What’s for lunch? 40+ favorite ideas

As a hard-charging thru-hiker — when I would hike sunrise-to-sunset, take very few breaks, and cover 30 to 40 miles day after day — food was simply fuel. I carried items that were calorie dense, required minimal or no field preparation, and could be eaten on the go. So I ate a lot of bars back then — energy bars, candy bars, granola bars, cereal bars, and Pemmican bars. And to keep my energy level sustained, I ate precisely on two- to 2.5-hour cycles.

With many more of my backpacking days now in a guided trip setting, my approach has evolved. Our trips are more about smiles over miles, and both clients and guides appreciate a dedicated “lunch,” when there’s enough time to prepare a meal, rest, and maybe tend to things like laundry and bidets.

I’ve found two personal lunch favorites:

  • Ham sandwich on a bun with cream cheese, for the first day or two; and,
  • Avocado with a salty and crunch carbohydrate, like Pringles or Fritos, for later in the trip when the safety of deli ham is more questionable.

But there are many other options, and I recently asked on Instagram for additional favorites. Here are the responses:

What’s your backpacking lunch? Leave a suggestion below.

Posted in on September 8, 2020


  1. Mike G. on September 8, 2020 at 6:30 am

    I’ll do any kind of sandwich on the first day or two as well. Have not tried anything with cream cheese but like the idea as it would probably make the sandwich a little less dry without being mushy like other condiments (which I avoid for these sammies).

    Also do a lot of salami, pepperoni and slices of hard cheese. I’ll usually take a large block of hard cheese and just slice it straight and use it for lunches and then add it to dinners (beans and rice, et al). I also like to take extra salami or pepperoni and slice that into my dinners too which are usually veggie as my wife is.

    • TAC on September 12, 2020 at 8:16 am

      PB&J on a tortilla is my standard.

      Wondering what the calorie density of an avocado is?

    • Matthew on September 20, 2020 at 3:21 pm

      Salami and Cream Cheese is an amazing and high calorie combo.

  2. U-Turn on September 9, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Big fan of some shelf-stable salami with tortillas with some Rx Bar peanut butter packets as dessert. I’ll also go full hiker trash and squeeze a spicy mustard packet into some tuna or salmon in olive oil and just eat that. After watching Gear Skeptic’s video on endurance nutrition for hiking, I changed up what I eat to focus more on proteins + fats at lunch.

  3. ian ivanoff on September 9, 2020 at 9:07 am

    I like to bring smoked salmon, the cold smoked variety. Although its not super calorie dense or cheap its a change from the regular salami and cheese.

  4. Rob on September 16, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    BLAvocadoT on the first day. Did a black bean dip with Fritos Scoops that hit the spot.

  5. Eric Jones on September 25, 2020 at 1:55 am

    Nothing beats Chicken Teriyaki Rice along with some beef jerky in the end. I’ve eaten this combination for 2 days and of course, coffee is a necessity.
    Gonna try your Ham Sandwich recipe for the coming hunting season.

  6. sophie on September 26, 2020 at 11:50 pm

    Hello from the Middle East,
    well, according to the local diet, I take with me for lunch on treks:
    Pita bread, olive oil (in a tiny plastic bottle) and Za’atar, a local spice made out of Syrian Oregano. It’s very healthy, tasty and doesn’t weight much 🙂

  7. FinnHiker on October 12, 2020 at 11:55 pm

    When hiking in Lapland the stores sometimes sell dehydrated mashed potatoe mix made from northern “puikula” variety and also they stock cold smoked and dried reindeer meat 😋Boil water, mix the instant mash, add in some ghee, butter or oil, carve reindeer on top.

  8. Cathy on June 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Where are the 40+ ideas? Seems like I’ve fallen victim to click bait. “A ham sandwich or an avocado with something salty” isn’t really what was promised here hunh.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 9, 2021 at 7:21 pm

      Read through the IG comments

      • Upstream on July 20, 2021 at 12:13 pm

        Same problem here. Instagram won’t let me read the comments unless I sign up and log in. Clickbait.

  9. Justine on February 6, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Agreed. Clickbait..
    You should know better than this Andrew.

  10. Sunflower on February 10, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    40 ideas??? I only see 1 idea!

  11. Frederick Robey on April 21, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Clickbait? I don’t think this word means what you think it means. What’s your alternative suggestion? That every single person who comments a recipe create an account here on this blog instead of using a social media platform that most people already have an account on? Give me a break.

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