All the info and recipe inspiration you need to have the best vegan backpacking food for your next adventure
Lightweight, nutritious, tasty, easy, vegan backpacking food… sounds pretty niche right?
As the vegan community blossoms so does the amount of prepared dehydrated vegan meals, which is great, but these are can be costly, hard to source and often not that good for you. Bummer. My philosophy is if you want a job doing properly you have to do it yourself, and so I took to the kitchen, creative juices flowing, equipped with lots of vegan nutritional knowledge and a substantial appetite for taste testing.
Whether you’re backpacking for a weekend or month you need to be fuelling your body with lots of good stuff, however, you don’t want to be lugging around a rucksack crammed with avocados and quinoa. It’s here that a little bit of planning goes a long way. The food you pack in can really make or break your trip (take it from someone who has experienced both scenarios), so for a proper adventure you need the right backpacking munch.
That’s where this vegan backpacking guide comes in: to help you pack the right grub for your trip so you can explore those trails in true adventure herbivore mode.
We love food almost as much as we love the outdoors and have had years of testing out the best food for energy, ease and practically when backpacking. This guide covers all the basics you need to consider when choosing vegan backpacking food, from how to choose the right food to how to get enough nutrients and some tasty recipe inspiration.
In this guide you will find;
- Things to consider when choosing food for your backpacking trip
- What types of food to take on your trip and nutrition information
- Breakfast ideas
- Snacks and homemade recipes for the trail
- Lunch ideas
- Dinner ideas and recipes
Things to consider for your vegan backpacking trip
There are several equally important elements to think of when choosing the right backpacking food for your trip. Ticking all the boxes can seem like a bit of a conundrum but once you know what you’re looking for, finding the right foods comes more naturally and boy will be you glad once you’re on the trail.
1 – Nutrition
The nutrients you put into your body will keep you feeling strong and full of energy, something especially important when you’re exerting yourself. That sluggish feeling you get after a rich and heavy meal, that’s not a feeling you want to recreate when climbing mountains. Instead, you want to be full of beans (both figuratively and literally).
For backpacking, you want to focus on high-energy foods with plenty of carbohydrates and protein, salts to replenish your electrolytes, fats, minerals and enough fibre to keep everything… flowing. Believe me, on a multiday hiking trip, you’ll regret just taking 20 packets of instant noodles.
2 – Weight
A lightweight rucksack is a happy rucksack, particularly when you’re backpacking. Heck, we’ve met some people who would cut out care labels from clothes and shorten toothbrush handles all in a bid to carry less weight when hiking. Obviously you don’t need to go this extreme, but you don’t want to be packing in everything from the health food aisle. The key is choosing foods which are nutrient-rich but lightweight.
3 – Convenience
Whether you’re bounding up mountains or dragging your sweaty arse up the summit, either way you’re exerting yourself and your body needs to replenish some of that lost energy. Make sure you consider how convenient it is to carry, store and eat the food you’re bringing – it needs to be capable of handling a little bashing. Think about foods which can be stored easily then gobbled down one-handed whilst on the move. At the end of a hard day, or when you’re on the move, you’re going to want to chow down with as little effort as possible.
4 – Weather
Depending on the conditions, sitting down for a midday picnic may not be an option. You need to think about having some vegan hiking foods you can eat on-the-go that give a quick energy boost.
The climate you’re hiking in will also affect the foods you bring. In the summer you don’t want to be consuming too much salt whilst on the move as this will dehydrate you but then you will need to replace those lost electrolytes at the end of the day. Planning your vegan camping dinners will mean you can get back some of those nutrients you with a bigger meal later, potentially in your tent if the conditions are pants.
5 – Location
If you know you’ll be able to pick up some fresh fruit or veggies along the way you can add these to your vegan camping meals. This will give your meals some added nutrients plus you won’t have to carry as much. If, on the other hand, you won’t be passing civilisation for some miles or days then you need to make sure you’re prepared, bringing enough food to keep you going.
And, if you’re going camping or weight isn’t an issue, check out our Vegan Camping Guide
What are the best foods to take vegan backpacking?
Right, so I’ll just take a few kilos of oats then… No. As I’m sure you’re aware, as amazing as oats are they don’t contain enough nutrients to keep you going for a multi-day trip. Plus you’ll get sick of them.
You need to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients from a variety of different foods, this way your legs will keep in tip-top shape for clambering up peaks and it will actually be enjoyable to eat. You should see how much J looks forward to our backpacking meals. Is he going to hike or is he going to munch…
The best source of backpacking fuel will come from carbohydrates so make sure to include them in your vegan backpacking meals. Not just any old carbs though, specifically complex carbohydrates as these release their energy slowly and will keep you powering on for hours. Things such as:
- Wholemeal bread
- Wholewheat pasta
- Multigrain cereals
- Couscous is another simple option, though it’s not as nutritional as the other options above
Protein helps your body to recover which you’re going to need after a day walking. It help builds new tissue, antibodies, enzymes, hormones and other compounds. Despite what the memes say, it’s not actually too difficult to get all the protein you need as a vegan. The average man needs 56 grams and women 46 grams per day, and there are tons of plant-based sources where you can find your daily dose:
- Bulgur wheat
- Oats (making another appearance)
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Hemp hearts
- Nuts and nut butters
If you want to read more about vegan protein sources check out our post on the best protein sources for vegans.
Fat gets a bit of a bad press but many are really important for your body. You want to be focusing on unsaturated fats as these give you energy and insulation. Things such as:
- Peanut oil
- Walnut oil
- Sesame oil
Carrying a bottle of avocado oil on the trail might not be recommended but if you can make some homemade vegan backpacking recipes before you leave can add some of these ingredients.
Vitamins and Minerals
Nearly all foods have some form of vitamins or minerals in them, however, some are more nutritious than others. You want to be carrying as little as possible so plan some vegan backpacking recipes with foods that are particularly nutrient-dense, lightweight and won’t matter if they get a good bashing in your bag, such as:
There are also a number of pastes and powders that are packed full of goodness and ideal for vegan camping meals as they’re so convenient to carry.
- Miso paste
- Nutritional yeast
- Camu Camu
- Protein powder
It’s a good idea to add some of these ingredients to your homemade vegan backpacking foods of sprinkle some on your camp stove cook-up.
Don’t forget your daily dose of vitamin B12. As it doesn’t naturally occur in many wholefoods, this mean vegans need to make sure they’re getting some of these vegan foods with B12.
How we plan our meals
We always start the day with a hearty breakfast then have two smaller breaks in the day, mostly a combination of snacks from the list below, then in the evening we then tuck into a bigger dinner from the camp stove. We’ve been doing this a while and have found this to be ideal as you start your day off with plenty of fuel and the smaller breaks allow you to graze a bit more and not feel sluggish whilst also resting your legs a little. When the night draw in and out hunger intensifies we like to have something warming and replenish some of those lost electrolytes.
Vegan backpacking breakfast ideas
They don’t call it the most important meal of the day for nothing! In the wilderness, starting your day properly is crucial to having a good time on the trail. Tuck into some slow-release carbohydrates that will keep you ticking over, plus plenty of protein to repair your muscles and increase the oxygen in your blood.
As you rise with the warming morning sun shining through your tent, the last thing you want is to spend ages slaving over the camp stove. Instead, whip up something quickly that will ignite your body with energy so you can get that tent packed up and get some miles behind you.
Some vegan camping breakfast ideas:
Porridge – Oliver Twist gave porridge a bit of a bad reputation but honestly we swear by a warming bowl of oats to start the day. Use oats and water as your base with a few teaspoons of sugar, cooked and thickened to your desired consistency, then mix in toppings of your choice;
- Dried fruit – for added fibre and nutrients. We love raisins as they’re cheap but you can also add goji berries, figs, dates, apricots, cranberries, etc.
- Nut butters – great for added protein and fats
- Seeds – ideal to get an extra dose of protein, fats and energy
- Fresh fruit – such as apple or banana for added nutrition and energy
Tofu Scramble – A good alternative to porridge packed with protein and one of the few complete vegan protein sources. Stir in some spinach and nutritional yeast, adding flavour and nutrition to your dish, then serve in a wrap or on crusty bread. If you’ve got any veg like mushrooms or courgette you can throw these in to make a banging breakfast burrito.
Banana, jam and peanut butter wrap – If you’re especially eager to get exploring and don’t fancy cooking in the morning these wraps are ideal. Smear peanut butter, jam, vegan chocolate spread, chestnut spread or any other spread of choice on your wrap, add the banana, sprinkle with seeds and presto you have your ultimate breakfast wrap.
Snacks and homemade vegan backpacking food
Throughout the day it’s always a good idea to have a steady supply of snacks at hand for when your energy levels are lagging or when the hunger pangs kick in. There are a few go-to recipes we prepare at home before hitting the trail that are crammed with energy, protein and most importantly are darn tasty!
Energy balls – our homemade recipe is easy to whip up and contains a good balance of slow-release energy, sugars and proteins, perfect to gobble down on the move.
Flapjacks – having tried and tested a few ingredient combinations we’ve perfected this recipe and can vouch for its greatness after being a staple on our hiking trips on many occasions. Combining banana, oats, almonds and raisins makes them insanely good and the ideal fuel for the outdoors.
Banana bread – a vegan staple and with good reason. Top with nut butter or jam for the ultimate adventure snack.
Cookies – at the top of our vegan day hike food list recently has been homemade ginger cookies. They’re ideal for when you need a quick insertion of energy, can take a backpack battering and taste bloody fantastic.
Curry roasted chickpeas – simply toss chickpeas in oil, curry powder, cumin seeds and garlic powder then roast until crispy then presto you have the perfect savoury snack mixing it up from all the sweet stuff. These are also great sprinkled on your evening meal for an extra dose of protein.
Lentil patties – a delicious way to add some protein to your hike and an easy one to make in advance. Either cook the lentils or buy tinned, then saute onion and garlic in oil before adding the lentils, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper to taste (you can also add stock as this will amp up the flavour and salt level). Blend the mixture to form a paste, leaving some chunky bits, before transferring to a baking paper-lined baking tray and baking at 180°C for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
Check out our list of the ultimate vegan hiking snacks for some more inspiration of grub for the trail.
Vegan backpacking lunches
You’re scrambling over boulders, getting dirt under your fingernails, panting and clammy from the heat of the afternoon sun. As you regain your breath you hear a deep grumble from beneath, with your belly demanding you gobble down something down pronto. This is why having something hand-held that you can eat without a fuss is key.
Tortillas & wraps – these are great as it doesn’t matter if they get bashed about in your bag. Add sweet or savour fillings to satisfy your lunchtime hunger:
- Banana and peanut butter – for optimum muscle recovery and fuel.
- Tahini with optional vega plus hot sauce, you can also add a sprinkling of seeds for added nutrients and protein.
You can always use bread, rolls or bagels as the vehicle for your filling but these don’t travel quite as well as wraps.
Vegan backpacking dinners
Out of all the meals of the backpacking day, dinner has always proved the biggest conundrum. There are a number of shop-brought dehydrated meal options available which are ideal for your hiking expedition which are lightweight, fuss-free and require no effort to prepare. If you want to make your own vegan backpacking meals then this guide on how to dehydrate your food without a dehydrator is great for beginners.
For us, being on the road means buying dehydrated meals hasn’t been an option, neither has dehydrating food ourselves so we have had to come up with a few ideas of our own;
Instant noodles a.k.a Ramen – they’re a backpacker staple and with good reason; super lightweight, convenient and tasty. The only downside is they’re often full of salt and chemicals which is fine for short trips but doesn’t make them a viable option long-term.
Miso soup – a healthier alternative to the above made by mixing a dollop of miso paste with seaweed, noodles plus veggies if you can pack them in. The miso and seaweed are crammed with nutrients making this a more nutritious vegan camping recipe.
Seitan – now I’m not for a moment suggesting you make seitan on your camp stove – heck I don’t even know if it’s been done before – instead, make a seitan loaf at home then you can munch on it at mealtimes during your trip. This is ideal because the seitan travels well, you can cook veggies and other ingredients into it, plus the seitan itself is protein-dense. When preparing your seitan at home you can add lots of good stuff to cram it with nutrients such as:
- Miso, seaweed and mushroom
- Nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic, onion
- Ground flax seeds or chia seeds
- Veggies of your choice
- Nuts and nut oils
Other vegan backpacking foods to take;
Some extra bits that will never go amiss but can easily put meals together;
- Couscous – lightweight and easy to prepare as you just add boiling water
- Baby food – as odd as it may sound baby food has a lot of nutrients and vitamins, plus is often low in sugar and preservatives
- Sauce sachet – anything from soups to bolognese can be found in sachet form and are ideal to pimp up your couscous at the end of a long day.
- Stock cube – a good way to inject some flavour to otherwise bland food making anything taste great after a day of hiking.
- Multivitamins and rehydration salts – these are great for replenishing lost minerals and electrolytes on your trip.
The Complete Guide to Vegan Backpacking Food
The natural world is best appreciated by getting out there and exploring, we believe this is how people feel most compelled to protect it. This guide is aimed to help you do just that but just with practical, healthy, affordable and delicious vegan backpacking foods that can fuel your trip.
The world would be a much better place if people spent more time outside embracing an ethical lifestyle and backpacking is the perfect way to do just that. If you do have any more questions or great recipes of your own, share them with us in the comments below. Happy exploring fellow adventure-driven herbivores.