Read more about my approach to cooking on backpacking trips, including meal prep, nutrition, gear, and post-hike impressions.
I get a lot of questions about what I eat and when/how I cook on the trail. I’ve already detailed my cook kit, my freezer bag cooking method, and how I dress up cheap, instant meals. For the most part, I only cook dinner. I eat non-cook breakfast, lunch, and everything in between.
When I’m on a multi-day trip, I eat a lot of food. I sometimes make hot tea in the morning, but I usually just pound an energy gel and get moving. Then I eat an early morning snack, a mid-morning snack, and use lunch as a way to make myself stop and take a break.
I greatly look forward to lunch. I’ve usually cranked out 10–12 miles by lunchtime and my body needs an infusion of calories. As I’ve explained before, I do not eat sweets. It’s not a nutritional thing; I simply don’t like candy, cookies, chocolate, peanut butter, nutella, etc. Since so many commercially packaged outdoor meals are bound by sweet ingredients, I can’t eat any of them.
My favorite lunch meal is some combination of meat and cheese. Sometimes it’s simply sliced summer sausage and shelf-stable cheese on crackers. Other times I make a wrap with something like prosciutto and brie. But mostly I make what I call “trail pizzas.” Technically, they’re more like stromboli than pizza, but who cares.
I was the envy of so many hikers on my John Muir Trail thru-hike when they met me on a mountain pass and saw me eating my pizzas and enjoying the view. I mean, they would stop in front of me and just stare at my plate.
Trail pizza core ingredients
You can add anything you want to your trail pizzas, but these are the core ingredients.
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These tortillas include a sell-by date, so you have an idea of how old they are. They keep well without refrigeration and taste good. I like to use the smaller ones and make two pizzas for lunch.
These packages include three 5-ounce packets of sauce. One packet will last for two or three lunches (2 pizzas each lunch), depending on how much sauce you like. The packet does not reseal, so I fold over the top and keep it in a small zip-top bag.
These packages include 2 vacuum-sealed packets of around 25 pepperoni, each. One packet is the perfect amount for a pizza, meaning 1 package makes two pizzas, or one day’s lunch. This is shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration while sealed.
I don’t always buy this brand. Sometimes I use Babybel cheese. This cheese is easier to spread on the tortilla. You just squeeze the cheese out of the foil packet in dollops on top of the pepperoni. This is shelf-stable and doesn’t require refrigeration while sealed.
Oloves Olives come in a variety of flavors and the packets only weigh 1.1 ounces, each. I love these things. They add the briny, vinegar taste that usually comes from banana peppers and roasted red/green peppers.
Other obvious additions are parmesan and crushed red pepper packets from your go-to pizza delivery service.
If you’re going on a short weekend trip, you can bring a few vegetable toppings. Grab a few button mushrooms, a bell pepper, a jalapeño or two, and a small tomato. They will keep for a couple of days in my experience.
Vegetables are mostly water and have a low caloric density, but I get my lunch calories from the tortillas, pepperoni, and cheese. These additional ingredients are all about flavor and enjoyment for me.
Of course, the quality of your trail pizzas depends on the weather and the freshness of your ingredients. Your mileage may vary. This is simply what has worked for me.
What do you like to eat for lunch?