Whether you want to take a trip into the back country for a few days or want to hike all day, food and water will always be one of the top considerations when planning. When I first started doing day hikes with my daughter, Sky, I would pack simple lunches like peanut butter and jelly and some chips. While I love PB&J, doing this every weekend was making me reconsider day hiking and made me debate my ability to go backpacking. Who wants to eat smashed sandwiches for three days?
As I started to plan our first backpacking trip last year, another hiking mama introduced me to dehydrated and freeze-dried meals. I’d seen this style in my local outdoor store but wasn’t sure what I needed to make it work. Turns out all I needed was a way to measure water, heat water and a utensil. This revelation allowed me to go backpacking and has changed the way we day hike. I grab a bag of food, two spoons and my Jetboil any time I want to spend the day (or night) on the trail.
One thing to note is that not all food is created equal in terms of kid-friendliness. After a few failed meals and a lot of mac and cheese (seriously, I keep one in my bag for emergencies), below are some meal suggestions that are kid-approved.
Foods liked: Mac and Cheese, Chicken and Dumplings, Biscuits and Gravy, Breakfast Skillet, Granola with Milk and Blueberries, Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash, Ice Cream Sandwich
Mountain House is pretty synonymous with freeze-dried food and most people are familiar with the brand. We’ve had the chance to try quite a few things and Sky likes most of the options except the Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash. The Ice Cream Sandwich is always a real treat and novelty on the trail. She found it super fun that she was having ice cream so far away from a restaraunt or fridge.
Mountain House has the rehydration down to a science, and it was easy to follow the directions for a hot meal. Not interested in a hot meal? The granola was a quick easy breakfast when we needed to get on the road quick one morning. Speaking of breakfast, Sky and I have a love of the Biscuits and Gravy. Mountain House’s Biscuits and Gravy is a real treat after a night of tossing and turning in your sleeping bag. I was pleasantly surprised how much Sky enjoyed it since she normally hates anything “spicy.”
Photo by Jessica Featherstone.
Foods liked: Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce, Cheese Tortellini in Tomato Sauce
We found that using OMEALS was quick and easy. What’s awesome about them is that you don’t need a stove to eat a hot meal on the fly. You can actually have a hot lunch while on the trail without having to break out gear. These meals aren’t dehydrated so you don’t need to worry about not adding enough water. You will never have crunchy food from not rehydrating enough.
These are a bit heavier than dehydrated food so that’s an important consideration if you are taking several out. Also, because of the packaging, they do have more trash than your typical dehydrated or freeze-dried food. However, this is a good option for those who don’t want to purchase a stove or want to try backpacking without committing to the cost of a stove.
Foods liked: Packaroons, Cherry Chipotle Chili, Breakfasts
This recommendation comes from Shanti, who loves Heather’s Choice because of the variety of meats and that they are paleo and gluten-free. First and foremost, we like that all of the meats are not what you traditionally eat. Venison, quail, bison and wild-caught sockeye salmon all give these backpacking meals a different flavor than the norm. Many of the entrees are a little spicier, so they’re not totally “kid-friendly,” but the breakfasts and packaroons are where it’s at. The Blueberry Cinnamon Breakfast is a winner for a hot, nutritious meal in the morning.
Shanti especially loves the Packaroons for a pick-me-up mid-hike. These are a great option for when you (or your tiny hangry human) need a bit of sugar with a bit more nutrition. Having a variety of options from Orange Vanilla to Black Espresso, you are sure to find one you love. If eating paleo is a big part of your lifestyle, this is the brand to look into.
Photo by Arika Bauer.
Foods liked: Classic Marinara with Penne, Herbed Mushroom Risotto, Oatmeal, and Granola
Looking for something vegetarian and tired of Mac and Cheese? What about vegan? Good to Go is an excellent option if you want something meatless. I love how they come in single or double servings as well, so I can buy something for me that is a bit spicier like the Mexican Quinoa and Sky can enjoy the marinara with penne. And while Good to Go only makes two breakfasts, they are both great. Sky and I chowed down on the granola.
Pro tip: My husband slightly warmed up the water and it made the granola even better on our chilly morning. Sky basically stole the bag from me and handed me back a bag with only a couple of almonds in it. If you are looking for a vegan or vegetarian option, Good to Go is it!
Photo by Jessica Featherstone.
Foods liked: All American Works Burger, Dottie’s Chicken and Dumplings, Banana Pudding, Moonshine Margarita, Cajun Ranch Chicken Salad, Smoked Cheddar-Jack Cheese Spread
A few months ago, I had decided we were going backpacking on a particular weekend. As the time drew near, it was scheduled to be cold (less than 30 degrees) and dreary. As we pulled into the parking lot to walk into our campsite, all the kids started melting down. By the time we arrived at the campsite, several of the adults (me mostly) were starting to melt down as well. First thing we did was set out the Moonshine Margarita (with an added splash of vodka for the adults) and the smoked cheddar jack cheese spread. Twenty minutes later, there were smiles all around the campsite. Food can make or break a trip and Packit Gourmet understands that.
One thing I love about Packit Gourmet is they have a great variety of meals to which you can just add cold water. The Cajun Chicken Salad is a great option for lunch on trail, and you don’t even have to break out a jetboil to make it happen. These do have a bit more waste than some of the other brands as they come in their outer cook bag and typically an inner sealed bag. For dinner, Sky chowed down on the All American Works Burger. Best part, they send ketchup, mayo, relish and mustard so you don’t have to remember. With a ton of kid-friendly options, this is one brand to check out.
I like to joke that I enjoy a bit of coffee with my creamer. Coffee is an integral part of my morning, so one of my first thoughts was how am I going to get a good cup on trail? I can buy a packet of instant coffee, but it’s usually too bitter for me and I haven’t figured out the best way to bring my favorite caramel almond milk creamer on trail yet. So I was pleasantly surprised trying the Javazen coffee in a tea bag to discover that I really liked it. This is a brand that even I didn’t need creamer to enjoy. It takes four minutes to steep and they have a variety of flavors (I’m in love with the Pumpkin Spice). If you need a good cup in the morning, this is a good solution.
Whether you head into the backcountry, the local campground, or just out on a day hike, we hope this round-up will help you choose your family’s next meal.
What other food options do your family take on the trails? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.