Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains hiking, camping, and backpacking were some of my family’s favorite activities and ones that I continue to love to this day. However, when I first became vegan, I was worried that my new dietary restrictions would prevent me from fully enjoying these activities, especially backpacking. Backpacking as a vegan can be a daunting challenge. Not only do you have to procure foods that will adhere to your dietary requirements, but you also have to carry them all on your back! For many vegans, fresh fruits and vegetables make up an important part of their day to day diets. However, on a backpacking expedition lasting days or weeks, these foods are heavy, take up a lot of space, and may quickly go bad. What’s a vegan to do? Fortunately there are many different options that will allow you to adhere to a vegan diet while on a backpacking trip. After some trial and error I have learned how to successfully eat fully vegan while backpacking. Below are some of my favorite foods to eat on excursions.
Vegan Backpacking Foods
Fruits and vegetables
Produce provides variety in our diets and micronutrients that our bodies need. Fortunately there are many creative ways to bring fruits and vegetables on a backpacking trip with you! Typically what I like to do is bring a small supply of sturdy fresh vegetables along for my first day or two on the trail. Make sure to pick ones that do not require refrigeration! Carrots and sweet potatoes are some of my favorites since they won’t get beat up in my pack; bell peppers are also a great option since they are lightweight.
If you are doing a longer trip where you will be stopping in towns every so often, you can replenish your supply of fresh vegetables then. However, since fresh produce can be heavy and difficult to access, it is also a good idea to bring along other options. I love dehydrated fruits such as blueberries, craisins, apricots, cherries, and dates. Dehydrated strawberries and banana chips also make great snacks and add flavor and texture to oatmeal. Dried veggie chips are also great for dipping in hummus or other sauces. Additionally, you can sometimes find dehydrated mixed vegetables in the soup aisle; these can be used to add some veggies to ramen, pasta and other meals. Nori Wraps and Seaweed Snacks are also great options to bring along!
Dry Soup mixes and Instant Ramen
Dried soups are some of the best cheap, easy and filling trail meals. Typically, I look for high protein soups with lots of legumes and veggies. My favorite is Dr. McDougall’s Black Bean Soup! When packing, I remove these from their original containers and put them in ziplock bags to save space. Ramen is also a great quick and easy trail meal. I recommend looking for lower sodium options that have dried vegetables or tofu as part of their seasoning packets.
Starches: Instant Oatmeal, Rice, Pasta, Tortillas, Crackers
Carbs are an important part of every backpacker’s arsenal. They provide quick energy to your body and keep you from feeling fatigued throughout the day. They also have the added benefit of being easy to pack and cook. Plus, they are extremely versatile! For example, you can eat some rice with Nori wraps and fish-free tuna as a makeshift lunch, or pair it with black bean soup for a protein packed dinner.
Powdered Peanut Butter, Dehydrated Hummus, and Dehydrated Refried Beans
While these items may be a little more difficult to find than others on this list, they are some of the most essential items in my personal opinion. Since they are dehydrated, they are lightweight and take up relatively little space. But with a little water (and maybe some oil), they can become a calorie and nutrient-dense addition to your meals.
Snacks: Granola, Nuts, Energy Bars, Fruit Leathers, Roasted Chickpeas, Trail Mix
Snacking throughout the day keeps your energy levels high and gives you the fuel to keep going. Snacks can be whatever works best for you but fruit leathers, nuts, and roasted chickpeas are some of my favorites.
Seasonings: Oil, Salt, Pepper, Vegan Mac N Cheese Powder, Taco Seasoning, Nutritional Yeast, Red Pepper Flakes, Lemon Pepper Mix, garlic powder, onion powder
Seasonings can make an otherwise dull, bland camp meal delicious. Make sure that you look at what you plan to eat throughout your trip, and plan to bring complementary seasonings! These will help keep your meals interesting throughout your trip. One of my favorite things to do is make homemade vegan mac and cheese powder to eat with pasta. This is a quick, delicious and easy meal that fills me up at the end of a long day.
Ready made backpacking meals
Many brands make vegan and gluten-free trail meals, which are delicious. However, these meals can be quite expensive. They can also become monotonous when eaten day after day. Typically, I like to bring a few of these meals and use them as a special treat or eat them on days when I am too exhausted to put much thought into my dinner. I am a huge Thai food fan so having a few packs of Pad Thai or Green Curry gives me something to look forward to at the end of a day of hard hiking.
Miscellaneous: Coffee, powdered plant milk, tube of tomato paste, fish-free tuna packs, super greens juice mix, vegan protein shake
The last group of foods I would suggest you bring along with you are the miscellaneous items that, while not strictly necessary, can make your trip much more enjoyable and help to round out your diet while backpacking. Not having to give up your cup of coffee can definitely make the mornings easier! When I am on longer trips, I also find vegan protein powder to be essential; adding a spoonful to my oatmeal in the morning is an easy way to help to meet my increased protein and calorie needs.
Hopefully this is helpful to you! As with anything, make sure that you are adjusting to meet your own specific needs and tastes. Enjoy and see you on the trail!
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Photo: Kevin Schmid via Unsplash