In this post you’ll find a big list of the vegan meals/snacks I ate on my AZT thru-hike. I hiked with a pocket rocket stove and 750ml pot.
First, I’ve included a little context explaining why I ate as I did on trail:
And then I move onto the food:
Click on whatever interests you, or simply scroll down to see it all.
Background on My Diet
I primarily eat a whole foods plant-based diet. You’re probably more familiar with the term “vegan,” but I don’t label myself that way at this point in time. (Oreos are vegan, for example, but I’m not going to buy them. My sleeping bag is down, for another example, which isn’t vegan.) All of the foods below are vegan, though, so I’m using that word to better help others find what they’re looking for.
If you’re new to plants-based eating and have questions about protein, by the way, start with this video. All protein comes from plants!
Also, if you’re new here and are curious how I ended up eating whole foods plant-based, you can read about my decade-long journey here.
I was out of the country until a week before I headed to Arizona for the hike. While abroad, I received news that a dear friend had passed away. So, upon returning to Wisconsin with a week to prepare all logistics and resupply boxes for my hike, I was grieving and didn’t have much energy for these tasks.
Because of these conditions, my meals and snacks were purchased already made. When I do another thru-hike in the future, I’d like to try making some meals myself and dehydrating them. If you have the time and kitchen space, feel free to go this route! There are tons of recipes online for DIY energy bars, and you could make and dehydrate any meal.
Also, you may notice I didn’t add up calories or calculate caloric densities. I simply bought foods I knew my body liked, and ate when I was hungry. I know my body (as well as how it responds to Arizona’s many climates, altitude, and physical days—thanks to my year serving on two conservation corps, one in Arizona). This works well for me, and I felt really great physically throughout the hike! Your situation/body/experiences are no doubt different from mine, so do what’s best for you.
A Note on Zero-Waste
Over the last few years I’ve been making an effort to notice how much waste I produce, and slowly change habits to lower this amount. I don’t usually buy/use ziplocks, for example, and if I do acquire one, I will wash it to reuse over and over.
That said, I used a lot of ziplocks for this hike.
I bought a lot of packaged food, too.
(And then I opened the packaging and put the food in ziplocks!)
What worked for me was to lean into self-compassion and accept that I was going to use these ziplocks and throw away food packaging for two months. (As opposed to feeling guilty or cringing every single time.) We do the best we can in our current situations/circumstances.
If you have any zero-waste thru-hiking tips, I’d love to hear them!
AZT Thru-Hike: What I Ate as a Vegan
I preferred to pack up camp and hit the trail with an energy bar in hand for breakfast. So, that might be…
- Clif bar (here’s a handy chart showing which Clif bars are vegan; most are)
- Picky bars
… or whichever bar you prefer.
Oatmeal with flax, peanut butter, cacao nibs
For the first chunk of my hike, I was eating oatmeal in the mornings. But since I liked to get moving “quicker” (since it already took about an hour between my wake up and when I’d be ready to hit the trail), I would eat it at 9 or 10 during a morning break.
I bought quick oats, peanut butter powder, cacao nibs, and used flaxseed meal as well to make small “snack”-size ziplocks of oatmeal.
If you make some of your own oatmeal packs, add brown sugar! (I ran out while making the packs, and didn’t think it was worth running to the store for more. I really missed it on trail, though, when the oatmeal started tasting bland!)
You could also go the variety pack route, which I did when grocery shopping in Arizona for the first leg of the trail. The flavor of these is great!
Tortilla + chunky peanut butter
Tortillas were easy to find in resupply towns, and I had packed peanut butter ahead of time in my resupply boxes. I packed way too much, though, as a single jar lasted at least 8 days, so I left my extras behind in hiker boxes.
Triscuits + “tuna”
Triscuits paired nicely with Loma Linda’s fishless tuna for two flavorful special lunches.
I really couldn’t eat a substantial meal in the middle of the day, though—so most of the time I just continuously snacked until dinnertime.
(At first I was eating a tortilla with peanut butter for lunch, which changed to cold oatmeal a few weeks in. When I couldn’t make myself eat the cold, unsweetened oatmeal any longer, I didn’t replace that mid-day meal with anything. I just ate more snacks!)
Nuts/seeds are a great snack to have. I would recommend going for salted, because you’re going to want the salt on all those hot, sunny days.
I bought some bigger packs of almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and cashews, and mixed them together in a big bowl at home. Then I poured my trail mix back into the nut bags and some smaller ziplocks. So, I encourage you to do this too—it’ll be cheaper than buying pre-made trail mix. You can add whatever you want: dried fruit, chia seeds, chocolate chips, etc.
The best addition to my nut mix was Bunches of Crunches!
Bunches of Crunches
This is a total treat for me, which I discovered last summer out in Colorado. I’m sure you could make a homemade version of this chocolate superfood granola if you wanted to. I only packed one bag in a resupply box, which was a fun “surprise” on trail, and then bought another in Flagstaff. And like I said above, mixing it into my mixed nuts was the best idea ever!
I got these from another hiker on trail, and it was nice to mix up my snacking and eat a whole food. I’d pack some of these next time.
I picked up some seaweed while resupplying in Flagstaff, and would also pack this next time. It’s super lightweight, small, salty, and fun for both snacking and adding into soups at dinnertime. I’m used to eating this because of the time I spent living in South Korea, but if it’s a new one for you, I encourage you to give it a try!
Grocery stores will probably have a small snack-size option packed in a ton of plastic, but if you see bigger sheets in an oriental aisle, I’d go for that. You can cut it with scissors into the size you want and pack it into ziplocks. Just make sure there’s a tight seal on your storage method, otherwise moisture will get in over time and the seaweed will lose its beautiful crunch.
Triscuits & Wheat Thins
I ate a lot of these on my thru-hike and loved them, though I’ve since learned that sugar is the #2 ingredient in Wheat Thins—so I’m no longer eating them. I picked up family size boxes for my resupply boxes, even though I could have found them in trail towns. In some towns, though, a small regular box would cost $4- or $5-something, so I definitely saved by buying these at Woodmans.
I had I think four packs total of the Loma Linda shown earlier, but there are other brands of this now.
Earth Balance cheese squares
Energy bars (Lära bars, Picky bars, Clif bars, etc.)
I’d usually eat at least two energy bars per day—one for breakfast and one in the afternoon. Brownie Clif bars are a treat I have yet to get sick of, so I’d often have one of those after dinner or when I’d wake up in the middle of the night and want a snack.
“That’s it” bars were on sale when I went shopping, so I grabbed some, as well as two boxes of fruit leathers. I definitely preferred the “That’s it” bars—they’re nothing but fruit. Plus, there are a ton of flavor options so you can continue to mix it up.
I bought a small tub of gatorade mix and put it into smaller ziplocks for my resupply boxes. This was really nice to have on the hotter days!
Chocolate Protein Powder
I brought along Bob’s Red Mill Chocolate Protein Powder (and some Chai flavor, too), but wasn’t crazy about it. (I don’t drink this stuff off-trail.) I drank most of it, but wouldn’t pack it on a future thru-hike simply because of personal preference.
Snacks Picked up in Town
When I passed through a town to pick up my resupply box, I’d always stop at a grocery store for some fresh produce, as that’s what my body craved.
I’d eat the produce within a day or two, so it wouldn’t spoil in the heat. (Keeping it lower down in my pack during the day helped too, so the sun wasn’t beating directly on it.)
If I got a banana, I’d eat it right away so that I could throw away the peel in town. I’d cringe that I was putting a banana peel into the trash instead of a compost, but here comes that self-compassion again.
(PSA: When you put food in trashcans—aka landfills—you’re forcing the food to break down without oxygen. This produces methane gas, which is 21 times more harmful than CO2. To contrast, when you put food in a compost, it’s able to break down with oxygen and return valuable nutrients to the soil.)
At the grocery store in Pine, they sold tiny 99-cent garden salads—which was absolutely perfect for my hiking needs!
I packed a bar or two of dark chocolate (70% +) in each resupply box. Here’s a list of chocolate companies the Food Empowerment Project recommends, and here’s the why behind the list if it’s new to you.
NuGo Dark Chocolate + Pretzel Bars
Chocolate Brownie Clif Bars
Bear Naked Dark Chocolate Granola Bites
I always looked forward to dinners on trail, and really enjoyed eating them! I had a nice variety from day to day (never got sick of a meal).
The one change I would make would be to add more vegetables into some of these meals—like dehydrated broccoli for the mac ‘n cheese, or a bulk mix of dehydrated vegetables I could add to ramen or rice dishes.
Here are the types of things I ate for dinner:
Annie’s Vegan Mac & Cheese
While packing resupply boxes, I opened each box and dumped the noodles and powder pack into a ziplock. (As seen in the photo at the start of this Dinner section.)
When eating this for dinner, I’d pre-soak the noodles at lunch. Then at dinnertime all I had to do was boil a bit of water, dump everything in, mix, and it was ready to eat. I always left in some extra water to prevent burning, and simply enjoyed drinking that bit of hot, cheesy “soup” at the end. Clean-up was a breeze!
At the start of the hike, half a box was enough for a dinner. Several weeks in, my appetite grew and I was able to eat an entire box in the evening.
Note: I did pack a few Daiya Mac and Cheeses, but don’t recommend it for backpacking. For me, there was so much pasta that it hardly fit in my 750ml pot, it was much messier, and it was hard to get everything hot without burning food to the pot, so I’d end up eating it semi-warm. In sum, Annie’s was much easier to cook and more enjoyable to eat on trail, not to mention lighter to carry.
Mashed Potato Magic
This was a total experiment that ended up being one of my favorite meals on trail! In a ziplock I put Bob’s Red Mill creamy potato flakes, sprinkled in some TVP (textured vegetable protein), and added spices: onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, chili powder, etc.
Then I’d just boil water, turn off heat, and pour in the magical mixture gradually while stirring so I could stop when it was a nice consistency.
The first time I had this, I poured on a pack of Loma Linda’s Lemon Pepper Fishless Tuna, and it was an awesome combination!
While resupplying in Flagstaff, I picked up a pack of Pete’s Smoked Black Pepper Jerky from Louisville Vegan Jerky Co to supplement my magical mash. The bag was somewhere in the $6-7 range, but I used it for four mashed potato magic dinners (which are super cheap on their own)—totally worth it.
Here are some of the ramen soups I ate on trail:
And remember that TVP from the mashed potato magic? I had lots of extra, so I dumped some into each of my ramen ziplock bags. This was another experiment which also happened to go really well. The TVP bulked up these meals and I loved it, so I very much recommend trying the same.
The black bean & lime soup was absolutely divine with a tomato and avocado sliced straight into it. (I had that twice on days I had passed through a town.) I also had their split pea soup on my hike, which is excellent.
Other McDougall’s vegan soups include:
- Pad thai noodle
- Hot & sour noodle
- Tortilla soup with baked chips
- Miso ramen
- Spring onion noodle
I had a variety of rice dinners—some pre-cooked and others not. I have a few photos below, but there are lots of brands and flavors in this category.
Loma Linda Plant-based Protein Meals
Finally, I saw some Loma Linda meals on the shelf at Woodmans when I was doing my initial shopping in Wisconsin—which I’d never seen before—and gave them a try. These are great! Lots of variety within the brand, and the flavor/taste is fantastic. Since they’re heavier, I only packed one per resupply box, and would eat it the first night.
The packaging says one way to heat up these meals is to boil the whole bag in a pot of water, so I would simply boil some water with my pocket rocket, then dump the boiling water into the bag and stir. The packaging was made to handle those hot temps, so I would just eat out of the bag and have zero clean-up those nights!
These meals are made to be eaten without water added, but the extra water never took away from a meal; the soupier mix just gave me more to eat/drink.
And those are the vegan foods I ate on my AZT thru-hike!
More Thru-Hiking Resources for Vegans
If you want more food ideas, here are some other resources for vegan thru-hikers I’ve found online:
- Lots of Vegan Backpacking Food Ideas by Gossamer Gear
- What Do You Eat? A 4-Day Vegan Resupply by Brandon Wanthal
- Vegan on the AT by Colton
All right, what questions do you have? I’m all ears!