5-Day Stoveless Backpacking Menu

Hello there! I recently finished a 5-day backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon (the Thunder River — Deer Creek loop), and learned so much on this trip I’m breaking it up into multiple posts. You can read my trip report here, or scroll down for more links.

For this post, I want to share my 5-day stoveless backpacking menu, because I really waffled on whether to cook or not. In the end, the considerations that tipped me over to stoveless were:

  • I was really short on space, because of the volume of food and water we had to carry, and dehydrated meals take up quite a bit of space for their calorie counts.
  • I don’t love backpacking meals anyway. I know everyone says they taste delicious on the trail, but even when exhausted and hungry I’ve never had that sublime experience with dehydrated food.
  • I am generally pretty happy grazing on peanut butter and salty snacks, even when I’m home.
  • A few days of “unhealthy” eating aren’t a big deal.

So: I went stoveless, and instead of thinking about food in terms of meals, I just aimed for 3500 calories per day with a mix of stuff I like to eat and that is relatively lightweight for calories.

For each day, I brought:

  • 2 Almond Honey Rise Bars
  • 2 packets of Verve instant coffee
  • 3 tortillas
  • 6 Tbs peanut butter
  • 3 oz turkey jerky
  • 1 Stroopwafel
  • 3 oz candy (Swedish fish, Sour patch kids, Reese’s Pieces)
  • 3 oz trail mix (pistachios, cashews, dried cherries, sesame sticks, almonds)
  • 2 oz Cheezits and Fritos
  • 2 NOW® electrolyte tabs

Overall, I was really happy with the decision and didn’t hate any of my food. Given the chance to do it again, the changes I’d make are:

  • I’d bring way less. 3,500 calories was more than I could stomach in a day, given how hot it was. I also cut my tongue midway through the trip and chewing was painful for a couple of days, so that reduced my intake pretty significantly.
  • I’d skip the Stroopwafels and Reese’s Pieces. They were messy when they melted and while I have a major sweet tooth in my regular life, the only sweets I want on the trail are gummy candies.

My one cheat

My backpacking partner brought a stove and cooked every night, and technically it was shared weight, so I didn’t have any qualms about diving right into a breakfast taco on the final morning. She cooked up her scrambled eggs & bacon and we loaded up my final two tortillas for a delicious hot breakfast.

The breakfast taco was fun… and confirmed my decision to go stoveless. :)

Side bonus of going stoveless: less trash

I had a secondary goal of reducing the amount of trash I’d create. I didn’t go whole hog on greenwashing my trip, because everyone knows plastic bags are a backpacker’s best friend, but I did make a few modifications that kept my trash bag pretty light:

  • Instead of portioning out my food into single servings in separate Ziplock bags, I used large Lunchskins to house trail mix, candy, and chips, and each day, decanted a day’s worth into a smaller Lunchskin bag.
  • I got 10-oz squeeze packs of peanut butter instead of the single serving ones

Just those two edits (plus not bringing pre-made dehydrated meals) meant I didn’t even fill up a gallon ziploc with trash created in the canyon. It’s not perfect but it could have been a lot worse!

More on backpacking the Grand Canyon:

Founder @Flexandflow. More writing at alysemason.substack.com