There is nothing worse than being hangry or thirsty on a hike; it can often take the fun out of the experience. So to prevent this from ever happening to you, here are some of the best snack ideas to have on hand when planning for your hike. We are often asked “what are the best hiking snacks?” and we happen to have a point-of-view on the subject. Here are our thoughts.
What Should You Look For in a Hiking Snack?
There are many options out there in the snacking world, but when you are snacking with the goal to keep your energy up for a hike, there are a few things you want to consider.
First things first, not all snacks are created equal. Many have ingredients in them that may give you a boost of energy in the moment, but that energy can often dissipate as quickly as it came on. This rollercoaster is not ideal for activities that require any longevity. Some of your go to snacks that give the best steady boosts are protein packed and complex carbohydrate filled. These macronutrients keep your blood sugars steady and satiate your appetite so you can focus on what’s really important, and that is being in the moment.
The second thing to consider when picking food for a hike is the amount of space they will take up, how it stores, and what waste will be left over after consumption. Snacks and fluids can easily weigh-down your hiking backpack, so you need to be thoughtful about what to carry.
Lastly, and one could argue most importantly, is hydration, hydration, hydration. Planning the appropriate amount of liquids to bring on a hike is determined by many factors. It is generally recommended that an adult brings a half a liter, about two cups of water, for every one hour of hiking. And when hiking with small children, it is recommended that you bring one to two cups of water per hour of hiking. This can add up and play a big role in how you pack your backpack.
What Are Some Top Hiking Snacks?
Now that we know the top things to consider when choosing the best snacks for a hike, let’s look at some top picks and go to snacks.
Water and Sports Drinks
Water is life. As we stated before it is generally recommended that an adult have a minimum of two cups of water for every hour that they are hiking. Some may prefer the taste of a sports drink, but keep in mind that although you may substitute a portion of your fluids with a sports drink to keep electrolytes and energy levels balanced, it is recommended that you alternate between the two and not substitute all your hydration with such drinks.
As water and other sports drinks can be heavy and bulky, it is best to pack your fluids first, and then pack your snacks. You can also get a canteen or reusable bottle that clips to your pack instead of using precious real estate on the inside.
One nice option is to get some electrolytes that you can put in the water, in order to get a little more of a boost from it. That way, you don’t have to carry as many different fluids, which can be heavy.
If you go the route of sports drinks, just be sure they are not all sugar. That is a common problem in many “energy drinks” on the market today.
This is always a go-to when hiking as it provides variety, flavor, and all the nutrients needed to keep you going. Trail mix can be as diverse as your imagination. Whether you want it savory or sweet, there are a few things to watch out for when making or purchasing your trail mix. Salt and sugar are big dehydrators and can be found in copious amounts in store-bought trail mixes. These culprits can be avoided by buying unsalted mixes or by purchasing bulk ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits, seeds, and other ingredients in the raw and making your own trail mix from scratch. It may take a little bit of extra work, but the results can be more catered to your taste, and in the end far healthier than any store-bought brand.
You will often see trail mix referred to as Gorp — a name we for some reason really like.
Tip: When making your own trail mix make sure to follow the golden ratio of 50% nuts, 40% dried fruits, and the remaining 10% any treats you like. This golden ratio ensures that your trail mix will give you the balanced energy, protein, and fats you need to keep you going, and your hunger satiated longer. While some store-bought trail mix can be full of sugar and sweets, it is very possible to create a healthy trail mix.
Dried Meat Snacks
Protein is a great way to keep you fuller longer, refuel your muscles and body with what it needs when exerting energy for long periods of time, and maintain steady blood sugar levels. One thing to keep in mind is the amount of sodium that is usually found in these snacks. It is important not to eat too many of these as it may cause you to go through your water quicker and require you to pack more fluids to compensate.
But one reason it’s such a great option is due to the variety. You can choose from beef, chicken, and pork as well as vegan friendly jerkies made of mushrooms and other plant-based proteins.
Fresh and Dried Fruits
Fresh fruits such as clementines, apples, and bananas are always great to take on hikes as they provide hydration, vitamins and minerals, and natural sugars to give you a sweet steady boost of energy. If you find it too bulky to bring fresh fruit, then dried fruit is also a great alternative. Watch out for added sugars on the ingredient list. If it doesn’t list just the fruit as an ingredient (with a possible preservative) and you see any added sugars, try to avoid it. Dried fruits already have a concentrated sugar content so added sugars might create a spike in blood sugar that will dissipate quickly leaving you hungrier and less energetic quicker.
A nice thing about dried fruit is that it typically keeps well in your fanny pack regardless of conditions – hot, wet, cold – and it doesn’t weigh much.
Nut butters are some of the easiest snacks to pack for a hike. They not only provide protein and healthy fats that satiate and give sustainable energy, but they also come in a variety of flavors and textures, and often can be found sporting no added sugars. It’s a bonus that they taste great. The best thing is you can often find nut butters in small squeeze pouches which take up very little space and are easy to dispose of when finished. They can be eaten on their own or paired with other snacks such as apples and carrots.
Vegetables provide a healthy amount of fiber and nutrients, boost the immune system, and help your digestive process. Carrots, celery, broccoli, and even radish and cucumber slices are great options to bring on a hike as they help keep you full and pair well with other snacks such as nut butters. They are low in calories, have natural sugars, and large amounts of fiber which keep you fuller longer. Vegetables can even assist in hydration; cucumbers and celery are mostly water dense. A perk to bringing these, too, is no plastic waste.
When it comes to purchasing granola in the store, they can befull of unnecessary added sugars and other preservatives that just don’t need to be there. So, we decided to share a delicious healthy granola bites recipe that is packed full of fiber, healthy fats, and protein. It’s also a great source of healthy carbs that give you the boost you need to keep your energy up. They store easy in a small container or resealable baggie, take up little space in your pack, and keep well for a long period of time.
Freeze Dried Meals (for longer hikes)
Sometimes, you might find yourself hiking for several hours, even an entire day. Say you are doing a loop that you estimate will take 8-10 hours to complete. It can sure be nice to not just snack on nuts and jerky the whole time. Plus, there is a good chance that a trail that long will pass by several open campsites or spaces suitable to have a sit-down meal.
You could always bring peanut butter sandwiches (nice because they do not require any chilling or cooling while hiking) but if you have the equipment, consider bringing a freeze dried meal in your pack. A hot meal in the middle of a 10-hour hike can really hit the spot. They make freeze dried meals for camping, and these same meals work great for long hiking.
Dark Chocolate, Almond, and Cranberry Granola Bites
- 1 ½ cups of old fashion rolled oats (toasted)
- ¾ cup of almond butter (You can choose your favorite nut butter here but try to get an unsweetened natural butter)
- 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
- 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- ½ cup of dried cranberries
- 2 tablespoons of honey (This is optional, but adds a nice sweetness to the mix)
- ¼ cup of dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place your oats on a nonstick cookie sheet and spread into an even layer.
3. Place in the oven for about ten minutes tossing them halfway through the cooking time. You know when they are done when they are slightly golden brown and have a toasted aroma.
4. Let oats cool completely, then place in a large mixing bowl with all the other ingredients.
5. Stir ingredients until well combined then roll into bite size balls. (You should get anywhere from 12-16 balls)
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Pro tip: place sheets of parchment between each layer of balls to keep them from sticking together.)
Bonus Pro Tip for storing waste while on the hiking trail:
Bring a large gallon reusable resealable bag to toss waste in, from nut butter packaging to apple cores and orange peels. This keeps your backpack from getting covered in crumbs and unwanted sticky substances and makes it easy to dispose of trash when you return home. You can use any resealable bag as a waste bag, but I recommend a reusable resealable bag because it cuts down on plastic waste in the environment.