Meal Planning for Your Next Adventure!

Years ago, I managed a river operation where participants rafted and canoed about 75 miles over the course of three days. In addition to emergency items, guides only had to carry food supplies needed to prepare lunch on the river. As guests arrived at the evening camps, a cook staff had delicious meals ready for them. That was a great way to experience wilderness rafting and canoeing trips! 

Here are a few tips and tools that may help you as you plan your adventure meals.

Download our free meal planning document here!

Considerations:  Season of the Year, Length of your Adventure, Number of people going, Car Camping or Backpacking,

Plan Your Menu using the following considerations:

  • What season of the year are you going? In addition to your regular menu planning remember:
    • Colder weather 
      • Requires more calories per person
      • Consider hot meals and drinks
    • Warm weather
      • Requires more fluids and drinks that replenish electrolytes
  • What is the Length of Your Adventure?
    • The longer the trip, the fewer fresh foods
    • Consider weight for backpackers
    • Bear Bags for safety
    • Garbage disposal opportunities
  • Number of people
    • Can you cook as one small group using one or two backpacking stoves?
    • Divide up the cooking gear among the group to distribute the weight
    • Everyone should bring their own personal plate, bowl cup, and utensils.
    • Cooking gear – Consider size and weight
    • Car Camping allows:
      • Camping Kitchens with Multi-burner stoves
      • Charcoal and Dutch Ovens
      • Larger amount of fresh ingredients
      • Larger amount of trash that can be easily taken home for proper disposal.
    • Backpacking requires:
      • Lightweight backpacking stoves or fires
      • Smaller cooking containers.
  • Pay attention to all food packaging as all trash must be packed out.
    • Pack it in, pack it out!

There are many, high quality and delicious, commercially produced lightweight meals for backpacking. Some include Mountain House, Backpackers Pantry, Peak Refuel, and Patagonia Provisions just to name a few.

Commercially prepared freeze-dried meals have long been a staple for backpackers. Freeze dryers for our homes are becoming very popular these days and provide us with the ability to take along our favorite homemade meals whether we are backpacking or car camping.

Plan a balanced diet that will be satisfying and provide needed energy to enjoy your adventure. Plan on about 3,000 calories per day.

Menu Planning Made Easy

  1. Start by getting your group together and use the OSME Meal Planning form that shows the meals you’ll need and then use everyone’s input to start filling in the blanks.
  2. List everyone’s ideas and then go back to finalize the list. 
  3. This way each person has a say in the final menu and is happy to share in the cost, purchasing, cooking, and clean-up of each meal.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

 Car Camping Breakfast Options

  • Omelets in a Baggie
  • OSME Mountain Man Breakfast
  • Pancakes
  • Oatmeal Cereals
  • Granolas
  • Biscuits and Gravy
  • Fresh Fruits and sweet rolls

Backpacking Breakfast Options

  • Dried Fruit and trail mix
  • Granola, meal bars
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Tortillas w/Scrambled eggs
  • Tortillas with Nutella or peanut butter
  • Pancakes
  • Precooked bacon

 Car Camping Lunch Options

  • Sandwiches/cold cuts or PB&J
  • Hot Dogs
  • Bagels and your favorite topping
  • Cut veggies

Backpacking Lunch Options

  • Chicken or Tuna packets
  • Commercially packed meals to go
  • Jerky and meat bars
  • String Cheese

Car Camping Dinner Options

  • Tin Foil Dinners (Personal favorite!)
  • Salsa Chicken
  • Turkey dinner
  • Jambalaya
  • Four Bean Bake (personal favorite!)
  • Shepherd’s Pie (Internet Favorite!)

Backpacking Dinner Options

  • Home Freeze dried meals 
  • Instant stews and soups
  • Instant Mac and Cheese
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Instant Rice


  • Pineapple Upside Down Cake
  • Cinnamon Pull-Aparts
  • Peach Cobbler Dump Cake
  • Extreme Brownies
  • Dessert on a Stick!


  • Trail mix
  • Freeze Dried fruits
  • Banana Chips
  • Candy Bars
  • Fruit Leather

One Comment Add yours

  1. Can you write more about it? Your articles are always helpful to me. Thank you!

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