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Backpacking Meal Ideas for Families

Updated: Mar 2

Embarking on a backpacking adventure with your little explorers? Bring a lot of snacks and easy meals along to make for a chill trip. Try to prepare everything in advance. When you are chasing babies and toddlers around camp, easy meals make all the difference. Enjoy my backcountry meal guide for backpacking with a toddler and baby.

Here are my favourite backpacking meal & snack ideas for families:

Breakfast: Morning Delights
  1. Camp Coffee: The only way to start the day! I just bring instant packets from Starbucks on my trips. I love bringing along some latte packets too as an extra creamy latte tastes amazing in the backcountry.

  2. Oatmeal packets: Those little quaker oatmeal packets make things very easy so that you will only need to worry about boiling your water. We choose our peaches and cream or the brown sugar flavoured oatmeal as it's like a treat in the morning.

  3. Pancakes: I pack along a dry mix of Pancakes that you just have to add water to. I find it easy to mix up and cook. Plus, light weight getting into camp is key. The kids love to add sprinkles for fun or dried fruit and nuts.

  4. Backcountry Omelettes: Pre-chop veggies and pack them in a ziploc bag. Crack eggs into a spill-proof plastic bag. Combine in the frying pan. Eggs are the best before heading out on a morning hike. We sometimes pack along bacon strips too.

  5. Granola and Berries: Pack granola in a ziploc and just add milk and top with berries or slice a banana over. The freeze dried fruit and granola backpacking meals can be very tasty and super easy to share with the kids too.

Lunch: Easy Pack-and-Go Options
  1. Wraps or Bunwiches: Make these before leaving home so that you don't have to put anything together at camp. Make it really easy by just doing meat and cheese filling or peanut butter and jam. Bring sliced peppers for the side.

  2. Peanut Butter & Banana with Honey Sandwiches: A classic favorite! Opt for whole-grain bread, spread with peanut butter, and add banana slices. This combination provides a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and energy.

  3. Charcuterie: Pack sliced cheese, crackers, and a variety of deli meats in a leak proof bento-style container. Pack foods like olives, pickles, berries, raisins, nuts, and veggies for a quick trailside charcuterie. My kids love all things charcuterie and it tastes amazing in the wild.

  4. DIY Salad: I looove having salad in the backcountry. You can just do whatever kind of salad that you want to put together. Pack along things like avocados, hard boiled eggs, spinach, vinaigrette, strawberries, and goat cheese. The list goes on to your salad preferences. This isn't alway the kids favourite though.

  5. Hot dogs: A fan favourite with my kids and just super easy to fire up the stove or cook over the fire back at camp. We love going for a morning hiking and then coming back to eat a hot lunch together.

Snacks: Power-Packed Munchies
  1. Energy Bites: Mix rolled oats, nut butter, honey, and add-ins like chocolate chips or dried fruits. Oatmeal cookies, mini muffins, and granola bars are great.

  2. Dehydrated Fruit: Mangoes, apples, banana chips, are some of our faves for the trail. Fruit leathers are great too. Fruit pouches are a bit heavy but my kids love them so I do bring a few along on our trips.

  3. Trail Mix: Create a custom trail mix with a variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolate chips. We do add M&M's that the kids love.

  4. Candy/Chocolate: Packing a long your favourite treats is the best on backpacking trips. We love Nibs, Swedish berries, Smart Sweets, chocolate bars, Tim bits, and any kind of treats for camp. My kids love cheesies and chips too.

Dinner: One-Pot Wonders
  1. Campfire Quesadillas: Fill tortillas with cheese, beans, and veggies, then cook them in a pan over a camp stove or fire. My kids love cheese a lot.

  2. Instant Noodle Bowls: Pack pre-cooked or instant ramen noodles that you just need to add hot water to. You can bring dehydrated vegetables and beef jerky for extra protein. Ichiban noodles are a big deal for my crew.

  3. Pasta: Mac & cheese seems to always be the choice. We choose the Annie's one that already has the cheese made. Boil water, strain, and then just mix in the sauce.

  4. Pre-packaged Backcountry Meals: Head into an outdoor retailer like MEC or REI to pick up a "just add water" meal. Some of my favourite brands are GoodToGo and Backpacker's Pantry.

Dessert: Sweet Treats Under the Stars
  1. S'mores with a Twist: Upgrade the classic s'mores by adding banana slices or a layer of nut butter. Kids will love experimenting with different combinations. These can be cooked in a backcountry pan if you wrap in tin foil.

  2. Backcountry Apple Crisp: Bring along Dried apple slices, Instant oatmeal packets, brown sugar and cinnamon. Rehydrate dried apple slices in warm water, mix instant oatmeal, brown sugar, and a dash of cinnamon. Layer the rehydrated apples with the oatmeal mixture in a pot. Heat on the backcountry stove until the oats are cooked and the apples are warm.

Hydration: Stay Refreshed
  1. Electrolyte Drinks: Mix water and electrolyte pouches to keep hydrated on in the backcountry. We do go through a lot of packets because we are usually exerted from the hike into camp and then we hike around once we get there too.

  2. Water Bottles: We use the family-sized water filter for the backcountry and I mix the aqua tablets in prior to filtering. Then I boil it then we add it to our water bottles for drinking.

  3. Hot Chocolate Packets: Prepare individual hot chocolate packets with powdered chocolate. Just add hot water and mix.

Remember that your backpacking food should be fun and you will come across new recipes and ideas often. Just try to remember that weight is always a critical thing to manage when hauling kids. Enjoy the fun of preparing dinner in the backcountry camp and involving the kids. Soak in all the moments of meal prepping and serving it on the trail. Please let me know what you love in the comments! Come over and join us on social media too! I am always sharing the reality of backpacking with kids.

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