories and 1/3 cup of Instant potatoes is about 80 calories ( can easily go to 1/2 cup here ). Total of about 860 calories, a reasonably stout meal.

Easy to cook. I'd blast a quart of water to a boil with my Whisperlight, then shut it off, Make two cups of tea, then toss two broken up packs ramen into the remaining water, stir, wait  minute for it to "cook", toss in potato flakes to thicken and spoon the glop out into bowls.

Eh, my wife and I did carry two cups, bowls, spoons a a 2 qt pot, maybe more cookware than what some others carry.


Ya know what makes a great no cook lunch? Peanut butter spread on whole wheat tortillas! Heh, I'll also open a can of tuna and add chunks of tuna on top of the peanut butter...Maybe cheese too if I have any... Sounds gross, but hey, it's backpacking food and I bet you'd wolf it down!

Whole wheat tortillas are great to carry. They are flat and pack well, they keep fine for a week on the trail, they provide some much needed fiber to a backpacking diet, and they satisfy that desire for bread and give ya something to wipe yer bowls and spread peanut butter on!


  Hey, a new product that I've recently come across is this -


These are individually wrapped .75 ounce packs of cheese. My wife and I took two packs of these on our last 4 day trip and et every last one ( Open both, pour the contents of one bag into the other and take that) . 

I wish they were 1.5 ounce packs as that is the fat content ( cheese, oil, peanut butter or whatever ) that I like to add per person per dinner, but oh well. 


Sausage works well. Cheese, some sausage and a tortilla will make an OK lunch, if a little light for me. I'd need to stop two or three times a day to repeat that snack. To many types of sausage to go into here, get what you like. Preferably something dry with a real wrapper you can eat. Cut it up and add it to cooked dinners for flavor, protein and fat. I always take some.


This stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. Easy to make yer own, no need to buy packaged mixes. Keep the sugar content low to none, go for nuts ( fats ) and dried fruit ( fiber ). 

This ain't lunch fer me, I don't usually use it anymore, but it should be mentioned. Some folk swear by it. It is good to fill in the corners, so to speak.

Sometimes I'll make up a batch of granola. It can be eaten as hot or cold cereal or Gorp. Ya know, I've never posted my high calorie granola recipe here, so I'll do that today. Look fer it in the cooking section.

Tea - Even with no food, two cups of hot black tea revives and satisfies me like nothing else!

FRITOS - This ain't health food, but lemme tell ya, it packs a punch! It is over the 125 calories per ounce of weight mark that backpacker strive for. A bag is light and close to 900 calories!

They contain nothing but corn, corn oil and salt. One of the best backpacking snacks you can buy!

Couscous and Polenta couscous mixes -

These have become standbys for my wife and I. I don't have any recipes handy but can get 'em if yer interested.


To much sugar in yer diet and yer gonna get the classic max-blood-sugar-rush and-crash-effect.  Cliff bars, Power bars that thar glucose slime in tubes some folk slurp, and the like - They ain't nothing but sugar! AVOID Those things.

A good meal -


That's a Polenta couscous mix, a "Spam single" a whole wheat tortilla ( home made ) an apple and I got tea on the way. Yum!

FRUIT - On our last four day trip we took two apples and et 'em the first day. On the fourth day we came across a lady eating an apple and I thought my wife was gonna steal it from her! An apple or orange hidden in the pack is always a good idea.


I'm going to touch upon dinner too. No reason not to, lunch can be a meal just like diner. If eating Mountain House kinda crap ( I don't care for that stuff any more ) do add a dollop of margarine, peanut butter, olive oil, some diced sausage and / or cheese to 'em! The added fat goes a long way to improving  'em.  So does cutting up a tomato into 'em.

We I have also started using allot of these -

Bear Creek rice side dishes. They have a high calorie content and are quite cheap in my local supermarket right now. Some are supposed to have up to to eight servings, so that is great for two hungry hikers. 

What we do is first buy and dry chicken breasts over our wood stove, or dry something we shot/caught.

They get pounded flat and maybe a little salt added.


Then, when it gets time to eat, we dump the broken up dried chicken and the Bear Creek stuff into Our Biggest Pot with the water, set it over our Trangia alcohols stove and let it heat. It need not boil, and at the most they take 3-1/2 cups water so it doesn't take long. 

So when it is hot but not boiling we take it off the stove, dump a quart of water and two tea bags into our little pot and set that on the stove ( here is the trick so pay attention now ) and set the big pot over the little double boiler fashion with the fry pan lid on top to keep the heat in.

The tea also need not boil, just heat to perhaps 180 degrees and because the tea bags were put in at the start so the brew is good and strong as well as piping hot. When the tea is done the food on top is done. So we never actually waste fuel to boil anything. 

Heating the tea also finished off the meal!

Double boiler method in a Trangia 25-3. Little pot, big pot then frypan/lid


And here a similar meal made the same way ready to eat. The "soup" is bear creek creamy potato to which we added a pile of home dried fish. Eight servings says the package but we ate it all and washed it down with the quart of tea.  The big pot holds 1.75 liters, so that is a hearty meal.



2:37 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
2,155 reviewer rep
2,123 forum posts

I typically gravitate to sandwiches for lunch. I don’t like to prepare them beforehand so I usually pack the components and assemble at lunch time.

Lately I’ve been enjoying foil packed, premade tuna salad and bringing along tortillas or wheat bread.

But the great thing about a shorter trip is you can get away with fresh stuff for a little while (in the right temps of course).



Here is a cold three bean salad with spring mix on a wheat tortilla


Of course sometimes I get crazy and bring stuff like this:



But that isn't very practicle for four days.....:)


3:07 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
179 reviewer rep
192 forum posts

A watermelon! I wanna go backpacking with you!

Here is a fast lunch, a big hunk o' cheese and fritos! -


4:16 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
271 reviewer rep
1,866 forum posts

Like everyone is showing you.Yours is a short trip and you can bring premade foods in the right temps...One good one is if you like egg salad preboil the eggs put them in a xiplock and bring mayo packs Mustard packets and Relish packs and assmble on the trail..High in protein and healthy...Another I bring Fried chicken with me at times in a ziplock..Cold chicken...Fresh friuts like apples and oranges are a nice treat also...Freeze dried refried beans.Premake them with your morning breakfast and keep them in a ziplock..At luch tiime put on Torts with cheese.

4:44 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
1,679 reviewer rep
705 forum posts

There are a lot of good suggestions here...and from what you have read you can probably tell that lunch is the most fluid of backpacking meals (though I didn't know until just now that watermelon was an option for some...Patman makes me happy).

If I am going with friends and trying to increase pleasure and leisure as much as possible I prepare a lunch (sandwiches and wraps) with things like cheese (wrapped in cheesecloth will help with the oil that releases in high temps)...sausage...bacon...tortillas...peanut butter...etc. When it comes to lunch you are really only limited by your imagination of what counts as lunch (tuna and peanut butter?!?)...but from my experience it is the dressing you choose for the sandwiches that makes all the difference. As far as favorites the summer I like dehydrated hummus and Fritos...easy to fix (mix in water)...lightweight...calorie packed! In cooler temps...I like to make soups and biscuits...if it is dry you can build a small camp-fire and fire-bake the biscuits on a few sticks...if it is wet and damp you can just steam-bake the biscuit mix into dumplings in the soup as it simmers (this is very hearty and soul warming on wet and damp days). For extra flavor add onion powder + salt + red pepper flakes + dill...and other dried seasonings to the mix before you leave.

If I am going solo...and I have a lot of miles to cover...I like on-the-go (no-prepare) lunches. I try to get a nice mix of slow energy and fast energy using things like jerky + cheese + peanut butter + etc. for slower more sustained energy...and candies like Mike and Ike that have a hard (semi-hard) candy shell (no melt) for faster energy (stay away from individually wrapped candies because they tend to stick to wrappers and create a lot of trash). Between fast and slow energy foods is the all important GORP (granola+dried cranberries+mixed nuts) + Snickers/M&M (depending on temps) + snack-bars (I like the ones that taste good and never concern myself with nutrition) which are a combination of slow and fast energy. I love this last group...and when the temps allow for it I find I can never bring enough snack-size Snickers or other (almost) chocolate candy bars with nuts. I really like Peanut/Almond/Peanut Butter M&Ms too...but I can get tired of them after about 4-5 days.

10:58 p.m. on March 14, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
479 forum posts

Aren't you supposed to take the rind off the watermelon before you put it into your ultralight pack?

1:04 a.m. on March 15, 2014 (EDT)
2,161 reviewer rep
493 forum posts

Balzacom, c'mon...everyone knows ultralighters only carry seedless watermelons. What, y'all don't?

8:14 a.m. on March 15, 2014 (EDT)
3,715 reviewer rep
946 forum posts

Eric, c'mon....everyone knows ultralighters only carry watermelon seeds, then plant them and wait for the watermelons to grow.

10:49 a.m. on March 15, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
479 forum posts

Nope.  Freeze-dried watermelon seeds.  Rehydrate them, then plant them, then harvest the melons.  Pack the rinds out for LNT.

6:49 p.m. on March 15, 2014 (EDT)
12 reviewer rep
848 forum posts

I always carry my watermelon pre sliced in baggies.

12:26 p.m. on March 16, 2014 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,239 forum posts

I have been backpacking for 45 years. I usually eat stick salami,Ritz crackers and cheese for lunch. I carry the stick salami sliced fresh on the break for lunch, served with sliced bulk cheese on the Ritz Crackers, or Wheat Thins, Chicken-in-a-Biskit or some other type. 

Makes for a fatty lots of calories lunch to keep me going till supper in my next camp.

12:27 p.m. on March 17, 2014 (EDT)
4 reviewer rep
10 forum posts

So basically whatever I want? Even fresh fruit is an option?

1:52 p.m. on March 18, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
1 forum posts

Boiled eggs make a quick and easy breakfast on the trail. Wash the plastic egg cartoon cut down to the size you need and use it to transport.

I've also used the single serve tuna/salmon packs. Get mayo pack from fast food restaurants. Mix on the trail, eat with a bagel or crackers.

Single serve oatmeal packets. Place packet into a cup as a holder, pour in hot water, eat from the packet. Again very little cleanup.

4:00 p.m. on March 26, 2014 (EDT)
4 reviewer rep
10 forum posts

For that short trip, we just took ramen. We only ended up eating lunch on the trail for 2 days. But I have gotten some great ideas for future hikes.

11:13 p.m. on April 8, 2014 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,975 forum posts

I am in the camp favoring salami, cheese, and foil packets of tuna or chicken.  My starch component is usually bagels - they travel exceptionally well.  Jerky, nuts and dried fruit (love dried mangoes) are good sides to round out the diet. 

Is fresh fruit an option?  Yes, but the weight can add up.  On short trips I'll throw in some fresh oranges to boot.  I carry delicacies like fresh strawberries in the protective confines of a lidded cooking pot lined to paper towels, to keep the fruit from bruising.  Works like a charm.

Whatever you want?  Almost, as long as it doesn't spoil.  I have carried leftover pizza in the box up a mountain on more than one occasion.  Got a lot of looks, but I'd do it again under similar circumstances.  Your back and imagination define the limits.  I have used dry ice to extend the time items remain fit for consumption.  We even once did a high sierra hike with a rib roast and similar items, back in the day when fires were permitted, albeit we had a prearrangement with a trail maintenance friend to provide us with wood in the form of trail signs they were commissioned to replace.


11:30 p.m. on April 9, 2014 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
430 forum posts

Patrick - Now why didn't you bring a watermelon on our trip?  That would been the perfect way to celebrate reaching my lakes!  Now I feel like you let me down:)

10:27 a.m. on April 10, 2014 (EDT)
2,155 reviewer rep
2,123 forum posts

lambertiana said:

Patrick - Now why didn't you bring a watermelon on our trip?  That would been the perfect way to celebrate reaching my lakes!  Now I feel like you let me down:)



John I could not imagine doing that along with a bear canister and 8 days of food like we did! Next time I'll see what I can do...

5:44 a.m. on April 27, 2014 (EDT)
2,829 reviewer rep
922 forum posts

When I was working trail crew in the White Mtns (my avatar) I had some extra carrying capacity one week and so put a BIG watermelon in my pack without telling anyone else. Went into the pack tent on a hot Wednesday afternoon after work and came out with the prize. After sharing with my crew mates, I took the rest up on to the trail to share with random passersby...

April 26, 2018
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Evernew Appalachian Kit Newer: din dang!?
All forums: Older: New SMD Packs... Newer: Where are the new reviews???