A guide to finding lightweight, calorie-dense snacks and meals for your next backpacking trip at your local Trader Joes.
Meal planning for an extended backpacking trip can sometimes feel more daunting than the actual hike itself. Sourcing enough lightweight, calorie-filled foods can be a challenge, never mind comparing labels to determine which option gives you the best nutritional bang for your buck.
While there are many backpacking food products available online, all of them are useless if you decide midweek you want to go on an impromptu weekend getaway. In the past, weve had to postpone trips or settle for boil-in-bag meals just because we didnt order the right supplies ahead of time.That is until we discovered the bounty of backpack-ready food at our local Trader Joes.
That is, until we discovered the bounty of backpack-ready food at our local Trader Joes.
This article is not sponsored or endorsed by Trader Joes. We just love shopping there. Although Mr. Joe (or is it Captain Joe?), if youre reading this, we would love to talk.
We have been shopping at Trader Joes for as long as we can remember buying groceries as adults. But it wasnt until recently that we realized just how many of their products can be used for backpacking.
Dehydrated fruits, nuts & seeds, jerkies, energy bars are only the tip of the iceberg. They also carry things you wouldnt expect: like individual packets of coconut oil, freeze dried vegetables, and baked cheese bites. When you put it all together, its a backpackers bonanza.
But where to start? What products have the best Calorie to weight ratio? What about protein to weight ratio? Are there any good vegan options? What about gluten-free?
Well, youre in luck because in this article were going to break it all down for you. Heres our comprehensive backpackers guide to shopping at Trader Joes.
Jump right to the category youre looking for:
Breakfast//Lunch & Snacks//Dinner Building Blocks
Fruits & Vegetables//Nuts & Seeds//Energy Bars//Jerky
Want to see the foods with the best calories and protein per ounce? We round up the top performers at thebottom of the post.
V Certified Vegan, GF Certified Gluten Free (although many more are unofficially vegan or gluten free)
Set yourself up for a successful day on the trail with a good backcountry breakfast. Whether you like crunchy granola or a warming bowl of oatmeal, Trader Joes has a variety of lightweight options to start your day off right.
Calories per oz:116.7Fat per oz:2.3Carb per oz:23.3Protein per oz0.0
Editors Note:These individually packaged instant coffee sticks make it super easy to ration, so you only bring the coffee you need. They even include the cream & sugar.
Calories per oz:0.0Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:0.0Protein per oz0.0
Editors Note:For those of us who enjoy our coffee black, this instant coffee can be repackaged in a baggie so youre not stuck carrying around the jar.
Calories per oz:104Fat per oz:1.2Carb per oz:21.6Protein per oz2.4
Editors Note:These come individually packaged and you can use the packaging to cook the oats. Tear the top, add hot water, and let sit for two minutes. No bowl required.
Calories per oz:104.2Fat per oz:1.3Carb per oz:20.8Protein per oz2.6
Calories per oz:112Fat per oz:2.5Carb per oz:18.9Protein per oz3.5
Editors Note:Enjoy as is or doctor up with freeze dried fruit & seeds or nuts.
Calories per oz:137.7Fat per oz:7.3Carb per oz:15.1Protein per oz2.8
Calories per oz:123.2Fat per oz:5.0Carb per oz:16.8Protein per oz2.8
Calories per oz:121.3Fat per oz:4.7Carb per oz:16.8Protein per oz2.8
Calories per oz:112Fat per oz:2.3Carb per oz:21.4Protein per oz3.1
Calories per oz:112Fat per oz:4.2Carb per oz:16.8Protein per oz4.2
Calories per oz:120.8Fat per oz:5.5Carb per oz:15.9Protein per oz2.7
Lightweight, calorie dense, and shelf stable. Nuts and seeds are classic staples for backpackers. But these days, a handful of almonds can cost you an arm and leg. While we cant say theyre always the cheapest, weve consistently found Trader Joes to have very competitive prices for nuts and seeds. Many of which are offered raw, preserving their macronutrients.
Calories per oz:160.0Fat per oz: 14.0Carb per oz:5.0Protein per oz7.0
Calories per oz:168Fat per oz:13.1Carb per oz:4.7Protein per oz4.7
Editors Note:Also comes in an almond variety.
Calories per oz:152.0Fat per oz:12Carb per oz:8.8Protein per oz4.8
Editors Note:Also comes in a cashew variety.
Calories per oz:200Fat per oz:17Carb per oz:10.0Protein per oz3.0
Editors Note:Also come in a pecan variety.
Calories per oz:196Fat per oz:20.5Carb per oz:3.7Protein per oz2.8
Calories per oz:158.7Fat per oz:14.0Carb per oz:6.5Protein per oz5.6
Calories per oz:190.0Fat per oz:17.0Carb per oz:8.0Protein per oz2.0
Calories per oz: 169 Fat per oz:14.4Carb per oz:5.9Protein per oz:5.9
Editors Note:These come pre-shelled, so you dont have to worry about packing out any shells.
Calories per oz:168.0Fat per oz:13.1Carb per oz:1.9Protein per oz9.3
Calories per oz:140.0Fat per oz:9.3Carb per oz:9.3Protein per oz4.7
Calories per oz:121.1Fat per oz:4.7Carb per oz:15.9Protein per oz3.7
Calories per oz:186.7Fat per oz:17.7Carb per oz:6.5Protein per oz1.9
While the most neglected part of most backpackers diet, we believe in getting our fruits and veggies in for the day even if were out on the trail. The key, of course, is making sure that produce weighs as little as possible. Thankfully and somewhat inexplicably, Trader Joes hosts a range of freeze dried and dehydrated options.
Calories per oz:130Fat per oz:4.5Carb per oz:17Protein per oz4.5
Editors Note:While green peas and delicious snack might not be words you generally associate together, youve got to give these a try. We cant not eat the whole bag in one sitting.
Calories per oz:130Fat per oz:4.5Carb per oz:16.0Protein per oz5.0
Calories per oz:149.3Fat per oz:10.3Carb per oz:12.1Protein per oz0.0
Calories per oz:88.4Fat per oz:0Carb per oz:20.6Protein per oz1.5
Editors Note:Remember that Lays potato chip ad Bet You Cant Have Just One? Imagine that, but with mangos.
Calories per oz:91Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:21.7Protein per oz1.4
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:0Carb per oz:25.5Protein per oz0.8
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:0.4Carb per oz:23.9Protein per oz1.6
Calories per oz:110.8Fat per oz:0Carb per oz:25.7Protein per oz0.6
Calories per oz:105Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:25.2Protein per oz1.4
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:0.4Carb per oz:23.9Protein per oz1.6
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:26.4Protein per oz0.8
Calories per oz:105.9Fat per oz:0.4Carb per oz:21.9Protein per oz3.0
Calories per oz:154Fat per oz:10.5Carb per oz:77Protein per oz4.9
Editors Note:These would be great to throw into mac & cheese. We havent tried rehydrating them, so we cant speak to what that would do texture-wise, so add them at the end as a topping.
Calories per oz:46.7Fat per oz:4.7Carb per oz:1.9Protein per oz0
Editors Note:The salty, savory taste of olives can be a welcome change of pace from typical trail food. Have them as a snack or cut them up and toss them in your pasta for dinner (like we did in thisbackpackers chicken marbella).
Calories per oz:70Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:14Protein per oz2.0
Editors Note:These make a great addition to any pasta meal.
When were out backpacking, lunch is less of a distinct meal and more of an all-day grazing event. Theres no main course. We just take a little from here and little from there. Trader Joes offers a variety of trail food and more substantive meats & cheeses for when you want to sit down to refuel mid-day.
Calories per oz:45.0Fat per oz:2.0Carb per oz:1.0Protein per oz5.5
Aprox.Calories per oz:114Aprox.Fat per oz:9.4Aprox.Carb per oz:0.4Aprox.Protein per oz6.3
Calories per oz:93.3Fat per oz:8.0Carb per oz:0.0Protein per oz6.7
Calories per oz:120.0Fat per oz:10.0Carb per oz:0.0Protein per oz7.0
Calories per oz:156.3Fat per oz:11.1Carb per oz:12.0Protein per oz2.6
Editors Note:Pre-portioned bags make it easy to stash these in your hip belt pockets for snacking on the move.
Calories per oz:143.3Fat per oz:9.8Carb per oz:12.4Protein per oz3.9
Editors Note:Need a little help in the self-control department? After you try this trail mix, you just might. Thankfully its pre-portioned, so you dont end up devouring the whole bag in a single go.
Calories per oz:158.7Fat per oz:11.2Carb per oz:0.9Protein per oz14.0
Editors Note:These are a fairly new offering at Trader Joes and they are maybe the single best snack in the whole store.
Calories per oz:130.7Fat per oz:4.7Carb per oz:19.6Protein per oz2.8
Editors Note:While there are lots of cracker options at Trader Joes, we really like these because they are pretty sturdy and wont turn to dust in your bear barrel.
Calories per oz:121.3Fat per oz:2.3Carb per oz:22.4Protein per oz2.8
Editors note:While not as durable as the aforementioned crackers, if youre in need of a gluten free option, these will work.
Calories per oz:130.7Fat per oz:7.5Carb per oz:13.1Protein per oz4.7
Calories per oz:140Fat per oz:7.0Carb per oz:16.0Protein per oz3.0
Calories per oz:140Fat per oz:7.0Carb per oz:17Protein per oz2.0
Calories per oz:160Fat per oz:10Carb per oz:15.0Protein per oz1.0
Calories per oz:154Fat per oz:9.1Carb per oz:15.4Protein per oz2.1
Editors Note:These bite-sized caffeinated espresso beans make for a great afternoon pick-me-up to get you back on your feet after lunch.
Calories per oz:100Fat per oz:6.0Carb per oz:0.0Protein per oz9.0
Love them or hate them, energy bars are often an essential part of a backpackers diet. They are definitely not a meal but can work in a pinch. While Trader Joes has a pretty good offering of bars, whats remarkable about them is how cheap they sell big name brands. Clif bars for 99 cents, yes, please!
Calories per oz:176.8Fat per oz:16.2Carb per oz:5.9Protein per oz3.2
Editors Note:We were blown away by this bar. Hands down the best calories per oz of all the energy bars we tested, naturally sweetened, vegan, and gluten-free. It does have a lot of fat, but its all coming from nuts, seeds, and coconut (youre going to burn it all off anyway).
Calories per oz:102.9Fat per oz:2.5Carb per oz:17.3Protein per oz4.1
Editors Note:Weve eaten a lot of Clif bars over the course of our lives, and this one is far and away our favorite flavor (although variety is the spice of life).
Calories per oz:102.9Fat per oz:2.1Carb per oz:18.5Protein per oz4.1
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:2.9Carb per oz:16.9Protein per oz4.5
Calories per oz:102.9Fat per oz:2.1Carb per oz:18.1Protein per oz4.1
Calories per oz:102.9Fat per oz:2.5Carb per oz:17.7Protein per oz4.1
Calories per oz:107Fat per oz:2.9Carb per oz:16.9Protein per oz4.5
Calories per oz:107.1Fat per oz:2.9Carb per oz:17.3Protein per oz3.7
Calories per oz:134.2Fat per oz:7.6Carb per oz:13.4Protein per oz3.5
Lara Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (GF, V)
Calories per oz:136.9Fat per oz:6.8Carb per oz:16.2Protein per oz3.7
Calories per oz:128.3Fat per oz:7.0Carb per oz:13.4Protein per oz4.1
Calories per oz:91.2Fat per oz:5.2Carb per oz:6.5Protein per oz5.2
Calories per oz:65.1Fat per oz:2.6Carb per oz:0.7Protein per oz9.8
Calories per oz:117Fat per oz:4.5Carb per oz:15.0Protein per oz4.5
Calories per oz:112.0Fat per oz:3.4Carb per oz:16.4Protein per oz4.3
Calories per oz:107.7Fat per oz:4.3Carb per oz:12.4Protein per oz6.5
Calories per oz:113.1Fat per oz:4.8Carb per oz:12.9Protein per oz6.5
Calories per oz:113.1Fat per oz:3.8Carb per oz:14.0Protein per oz6.5
Calories per oz:113.1Fat per oz:4.8Carb per oz:12.4Protein per oz6.5
Its easy to hyper-focus on overall calorie count, but if you want long-lasting energy youll need to make sure youre getting enough protein, too. Jerky is lightweight, shelf stable and protein-packed. Trader Joes offers a range of jerkies that will give you plenty of variety on your trip.
Calories per oz:70Fat per oz:1.0Carb per oz:5.0Protein per oz11.0
Calories per oz:60Fat per oz:0.5Carb per oz:6.0Protein per oz11.0
Calories per oz:80Fat per oz:2.0Carb per oz:2.0Protein per oz13.0
Calories per oz:140Fat per oz:10.0Carb per oz:6.0Protein per oz6.0
Editors Note:If you have been looking for a way to get some more protein into your breakfast routine, your search is over.
Calories per oz:60Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:6.0Protein per oz11.0
While boil-in-bag meals have their place, sometimes you just want a home-cooked meal even if youre in the middle of the woods. Trader Joes has a lot of lightweight and calorie-dense building blocks to allow you prep your own meal. Check out our archive ofbackpacking recipesto see how you can incorporate real ingredients into your backpacking meals.
Calories per oz:100Fat per oz:0.8Carb per oz:17.5Protein per oz7.0
Editors Note:With 7 grams of protein per oz, this black bean pasta is a lot more than just a bowl full of carbs.
Calories per oz:95.0Fat per oz:0.3Carb per oz:16.0Protein per oz6.5
Calories per oz:100Fat per oz:0.3Carb per oz:20.5Protein per oz3.5
Calories per oz:100Fat per oz:0.3Carb per oz:20.5Protein per oz3.5
Editors Note:Cooks in less than 10 minutes and is excellent for building one-pot pasta dishes.
Calories per oz:105Fat per oz:0.3Carb per oz:21.5Protein per oz4.0
Calories per oz:105Fat per oz:0.5Carb per oz:21.5Protein per oz4.0
Calories per oz:108.0Fat per oz:1.6Carb per oz:18.8Protein per oz4.0
Calories per oz:102.5Fat per oz:1.4Carb per oz:18.5Protein per oz3.9
Calories per oz:106.5Fat per oz:1.4Carb per oz:20.5Protein per oz2.4
Calories per oz:97.8Fat per oz:0.5Carb per oz:19.9Protein per oz3.4
Calories per oz:99.4Fat per oz:0.5Carb per oz:19.0Protein per oz3.6
Editors Note:Perhaps the fastest cooking grain of the lot, couscous only needs about 5 minutes in boiling water to fully fluff up.
Calories per oz:106.7Fat per oz:1.7Carb per oz:20Protein per oz4.0
Calories per oz:58.3Fat per oz:2.9Carb per oz:8.8Protein per oz1.5
Editors Note:These single-serve chicken broth concentrate packets are an awesome way to boost the flavor of couscous, farro, quinoa, or even pasta.
Calories per oz:112Fat per oz:0Carb per oz:11.2Protein per oz16.8
Editors Note:Nutritional yeast, or nooch, lends a cheesy kind of flavor to foods and is a complete protein in addition to being packed full of B-12.
Calories per oz:210Fat per oz:24.5Carb per oz:0.0Protein per oz0.0
Editors Note:We are big fans of carrying olive oil packets while backpacking, but sadly TJs doesnt carry them. But, imagine our excitement when we saw that individual coconut oil packets are now on the shelves! This is a great way of stuffing extra calories into oatmeals and dinners.
Calories per oz:32.7Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:6.5Protein per oz1.9
Editors Note:Weve yet to try this idea, but we imagine that a little tomato paste plus water and oil would make a pretty tasty pasta sauce.
Calories per oz:93.3Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:9.3Protein per oz0.0
Calories per oz:0Fat per oz:0.0Carb per oz:0Protein per oz0
Editors Note:While it really doesnt offer much nutritional value, this seasoning has a great tangy, slightly spicy kick that would be great in mac & cheese, pasta, or couscous.
Of all the ingredients we examined, these were the top performers in terms of calories per ounce. Could you eat only these items on a backpacking trip?Maybe?Should you? Absolutely not. But they are good ones to know about and incorporate into your future backpacking diet.
These are the top performing ingredients in terms of protein per ounce. If you find yourself getting hungry on the trail after eating a meal, consider incorporating some of these long-burning, protein packed fuels into your diet.
Any other Trader Joes fanatics out there? What are some great meal combinations youve come up with? Let us know in the comments below or tweet !
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Loved the article. Going on a Long Trail hike and taking the freeze dried broccoli (yes it does rehydrate well, maybe just a tad mushy). TJs supplied lots of my super-foods.
This is great, thanks! Going to take some suggestions for my upcoming trip!
Do you have any recommendations for drink mixes / electrolytes from TJs?
Do you know how much one packet each of all the items cost?
Trader Joes changes their pricing pretty frequently, which is why we decided not to include unit cost. Unfortunately, youll have to check your local TJ for the most accurate price.
How can I find out the shelf life, especially dehydrated or freeze-dried and jerky?? Yeah, Im a prepper.
If youre looking for long-term storage, I dont think Trader Joes is the place for you. They wont have any specific info on shelf life. Freeze-dried and dehydrated will last a long time, but the packaging is what you will need to worry about. Trader Joes packaging isnt designed to last 5-10 years. Its all consumer grade material. So it will likely break down and let air in over a long enough period of time.
Thanks to your fantastic article, I went to Trader Joes today and spent $90 on groceries/snacks to try out in the name of research for my upcoming PCT thru-hike. I look forward to eating my way through the meal planning prepartion portion of my hike. This article is gold! Saved!
Awesome! Glad it came in handy. Meal prep development is one of favorite parts of the process!
Thanks for a great article! Just had a weekend backpacking trip and my friend brought along the coffee sticks. I had already had one of my instant packets when she offered me one of hers for my second cup. Sooo much better than what I had and a lot less expensive. Definitely stocking up at TJs for the next trip.
If you enjoy creamer with your coffee those TJ stick are definitely the way to go!
I stir a few TB of nutritional yeast into everything from pastas to beans to oatmeal- i love the flavor and it adds a great kick of protein and so many other nutrients. Trader joes used to have peanut flour which is easy to find elsewhere, makes a great addition to hot chocolate or to make a quick peanutty sauce
I have been using TJs for backpacking the last 15 years, with many of the items in your listing being perineal favorites. Often, I camp at the trailhead the evening beforehand and treat myself to an easily prepared frozen offering at TJs like the cioppino or fettuccine with clams. They even keep my drinks cold on the drive and help fuel me for the workout to come.
Thanks! We might have to do a whole article about ways to use TJ prepared meals at a campsite. They taste so good, are easy to prepare, and (relatively speaking) pretty cheap. Sounds like youve got a good system down. Never had it before, but well have to try the fettuccine!
LOL. Perineal does not mean what you think it does
When we camp we usually make tin foil meals and get alot of quick heat and serve items from TJs and the xfer to foil packs.
Not a bad idea. Well have to give that a try next time. Those TJ frozen meals are just too good sometimes.
This list, while incredible, just makes me frustrated that the nearest Trader Joes is 1400 miles (Anchorage to Bellingham,WA). Time to call on friends and family to send care packages!
They also have dried mini-cheese Tortellinis that are great for backpacking! THANKS for an awesome list.
This is such a wonderful and informative post! Were planning a road trip this summer and this info will come in super handy. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Great list, thanks for sharing! TJs used to have a roast beef hash in a foil bag that was awesome for backpacking, but I havent seen it in years.
Thats too bad. We love us some hash! TJ is notorious for cycling through new products. Well try to keep this list updated as new products are released and old ones are discontinued.
This is GOLDEN. Such a treasure trove of info, WOW! Seriously, you guys went so above and beyond and Im so happy you did. Talk about a solid resource to have on hand. We have our go-tos just for camping foods but sometimes it IS something we have to order in advance online and navigating the shelves of an actual store can feel overwhelming. Particularly loving the breakdown of the protein by ounce top performers, we always find it so hard to keep our protein intake up on the trail and its SO NICE having this to reference.
We still have yet to go on our first backpacking trip but are slowly getting up the supplies (and the gumption) to do it, so this will really come in handy for us knowing what will fit in the bear barrel.
Good to see all these items included in one TJs trail food article.
Forgot the TJs Coconut Macaroons and Chocolate Covered Espresso beans.
Omg this is an aaaamazing list. Im live in Vancouver, BC thats in Canada 😉 and I often go backpacking in Washington state. You cant bring most foods across the border so each time I cross the border to go backpacking I have to shop for my entire backpacking trip in Washington. I like to go to Trader Joes to get a few things (mostly jerky and trail mix) but since they are a smaller grocery store, Im never confident that they will have everything I need. This list is a great planning resource for me. Thanks! (Also cute video!)
Shopping for an entire backpacking trip right before heading out sounds stressful so happy to hear that this will be useful to you!!
I think its a bit more of a novelty than a practical option (pretty expensive, comparatively), but have you been to Pirate Joes? We stopped in when we were traveling through Vancouver and its a pretty funny place.
I have been to Pirate Joes! Its such an interesting idea for a business and I followed their story when they were involved in the lawsuit. Its on the other side of town from me so I dont go often and also its (obviously) more expensive than actual Trader Joes. My husband travels to Seattle and SF for work often so he can bring TJ things back to Canada on those trips you cant get teriyaki turkey jerky thats better than theirs! 🙂
I also go to Washington to hike. Research the rules, not many foods are restricted Which is not to say anything about Trader Joes I have American friends that stock up to bring back food from there but it will make your planning easier.
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