Ideas for cheap & lightweight outdoors meals and snacks

Everytime I go on a longer hike food is a topic. How many meals to bring, which snacks, what to eat for breakfast,… it is an endless subject for discussion, planning and shopping.

When out for a long hike almost everybody likes to fantasize about pizza, beer, something fried and fresh salad. I’m convinced that it is a privilege to miss the luxury we have in our day to day life!

You will come home and enjoy a normal dinner more than ever. On the other side you shouldn’t suffer so much during your time in the backcountry: Don’t eat the same meal every day, bring enough to not go to bed hungry and have enough fat and protein in your food.


While I really do enjoy freeze dried meals from companies like Real Turmat, Mountain House or Blå Band, it does get too expensive over time. I also understand that the taste is not for everyone. Travelling on a lower budget and eating only freeze dried is not possible, with many freeze dried meals being in the 5 to 10€ price range.

Your hiking meals don’t have to be expensive and at the same time it is possible to keep the weight reasonably low. The key is to only buy dehydrated food because it is the water that makes it heavy and bulky. IMG_4664

A genereal disadvantage of cheaper food is the preperation time, use of fuel and cookware. Freeze dried food only takes some minutes before it’s ready to eat and the only thing needed is hot or boiling water. Even washing the dishes is not a problem because you can eat straight from the bag.

When you start boiling rice or noodles it will consume considerably more fuel and you will need to bring a bigger pot. On shorter hikes this is less of a problem than on trips that last 10 days or longer, without any option to restock.

General advice:

  • Only bring food that you know and like.
  • Test new meals at home before bringing them on a trip.
  • Don’t eat the same stuff every day.
  • Consider weight, bulk and how many calories you need.
  • On long trips it’s a good idea to bring one day of extra food.
  • Canned food is really only for weekend trips – always pack out your waste!

Hiking meal ideas – breakfast


Here is a list of items you can get in the supermarket. It’s reasonably cheap, light and makes for a good start in the day:

  • porridge or oatmeal
  • müsli
  • pancake mix
  • milk powder
  • fruit soup with almond biscuits (see image above)
  • hazelnut pudding (called Ultra Breakfast at Decathlon)
  • Energy cake (also from Decathlon)
  • crispbread
  • hard cheese (Babybel, aged Gouda,…)

I don’t bring any cans or boxes but fill it all in zip-loc bags, unless it has lightweight, burnable packaging.


Hiking meal ideas – warm meals

  • soup (good to mix with couscous)
  • pre boiled rice in bags
  • waffles or pancake mix
  • couscous or bulgur
  • potato mash
  • dry olives, dried mushrooms and vegetables
  • salami sausages, chouriço, dried meat, dried fish
  • tuna (In Sweden we have canned tuna but in aluminum bags)
  • potato pancakes
  • ramen noodles
  • soy flakes, vegan minced meat
  • beef jerky
  • pasta meals from Knorr or Maggi and the like
  • instant sauces (milk powder is often needed for mixing)
  • olive oil, coconut oil or even butter
  • spices! Bring some salt and a mix of spices in a little plastic container



Hiking meal ideas – savoury snacks

  • nuts
  • crackers
  • cheese from a tube (or anything that survives without a fridge)
  • crispbread
  • salty cookies
  • chips (if you poke a hole in the bag and mash it, you can reduce the volume dramatically)



Hiking meal ideas – sweet snacks

  • chocolate
  • chocolate bars
  • müsli bars
  • energy and protein bars
  • chocolate drinks (work even with cold water)
  • fruit soup
  • energy gels
  • dried fruit and raisins
  • cookies



Hiking meal ideas – beverages

  • tea
  • instant coffee
  • powdered drink mixes, such as multi vitamin effervescents, Isostar powder in different tastes (like coca-cola or orange)
  • hot or cold chocolate
  • a tiny bottle of booze


Extra tips:

  • If you are interested in drying food at home, give it a try!
  • Going hiking in an area where fishing is allowed: bring a fishing rod and try your luck!
  • Foraging can be both fun and delicious. Look for all kinds of berries and fruit that grow in the area. Be careful about eating wild mushrooms!




2 thoughts on “Ideas for cheap & lightweight outdoors meals and snacks

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