Lunch on the trail should be easy, quick, and high energy. Eating a large meal in the afternoon can slow you down, so your strategy is to eat light and often by snacking during the day and having a light meal for lunch. These cold water prep meals are packed in complex carbohydrates, are quick and easy to make, and incredibly delicious.
Here are a few easy options –
Who says you can’t have salad on the trail? Salads are refreshing, restorative, quick and light.
1. Pacific Crest Vinaigrette – 141 Cal/Oz
This is the answer to a fresh salad on the trail. Made with locally grown freeze-dried broccoli, slivered almonds, sweet cranberries, and plump raisins marinated in a zesty vinaigrette.
2. Hop Pea Slop – 141 Cal/Oz
Love Peas? This protein packed salad is made with a generous amount of freeze-dried organic sweet peas, diced carrots, celery flakes, and walnuts.
3. Waldorf Slaw – 144 Cal/Oz
This powerhouse salad will fill you up and offers a nice crunch! Made with freeze dried organic granny smith apple chunks, raisins, and walnuts in an eggless dressing.
Some hikers prepare hot soups using cool water and rehydrating longer to soften the ingredients. This works in a pinch, but you may end up with crunchy or chewy pieces of vegetables. Soups that are meant for preparing with cool water will fare better.
4. Cool Down Gazpacho – 113 Cal/Oz
This refreshing and filling Spanish inspired cold soup quenches your thirst while providing the nourishment of a fresh salad. Want a salsa instead? Mix this with less water and dip with torn tortilla pieces.
Dips & Spreads with Bread
Spreads are another quick option for a light lunch. Look for dense bread and sturdy crackers that will hold up to packing.
- Bavarian Multi Grain Bread
- English Muffin
- Rye Crackers
- Sesame Sticks
5. Instant Hummus – 133 Cal/Oz
Hummus offers a rich source of complex carbohydrates and fat. This dried mix is seasoned with cumin, pepper, lemon, and garlic for robust flavor.
6. Backpacker’s Peanut Butter Powder – 150 Cal/Oz
Rather than carrying around individual nut butter squeeze packets, try peanut butter mix. You can make as much as you need by mixing it with water. Look for powders that contain fat. Many commercial powdered peanut butter brands are defatted for dieters. The peanut butter powder we carry retains a high percentage of fat and is made from U.S. grown organic roasted peanuts.
For a sweet treat, add dried fruit pieces such as raisins, cranberries, cherries and mango and roll it up.
7. Pesto Herbilicous – 153 Cal/Oz
This non-dairy walnut herb pesto tastes delicious on just about anything. Use it as a spread for bread or crackers. Use it as a seasoning mix for noodles, rice, couscous, and flaked potato.
8. Sunny Sunflower Salad – 133 Cal/Oz
This seasoned mixture of ground black beans, sweet corn, and sunflower seeds makes a delicious spread for crackers. Enjoy this spread with your own fresh trail sprouts.
To add more flavor and fat calories to these spreads, add your own cheese.
- Aged Dairy Cheeses will keep well in your pack for a few days. Look for sharp cheddar, gouda, and parmesan.
- Vegan Cheese Packets keep very well. Look for Nacheez pouches.
Chia Seed Puddings
We’ve written before about the benefits of backpacking with chia seed. Chia seed comes alive with flavor when paired with flaked coconut and fruit.
9. Coconut Chia Peel – 123 Cal/Oz
Coconut Chia Peel is our most popular chia meal for a good reason. The combination of coconut, banana, and dates is creamy and loaded with fruit carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
10. Blueberry Maple Crunch – 126 Cal/Oz
Why not enjoy cold cereal for lunch? Muesli or granola cereal is fast, tasty, and loaded with calories. Outdoor Herbivore makes two kinds of calorie-dense cold cereal, fruit and nut muesli and blueberry maple crunch. Both are packed with fruit, nuts, and seeds mixed with instant organic soy milk. All you have to do is add water, stir, and enjoy.
Make your own cereal
Muesli or Granola cereals made with whole grain ingredients, nuts, and seeds contain the most calories. For the milk powder, look for those that are instant to prevent clumps and graininess. If you must use cow’s milk, get a version that contains fat. Many of the dried milk brands, such as Carnation, are non-fat which will not give you enough energy (calories) to endure long days of hiking. Nestle Nido is a popular whole milk choice among backpackers and is easy to find. You can usually find it in Hispanic grocery stores or food aisle. Instant dried soy milk and dried coconut milk are at health food stores. You can also add water and forgo the dried milk entirely. Milk on cereal is not really necessary. Before hitting the trail, measure out the desired amount of cereal, add a scoop of milk powder, and package it in a zip lock bag.
Reduce Wrapped Junk Food!
Many long distance backpackers eat heaps of wrapped trail bars, cookies, and candy on the trail. It is no surprise because these foods are cheap, easy to find, convenient, addictive, and contain a good deal of calories. The calories in these snacks are mostly from refined white sugar. Although you are burning off all those calories from hiking, your body will suffer from eating so much refined sugar. Yet, the calories in sugar do provide carbohydrate energy to replenish depleted glycogen stores. Muscles don’t know the difference between carbohydrates from a pop tart versus those from fruit. The difference shows up in health, immune response, and ability to fight off infections, colds, and other viruses.