Ramen noodle packages have long been a staple of college diets thanks to their tasty flavor, cheap price, ease of preparation, and long shelf life. Those same attributes have also made these noodles a favorite food for backpackers. Some shudder at the idea of eating ramen—whether their palates have grown more sophisticated since their dorm-room days or they’re looking for a meal that packs a bigger nutritional punch—however, it’s an ideal backpacking food. And there are some easy ways to spice up this dependable dinner.

Five Reasons Why Ramen Rules

No matter your stance on ramen noodles—love them or hate them—it’s hard to deny this noodle meal’s appeal to backpackers and its backcountry bonafides. Ramen is:

  1. Affordable: Ramen is arguably the best value in the outdoors. Single-serving ramen packages are commonly found for well under a dollar, a fraction of what freeze-dried backpacking meals cost.
  2. Available: Ramen is found everywhere, from big-box retailers to your local grocery store to even moderately well-stocked convenience stores. Comparatively, getting your hands on a freeze-dried backpacking meal often means a trip to your local EMS or planning ahead and ordering online.
  3. Lightweight: Favorite ramen packages—like those from Maruchan and Top Ramen—only weigh about three ounces! That’s something the toothbrush-cutting crowd is sure to appreciate.
  4. Quick and easy: After a long day on the trail, you’re ready to eat. Ramen takes mere minutes to prepare and you can eat them as soon as they cool off to your liking. Additionally, the broth can help rehydrate you from a long day on the trail.
  5. Durable: The brick-like form of noodles makes them naturally suited to riding in a pack—there is nothing to damage, nothing to spill, and almost no way to screw them up—it’s two ingredients: noodles and a spice packet. Even better, if for some reason you don’t eat the ramen, their long shelf life virtually assures you it’ll be good to go on your next trip.

Ramen Refresh

There’s a lot to love about ramen as a backcountry meal, however, there is one big downside to this popular noodle dish: it’s pretty low in nutritional value. This is particularly true if you’ve been burning up calories as fast as trail miles. While some see the meal’s lack of nutritional value and calories as a detriment, another way to look at it is as an opportunity to spice up this standard backpacking dish.

The internet is rife with recipes using ramen as a foundational ingredient. However, ramping up your ramen is a lot like the dish itself: simple, convenient, and well suited to the backcountry. Here are some ways to fortify this favorite noodle dish.


One of the biggest knocks against ramen is its lack of protein, which is easily remedied with the addition of meat. Pre-cooked pouches of chicken, tuna, and salmon are all easy, backpacking-friendly ways to kick your ramen up a notch. Pre-cooked meats like bacon, pepperoni, summer sausage, salami, and prosciutto are also protein-rich additions to basic ramen. In a pinch, jerky can add protein and flavor to your noodles.

Dehydrated beans are a great source of protein and an alternative for those who don’t want to add meat to their soup. Another option is to add a pre-cooked hard-boiled egg to your ramen—although hard-boiled eggs are best on cooler-weather trips and eaten on day one.


Like ramen, dried veggies are inexpensive, lightweight, and extremely packable. Unlike ramen, they pack a nutritional punch and help replace the calories, vitamins, and nutrients burned on the trail. Peas, carrots, corn, onions, and bell peppers are all favorites.

Another good option is fresh spinach. Also lightweight and hard to damage, it’s a great way to have something fresh on the first night of a trip. Pack the spinach in a ziplock bag, then stir it in after you’ve finished heating the noodles; the heat of the water will naturally wilt the spinach.


Some with refined palates will gasp at the spice packet that’s included in most packages of the soup, while others will feel their blood pressure rise just at the sight of all the sodium in it. Luckily, there are numerous sauces available in travel-friendly, single-serving packaging. Sriracha, tabasco, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce are all great options and dirtbags will be happy to learn they are often found at your local fast food joint or takeout restaurant.

Ramen Rules

Whether by itself or loaded up with your favorite ingredients, ramen is an affordable, packable, delicious meal in the backcountry. Perhaps another characteristic we should associate with ramen is versatility. It easily adapts to different tastes, diets, and nutritional needs, which is just another reason it keeps finding its way into our cupboards and backpacks.

Have a great ramen-based recipe you want to share? Leave it in the comments below so your fellow camp-food connoisseurs can cook it themselves!