Affordable, plant-based backpacking food: Breakfast, coffee

Photo of backpacking breakfast
Sarah Siegel/Staff

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You know what they say about breakfast: It’s the most important meal of the day. That’s as true out on the trail as it is in your day-to-day life. Getting out of your warm sleeping bag to face another brutal day of hiking is tough, but a nice breakfast makes it easier. Here’s what I recommend.

Instant oatmeal and energy bars

Two words: instant oatmeal. Don’t overcomplicate this. If you’re bringing a stove, oatmeal is the way to go. It’s quick, filling and has a great calorie-to-weight ratio. There’s a lot of flavor variety, so you won’t get sick of it too easily. But if oatmeal isn’t your thing or you’re not bringing a stove, find some granola or protein bars. Variety is key, so find two to three bars and rotate. GoMacro, Lara Bar and Cliff Bars are a few energy-dense and plant-based options.


You’ll likely need some instant coffee. If you’re satisfied with black coffee, the brand shouldn’t matter at all, so go with the cheapest option. However, if you’re looking for something tastier, I’d recommend Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix, a Korean company that offers instant coffee with dehydrated nondairy creamer. 

You can keep the coffee in its original packaging, or you can repackage it and maybe save a few centimeters of space. However, if you repackage your instant coffee, you must double bag it. I forgot about this important step, and on the second day of a 20-day trip, the bag burst inside my bear canister and all of my food was covered in instant coffee. A day later, my olive oil bag burst. Everything tasted like instant coffee and olive oil for the next few weeks. Frankly, it was a nightmare, so please learn from my mistakes and double or triple bag your food.


If you’re not a coffee drinker, you might still want to consider bringing some type of warm beverage to drink in the morning. Mornings in the mountains are cold, and a warm drink can help you get moving and grooving early.

Black or green tea-based options contain caffeine. But some herbal teas might boost your health and energy, too. Some backpackers experience morning nausea from altitude or fatigue. In that case, ginger or peppermint tea might be a good choice. If you’re worried about joint inflammation from logging all those miles on the trail, pack some chamomile tea packets. Whichever tea you bring, you’ll just have to boil water with your backpacking stove and let it steep.

Tea is quite aromatic, so if you pack a strong flavor like peppermint into your bear canister, pretty soon all of your food will end up tasting like peppermint. There’s really nothing you can do to prevent this, so keep this in mind when choosing your tea.

Nothing beats a peaceful morning in the mountains, especially if you have a nice breakfast to go with it. Breakfast is simple, but stay tuned for a guide to lunch and snacks next. Happy trails!

Contact Sarah Siegel at [email protected].