Ramen is a time-honored favorite for anyone that values tasty and affordable food. But are ramen noodles good for backpacking?
Yes, ramen noodles are a great backpacking food. Many hikers love to pack ramen because it’s low-cost, lightweight, and super easy to cook in the mountains. But, depending on what kind of ramen you buy, your noodles may not be that nutritious. So it can help to supplement your ramen with extra nutrients to keep you fueled on the trail.
If you’ve never had backcountry ramen during your past adventures, you might be a little hesitant to try something new on your next backpacking trip. To help you understand the ins and outs of this versatile noodle dish, we’ve put together a quick guide to all things ramen in the mountains.
Let’s get started!
Why Ramen is a Backpacking Favorite
Ramen is a great choice for a backpacking meal, and it’s something you’ll see in many trekkers’ meal plans. There are many reasons why backpackers tend to love ramen, including:
- Affordability – Prices can vary from place to place, but in the US, the average single-serving packet of ramen costs between $0.50 and $2.00, which is a far cry from the $7 to $15 you’d pay for a freeze-dried backpacking meal. At those prices, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cheaper backcountry-worthy dish than ramen.
- Weight Savings – Most single-serving containers of ramen noodles weigh less than 5 oz (142 g) and most are only about 3 oz (85 g). This makes ramen a great bang for your buck as far as weight savings are concerned.
- Convenience – To cook instant ramen, you just need to bring water to a boil and cook the noodles for a few minutes. Needless to say, there are few other backpacking meals out there that cook as quickly and easily as ramen.
In addition to these very practical benefits, we also really like ramen because it encourages us to hydrate after a day of hiking. Drinking ramen broth after you enjoy your noodles can warm you up and help you get the fluids and salts that you need so your body can relax and recover.
That said, some folks aren’t quite sold on the idea of ramen in the backcountry.
For some people, ramen noodles just aren’t a food that they enjoy, which is fair enough. Alternatively, people with dietary restrictions, such as gluten intolerance, might not be able to enjoy ramen, even if they wanted to (but there are some gluten-free ramen-style packets made with rice noodles that are available, too!).
However, the biggest potential downside to pre-packaged instant ramen is that it’s not exactly packed with nutrients or calories.
A standard packet of instant ramen only has about 188 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein. Most people need quite a bit more calories, fat, and protein in their meals after a long day of hiking. Therefore, ramen is often better used as an appetizer for your backpacking dinners rather than as the meal itself.
How Do You Make Ramen For Hiking?
Making ramen while hiking is pretty straightforward. You simply need to boil water in your pot, add your noodles, cook for a couple of minutes, mix in the included flavor packet and add any of your own seasonings to taste.
It’s a good idea to read the directions on your instant ramen packet, though, as some noodles take longer to cook than others. But if you want to turn your ramen noodles into a fully fledged backpacking meal, you’ll need to go above and beyond the directions on the packet.
The Legendary ‘Ramen Bomb’ Recipe
One of our favorite ways to turn ramen into a heartier meal after a day of hiking is to create the legendary ‘ramen bomb.’ How it works is simple.
Here’s the full ramen bomb recipe:
- first, boil water in your pot
- add your ramen noodles
- cook for a couple of minutes
- add instant potatoes to the broth
- add protein (chicken/tuna/salmon packets, cheese or textured vegetable protein)
- lastly, mix in the included flavor packet or add your own seasonings (oil, hot sauce, herbs etc.)
Instructions: You’ll cook your noodles like normal, but then you’ll add instant mashed potatoes to the broth (you can also make this with cold water if need be, but it will take a few hours to rehydrate the noodles).
Once your potatoes and noodles are cooked, you can add in some extra protein.
For the omnivores among us, chicken, tuna, and salmon packets are great protein add-ins for a ramen bomb. Alternatively, for the veg-heads, consider adding in cheese or textured vegetable protein (TVP).
Last but not least, add in the flavor packet that came with the ramen, or use your own spices to create a unique, tasty dish. Bon apétit!
What is the Best Food to Eat While Hiking?
The best food to eat while hiking is anything that you enjoy and will be willing to chow down on after hours of walking through the mountains. Ideally, that food should also have a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats as well as plenty of vitamins and minerals. But the most important thing is that you actually eat what you pack.
It can be hard to know what you’ll want to eat while you’re outside, so it’s often a good idea to stick to simple, easy-to-cook foods that you’re used to eating at home. Pasta and rice-based dishes are often fan-favorites on the trail because they’re convenient and yummy. Some folks prefer to use freeze-dried meals for backpacking, but these can get expensive after a few trips.
Our personal favorite meals include everything from mac and cheese to burritos. As you get more comfortable with your cooking skills, you might also want to venture into the world of backcountry baking where you can make your own pizzas and other tasty goodies in the mountains.
If you’re new to backpacking, it’s worth investing in an outdoor cookbook like the famous NOLS Cookery so you can get some inspiration for your meals.
Ramen For Backpacking: Yuck or Yum?
Ramen is a very popular backpacking food, and for good reason: it’s tasty, highly packable, and generally quite affordable. While the nutritional value of instant ramen isn’t necessarily the best, ramen can make for a good supplement to your meals on the trail, especially if you want a quick pick-me-up after a day of hiking.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.