Being vegan makes sense on so many levels, but for now I’ll focus on the ease of being vegan and backpacking, bike touring and camping. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite items that are often in my pack. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll recognize some of these. I’m not a super lightweight backpacker but I haven’t yet done anything too epic. These are just some suggestions that I thought some may find useful.
- Powdered Soy Milk changed my backpacking life, so much so that I found myself using this stuff even while at home. It’s a lot less packaging, cheaper and it’s nice to have on hand for baking or when I don’t feel like going to the store. I first discovered powdered soy milk while backpacking in Guatemala for a month and really wanting to have cereal for breakfast. Browsing the aisles, the only non-dairy milk I could find was a powdered version. I loved it and since coming back to the states, realized it was perfect for backpacking in the forest and bike touring as well. Better Than Milk Vegan Soy Powder (Original) is my favorite and I think it actually tastes great, although some of my friends may tell you otherwise. You don’t have to use it in your cold cereal/granola, but it’s nice as an added protein source to oatmeal and excellent for mac and not-cheese. It can be found on the shelves of many health food stores.
- Nutritional Yeast: If you are vegan, there is a good chance that you are addicted to this stuff already. Nutritional yeast is used to add flavor to various vegan dishes, and is really popular in mac and not-cheese dishes. Some say it has a “cheesy” or nutty flavor. It’s high in B-vitamins and also adds deliciousness to any meal. You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk section of health food stores and sometimes in with the spices / cooking products in a shaker. It’s cheapest to buy in bulk. I keep it on hand to add to pasta or anything I make really.
- Dehydrated Beans: I stumbled upon the joy of dehydrated beans while collecting some foods for camping in the bulk section of a health food store. It’s kind of hit or miss to find them in bulk, and since I’ve actually special ordered bulk bags of them from local shops if they didn’t have it in stock. I’ve always went with the black beans but for the most recent bike tour, neither Jason nor I could find them in stock, but they found dehydrated refried beans instead, also delicious. Fantastic World Foods offer a lot of dehydrated food options, including beans and are easy to find in lots of grocery stores. Simple and fast backcountry meal ideas: Boil water, add couscous or quinoa then add dehydrated beans a few minutes later. Add in spices/bouillon cube while cooking or any garlic/onions/peppers if you happen to have those. As a bonus, if I feel like carrying it with me, I’ll pick up a pouch of enchilada sauce or a spice packet.
- Couscous / Quinoa: Maybe you never heard of these items, but growing up with middle eastern grandma, couscous was common for me and a favorite veg dish as a kid. You can find couscous at most grocery stores, it’s lightweight and cooks quickly. It’s also a good way to get some carbs and protein for hiking. Quinoa isn’t quite as common but it’s becoming more popular, it’s not actually a grain but is used in meals similar to how rice is used. It’s delicious, lightweight, cooks quickly and full of protein and vitamins. You can find it in the bulk section of any health food store, and it’s starting to appear in more grocery stores as well- packaged in a box on the shelf with grains usually.
- TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein): TVP is a quick way to add protein to any meal and helps to fill you up after hiking or biking all day. Perfect to add to noodle soups, mix with couscous, make vegan sloppy joes, add to spagetti and so many more options. While cooking, add spices or a bouillon cube to the pot so the TVP will absorb the flavor. It’s fairly common and as like other items already listed, it can be bought in bulk or packaged. I’ve found it in health food stores and your traditional market, even in small towns and it’s somewhat common in Central and South America as well. Really light weight and cooks quickly.
- Dried Fruits and Nuts: That should seem obvious enough. But seriously, don’t ever forget these. My favorites are almonds, dates, raisins and mango slices. I once had a dream that the world had pretty much ended but a few of us survived and someone asked me what food I was able to bring with me. I thought I had grabbed a bag of raisins but when I looked in my hand I realized I was clutching fresh grapes instead. Needless to say, I was bummed. Even in my sleep I worry about survival food. Dates are a perfect way to sweeten up oatmeal and to give you a burst of energy. If it’s not summer, as a treat, bring some vegan dark chocolate chips to add to your trail mix. Try to get the fruits and nuts raw without added oils and salts and other weird crap. Your best bet is buying them in bulk from health food stores. But if you are in rural areas, you can still find peanuts and raisins and any grocery store / market in the middle of nowhere.
- Oatmeal / Granola: Another obvious one, but sometimes people forget how many things out there are vegan. I seem to find myself outside on adventures during cold weather and oatmeal is always perfect for warming up. On summer adventures, I usually just mix some granola with soymilk (yay powdered soymilk!).
- Nutbutters: I don’t usually take peanut butter with me when backpacking, but it’s been nice to have on bike tours when splitting the food weight with another person. I don’t have to tell you how great this stuff is.
- Mac and “Cheese”: I can’t even tell you how excited I have been to have a nice pot of hot vegan mac and “cheese” after hiking or biking all day. I have no trouble devouring the box myself. It cooks pretty quickly, since you just have to cook the pasta and you’ll be ecstatic that you have the powdered soy milk. Road’s End Organics make some delicious boxed Mac & Chreese found at any health food store, and I’ve also had enjoyed Leahey Gardens brand Mac and “Cheese” but it’s harder to find. Or you can be not fancy, just make some pasta, add a bunch of nutritional yeast, soy milk and spices to it and it’ll still taste good if you’ve been out hiking for days. If you have any dehydrated veggies, throw those in, too.
- Rice Noodle Soups or Ramen: There are a wide variety of rice noodle/ramen noodle soups out there that are vegan. Many contain tofu and dehydrated veggies in them already. But it’s great to add TVP to them while they cook. We all know how great the ease of throwing a soup packet into boiling water is. Lightweight, cooks quickly and easy to find in stores. If you are bike touring through small towns you may not be able to find a spice packet that’s vegan but the noodles usually are, so in desperate times just use the vegan noodles and add your own spices with TVP.
- Vegetable Bouillon Cubes / Spices: I always keep a couple of vegan bouillon (broth) cubes in with my gear. I often just shave some of it off and add it to the hot water for the couscous. It’s a simple way to add flavor to your food. I love spicy food and I love to cook. I have a hard time thriving without cayenne and other spices so I also carry some spices with me and love these silly spice containers. I sometimes just take one that holds two spices, it’s not necessary, but kind of nice to have.
Also, if you aren’t on a tight budget or if you find them on sale, Mary Jane Farm Organics has a line of backcountry foods with lots of vegan options. They are labeled as vegan and very lightweight but not cheap. I got a couple a packs on clearance once and they were delicious.
Please add your vegan suggestions in the comments! I’d love to hear them. I’ll also make sure to add a link to any additional vegan food suggestions that I write about in the future to the comments section. There are plenty of options out there, but these are some of my go-to items when getting things together for an adventure. Hope this helps!