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Menu Ideas

Backcountry cooking inspiration.
If you’re cooking for a trip in the backcountry, consider some of the following items for your menu. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list or complete cookbook and does not supercede any merit badge requirements - if you have any questions or would like to make something that is not listed here, check with the Cooking Badge Counselor (Mr Matthew Harms). If you’re looking for some specific recipes, take a look at the .
When menu planning, make sure that you're aware of food allergies & strong preferences (e.g. don’t bring canned tuna as a main course if no one likes it)

🥣 Breakfast

Stay away from classic breakfast food like bacon/eggs/pancakes. While delicious they are either too complicated & messy for the backcountry, or require refrigeration. Combine several of the items listed here for a full breakfast. If planning a hot/cooked breakfast, make sure your trip has time allotted for that.
Instant oatmeal or grits (single serving packets or cups)
Pop tarts (these should not be the only thing on your breakfast menu)
Granola/energy bars (e.g. Clif Bars, Powerbars, Honey Stinger Waffles)
Fresh fruit (oranges & apples travel well, bananas can if they are not too ripe)
Dried fruit/trail mix
Hot chocolate or tea
What about coffee?? Adults (not Scouts!) on a trip who are looking for their coffee fix may want to consider instant coffee. Starbucks Via and Cafe Bustello are 2 popular options that are sold in individual serving packets. If you want the real thing, a is lightweight and easy to use in the backcountry.

🥪 Lunch

Think about snackable foods for lunch, as you will typically not cook anything for lunch on the trail. Combine several for a full lunch.
Crackers or tortillas with toppings (several brands of crackers sell individual serving sleeves that work well; the risk with crackers is that they can crumble easily, tortillas work better in this regard)
Cheese (stick with hard cheeses like cheddar or parmesan that do not require refrigeration)
Salami/pepperoni (do not require refrigeration until opened)
Peanut butter (individual servings available)
Tuna or chicken packets
Beef jerky (does not require refrigeration)
Granola/energy bars (e.g. Clif Bars, Powerbars, Honey Stinger Waffles)
Fresh fruit (oranges & apples travel well, bananas can if they are not too ripe)
Dried fruit/trail mix
Drink mix powder (often refreshing after a hot day of hiking/activity)

🍝 Dinner

Most grocery stores carry a variety of flavored rice/pasta mixes that are cheap, flavorful, and easy to cook in the backcountry (”just add water”). The easiest general purpose type of meal is to pick one of those, and add some canned chicken (or tuna if your crew enjoys that).
Flavored rice/pasta packets (add chicken and/or veggies)
Ramen (add chicken and/or veggies)
Couscous (a rice-like pasta that cooks very quickly; add chicken and/or veggies)
Instant mashed potatoes (flavored varieties available; add chicken and/or veggies)
Canned chicken (foil packets are lighter to carry if you can find them)
Precooked bacon or bacon bits (doesn’t require refrigeration)
Salami/Pepperoni (check the package, some doesn’t require refrigeration)
Canned tuna
Vegetables (some fresh veggies are hearty enough to go a day or two without refrigeration)
Bell peppers
Fresh broccoli or carrots
Dried vegetable mix
Drink mix powder (often refreshing after a hot day of hiking)
Cookies/snack cakes (e.g. Oreos, Little Debbies, a light dessert can be a hit with your crew)

🚫 Things to Avoid

While some of these things might considered classic camping food, they are generally not suitable for a backpacking trip and should be avoided.
Fresh meat or eggs (e.g. burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak)
Fresh bacon (precooked bacon does not require refrigeration and requires much less cleanup when cooking)
Dutch oven meals (e.g. chilis, cobblers)
Recipes that require more precise temperature control or large pans (e.g. pancakes)

🧂What About Dehydrated Meals?

You might be wondering “what about backpacking meals that I see at REI”? On the one had they’re ideal - they’re designed to be used in the backcountry (usually only requiring hot water to be added). On the other hand, they do not satisfy any of the cooking requirements that you are probably working through (whether for rank advancement or a merit badge).
If you are NOT working on a specific requirement and are participating in an “Advanced” level trip you may want to consider them to minimize cooking time on the trail (giving you more time to pack in the miles). Again - if you have questions about this consult with the Cooking Merit Badge Counselor.

💡 Other Ideas

If you’re looking for some more inspiration and/or specifics beyond what’s listed on this page, here are a few other resources to consider.

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