What’s the Best Cheese for Backpacking? 


If you’re going backpacking or hiking – you’ll need to pack food that keeps well without a refrigerator. But what if you really want to take cheese with you! Is there a best cheese for backpacking, or should you leave it at home?


Backpacking is a great pastime, no matter the season! If you go on a backpacking trip, you should always carry the essentials: food, water, and shelter. We’ll address the food part of the equation here!

Cheese is an excellent source of protein, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and phosphorus. When choosing a cheesy companion for your backpacking travels, you’ll need to avoid carrying soft cheeses like brie or goat cheese. Instead, bring hard and dry cheese. Some hard cheeses can be kept in a backpack for a few days without refrigeration and still be good to eat.


best cheese for backpacking


With all the variations of cheese out there, you might be wondering what type of cheese is best for backpacking. Should you take the cheddar cheese or the parmesan cheese? We will share a list of the best cheese for backpacking here! 

Keep reading for more information on these cheeses, like their best pairings and what you should do to help them last as long as possible.


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Best Hard Cheese for Backpacking


Here is our list of hard and dry cheeses you can take with you on your backpacking adventure. Remember, do not cut the cheese into chunks or shred it before your hike because this speeds up the aging process and opens the door to bacteria growth.

  • Cheddar
  • Gouda
  • Colby-Jack
  • Manchego 
  • Comte Cheese
  • Parmesan 
  • Gruyere Cheese 
  • Pecorino Romano 


Cheddar 



Cheddar is one of the world’s most popular cheeses. Originating in Somerset, England, cheddar is a very common cheese. It’s easy to find in any food store around the world.

Cheddar has a slight hazelnut taste and is often rich enough to melt in your mouth. It generally has a sharp flavor and sometimes can taste a little earthy. 

This cheese is firm and is usually an off-white color. If the natural spice annatto is added, it will be more orange in color. Cheddar pairs well with fruit, hearty meats like sausage, and an IPA or Syrah to drink. 

Perfect to accompany other snacks on your trip 🙂


Gouda 


Gouda originates from the Netherlands and is a hard cheese with a light color. Depending on the age, Gouda can taste a little punchy with a sweet finish, or it can have a sweeter flavor that is vaguely similar to butterscotch. 

It is a firm cheese that is often cubed and eaten as a snack with mustard in its native Dutch culture. Gouda pairs well with salted almonds, so if you’re looking for a fulfilling snack, you won’t be disappointed with this dynamic duo. 

If you’re planning to do a few backpacking expeditions, buying a wheel of Gouda is better value – you can store it and slice a wedge off to pack when you need it.


Colby-Jack



This American cheese is a combination of Monterey Jack and Colby cheese. It is a semi-hard, mild cheese and only ages for two weeks. 

The flavor is mild and slightly nutty, but the strength depends on the strength of the Monterey Jack and Colby cheese used to make that particular batch. 

Colby-Jack is the perfect on-the-go cheese and pairs well with potato chips or other crunchy snacks. That makes it a great backpack companion.


Manchego 



Manchego is a Spanish hard cheese made from sheep’s milk and has a buttery texture. The flavor is creamy and tastes much like its two primary ingredients. This is my #1 backpacking cheese of choice if I can find it!

There are four variations of Manchego, but only the older two varieties, Curado and Viejo, are suitable for taking on a backpacking trip, since they are the firmest. 

Manchego goes well as a snack with fruit and slightly salty snacks like salted crackers, so make sure to bring your favorite citrus.


Comte Cheese 



Comte Cheese is a French cheese made with unpasteurized cow’s milk. It has a stiff but flexible texture and tastes mild with a hint of sweetness. 

This cheese is perfect as a snack when paired with whole roasted garlic, apricots on toast, and cured meats. Maybe not the best complimentary cheese to your traditional backpack snacks, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be thoroughly enjoyed on its own.


Parmesan 



The Italian hard cheese, Parmesan, is very popular worldwide. The texture is hard and granular, meaning it will crumble when cut. 

The best way to use it is shaved or grated. Parmesan has a strong umami taste due to its chemical composition that comes off nutty and salty.  

Parmesan pairs well with olives, cured charcuterie meats, and spiced nuts, all snacks you can easily bring along with you.


Gruyere Cheese 



Gruyere Cheese is a Swiss cheese that is hard in texture and has a flavor that varies with age. Though its flavor profile can change depending on the age, in general, the cheese is creamy and nutty at its youngest.

This cheese is a great companion to meats like chicken or ham. It is also a great melting cheese, but for your backpacking trip, you can pair it with deli meats or cubed chicken….without the messy melting part!.


Pecorino Romano



This cheese is a firm and salty-tasting Italian cheese. Pecorino Romano has a sharp flavor and smell, but the level of sharpness depends on its age. If it is younger, you can use it in slices or cubes. If it is older, due to its granular nature, it will crumble when you try to cut it. 

It is the perfect pairing with honey or fruit preserves. The salty nature is a great companion to the sweet taste of honey and fruit. Enjoy it on a plain cracker or bread.


FAQs


Still have a few questions about backpacking with cheese? Check out the answers to a couple of frequently asked questions below for more clarification. 


Why is soft cheese not good for backpacking?


Soft cheese is not the best option for backpacking because it does not keep well outside a refrigerated environment. When it is out of the refrigerator for a long time, bacteria starts to grow. While yes, this is part of making cheese in the first place, you don’t want unfamiliar bacteria hanging out on it. 

Once bacteria begin growing on your cheese, it’s recommended you don’t eat it. 

If you have a backpack with a cooler compartment and an ice pack, you might be able to carry soft cheese in that compartment for a short hike to a picnic. However, you should not bring soft cheese for longer hikes and day-long backpacking trips. Moisture and heat make for a perfect bacterial storm.


Which hard cheese is best for backpacking?


Any cheese on our list is good for backpacking. Depending on the taste and pairing you prefer, there might be one that suits you more than another. Feel free to experiment with various hard cheeses until you find your perfect snack!


How do I store hard cheese in my backpack?


Hard cheeses, like the ones on our list, can keep at room temperature for 2 hours before you need to refrigerate them again. 

It is best to store a hard cheese like this on parchment paper. The parchment lets it breathe and retain its flavor. Sometimes, storing it in tightly wrapped plastic for a long time can negatively alter the flavor. 

Store the cheese away from direct sun exposure, and carefully rewrap it each time you take it out to eat it. You want to avoid sweating, so take care to wrap it properly. 


Final Thoughts – Best cheese for backpacking


We hope this short guide helped show you which cheese keeps best for backpacking. Besides the eight kinds of cheese we listed here, other hard cheeses are suitable for a few hours out on the road like Cojita, Edam, Emmental, and Colby. 

Adhere to the 2-hour rule with any refrigerated food, cheese included. Once a refrigerated hard cheese has been out for 2-hours, refrigerate it again. 

If you are in doubt about the cheese, leave it at home. It is not worth the risk of getting sick while you are out in the wilderness. Happy adventuring!


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