Our Backpacking Meal Plan for a Family of Five

I really don’t have any idea how to approach this post. Every person requires a different amount of food. Quantity also depends greatly on age of kids and gender! So what I am going to do is add in a bunch of qualifiers. First, we went with another family of four and there was much sharing back and forth. We forgot the margarine and our fuel ran out so they kindly shared. They misplaced the water treatment they were using so we shared our Miox purifier. One way to safeguard yourself or your family in the backcountry is not to go alone! Just follow the unwritten rule, “The sharing goes both ways.”

dry storage bags found at WalmartSecondly, if the meal was particularly tasty and portioned correctly I’ll add a :).

Third, all our food was cooked on either an MSR Pocket Rocket or an Olicamp Kinetic Ultra Titanium Stove. Both worked really well. But remember, they can have issues if you are above 10,500 – ish feet. We did run out of fuel and were a little surprised by it. Bring an extra fuel can if you don’t want to risk it.

Last, I organized our food into three waterproof storage bag I found at Walmart, 3 for $10. They resemble the ones made by Sea To Summit, but are a fraction of the cost. These bags were awesome and can be hung easily from a tree.

Number of Adults: 2

Number of Kids: 3 (Ages 3,5 and 6)

Length of trip: 2 nights

Dinner 1: Subway. I am not kidding. We ran out of planning time and our mileage was really low because of the kids. So why not strap Subway sandwiches on the pack? It was awesome come 5:30pm. No cooking the first night. No clean up.

Dessert: 1 bag Keeber cookies / Beer for the adults 🙂

Breakfast 1: Quaker instant oatmeal (approx 7 servings) with 1/4 cup of chopped walnut/dried blueberry mixed. A spoon full of dry milk/per person.

Lunch: 1 box of wheat thins, 2 tins of Kipper Snacks (adults), 3 foil packages of pre-made Tuna Salad :), 4 GoGo Squeeze Apple sauce. Looking back, I should have brought more tuna. The foil packages are about 100 calories a piece. Meaning my husband alone will eat 3-4 of them…

Dinner 2: 1 package dry gravy mix (no milk needed), 1 package instant mashed potatoes, 1 package Stove Top Stuffing (with a little Parkay margarine to make it), 2 12 oz. cans of chicken. 🙂

We made the gravy separately. But combined the potatoes,stuffing and chicken into one pot. Then poured the gravy over the top. It was totally delicious!

Dessert: 1 bag of Keebler cookies and one (borrowed) package of pudding. If you use powdered milk and really cold water, it actually sets pretty well. We also set it in the pile of snow we collected to chill our beer. Another variation on pudding is to add peanut butter into the chocolate pudding. Very good.

Breakfast 2: Quaker instant oatmeal (approx 7 servings) with 1/4 cup of chopped walnut/dried blueberry mixed. A spoon full of dry milk/per person.

Snacks: 2 cups trail mix, 3 cups dried pineapple, 1.5 cups almonds, 3 Snicker bars, 2 packages of Skittles for “trail bait”, 3 granola bars

meal time around camp

We were a little lean on the snack side of things and my husband was left hungry after a few of the meals. It turned out fine, as he finished most of the kid’s meals. Also, like I mentioned, we shared a lot of snacks with another family. Here is a list of the notable ones (ie. I’ll bring next time!)

  • Ritz Crackers and Easy Cheese
  • Dried Mango
  • Pringles


14 comments on “Our Backpacking Meal Plan for a Family of Five
  1. thanks for posting – most of the backpacking with kid articles I find are generally one kid adventures – yours are a bit more helpful to MY life! God bless!

  2. Thanks for the tips! I used your advice and had a really successful 3 night trip with my 9 year old twins and partner. First night was Trader joe’s mashed potatoes (two packets – the entire box) with hot dogs. I cut up the hot dogs in the cooking water and let them cook to make sure any bacteria from the heat of the day hadn’t ruined them. I was a bit nervous when it looked like a bad soup for awhile but then the mashed potatoes swelled up and it was perfect, if a bit salty. Other campers were jealous. The hot dogs were heavy but one of the kids hiked them in. Yea. Night two was burritos with leftover cheese from lunch, reconstituted refried beans (really yummy and lightweight), and two packets of Knorr rice (chicken flavor – my kids had tried the Spanish one at home and it was too spicy for them). We had leftover rice to share with other campers. It took awhile to cook but I brought extra fuel so it was fine. The package says 7 minutes but it definitely took much more than that.
    For lunches, the big treat was a tube of Pringles. Kids made so many friends with that! Also, we packed in oreos which we shared with the other kids. Made everyone very happy! I was so nervous about the food and your posting helped me a lot. Thank you!! Tamara

  3. Oh, the last night we had a two course meal – Trader Joe’s miso soup and then Mountain House spaghetti with meat sauce – yummy and so easy! Used two full sized packages for family of four and kids could have eaten more but they were happy enough to polish off the oreos.

  4. Hi, our family of 5 is making the transition from car camping to back country camping this summer. We’ve had a coleman grill all these years but obviously can’t take that backpacking. I’ll be dehydrating our food & we have an esbit stove but it seems like it’ll take forever forever to soak the food, boil it, let it sit for 10 minutes or so x5. What do you do for a stove when out backpacking if you can’t use a fire?

    • Hi! We rarely have campfires, or least we plan on not having them given the last couple of years of drought. So we cook over our Olicamp Stove or a MSR pocket rocket. As for re-hydrating food, it all depends on how fast you can get water boiling, which often depends on your altitude. We haven’t had any issues with the meals I shared. Often rehydrating veggies has taken longer, and sometimes we just have them el dente. 🙂

  5. Hi, thank you for responding. Does that MSR pocket rocket have the capabilities to allow a bigger pot to cook on it to be able to rehydrate a meal (say, soup for example) all at one time to feed your family all at once or do you use a smaller pot & heat 3 – 4 pots to get everyone fed? Sorry to be so specific. I like to plan & have an idea of what to expect. Also, do you have an estimate for how many gas canisters you’d use for cooking for 5 people for a 3 day backcountry trip? We went with the esbit because we didn’t want to have to carry a bunch of gas canisters adding to the weight in our packs.

    • For obvious hassle reasons, we bring one big pot and cook everything in it at one time. This has meant a few things. One (maybe more 🙁 ) times we have dumped our whole pot of water just before it reached boiling. Not fun. So often we have someone just sitting watch over our big pot of water/food and often holding the handle while it heats so it doesn’t tip over. My last trip a friend had purchased one of these: http://www.backcountrygear.com/primus-cartridge-footrest-black.html?gclid=CPPczcHatMQCFQ8oaQodDCEAZA#.VQrn3hDF83Q It is a stove stabilizer that clamps on the bottom of most camping stoves and helps stabilize it so that is can more easily balance larger pots. The stabilizers are small and light, an easy addition to your pack and decently helpful, though not perfect. Those are my thoughts for now!

      • PS: the stabilizer clamps on the bottom of the gas canister… not the stove. Just to clarify. And I forgot to comment on fuel. That is really hard to assess. It depends on so many factors, including how many meals you need to heat water for. If you want to carry less, plan on cooking less. Honestly, our favorite trick is carrying in Subway sandwiches for the first night. No cooking, no clean up. And sure a tad more weight on day one, but it has never been a problem. For a three day, two night trip (meaning 2 oatmeal breakfasts and one hot dinner) we usually just bring one of the larger canisters. But we’ve also gone with another family that brings one too. We often share fuel if someone runs out.

  6. So great! As a fellow- Colorado adventurer & Jesus lover, living in the San Isabel mountain range it’s fun to read ideas from other locals:) Enjoy your summer!

  7. Do you think your stuffing/gravy meal could be a freezer bag? Isn’t stuffing just pour hot water on it and let it sit anyway? We are doing our first backpacking trip on the Apostle Islands in a couple of weeks and I’m trying to get prepared!

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