Ultralight Backcountry Breakfasts

Two Quick Backcountry Breakfast Recipes

By Max Neale

Starting the day off right is crucial for extended ultralight backpacking, thru hiking or mountaineering adventures. Waking up, your body is deprived of protein and carbohydrates and needs nourishment for the day ahead. Two of my favorite ultralight backcountry breakfasts are hot chocolate oatmeal (ideal for cold weather and slower starts) and energy bars (for hitting the trail quickly).

Hot Chocolate Oatmeal

Ultralight Backcountry Breakfast of hot chocolate and oatmeal

This sweet, calorie rich, and hydrating breakfast gets you going in any condition. Ingredients: instant oatmeal, hot chocolate mix, dehydrated milk, walnuts.


  • boil 12 oz of water
  • stir in several tablespoons of dehydrated milk
  • mix in oatmeal, mix in hot chocolate
  • top with a handful of walnuts for added protein and fat.

Hot Chocolate Oatmeal is my favorite ultralight breakfast. It’s quick to prepare, warms you up, and provides a good dose of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Assuming you’re eating out of the pot, it’s also more efficient than boiling water for both hot chocolate and oatmeal.

Choosing a good type of instant oatmeal is important. I prefer Nature’s Path Organic, but Safeway’s Regular Flavor and Trader Joe’s Flax Seed are also nutritious and aren’t too mushy. 12 oz water makes the mix runny, but also gives you enough water to get hydrated. Substituting a tea bag for hot chocolate is good for those who like caffeine and it’s slightly lighter, too.

Energy Bars

Ultralight Backcountry Breakfast energy bars

Energy bars are ideal for getting on the trail super fast. Start with a meal replacement bar and then move on to a granola bar. Pro Bars are my favorite meal replacement bar because they have almost 400 calories, are mostly organic, and mostly raw (easier to digest than baked food items like original style Clif Bars). As for granola bars, I prefer the Clif Mojo because they’re sweet, salty, and crunchy. Pro Bars weight about 85g or 3 oz. each and take up 6.2 cu in, or 0.1 Liter. Most granola bars are about half the size and weight of a ProBar. Another option for people with tricky diets are Lara Bars (i.e. various allergies or gluten intolerances). They are made only with fruit, seeds and nuts.

Although chocolate oatmeal is warmer, more nutritious and hydrating, energy bars are lighter and pack smaller. Are you planning an extended trip? Tell your favorite bar maker about it and they’ll likely hook you up with a volume discount.

For more recipes ideas, check out our Food & Recipes blog posts.

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