We often hear people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and for good reason: Breakfast provides the calories that your body needs to get going after you wake up, so it’s vital if you want to feel energized throughout the day.
For backpackers, having a nutritious breakfast before hitting the trail is even more critical as what you eat in the morning will help power you through those tough uphills.
But what is a good backpacking breakfast, you might ask?
For a good backpacking breakfast, make sure your meal has a mix of proteins, carbs, and fats, regardless of what you eat. For a quick breakfast, consider oatmeal with lots of nuts and seeds. Or you could go big and have a breakfast sandwich with eggs and sausage if you’re feeling fancy.
Like all things hiking and food-related, though, there’s no one answer to what a good backpacking breakfast is. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the finer points of planning your breakfast on the trail so you can get the nutrition you need for your adventures.
The 4 Best Hiking Breakfast Foods
A good hiking breakfast can be whatever you’d like it to be, so long as you get the right mix of nutrients (think proteins, fats, and carbs) to keep you energized as you hike. There are countless nutritious breakfast options out there to suit people with a variety of tastes and dietary restrictions, so the important thing is that you find something you enjoy eating.
Some of our favorite backpacking breakfast foods include:
1. Hearty Oatmeal
An absolute classic, oatmeal is a perfect choice for any backpacking trip. It’s both lightweight and very easy to cook (especially if you get the instant variety), so it’s the ideal backcountry breakfast. Just keep in mind that oatmeal on its own doesn’t have that much protein and that most of the instant oatmeal packets are filled with processed sugars.
You can put a nutritious spin on instant oats by bringing dried fruit and nuts to add to plain oats, instead. If you want a sweetener, you can use a little bit of brown sugar or you can pack in a small container of honey or maple syrup.
2. Breakfast Sandwich
For an extra hearty breakfast, consider the breakfast sandwich. We particularly love breakfast sandwiches because they offer a superior blend of fats, proteins, and carbs, all while tasting amazing.
You can also mix and match your ingredients to create your preferred sandwich. Possible toppings include eggs (bring the powdered kind into the backcountry), summer sausage, and cheese. You can also fry your bagels in a bit of butter for some extra flavor.
3. Egg & Hashbrown Skillet
If you’re not in a rush and you want a tasty breakfast, it’s hard to go wrong with the egg and hashbrown skillet. To make this, you need a quality frying pan, dehydrated hash browns, and eggs (either fresh or powdered).
Make the hashbrowns first by frying them in oil or butter to get them extra crispy. Then add in your eggs and scramble or fry as needed to complete your skillet. Don’t forget to add lots of spices for flavor and perhaps a dash of hot sauce.
Also read: Can you Take Eggs Backpacking?
4. Granola & Milk
Granola and milk is a nice alternative to oatmeal and it’s a superb meal in its own right. You can either buy granola in the store or make your own at home to bring on the trail. Be sure to get granola that’s full of nuts and seeds so you can get some much-needed protein. For breakfast, add a bit of milk (pack the powdered stuff) and top with dried fruit. You can even make this dairy-free by opting for coconut milk, instead.
Non-traditional Breakfast Foods
Remember that this list is non-exhaustive and there are easily dozens of other breakfasts that you can have out on the trail. There’s also no requirement that you eat traditional “breakfast foods” in the morning. Just be sure that you get enough calories in you each morning (and that you hydrate properly) before you start hiking.
Is Oatmeal Good for Hiking?
Oatmeal is an excellent hiking food. It is lightweight, very easy to pack, highly versatile, and incredibly quick to cook. In other words, oatmeal is like a backpacking superfood.
But if you’ve never had oatmeal at home, we’d recommend trying it out from the comfort of your kitchen before tasting it for the first time in the backcountry. Some people don’t like oatmeal, but we’ve personally found that this is simply because they haven’t found the right flavor combinations that work for their needs.
Oatmeal on its own doesn’t have much taste, so it’s all about adding the right toppings to it to create your ideal breakfast. Be sure to experiment with oatmeal at home so you can figure out what you like to eat with your oats before you head outside.
How Many Calories Should I Eat Backpacking?
Most people find that they need to eat about 2,500 to 4,500 calories per day while backpacking, but this varies widely from person to person.
Backpacking is a very energy-intensive pursuit, so you’ll likely need to eat more calories on the trail than you would if you were in the office all day. But everybody is different, so it’s hard to say that there’s a specific calorie count that each person should strive for while hiking.
As a general rule, you should expect to eat at least a bit more while backpacking than you would while at home. So if you normally eat around 2,000 calories a day at home, it would be reasonable to expect that you’d need around 2,500 calories per day on a moderate backpacking trip.
Our advice? Trying to nail down a specific calorie count for your backpacking meals is tricky. Instead, start by packing slightly more food on your hiking trips than you’d normally eat per meal at home. You can also bring lots of extra snacks, just in case you get hungry.
Then, at the end of your trip, survey how much food you have leftover and if you felt like you had enough to eat each day. You can then plan your next backpacking meals using this information so you can avoid carrying too much or too little food on the trail.
Backpacking Breakfasts: The Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast is an integral part of any backpacking trip because it’s what fuels you as you hike each morning.
There are dozens of great backpacking breakfast meals out there, including oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, and granola, and none of them are inherently better than the others. The key here is finding the breakfast foods that you know you’ll want to eat while outside so you can have the energy you need for your adventures.
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.