3 Cheap And Tasty Backpacking Meals That DON’T Require A Dehydrator

It’s true, I have an obsession with food. Hence why I do loads of hiking…

Only kidding, slightly!

I hike for many reasons. Stepping into a world almost unaltered by humans and forgetting for a moment all that society expects of us. To witness mother natures beauty in the chorus of birds and the rise of majestic mountains, obscured over time. To feel the solace only possible when nature engulfs you. There’s an endless appeal to the enchanting adventures of hiking. And to hike for multiple days at a time enables me to delve deep into the natural world, far from roads and streets and high rises. 

Candace looking out at the beautiful view of the Warrumbungles

But there is one thing that can dampen the whole experience… crappy food. 

I couldn’t think of anything worse than slogging your butt all day and getting to camp with the knowledge that what you packed for dinner is not going to excite you in any way.

That is down right torture.

Aside from knowing I am going to be toasty warm and comfy while camping in cold conditions, the most important thing about hiking is food. 

Yes, I love hiking. I love every aspect of it, even the times when I’m grumbling. But what keeps me going in my grumbly state is daydreaming about my dinner. Obsessed right?!

But there’s a problem. Store-bought backpacking meals are ridiculously expensive and, more often than not, tasteless. And a dehydrator to make your own backpacking meals is a huge investment in time, money and space…

Especially for us van-lifers!

Lucky for you, I have the solution. Through trial and error, I’ve found a few go-to backpacking meals that do wonders in filling up my endless stomach and don’t break my back or bank in the process.

Hiking through the rough Hannels Spur Trail in Kosciuszko National Park

And as an added bonus, you get some of my handy tips for choosing what types of ingredients to add to your backpacking meals… you’re welcome!

I have chosen to provide the recipes for the lightest weight option for each of these backpacking meals, however, you can substitute the dried veggies for fresh ones if you please. Personally, I use fresh veggies as much as possible on hikes less strenuous.

Also added in this post are vegan alternatives to each of my favourite backpacking meals and some tips on what ingredients to choose when shopping.

Let’s dig in.

What Veggies Are Best For Backpacking?

Nothing can beat fresh veggies, especially after a huge day of hiking. But keeping veggies fresh out of the fridge, in a pack exposed to the sun all day is a hard task. And through many poor choices of my own, here are the best veggies to withstand the harsh conditions of your next multi-day hike.

Broccoli: While broccoli may begin to lose it’s crisp natural goodness, as soon as you start to boil it, the freshness will spring back. I’ve found that pre-cutting broccoli hasn’t had too much of a detrimental effect and saves on space.

Carrot: These tasty treats can last for so long… It’s actually a little alarming how long. Again, I find cutting them to be no issue at all and I usually keep the broccoli and carrots together in the same bag.

Capsicum: This is a great addition to any Asian cuisine, though you don’t want to pre-cut these. Capsicum lasts a good while when whole, but as soon as you cut them they tend to get quite slimy… Gross!

Potato: Of course, potato is a great vegetable to bring along on an overnight hike. The only real issue is its weight. However, the benefits of so many delicious carbs can be worth it. I would suggest keeping these whole as well.

Cauliflower: Cauliflower is much the same as broccoli, though it doesn’t have quite the same amount of nutritional benefits. I would recommend going with broccoli over cauliflower, however, it is still a veggie that will last and can be pre-cut.

Snap Peas, snow peas or beans: All of these delicious green vegetables will last a fair while and are great for almost any meal. Snap peas are also one of my favourite snacks during a hike as they’re just that little bit sweeter… Alright, that’s a lie, nothing beats lollies!

Cans, Jars Or Packets? 

You can probably guess the answer to this one… at least I hope you can! But it doesn’t hurt to reiterate the fact. Cans and jars are chunky, taking up a whole lot more of your precious space. And usually weigh so much more… well, so much more when we’re talking about carrying our food on our backs!

Ingredients we use for our own backpacking meals

Packet options for almost anything you’re used to buying in a jar or can are available at the supermarket. And if they’re not, get creative and try something different. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it! 

My favourite sauces for backpacking meals are the miso soup sachets, the Five Tastes stir fry shots and the Dolmio express pasta sauce pouches. 

Dehydrated Or Microwave Ready Rice and Pasta?

Dehydrated pasta or rice packets such as the Continental side dishes are perfect for your base ingredient as they weigh so little. You’ve also got the option of microwave-ready meals – for example, Uncle Ben’s rice – which are essentially vacuum-sealed meals that only require a reheat in a microwave or on a stove with a small amount of water.

Both are great options for their own reasons. If you know you won’t have access to water along your hike every night, I would suggest choosing the microwave-ready packets of rice or pasta that only require a small amount of water – if any. They’re heavier, but potentially less heavy than the 250ml or so of water you need to bring for dehydrated rice and pasta.

If you know you’ve got access to water at each of your campsites, the dehydrated pasta and rice packets are the best option. They are lighter and although most tell you to add milk or oil, you don’t need to. Just make sure you add enough water to substitute the milk!! I’ve made that mistake many times…

Organise Your Dinners Before You Leave

Extra packaging equals extra weight and extra rubbish. When you’re planning your backpacking meals for your multi-day hike, group together as much of the ingredients as possible, removing any extra packaging.

To do this, I use a reusable silicone ziplock bag and remove any packaging that’s not needed – obviously if you’re using a sauce or the dried or ready meals you can’t take it out of the packet! I add all my veggies (dried or fresh) into the same reusable bag with the noodles and spices. The only rubbish I will have left after this is the sachet my sauce or pasta/rice meal came in.

Another trick to this is you can re-use the same ziplock bag as your rubbish bin, washing it on your return and saving the need for extras.

And with all of my little foodie tips for your next multi-day hike done, let’s get to the fun part… THE MEALS!

Miso Ramen Soup 

Asian cuisine is my absolute favourite. It’s so easy to make this meal burst with flavour and to add a touch of uniqueness. And being a soup, you get to soak up some much needed hydration as you’re hoeing into a delicious dinner… As long as you don’t smother it in salt!

The best thing about this backpacking meal is it’s super light while still providing plenty of nutritious. But if you can’t fathom leaving your fresh veggies at home, broccoli and capsicum fit wonderfully in this tasty miso ramen soup.


  • Miso Soup sachet (I use two for one person, though one is enough for a lighter taste)
  • Ramen Noodles (two-minute noodles can be a substitute)
  • Dehydrated mushrooms
  • Dehydrated peas
  • Dried seaweed
  • Tuna
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Chilli (optional)
  • Garlic (optional)

Vegan/Vegetarian alternative to Tuna: 

  • Tofu
  • Olive oil


Begin by adding a tiny bit of the oil from your tuna to the pot and sauté the garlic and chilli. If you’re using tofu, I suggest taking a little bit of oil in a small container. Alternatively, you can just add the garlic and chilli to the boiling water… I have done this many times when I’m feeling lazy.

Remove the garlic and chilli, setting it aside. Add 250ml water to the pot to start (you can add more if it isn’t soupy enough later). Add in dehydrated mushrooms, peas and seaweed (or fresh veggies) and bring to the boil.

Once boiled, add the miso soup sachets and ramen noodles. If you’re using two-minute noodles, you can hold off adding them until the veggies are almost done. 

Once the noodles are soft, add the tuna and take off the heat. Add the chilli, garlic, salt and pepper. Wait for it to cool a little then enjoy!

The quantity of veggies depends on how much you eat, just remember that dehydrated veggies expand! In regards to the noodles, halving one of the three bundles of the Hakubaku Organic Japanese Ramen Noodles works for me and I am a relatively big eater.

Safcol does a tuna sachet which is much better for weight and rubbish than the cans. And they have a sachet that comes with coconut oil which is delicious in this meal, win-win!

My personal favourite miso is the Hikari Japanese miso soup sachets. However, they do have fish products in them. The S&B Japanese instant miso soups are vegan and still tasty.

Staying warm in the Macpac Duolight tent camping while cooking our backpacking meal in the Warrumbungles

Continental Pasta or Rice Packet and Salami

I’ll admit, this backpacking meal is very lazy but oh so cheap and easy! You can add fresh veggies to this meal if you’re happy with the extra weight. And you can substitute the salami with tuna or extra veggies. 

Broccoli and carrot are hands down the best fresh veggies to add, staying crisp the longest. But dehydrated peas and mushroom go swimmingly with this meal with much less weight. This backpacking meal is quite filling without meat, so no real vegetarian substitute is needed other than adding a little extra veggies.

*I have yet to find any dehydrated veggies other than mushrooms and peas in Woolworths or Coles, if you have a sneaky go to that is eluding me, please share!

For an even bulkier dinner, John West do a tuna and bean mix which you can mix and match with the flavours of the continental pasta and rice packets, this would add extra weight but requires no preparation what so ever!


Vegetarian alternative:

  • Continental packet pasta or rice without meat flavours
  • Extra veggies

Vegan alternative:

*I have not tried this Vegan alternative to the Continental packets, however, reviews I’ve read suggest adding hot sauce or salt to the Plantitude Mac & Cheese as it lacks a little flavour. 


Check the Packet of pasta or rice for instructions on how much liquid to add when using the stovetop option. Add together the milk and water amounts and add that amount of water. I don’t take milk, butter or oil with me and the meals turn out fine. Just make sure to add extra water to substitute the milk. 

Add the veggies at the same time you add the pasta or rice. Continue stirring until it reaches a boil, turn the stove down and simmer until the water has absorbed almost completely. The packet will inform how long to simmer for.

Once the water has almost absorbed, add the salami. I usually add a bit of salt and pepper to this as well, which I keep in a tiny container.

Kathmandu Tent behind our gear to cook our backpacking meals on the Hannels Spur Hike in Moiras Flat Campground

Vegan Veggie Stir Fry

How can you ever go wrong with a stir fry!? This is a great backpacking meal if you’re low on water as it requires very little. However, this meal can only work with fresh veggies as dehydrated ones need a fair amount of water to rehydrate. This does prove to be a little heavier, but if you choose this for your first night it’s not so bad.

Choosing a veggie stir fry for the first night also means you get to add some different veggies that don’t last all that long. 

Win, win!


  • Green Beans / Snow Peas / Snap Peas ( I usually pick whichever is cheapest at the time)
  • Capsicum
  • Broccoli
  • Carrot
  • Two-minute noodles
  • Five Tastes Stir Fry Shots


Bring a small amount of water to the boil – just enough to cover the two-minute noodles. Once the water has boiled, add the two-minute noodles and wait for… yep, you guessed it – two minutes! 

While you’re waiting, slice the capsicum and carrot into strips. Cut the broccoli into small, individual florets and cut the ends off the beans / snap peas / snow peas. 

Once the noodles are cooked, drain the majority of the water and transfer the noodles to a bowl. With the remaining small amount of water, add the broccoli and carrot, stirring continuously. Once they soften a little, add the rest of the veggies and the Stir Fry Shot sauce. Mix the sauce through and stir until the veggies are almost cooked.

Once they’re almost to your desired texture, add the noodles back to the pot and stir together. Wait for the noodles to reheat before taking the pot off the stove. Wait for your stir fry to cool a little and enjoy!

Candace watching sunset in Wilkinsons Valley at Mt Kosciousko National Park

And there you have it, my three favourite go-to backpacking meals to feast on when embarking on a multi-day hiking adventure. The best thing about them all is you can tweak them to suit your taste buds. 

Some great advice I want to share is when you’re planning your dinners, check the weight and longevity of each item. And see where you can substitute items for ones of a lighter weight. For more information on what to pack, including what backpacking stoves you should choose, subscribe to our email list where I delve deep into what to pack for overnight hikes. 

And as always, feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have on any topics related to hiking. Through our emails, I will be continuously sharing all my knowledge and providing any help I can give. 

Backpacking Meals Pinterest Pin
Backpacking Meals Pinterest Pin
Backpacking Meals Pinterest Pin

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