Our Favorite 100 Grocery Store Backpacking Foods

By Sara Woolcock, MS, RD, CD and Abby Barth

Updated January 6, 2024

This post contains affiliate links.

Walking into the grocery store to find backpacking food ideas for your next outdoor adventure can be overwhelming! There’s much to consider, especially if you’re putting together backpacking meals for a multi-day hike. Whether you plan to make resupply boxes or shop for hiker-friendly foods near the trail, this post breaks down the grocery store aisle-by-aisle to give you some backpacking meal ideas to make the process easier. It will also list specific stores and store types where you might find unique or less expensive hiker-friendly ingredients. Finally, we will share our favorite places online to buy backpacking foods that you may not be able to find easily in stores.

Just one note:
While most of the backpacking food ideas listed will be available in larger grocery stores, your local selection will vary. Keep in mind also that the availability of foods in smaller markets or trail-side convenience stores may be limited. You may want to consider calling individual stores ahead of time to confirm that they stock the ingredients you are planning to use.

Backpacking Food Ideas: Aisle by Aisle

PRODUCE

You don’t want to skip the produce section! The produce section is great for backcountry hikers to find dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits and veggies. While freeze-dried produce retains more nutrients than dehydrated produce, either option will add essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet. You can include some fresh fruit, such as apples or oranges. While they are far from ultralight, fresh fruits and vegetables can help minimize the fresh food cravings many hikers experience on the trail. Just make sure you eat your fresh foods before they spoil.

  • Freeze-dried fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit leather
  • Fruit bars
  • Freeze-dried herbs
  • Dried mushrooms – Add to soups and pasta!
  • Fresh produce
The produce aisle
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Harder fruits like oranges and apples will travel better. Vegetables like bell peppers, small onions, and sugar snap peas are sturdy choices that will last a few days. Fresh mushrooms make great additions to meals and should be stored in a paper bag. Make sure to pack out any peels or cores.

BULK BINS

If your grocery store has one, the bulk bins section is a great place to start looking for foods to build your meals and snacks. Bulk bin sections will likely include many backpacker-friendly food ideas listed below. Bulk foods are often less expensive. On top of that, they allow you to buy the exact amount you need for your next trip, so you don’t have to worry about unused food going to waste.

  • Oatmeal
  • Couscous
  • Quinoa
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Potato flakes
  • Instant dry milk
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola
  • Candy, gummies
  • Grind your own nut butters
  • Chia or flax seeds
  • Pasta
  • Chocolate-covered nuts and fruit
  • Shredded and flaked coconut
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • Plantain chips
  • Veggie chips – sweet potato, beets, carrots, green beans . . .
  • Dry hummus mix
Textured vegetable protein
TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein) is a great protein alternative for vegetarian hikers.
Hiking snacks in the bulk foods section
You can find countless hidden backpacking gems in the bulk foods aisle.

BREAKFAST & CEREAL

The breakfast aisle is another place to look for grocery store backpacking food staples, but don’t limit your hiking food ideas to just oatmeal packets! Here, you’ll find a variety of convenient and packable hiking foods and snacks. Pick a few different options, so you don’t have to eat the same thing day after day while trekking.

  • Oatmeal
  • Instant grits – Eat them sweetened or savory (add butter and imitation bacon bits!)
  • Cream of wheat
  • Granola and muesli
  • Cold cereals
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast – Great on its own, mixed in morning coffee, or as a base for DIY drink mixes
  • Breakfast bars
Hiker shopping for hiking snacks in the breakfast aisle
gaiagps

BAKING SUPPLIES, SPICES & OILS

Your meals and snacks for backpacking don’t have to be boring. The flavor possibilities are endless, even when you’re on a mountain! One way to add more flavor to your hiking foods and snacks is to take advantage of the baking supplies, spices, and oils aisle. This aisle is great for sweet treats, spices, seasonings, and calorie-dense oils to flavor your backpacking meals. The added calories from oils, milk, and egg powders can make your meal more satisfying and provide the extra calories needed for those strenuous all-day hikes.

  • Spices
  • Dried herbs
  • Seasoning blends
  • Imitation bacon bits
  • Butter buds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Instant pudding
  • Jello no-bake cheesecake mix
  • Cocoa powder
  • Instant dry milk
  • Powdered eggs
  • Cake and muffin mixes
  • Pancake mix (just add water) or Bisquick
  • Powdered citrus
  • Oils
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein
Dried Whole Egg Powder from Walmart
Dried egg powder is an easy way to add nutrition to your backpacking meal plan.

RICE, PASTA & GRAINS

Remember the rice, pasta, and grains aisle when coming up with backpacking food ideas. This grocery store aisle has a lot of great hiking staples to help you build satisfying meals and snacks while in the backcountry. While on a multi-day hike, you can mix up the grains you use to get more variety and nutrients from your backpacking foods.

  • Couscous
  • Instant rice
  • Box macaroni and cheese
  • Rice and pasta sides
  • Noodles and pasta – Pre-cook and dehydrate to save time and fuel on the trail.
  • Gnocchi – Some varieties don’t require refrigeration.
  • Quinoa
  • Retort Rice – This kind is pre-cooked but will be heavier than dry rice.
  • Instant mashed potatoes or potato flakes
Couscous
Couscous is a backpacking favorite because it cooks quickly and is a great source of carbohydrates for energy.

SOUPS & SOUP MIXES

Your grocery store’s soup aisle will usually be where you find the ramen, which backpackers always tend to pack because it’s quick to prepare and lightweight. However, don’t limit yourself to that when coming up with backpacking meal and snack ideas. The soup aisle has some other instant food items that are great for adding flavor and calories to your backpacking meals.

  • Ramen
  • Instant soup
  • Bouillon cubes – Use to add flavor to meals or make instant broth for sipping in cold weather
  • Instant sauce and seasoning packets – Look for taco seasoning, instant spaghetti sauce, stroganoff, instant gravy, or instant teriyaki sauce (works as a dry soy sauce substitute).
Cup a Soup and Ramen Instant Soups
Flip Fuel Backcountry Foodie 20% off discount

MEAT, POULTRY, & FISH

Another great place to shop for your backpacking foods is your grocery store’s canned meat and fish aisle. This aisle is where you’ll find high protein, hiker-friendly foods that are shelf-stable and safe to pack. The variety of flavor options can also help keep your foods interesting so you don’t experience flavor fatigue during your next backpacking trip. Another plus about some of the foods in this aisle (i.e., packaged tuna and salmon) is that they contain omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are anti-inflammatory and may help prevent unnecessary aches and joint pains while adventuring in the backcountry.

Tuna Packets

CONDIMENTS, SAUCES, & SPREADS

The condiments section is great for calorie-rich spreads, nut butter, and flavor enhancers. These items can add flavor and nutrition to your backpacking meals and snacks. Don’t skimp on extras like this – they’ll help to keep you satisfied and prevent flavor fatigue on long trips. Look for them in single-serve packets to simplify your meal prep.


ETHNIC FOODS

The international aisle (see also ethnic specialty markets) often contains hidden backpacking gems. Shopping for your backpacking food ideas in this aisle is a great way to keep your food interesting and can help you increase the variety of your meals and snacks while on the trail.

  • Wasabi peas
  • Seaweed or nori – Eat as a snack or add to ramen.
  • Rice or bean thread noodles
  • Instant miso soup A great source of probiotics, instant miso often comes with dehydrated tofu and seaweed.
  • Ready-to-heat curry and other entrees – These are convenient but heavier than homemade or commercial backpacking meals due to the water content.
  • Instant coconut milk powder
  • Instant hummus mix
  • NIDO whole milk powder
  • Instant dehydrated refried beans
Miko Freeze Dried Miso Soup
Backcountry foodie Blog Banner Image - Resupply

CHIPS, CRACKERS, & SNACKS

The chips and snacks aisle can be a good place to look for convenient hiking snacks and treats you may choose between meals. You can find some nutritious and calorie-dense foods that are easy to pull out of your pack and enjoy while trekking.

Triscuits, Oberto Jerky, and Kettle Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Chex mix
  • Cheese puffs
  • Wheat Thins, Triscuits, or other whole-grain crackers
  • Chips – Potato, vegetable, bagel, pita
  • Fritos – Add to chili and other soups!
  • Cheese crisps or moon cheese
  • Jerky and meat sticks
  • Nuts & trail mixes

COOKIES & CANDY

The cookies and candy aisle is full of backpacking snack ideas for a quick burst of energy. Pair these sugary snacks with a protein source (like nuts or cheese) for longer-lasting energy.

M&Ms
M&Ms are an excellent candy choice for hot weather because the hard coating keeps them from melting as readily as other chocolate.
  • Cookies
  • Teddy Grahams or graham crackers
  • Vanilla wafers
  • Sesame seed candy
  • Candy bars, chocolate-covered dried fruit – Consider the potential for a melty mess in hot weather!
  • M&Ms
  • Gummies

DRINKS & DRINK MIXES

The beverage aisle has many hiker-friendly drink ideas – hot and cold – to keep you hydrated. Many drinks contain extra electrolytes, such as sodium, which is helpful if you’re a heavy sweater. This grocery store aisle is also a great place to find meal replacement drinks that can come in handy if you tend to lose your appetite on backpacking trips.

  • Instant coffee
  • Tea
  • Matcha – Look for single-serve packets.
  • Hot cocoa
  • Nesquik or Ovaltine
  • Gatorade mix
  • Electrolyte drink tablets (such as Nuun)
  • Water flavor packets and drops (such as Crystal Light or Mio)
Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
While indeed not the only instant coffee, Starbucks Via packets are always easy to find.

BREAD & BAKERY

The bread and bakery aisle has many carbohydrate-rich foods to help you build a hiker-friendly meal or snack while on the trail. Just remember to pack these foods near the top of your backpack so they don’t get squished during your trek.

Mission tortillas
  • Bread
  • English muffins
  • Bagels
  • Wraps
  • Tortillas
  • Pita

DELI & DAIRY

The deli and dairy sections can be tricky for hikers because some foods are more perishable than others and are not hiker-friendly. But you don’t need to avoid these sections altogether. Check the package if you are unsure if a product requires refrigeration.

  • Summer sausage or pepperoni
  • Hard cheese
  • Shelf-stable cheese spread or cheeses wrapped in wax (e.g., Babybel)
  • Meat sticks
  • Condiments – You can sometimes find ketchup, mayo, mustard, or soy sauce packets near the deli.
Babybel Cheese

BABY FOOD

You may not even think to check the baby food aisle, but it often has surprisingly useful food items for hikers. Yogurt melts from this aisle can form the base of an easy backpacker-friendly smoothie mix. Grind the yogurt melts into a powder using a coffee or spice grinder. Then add powdered milk and freeze-dried fruit, grind a little more, and package for the backcountry. Just add water on the trail for a refreshing snack!

Nido Fortificado dry whole milk powder
  • Applesauce, pureed fruit blends, or fruit-vegetable blends in pouches
  • Nido Fortificada (instant, fortified whole milk) – Some stores put this in the baby care aisle, if not in the baking or international aisle.
  • Yogurt melts

Unique Backpacking Food Ideas Available in Specific Stores

Can’t find what you want in your everyday grocery store? Try a few of these stores for those harder-to-find hiker foods.

HEALTH FOOD STORES & CO-OPS

These stores are likely to have more vegetarian and vegan options. They often also have larger bulk food sections.

  • Non-dairy instant dry milk beverages
  • Nutritional yeast
  • A larger variety of freeze-dried fruits and veggies
  • Specialty nut and seed mixes
  • Grind your own nut butters
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • Instant hummus mix
  • Soy/meatless jerky

ETHNIC SPECIALTY MARKETS

Ethnic markets stock unique options for backpackers. You will usually find more variety here than in the ethnic aisles of regular grocery stores.

Markets serving the Hispanic community can be a good place to find:

And here are some hiker-friendly foods commonly found in Asian markets:

  • Unique candies, snacks, and chips
  • A larger variety of ramen flavors (especially spicy flavors)
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Instant miso soup
  • Instant coconut milk powder
  • Almond milk powder
  • Dried fish or seafood
  • Matcha powder 
  • Instant milk tea mix
  • Black sesame hot breakfast cereal – Look for the Greenmax brand.
  • Freeze-dried tofu

WALMART

Walmart stores on the trail are much more frequent on the Appalachian Trail than on the Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail, but they are called superstores for a reason. For hikers, Walmart is a reliable place to find inexpensive backpacking food. You’ll also usually be able to find stove fuel and other non-meal essentials here.

In addition to all of the grocery store foods listed above, Walmart stores are often great places to find:

  • Freeze-dried fruit and vegetables (more varieties)
  • Powdered whole milk
  • Powdered butter
  • Powdered eggs
  • Freeze-dried chicken and beef
  • Commercially prepared backpacking meals

TRADER JOE’S

Trader Joe’s is another place to find many common backpacking grocery store foods listed above. Many hikers rave about Trader Joe’s because you can often find backpacker-friendly foods in their specific brand for less.

  • Nuts and nut mixes
  • Dried fruit
  • Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  • Unique snacks – The dark chocolate cookie butter cups are my favorite!
Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
My personal favorite Trader Joe’s hiking snack!

COSTCO & SAM’S CLUB

Costco and Sam’s Club are great places to save money if you are a member. This is especially true if you’re making multiple servings of meals and snacks for your next adventure or preparing batch meals for your resupply boxes.


DOLLAR STORES

One thing to remember about Dollar Stores is that their selection can vary quite a bit. These stores often have less selection than full-size grocery stores, but you can sometimes find much cheaper hiking food items, including small bags of freeze-dried and dried fruit. Dollar Stores are also a good place to look for cheaper Ziploc bags for portioning your hiking foods.


OUTFITTERS

Outfitters will also vary widely in their food selection. If you are looking for a specific food brand that caters to hikers, you’re more likely to find it here. 

  • Commercially prepared backpacking meals
  • Oil packets
  • More brand variety in instant coffee
BF Blog Banner Image - Ultralight Recipes

What if I can’t find what I am looking for at the store?

Depending on your local stores, finding some freeze-dried or pre-dehydrated vegetables, freeze-dried meat, and butter or cheese powders that you may need to make your homemade backpacking meals can be hard. If you can’t find an ingredient you need, we recommend the following websites:

Backcountry Foodie’s Build-a-Box Shop is your one-stop solution!

shop laptop image

Our one-of-a-kind backpacking food shop offers a wide variety of diet-specific foods to fuel your adventures.

Do you like these backpacking food ideas but aren’t sure how to put everything together?

If you enjoyed these grocery store backpacking food ideas but still feel overwhelmed putting it all together, you’re not alone – and we can help!

Backcountry Foodie is your go-to resource for over 200 backpacking dietitian-created recipes and a one-of-a-kind automated meal planning tool. The meal planner even creates itemized shopping lists for you! Meal prep has never been easier.

Backcountry Foodie Blog Banner Image - Meal Planner

DISCLOSURE: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a modest commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site running. Our reputation is our most important asset, so we only include links for products we use ourselves.


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Aisle of a grocery store

Are you new to our blog?

Consider checking out a few of our recipes using grocery-friendly ingredients:

Consider checking out these backpacking nutrition posts:


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Sara Woolcock, MS, RD, CD is a Seattle-based registered dietitian, researcher, and thru-hiker. She has a Master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Washington and over 8 years of experience as a registered dietitian working with older adults. She is an avid runner and backpacker and completed thru-hikes of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018 and the Colorado Trail in 2020. Her favorite trail snack is a Snickers bar.

Abby Barth was a dietetic intern, mentored by Aaron Owens Mayhew, MS, RD, CD, at Bastyr University. She earned her BS in Human Nutrition and Dietetics with a minor in Lifestyle Medicine from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She enjoys walking with her dog, hiking, paddle boarding, and snowboarding in her spare time. If she’s not enjoying the outdoors, you’ll find her in the kitchen putting a plant-based twist on some of her favorite dishes.

One Comment

  • Aldi Australia are doing Tuna and Beans scahaets – smokey, Mexican and one other. They are very tasty! And it gets away from hte tuna only ones.

    Reply

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