Are you looking for the best cheese for backpacking? Well, you have hit the jackpot!
There are very few food items I LOVE as much as cheese. So, when people ask me what the best cheese to take backpacking is, I definitely have a lot to say since it makes an appearance on every camping trip I take!
Cheese is hands down one of my favorite food items on the trail. First of all, I almost always make a sacrifice for the love of cheese and pack the extra weight in my backpack. You might catch me tossing a block of aged cheddar or a chunk of pecorino in my pack when I can barely fit anything else in there.
You shouldn’t miss out on having delicious cheese on your backpacking trip. There are wonderful varieties ranging from parmesan and cheddar to aged gouda and manchego that will make your time on the trail better.
You’ll never know how much you’ll miss cheese until you’re without it! It’s best to NOT experience this kind of unnecessary “torture” on the trail, if you ask me. So let’s dig into the list!
🎒 Best Cheese for Backpacking
For cheese lovers, there’s nothing more satisfying than indulging in a delicious slice of cheese. Whether you enjoy mild and creamy brie, sharp and tangy cheddar, or nutty and salty Parmesan, there is a cheese for every palate!
Eat it on its own or pair it with your favorite hiking crackers, dried fruit, or cured meats. Use it to add flavor to day hike food such as lunch wraps or burritos. Top your delicious camping soups with it!
Cheese is the ultimate comfort food that can be enjoyed any time of day. Simply munching on a wedge of it alongside a handful of mixed nuts on the trail is an ideal snack to boost your energy stores.
Regardless of all the fun ideas around using cheese, we can all agree that cheese is super satisfying, especially when enjoyed while exploring the wilderness.
Nothing quite compares to the comfort of a delicious hunk of cheese. So, let’s discuss the best cheese for camping, travel, hiking, and backpacking!
If you’re looking for the best cheese to take on a backpacking trip, focus on your favorite harder cheeses which are the most shelf stable cheeses.
These cheeses are very firm with a lower moisture content, which means they can last at room temperature for months if stored properly when compared to soft cheeses.
In the United States, we tend to immediately refrigerate cheese; however, some varieties can remain shelf-stable for longer periods of time. Wrapping them well in paper or parchment is a great solution when bringing cheese backpacking!
Furthermore, soft processed cheeses, such as Babybel, are quite shelf-stable so if you enjoy these types of cheese don’t leave them off your list for backpacking.
In fact, ALL cheeses are best enjoyed at around room temperature, so that is a perk to having cheese in your pack while out for a hike!
Cheeses that will last in a backpack for several (potentially many) days are what you want so let’s get to discussing these most delightful snacks!
🔆 PRO TIP: If you are backpacking on a hot day it’s best to consume your cheeses toward the beginning of your trip. I am talking above 80 degrees and sun-glaring sweat-inducing humidity.
As temperatures soar, it’s important to make sure your cheese snacks don’t succumb to the heat.
Pack them thoughtfully and eat them early in your backpacking trip for optimal freshness or else you risk having a soggy, mushy, and stinky snack!
Colder climates are the ideal environment for bringing cheese backpacking.
🧀 Best Hard Cheese for Backpacking
Choosing an aged hard cheese for backpacking trips is smart – it is not only full of tangy flavor, but also stands up well to temperature extremes and doesn’t require refrigeration.
Aged hard cheeses truly are at the top of the list for the best cheese for backpacking! For maximum longevity keep them as cool as possible to ensure their signature flavors stay intact. Find a type of cheese you love and make it a tradition for your longer hikes.
1. Cheddar Cheese
We all adore cheddar, right? I am personally an extra sharp cheddar lover all the way! Cheddar is such a cozy classic and tends to be ubiquitous in homes here in the USA. It has a creamy and sharp flavor that can range from mild to extra sharp, depending on how long it is aged.
Aged cheddar cheese is best for backpacking. This cheese may sweat a bit of oil in warmer weather due to its fat content but it will still be delicious.
Aged cheddar has a slightly salty taste and tends to have an earthy flavor that everyone loves.
The smooth and glossy texture of cheddar also melts easily when mixed into hot food, making it great when adding it to any dish you want.
Buy a delicious aged cheddar with a wax coating for longer-lasting storage.
Coming from an Italian upbringing I definitely have a love affair with Parmigiano Reggiano. It has a unique distinct flavor that is a pleasant combination of nutty and savory.
Whether you can buy the authentic Italian-made Parmigiano Reggiano or the American-made Parmesan cheese found in most grocery stores, both will satisfy your needs for a backpacking cheese that will withstand the time out of the fridge.
Parmesan is a really good hard cheese and one of my favorites! It is often described as having an umami taste, with notes of sharpness and saltiness. Parmesan is also loved for its dry, crumbly texture, which makes it perfect for grating over many dishes.
Keep in mind, though, that grated cheese will not stay fresh as long so this may not be the best form of Parmesan to bring along backpacking unless you are hiking in much cooler weather.
3. Aged Gouda
Ahhh, aged gouda and its lovely satisfying bits of crystals that delight you as you nibble on this Dutch cheese that is made from cow’s milk.
The tiny crystals in aged Gouda cheese are a result of the aging process, which causes the proteins and fats in the cheese to break down into amino acids.
The crystal-like texture, also known as “protein tears”, is caused by the interaction of two particular amino acids, tyrosine and leucine. This crystallization can add pleasant complexity and crunchiness to the texture of your cheese.
Aged Gouda has a very rich, nutty taste with notes of caramel and butterscotch as it ages. It is slightly sweet with a sharpness that increases with age. Add it to your backpacking charcuterie board for a gourmet meal!
4. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is a hard, salty cheese made from sheep’s milk that does not require refrigeration. This is a supreme cheese to take a big slice of and snack on for immediate satisfaction.
Most are familiar with it in its shaved format but I eat generous sliced servings of it. Don’t knock, trust me and try it! Add a small handful of dehydrated olives on the side and you have a snack made in heaven.
Pecorino romano has a sharp, nutty flavor and can be enjoyed on its own or as an ingredient in numerous dishes; shaved over vegetables or pasta, or grated on top of salads.
Pairing especially well with cured meats such as prosciutto or salami, pecorino’s robust flavor adds depth to anything it is added to!
Appenzeller cheese is a Swiss-style hard cheese made from robust raw cow’s milk. It has small holes throughout and a distinctive flavor with notes of pineapple and spice.
This cheese is aged for between three to eight months in cellars with humid conditions, allowing the rind to develop its orange color and slightly spicy flavor. The longer it is stored, the more pungent it becomes.
Appenzeller has an extended shelf life of up to 9 months when stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Try eating Appenzeller on your first day on the trail with fresh slices of pear or apple and a thin piece of cured ham or prosciutto!
Ask at your local grocery store’s cheese counter for this specialty cheese.
6. Asiago D’allevo
There is young asiago and then there is Asiago D’allevo. Unlike other types of Asiago cheese, the D’allenvo variety is aged for at least six months in humid cellars.
This helps to give it a harder texture and richer flavor when compared to fresh Asiago cheese.
Asiago D’allenvo pairs delightfully well with fruit, nuts, and cured meats as part of a hiking charcuterie board or on its own as an appetizer or snack.
Ask at your local grocery store’s cheese counter for this specialty cheese.
Mimolette is a type of washed-curd cheese, meaning that the milk is curdled with lactic acid and then washed with a brine solution. This process helps to create a more solid texture in the cheese.
The result is a semi-hard or hard textured cheese that has a distinct slightly pungent taste and an edible rind. It kind of resembles a cantaloupe in appearance!
Aged Mimolette has the same small eyes as aged Gouda and has a vibrant yellow-orange color. The bright orange color comes from roucou, a natural plant dye.
Enjoy your trailside Mimolette with tender beef jerky and dried fruit for a memorable experience.
🥾 Best Semi-Firm Cheese for Backpacking
Semi-firm cheeses are cheeses that have a slightly firmer texture than soft cheeses but are not as hard or crumbly as hard cheese.
They are generally milder in flavor than other types of cheese and many have subtle sweet or nutty notes.
These cheeses won’t last quite as long in your pack, however, they should not be overlooked especially if you prefer a milder cheese that doesn’t punch you in the mouth with its tangy flavor. Not everyone enjoys that and we won’t judge them!
8. Manchego Cheese
Manchego is a personal favorite cheese to bring along when hiking! It has a robust and rich buttery flavor that is slightly sweet and tangy. Its texture is slightly firm yet creamy the more it comes to room temperature.
It pairs well with fruits like apples or pears as well as cured meats like prosciutto or chorizo. Manchego is often used to top salads, sandwiches, and tacos, providing a unique flavor profile to meals.
9. Edam Cheese
Edam cheese has a mild, slightly nutty flavor with a creamy texture and can sometimes be compared to Mimolette. It is semi-firm, making it easy to grate or slice and perfect for melting.
This cheese also pairs well with fruit as well as cured meats like serrano ham. Enjoy this unique cheese in a variety of backpacking meals, from simple wraps to premade quesadillas that you tossed on your stash before hitting the trail!
10. Cotija Cheese
Cotija is a semi-hard Mexican cheese made from cow’s milk or a combination of cow’s milk and goat’s milk. It has a salty, slightly nutty flavor and a crumbly texture that can be used to add texture and unique flavor to dishes.
Cotija cheese is often aged for several months, which gives it its distinctive taste. Common uses include toppings for tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and salads as well as an ingredient in sauces or soups.
Furthermore, I say use it to add a mega flavor burst to your otherwise not-as-exciting dehydrated backpacking meal!
Toss some in a bag of black bean soup or Good-to-Go Gumbo! Better yet, sprinkle a packet of True Lemon or Lime in there and you will be smiling.
Cotija has an aged shelf life of about 2 months when stored properly in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Check at your local grocery store’s cheese section for this relatively common cheese.
11. Fontina Cheese
Fontina is perhaps considered one of the finest softer Italian cheeses and is the best cheese for snacking, mixing into salads, or adding into stews and soups where it can get all melty and dreamy.
Fontina cheese is popular because of its delicate yet bold flavor, its versatile range of uses, and its creamy texture. It pairs very well with tart fruits like figs or dried strawberries and can be melted into backpacking meals easily.
Opt for a luxury add-on in your pack and bring along a tiny jar of fig jam to go along with your cheese! This company also has cherry or quince jams to choose from which are other superb options for pairing with cheese.
🫕 Best Soft Cheese for Backpacking
If you’re looking for convenience when backpacking with your dairy treats, processed cheeses don’t need to be refrigerated until some time after they’ve been opened.
Canned and squeezable types of processed cheese are just two common ones that fit this description. Easy cheese is a well-known one!
It’s best to only back exposed soft cheeses when the weather is cooler, or below 60 degrees! For example, individually wrapped packets of brie can be fun during a cool shoulder season or winter camping adventure!
However, American cheese is typically too soft to bring backpacking in most environments. Single servings of this cheese sold in plastic will become a sloppy mess in warmer weather.
Instead, opt for processed cheeses that are not as soft or that are sold with wax coatings.
12. Babybel Cheese
If I was asked which cheese has stayed with me the longest throughout my years backpacking and hiking, it would definitely be Babybel cheese! These little round cheeses are so irresistible and hit the spot every single time with their perfectly sweet taste and creamy texture.
Babybel cheeses have definitely become a staple in my family’s backpacks while on the go! Not only are they delicious, but they also last at least a week at room temperature!
Recently, while traveling in New Mexico, I was so excited to come across a flavor I have seen offered before – GOUDA! Needless to say, I scooped up a bag for our camping road trip gleefully.
13. String Cheese
If you bring string cheese backpacking, singles last for several days in the pack. They can get mushed, unattractive, and forgotten about (I speak from experience) and they will still last on a 6-day backpacking trip!
String cheese is the perfect choice for an easy hiking cheese on short day trips. Consider bringing a handful of these fun mild cheeses for your next trip!
14. Laughing Cow Cheese
I personally grew up enjoying these little cheeses. I had them in my lunch box some days and they never ceased to put a smile on my face.
Laughing Cow cheese should be carried in its round container when backpacking because it is so soft it will squish very easily. It is convenient, flavorful, and makes the perfect addition to any outdoor adventure.
The cute individually wrapped triangles make it easy to pack along an assortment of cheese flavors from creamy garlic and herbs to Swiss alpine!
Laughing Cow does not require refrigeration until opened but since the packets are one serving this is not an issue!
🏕 Alternatives: Best Cheese for Backpacking
These alternative cheeses are not ever going to need refrigeration. In fact, if you want simple these options may be your best bet for backpacking “cheese” on a long trip!
15. Cheese Powders
Dried cheese powders are a really fun ingredient to play around with and can be super delicious when added to backpacking meals!
Cheese powder can truly be a great addition for backpackers. It can be mixed with hot water to make cheesy sauces and dips to accompany crackers and bread.
It can also be used as a topping for noodles or added to soups for some extra flavor. Other uses include sprinkling over rehydrated meals like scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese.
Anthony’s is a company I have bought from for years (I love their Almond Flour) and their cheddar cheese powder is delicious. Try it out and pack up smaller servings of it in reusable bags for your next camping trip.
Also, Judee’s makes an incredibly wonderful array of dried cheese powders ranging from your common cheeses like Monterrey Jack to Blue Cheese and even Ricotta Cheese!
16. Shelf-Stable Grated Parmesan
It’s lightweight, won’t spoil, the flavor is decent and it can be used to add interest to a variety of backpacking meals.
Some people will really bash the idea of this type of grated parmesan cheese however it REALLY does have its place, even in homes, due to its budget-friendly price. For backpacking, it can be a no-brainer, especially for very long trips!
17. Dehydrated Cheese Snacks
Well, you may love them or you may not! If dehydrated cheese bites are your jam these attractive little dried cheese gems are a valuable addition to your backpacking snack menu.
Satisfying salty and crunchy cheese bites are found in many flavors and some brands sell them as crisps. However, the most popular brand is Moon Cheese! This is a great snack.
If you want to make your own dehydrated cheese snacks give it a whirl with your own camping dehydrator and pack up some simple cheese “leather” on your next backpacking trip!
18. Vegan Cheese
Vegan cheese is a dairy-free alternative to traditional cheese. It is made from plant-based ingredients such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and coconut oil.
Some are spreadable, lasting one day for an overnight, and some last for several days wrapped up.
Depending on the type of vegan cheese, it can be used in recipes or eaten on its own. These cheeses can often be found in specialty stores or online but are also becoming more common in mainstream supermarkets.
Vegan cheeses come in various flavors and consistencies; some are hard and salty like parmesan while others are soft and spreadable like cream cheese.
Check out Pimp My Salad Parmesan Cheese which is basically a superfood-plant-based vegan cheese that can be sprinkled on anything you wish!
Honorable Mention: Velveeta (Well it’s not REALLY cheese)
Yes, Velveeta did make the list! 👀 That is because an unopened pack of this highly processed cheese product made by Kraft Foods doesn’t require refrigeration AT ALL until opened.
Kraft Foods’ revolutionary “cheese product ” benefits those without access to reliable refrigeration, allowing campers the opportunity to enjoy this fun treat.
Plus, with its smooth texture, Velveeta is perfect for melting into all your favorite recipes for a cheesy twist. You can find it in most food stores anywhere. Simply look in your grocery store’s not-refrigerated section.
It’s important to take note that once the packaging is open it needs to be kept cool or refrigerated OR eaten within the next 24 hours.
Single-serve packets are the most convenient option for backpackers!
💡Tips for Storing Cheese for Backpacking
Here are three tips to keep in mind when storing cheese without refrigeration:
- Choose hard cheeses that have a longer shelf life
- Store your best cheese for hiking by wrapping it in cheesecloth and then paper, such as wax paper or parchment paper, and pack it away from direct sunlight or heat sources (think campfire!)
- Do not pack it in an airtight container where it cannot breathe. It will mold faster.
- Make sure to check the condition of your cheese regularly and discard any that appear off in color or smell.
✅ PRO TIP: you can cut individual serving-size pieces of cheese at home and dip it in food-grade paraffin wax to keep it fresh longer!
Signs of Spoilage in Cheese While Backpacking
While I can provide some guidance, it’s ultimately up to you when it comes to determining your food safety.
Trust yourself, and your judgment, and respect any feelings of doubt that may arise; if something doesn’t seem right with the cheese – don’t eat it!
Cheese can spoil over time, so it’s important to know the signs of cheese doom. As a general rule of thumb, the softer the cheese, the faster it breaks down so it is best to avoid anything that falls under that category.
Several signs that cheese may have gone bad include:
- Off-putting smell
- Discoloration of the rind or interior of the cheese
- Slimy or sticky texture
Instead of signaling spoilage, sweating cheese is often just a sign that moisture has been trapped inside – a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered!
Cheese lovers know that mold is an essential part of the ripening process for many kinds. But did you also know there’s a key distinction when it comes to where exactly the cheese needs this mold?
Gorgonzola and Stilton are renowned examples, which require blue molding within their interior – a feature often desired by connoisseurs – whereas any extraneous fluff growing on the exterior could be indicative of spoilage!
Not all strong-smelling cheeses are spoiled – some such as Limburger have a powerfully pungent aroma that is simply part of the character and charm.
In contrast, Cheddar’s distinctive scent can be an indication that your cheese has gone off, so it pays to know when certain aromas become less than pleasant!
✅ FAQS: Best Cheese for Backpacking
What is the best cheese to keep unrefrigerated?
Hard low moisture cheeses such as parmesan, aged cheddar, and aged gouda have a long shelf life and require no refrigeration to maintain freshness in average temperatures as long as they are wrapped and stored properly.
Is cheese safe for backpacking?
Yes, cheese is a safe option for backpacking as long as it is properly stored and handled to prevent spoilage. Hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan tend to hold up better than soft cheeses and can be a good source of protein and fat for energy during outdoor adventures.
Is Babybel cheese good for backpacking?
Babybel cheese is a great option for outdoor trips! These mini cheeses are individually wrapped, making them easy to transport and store. Plus, the wax coating helps protect the cheese against temperature extremes and other damage for a long time. They are a favorite camping cheese in my family!
Babybel cheese has a mild flavor that’s sure to please everyone in your group, especially kids. Its longer shelf life makes it ideal for packing on those extended hikes!
Which cheese expires the fastest?
You should avoid packing cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, or goat cheese on your backpacking trip! These cheese won’t last long at all without their original packaging and refrigeration.
Can cheese be unrefrigerated for a week?
Soft cheeses generally require refrigeration and are not recommended to be left unrefrigerated for an extended period of time, especially for a week. However, hard cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan have lower moisture content and can be more tolerant of being unrefrigerated for a week if stored properly in a cool, dry place.
It’s important to check the cheese for any signs of spoilage, such as mold or an off odor, before consuming it.
What cheese doesn’t need refrigeration camping?
Hard cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan, or Gouda are more suitable for camping and do not necessarily require refrigeration if stored properly. These cheeses have lower moisture content, which helps them last longer at room temperature. It’s still important to keep them in a cool, dry place and ensure they are well-sealed to prevent exposure to moisture and contaminants.
In addition, soft cheeses that fall under Babybel are shelf stable due to being processed and covered in a protective wax coating. They should be a staple for all hikers that enjoy dairy!
🧀 Conclusion: Best Cheese for Backpacking
In conclusion, having an array of delicious cheeses is essential for any cheese-lover’s backpacking trip. I think backpacking with cheese makes all trips better!
Not only can cheese provide great taste and satisfaction, but it’s also an excellent source of protein, fats, and calcium that can help you stay energized and well-nourished during your hiking.
Packing a variety of cheeses will ensure hikers can experience the true gourmet side of outdoor life.
Whether it’s creamy Brie for snacking, rich cheddar for melting over meals, or creamy Fontina as the all-around favorite, there is a cheese out there to please everyone’s taste buds. Cheese is packed with really good fuel for hikers!
With so many delicious options available, it’s easy to see why cheese is an essential part of any backpacking trip that can be enjoyed with only a little planning ahead! Bon appétit!