by Diane Spicer
Organic backpacking food fuels hikers who wish to avoid chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, fertilizers, additives and hormones in their trail menus.
But organic backpacking food has still got to tick all of the backpacking meal boxes:
Things get even more interesting for a hungry backpacker when the diet is further restricted due to personal or medical reasons:
Which camp(s) are you in?
The main camp you're in is no secret.
You must be interested in the healthiest backpacking food to fuel your hard working body on a long hiking trip, or you wouldn't be reading this.
The question is, where can you find reliable, high quality organic backpacking food?
There are two places to look:
First, let's look at the convenience of letting someone else do the heavy lifting for you.
To get up to speed on backpacking food in general, read this.
There are some tried and true companies that crank out reliable and tasty freeze dried and/or dehydrated backpacking food.
Mountain House comes to mind.
But to find a company that also includes "organic" in their repertoire, you're going to have to look a bit harder.
I rely upon a handful of companies which I can recommend to you, so please allow me to detail why I use them.
If organic is on your wish list, rather than a must have, non-negotiable item, take a look at Backpackers Pantry.
I've eaten their food for over a decade, and been highly satisfied for the following reasons.
This company is serious about letting you know what's in each entrée, by providing this list of ingredients in their backpacking food, organic or otherwise.
You'll see they use a minimal amount of artificial additives, while delivering a good flavor/nutrition balance.
Some of their selections are also organic, with unique twists on the usual backpacking fare:
High sodium content and clunky foil pouches (to withstand boiling water) are two drawbacks to traditional backpacking food such as this.
You might be able to work around these objections, mostly because sodium is depleted after a long sweaty day on the trail.
And here's a great reason for enjoying the pouch method of cooking: you don't need to get a pot dirty to get a decent meal into your stomach at the end of the day.
If you want to go organic with lower salt and minimal packaging at every meal on your backpacking trips, there are 2 companies I can recommend.
Both of them eliminate the hassle of pulling together your own organic ingredients.
Do, however, expect the usual assortment of pasta, grains and beans with various flavor twists.
Outdoor Herbivore has a lot of credible, detailed information for you about why going organic is a good choice for optimal body function.
Their food is a combination of freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients, and they are very good about explaining exactly what has happened to the food before it arrives at your backpack.
This company started out as Paleo Meals To Go, and morphed into Wild Zora.
Recently they've started to offer organic backpacking food. I find their meat + veggie bars to be very tasty and filling.
This is another viable choice for organic backpacking menus.
A few of their (her?) organic offerings to tempt your taste buds:
For a discount when you buy food like this in bulk, shop at REI.
Mary Jane's Farm differentiates between instant and quick prep food, so if time or effort are important factors for you, pay attention to these choices as you look at their offerings.
This is the new kid on the block.
Well, not really.
Patagonia has been a respected, socially responsible outdoor gear company for decades.
Now they've turned their attention to delicious organic backpacking food any hiker can enjoy while knowing how much care was taken to select sustainable sources of healthy trail nutrition.
Their soups and chili are meat- and dairy-free, made with certified organic, non-GMO ingredients. Great base for a filling organic backpacking meal!
Their animal protein sources include some thoughtful offerings as well:
Read my detailed review of this food here.
For organic, vegan, soy-free and non-GMO trail bars I rely upon these: GoMacro Bars.
Buying these trail bars in bulk is the only way to go, because the price per bar can be cut way, way down.
If you're new to this brand, it will be a lot of fun to taste test several different flavors in this GoMacro sampler.
For even faster energy on the trail in a tasty organic package, I rely upon Honey Stingers.
These are seriously great hiking snacks!
The best price can be found with this variety pack of 8 different flavors.
And don't overlook Patagonia Provisions trail bars, with mango, apricot and inca berries to tantalize your taste buds - without delivering a jarring jolt of sweetness.
If you're new to the concept of organic backpacking food, a word of warning: this high quality convenient food is not cheap.
Part of the reason is because organic food is more expensive to purchase.
And it must be handled separately during the processing and packaging processes, to avoid cross contamination with non-organic food.
In addition, the market demand for organic hiking food is not very strong, at least right now.
However, if you regard this food as an investment in your body, it's easier to accept the premium price.
I know from experience that I just feel better when I give my body food that is as real as possible, especially when I'm pushing myself on a backpacking trip.
However, there is another way to negotiate the steep price tag.
If you have an abundance of time, plus a fervent desire to go organic on your next backpacking trip, you can prepare your own organic backpacking food.
This approach gives you a lot of control over the quality and variety of your backpacking menu.
Freeze drying food at home is not practical, but dehydrating it can be.
After you remove all of the water molecules from your entrées and snacks, you'll need to package it into individual portions.
North Bay Trading Company has a wide selection of hard to find organic foods that are high in carbohydrates, the most preferred energy source on the trail.
You may find your creative culinary juices (and your saliva) flowing as you consider how to combine organic sweet potato powder, dried portabello mushrooms and organic rice into a delicious backpacking dinner.
If you are fortunate enough to live within striking distance of stores which offer bulk bins of organic pastas, grains, beans, rice and dehydrated soups, you're in organic heaven!
Hikers who pay close attention to their food choices usually embrace all of the hiking best practices discussed on this website.
Thoughtfulness and advanced planning are two attributes any hiker should cultivate, right?
Best of luck working out your unique hiking nutritional needs.
If you'd like to get into the nitty gritty of calculating how much fuel (i.e. food) you need for an upcoming backpacking trip, take a look at these Fast Facts instant download booklets.
Organic Backpacking Food
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About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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