Nav Bar

About     ♦   Foraging     ♦   Backpacking     ♦   Trail Food    ♦   Wild@Home    ♦    Links    ♦   Demeter's Wild @ Home Store

DIY Trail Food: Building a Better Backpacking Meal, Step Two - Meat (or Meat Substitute)

Like I mentioned in my little ramen rant from Step One, some people rely too heavily on simple carbohydrates and junky food for calories on the trail, and forego nutrition for taste.  Step One  provides the simple carbohydrates for your meal.  This post is the second in the series, focusing on how to add adequate protein to your DIY trail meals.

Adding Protein to Trail Meals is Easy and Delicious

Read more by clicking the "Read More" link below!

Protein: How Much?

Protein is an essential nutrient for maintain muscles.  The government currently recommends 46g of daily protein for women and 56 g for men.  But backpacking is an endurance sport. Research indicates endurance athletes need to eat about 1.3 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day to maintain muscle mass. This would mean a 175 pound man would need over 100 grams of protein per day just to keep from losing muscle, while a 130 pound woman would need 77 grams. Something to remember the next time you try to power up a mountain :)

Getting the 100 grams of protein isn't that difficult with a little advance planning.  A meal of one pouch of tuna fish added to one package of ramen noodles gives 34 grams of protein, but provides only one gram of fiber and 1793 mg of sodium. Likewise 4.3 ounce package of freeze-dried Mountain House Beef Stew has 35 grams per pouch, and at least has some veggies like carrots, peas, and potatoes (even if they are simple carbohydrates). Tasty, but with a whopping 2,225 mg of sodium, not to mention the $7.99 retail price.

Getting enough protein each day is important, but timing of your protein may be equally critical. Gorging yourself on carbs at breakfast, then eating a protein-rich lunch and dinner may sound good, but noted protein researcher Donald Layman asserts that the most critical meal of the day is breakfast after an overnight fast.  He states that the anabolic impact of a meal lasts roughly 5-6 hours based on the rate of post-meal amino acid metabolism, therefore, dietary protein should be provided at approximately 5-hr intervals throughout the day.

Home Dried Meat 

Home drying meat is relatively easy and inexpensive.  Meat can be purchased when on sale, stored in mason jars, and added to future meals.  

Not sure how to dry meat meat at home? Read my post about dehydrating your own meat to use in DIY trail meals.

Home Dried Ground Beef Ready for Trail Spaghetti

Freeze Dried Meat

I have dried my share of meat over the years,  and still dry a lot of ground meat.  However, after a lot of trial and error I have decided that freeze-dried meat is better than home-dehydrated meat, not only for ease of use but also for taste.  A little more expensive, but definitely worth it.  When stored in the original container, cans of freeze dried foods can last for years.

#10 cans of freeze-dried meats are available online.  Check out Emergency Essentials, where I buy most of my freeze-dried foods.  Surprisingly, Costco online offers some great deals on freeze-dried foods from time-to-time.  Most stores offer free shipping on bulk orders.  Buy meat on sale for $29.99 per can, and it's like paying about seven dollars per pound for the meat. Not bad for cooked, prepared, delicious, and easy to store protein.
Large Cans of Freeze-Dried Meats and other Options for Trail Meals

Where's the Beef?

"...he is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit." ~Shakespeare

Not a big fan of beef?  No worries: options exist for adding protein and iron to trail meals without a lot of bother. This list is a work in progress, and by no means complete.  Some of the following also contain a lot of fat or carbohydrates (like bacon, pemmican, cheese, and nuts), so be sure to adjust any additional fat in the meals accordingly.

Trying out an Ova Easy Omelet on my Caldera Cone at Home

  • Bacon (also adds saturated fat and salt)
  • Beans (smashed and dried as a powder)
  • Beef jerky (adds salt)
  • Cheese
  • Chicken Pouch
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Ova Easy freeze-dried pasteurized egg powder 
  • Pemmican
  • Potted meat
  • Protein powder
  • Salami
  • Salmon Pouch
  • Spam
  • Tuna Pouch
  • TVP (texturized vegetable protein)
So now we need to complete our basic building blocks, or macronutrients.  Next up is adding some veggie goodness to our dinner with Step Three: Vegetables.


How Much Protein do Athletes Need? (, 2014)., (2014).  How Much Protein do Athletes Need?  Available at: [Accessed 28 Oct. 2014].

Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids.(Institute of Medicine, 2002)  Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids.National Academies Press.

Hoffman, J. R. AND Falvo, M. J.  Protein--which is best? (Hoffman and Falvo, 2004) .Journal of sports science & medicine, 3(3), p.118.

Layman DK.  Protein quantity and quality at levels above the RDA improves adult weight loss.  J Am Coll Nutr.  2004 Dec;23 (6 Suppl):631S-636S.


  1. Have you dehydrated shrimp, wild salmon(leaner than farm raised), and chicken?

    1. I have dehydrated shrimp and chicken, but not salmon, since the foil packets are fairly lightweight and easily available at the store. The shrimp dries okay, but gets tough if dried too long or in anything larger than mince, IMHO. I have been told that small, freeze-dried brine shrimp can be found in some Asian markets, but where I live they are few and far between. Chicken dries pretty well if it is shredded or diced, then rehydrated thoroughly.