No-Cook Backpacking Food from the Grocery Store

by Dana Kerr

Dana Kerr no-cook backpacking food writer.

I love the simplicity of life in the backcountry, and so I want my backpacking menu to be just as simple. For me, this means opting out of bringing a backpacking stove and instead picking up a few inexpensive ingredients from my local grocery store. I love not having to worry about fuel, stove malfunctions, or the time spent cooking at the end of the day. With no-cook meals, I find that I feel more relaxed and more free. Skipping the stove doesn’t have to mean skipping out on flavor or texture. I’ve learned to pack meals that I know I will actually enjoy and be nourished by, as opposed to forcing myself to eat jerky and peanut butter against my liking. The following meal ideas can help you save time and money this summer without sacrificing  flavor.

It’s important to find a way of cooking in the backcountry that matches your personal goals and body. Some dehydrated foods are not as kind to your body as others (I’m looking at you, dehydrated black beans). Choose the cooking method and foods that your body will appreciate. Whatever your backcountry cooking style and menu is, own it. You don’t have to bring the fancy stuff (i.e. the more expensive dehydrated meals) to eat well on the trail. At the same time, trail mix, jerky, and protein bars are not your only other options.

Before meal planning for a trip, identify what’s most important to you  – do you value a warm meal at the end of the day? Do you prefer to have more time to relax instead of cooking? How much time do you have before your trip to prepare your food? Do you care about weight, cook time, flavor, texture, temperature, fresh vegetables, etc.? Answering these questions for yourself will help guide you to your perfect menu.

Here are a few specific items, bulk foods, and 3-ingredient recipes to help you get started:

Specific items you can find at many local grocery stores near Wenatchee 

Base items for toppings: pitas, tortillas, bagels, crackers

Proteins: tuna, chicken, or salmon pouches; meat and cheese snack packs

Vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, snap peas

Spreads: peanut butter, nutella, cookie butter, jam, cream cheese

Single-serve condiments and salad dressings near the deli

Noodles and couscous for cold-soaking*

Ready-made salads with dressing and toppings included**

*I personally haven’t tried cold-soaking yet, but the concept sounds appealing. Cold soaking rehydrates food with cold water instead of hot water, and requires that you plan ahead to allow your food to soak as you hike or set up camp.

**Recommended to eat on the first day of the trip

Bulk food items available at Winco and other bulk food stores

In addition to saving money when buying from the bulk bins, you can also minimize food waste and save time packing your food bag when you buy only the amounts you plan to eat.

  • Dehydrated hummus
  • Noodles and couscous for cold soaking
  • Dehydrated veggie chips
  • Candy
  • Cookies
  • Dried fruit
  • Chocolate-covered everything
  • Nuts
  • DIY trail mix ingredients
  • Pre-made trail mix

3-ingredient recipes

 These recipes work great for backpacking, day-hikes, road trips, or floating on the river/lake.

Bagel + cream cheese + salmon jerky/salmon in a pouch

Bagel + nutella + dried strawberries

Pita + tuna packet + nacho cheese doritos

Cheesecake mix + milk powder + butter

Couscous + pesto + sun dried tomato

Tortilla + hummus + cucumber/bell pepper

Pita + pizza sauce + mozzarella cheese (+ pepperoni)

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