Hiking is a lot of fun, but it can also be exhausting. With all those calories you’re burning, it’s essential to make sure you’re fueling your body with the nutrients it needs to power through. We’ve assembled a list of the best hiking snacks and have provided 28 delicious options that are great for keeping your hunger at bay and your energy levels up!
Why are Snacks Important for Hiking?
Snacks are one of my favorite parts of going on a hike. In fact, on multiple occasions, we have called hiking ‘scenic snacking’. But snacks and food while you are hiking have such a bigger role to play besides just being enjoyable. Let’s dive into what exactly makes snacks so important for hiking:
- Sustains energy levels: It’s always a good idea to eat before you go on a hike. But what if your hike is going to be an all-day affair? You will want to make sure that you are taking regular breaks and eating snacks so that your body is fueled with the energy it needs to have energy for the rest of the trail.
- Keeps hunger at bay: When you are hungry, your mood changes and you become more irritable. Not only that, but hunger makes you tired as well! The last thing you need while hiking is fatigue and crankiness setting in because of hunger pains. Hiking snacks can help to prevent that from happening.
- Prevents dehydration: This is especially important when hiking in hot weather conditions. When you are active, your body sweats and loses fluids. If you don’t replace those lost fluids, you can become dehydrated which isn’t only uncomfortable but dangerous as well. Snacks along with water can help prevent dehydration while hiking.
- Enjoy your hike more: Snacking is a great opportunity to stop and smell the roses (literally and figuratively). Eating a snack is the perfect way to take a break from hiking, relax for a bit, enjoy the scenery around you and get ready for the next segment of your hike. It can also be an opportunity to socialize with others in your group if you are hiking together!
What are the Factors to Consider on the Foods that the Hiker Must Bring?
When going for a hike, you must have the best hiking snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up and make sure that your body is working properly. Many factors need to be considered before deciding on what type of food will help keep you energized during your adventure. Here are the 11 factors to consider when you are picking out foods for your hike:
- Calories: Calories first and foremost are your main source of energy while you are hiking. A good rule of thumb is to bring 200-300 calories per hour that you are hiking. So, if you are going for a hike that will take about six hours, then shoot for around 1800-2400 calories in snacks.
- Caloric Density: This is something that a beginner hiker may not take into consideration. Calorie density refers to the amount of calories for the weight of the food item. When we are hiking, we want foods that are dense with calories like peanut butter or nuts. The less dense the food is, the more you will have to eat and carry with you throughout the day. An example of a food that lacks calorie density is an apple – its quite heavy for its size, but due to high water content, it’s actually quite low in calories. Instead, carry dehydrated fruits or more calorie dense options like jerky, nuts, nut butters, and chocolate.
- Carbs: Carbs are another main source of energy while hiking. This is because carbs are known as ‘slow-release energy’. This means that carbs take longer to digest, but that means the energy they provide is more consistent and will keep you full for a longer period of time. Not all carbs are created equal, so aim for healthier options like oats, wholegrains, lentils, and sweet potatoes.
- Protein: Protein is another great ‘slow-release energy’. It will also help you to feel fuller longer.
- Healthy Fats: Fats are the most energy-efficient type of food and the slowest source of energy, but they are also the most energy-efficient form of fuel. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories to the body, whereas proteins and carbohydrates each provide around 4 calories per gram.
- Sugar Content (dextrose): Sugar, more specifically dextrose, is the fastest source of energy available to you. When you are feeling down and exhausted, a quick handful of gummy bears or other candy can have you feeling right as rain. That being said, sugar is not made to sustain you for long periods of time. Eat your gummy bears so you can start feeling better, then follow that up with some nuts or seeds. That way your body has energy until you process the more slow release energy like carbs, protein, and fat.
- Weight: You are carrying all your snacks on your back. Of course you need to be concerned with how much they weigh. All the food you bring will add up and make your backpack heavier. So, find a balance between how much to carry with you and what type of food to pack with you. This is where paying attention to calorie density comes into play.
- Convenience: As delicious as some of the Backpacker’s Pantry meals are, you do not want to stop, boil water, and cook something while you are out on a day hike. You want something that is quick and easy to eat without having to stop and prepare it.
- Taste: This is a very important factor for some people when choosing their hiking snacks. You will be eating these snacks all day, so you better like the taste of them! Don’t try out new snacks on the trail, as it really sucks to open a new snack bar only to find it disgusting. Try out your snacks ahead or time, and only pack items you know you’ll love.
- Texture: Coming from personal experience, eating nothing but peanut butter can get pretty old after a while. Keep this in mind and remember to vary the textures of the food you are carrying.
28 of the Best Snacks to Bring Hiking
We’ve talked about why snacks are important for hiking and what makes a good snack for hiking. Now we need to talk about some hiking snack options. This list includes a variety of foods that will provide you with sustained energy throughout your hike. They range in caloric density, carbs, protein, healthy fats, water content, and sugar content.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are a great source of ‘slow-release energy’ and high calorie density because they contain carbs, protein, and healthy fats. They also have the benefit of tasting delicious! Here is a list of some high-energy nuts to pack with you on your next hike:
- Sunflower Seeds
Dried fruit is a great way to get a quick energy boost while hiking. It is full of carbs and sugar, making it a perfect snack for when you need to refuel quickly. Some of the best dried fruits for hiking are:
- Dried Mangoes
- Dried Bananas
Fresh fruit is a great way to get an energy boost while hiking, especially if you are feeling dehydrated after several hours on the trail. They also contain vitamins and minerals that are important for your overall health. Keep in mind that fruits have high water content, making them less calorie dense. Only carry these as a special treat, and in moderation, otherwise you’ll find your pack becoming unnecessarily heavy. Some of our favorite fruits for hiking include:
Granola bars are another quick, easy snack that you can take on your hike with minimal prep time required. They come in a variety of flavors and textures so there is sure to be something for everyone! Some popular granola bar brands include:
- Nature Valley
- Clif Bars
- Clif Nut Butter Bars
Store Bought Options and Other Stuff
The rest of these foods are great options in among themselves, but don’t fit into the categories above. A lot of these products are store bought, but that doesn’t mean they are bad for you, in fact, some of these are personal favorites of ours.
- Energy Gels: Energy gels are a great option for when you need to refuel quickly. They will give you an instant energy boost, but be careful not to consume too many of them because they can cause stomach cramps and bloating if overconsumed.
- Chocolate: Chocolate is a great source of sugar and can also contain caffeine, which will give you more energy. Our personal opinion is that you can never have too much chocolate on a hike. In fact, dark chocolate is a high calorie dense food and has a great balance of nutrients for hiking energy.
- Gummi Bears/Fruit Snacks: Gummi bears or fruit snacks are another excellent option for when you need a quick energy boost. They will give you an instant burst of sugar, and are a favorite of ours for a quick pick-me-up.
- Meat/Cheese/Crackers: This is another great option for when you need some protein and fat to refuel your body while hiking!
- Jerky: Jerky is an excellent source of protein and it is also very lightweight. This makes it the perfect snack to take with you on a hike. It also doesn’t need any preparation, so it’s easy to eat on the go.
- Trail Mix: Trail mix is a great combination of carbs, protein, and fat. It also has the benefit of being super easy to make yourself. You can create your own custom trail mix based on what you like, or you can buy one already premade.
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches: PB&J sandwiches are full of healthy fats from the peanut butter and sugar from the jelly making them perfect energy boosters while hiking. We love packing PB&J or peanut butter & honey sandwiches for a lunch break on trail.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a great source of protein and they also have the benefit of being super convenient because you can eat them right out of their shells! Just remember that they typically should be refrigerated, and you should follow proper food handling when keeping them in your pack.
- Peanut or Nut Butter: Peanut butter is an excellent source of healthy fats and protein. When we backpacked the Four Pass Loop, Ashley packed a tub of dark chocolate sunflower butter and ate it throughout the whole trip since it was a great calorie dense snack. Most grocery stores now carry small pack of nut butters of all different flavors.
- Tuna packs. Those packs of tuna are a great option for a boost of protein on trail and are a great alternative to jerky. Pack a plastic fork or spread on a tortilla to add carbs. Derek loves the flavored ones like Jalapeno and Garlic&Herb.
So there you have it, some of the best hiking snacks to keep you full and energized while on your next hike! Be sure to pack a variety of different snacks so that you can mix things up and stay fueled throughout your hike. Keep in mind that you should never try a new snack while on trail and you should always bring snacks that you know you enjoy! And most importantly, have fun out there!
What are some good snacks to bring on a hike?
You should bring a variety of snacks to help fuel you through your hike. Some good options include nuts and nut butters, dried fruit, granola bars, tuna packs, jerky, and chocolate. Having a mixture of carbs, sugar, and protein will help keep your body balanced and energized.
What is the best energy food for hiking?
The most ideal foods for hiking will have a good balance of carbs, protein, and sugar. Some great options include granola barns, chocolate, nut butters, and more!
What should I eat on a 10 mile hike?
A good rule of thumb is to bring 200-300 calories per hour that you are hiking. So, if you are going for a hike that will take about six hours, then shoot for around 1800-2400 calories in snacks.
Is popcorn a good hiking snack?
Not necessarily. Popcorn is not very dense, so it takes up more room in your pack, which can be a concern for hiking and backpacking. It wouldn’t be our first choice. Instead choose something more calorie-dense like a granola bar or nut butter.
About the Author
My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers. Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me. When I’m not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.