DIY Backpacking Meals

Last summer, Kylie and I spent a ton of days in the backcountry and wanted to see if we could make our own backpacking meals instead of buying everything. We ended up creating three staples: a granola breakfast, mashed potato dinner, and cous cous dinner. All three meals are relatively light (although the granola is considerably heavier than the rest), tasty, filling, inexpensive, and easy to assemble from any store with a good bulk selection like Winco. They also have the advantage of being just add-water meals, meaning you never get your water pot dirty!

Granola and Milk

This was our favorite breakfast because it was fast, nutritious, and tasty. It is basically just cereal: granola and milk. We liked to pack them individually so we could just add water to the bag and eat out of the bag, creating no dirty dishes.

Per serving:

  • 3/4 cup granola
  • 3 tbsp powdered milk
  • Add cold water until appropriate amount of milk
Granola plus powdered milk… it’s that easy.

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a delicious, hearty dinner option. The base of this meal is simply instant mashed potatoes and a little bit of powdered milk. We have added instant refried beans and bacon bits, but you could substitute these with whatever tasty extras you want.

These dinners make use of little spice packets. They are 10 cents at Winco and you can add different ones to the meals, creating a variety of flavors from the same basic meal. One packet is easily enough for at least 5 servings. It might be the best 10 cents you ever spend.

Best 10 cents you’ll ever spend.

Per serving:

  • 1 cup instant mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup instant refried beans
  • Sprinkling of instant bacon bits
  • A little bit of flavoring from a spice packet
  • Add boiling water and stir until correct consistency
A mashed potato meal prepped.

Cous Cous

Cous cous is a classic backpacking meal. It can actually be rehydrated with cold water, meaning it is a great option if you do not want to bring along a stove. The toppings here are really whatever you want, but we have some favorites.

Per serving:

  • 2/3 cup cous cous
  • A little flavor from spice packets
  • Assortment of nuts (we like cashews and sliced almonds)
  • Some dried fruit (craisins and golden raisins are good)
  • Add water, let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Lots of toppings for this cous cous.

Hopefully these meals are helpful for others! They saved us a lot of money and impressed us with their lightweight, taste, and quality. There are truly so many easy DIY options beyond these meals with the availability of rehydrated food!

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