There are very few activities in life that compare with the joyful exhilaration experienced during an amazing, awe-inspiring nature trek. Stepping out into the wilderness with little else but a small backpack, trekking poles, and a beaming ear-to-ear smile is one of only a handful of excursions that enables healthy exercise while also nourishing your soul in equal measure.
What’s more, it is a refreshingly simple pastime. Hiking is simply a question of putting one foot in front of the other, breathing in that gorgeous air, and appreciating your surroundings. In other words, no technical skills or experience is required to get out there and explore the places that are inaccessible to the folks you have left behind in the city.
Preparation Is Key
However, a good amount of planning is needed to ensure you’ll make the most of the experience. Creating safe and interesting routes, sourcing comfortable camping areas, and (depending on the length of your trip) knowing where to locate water are just a few of the essentials that need planning in advance.
But there are other considerations to take into account, such as what type of food to take and how much of it you should pack.
Food supplies are actually one aspect of trekking and hiking that a surprising number of people seem to get wrong. Often treated almost as an afterthought rather than an essential component, the type of food you take can make the difference between a memorable adventure and a miserable experience.
Taking the time to research and plan for nutritious, easy-to-carry meals can significantly bolster your hiking experience and should be something you take very seriously.
It is in that spirit of preparation that we bring you this blog post today: your very own guide for what type of food to take, how much of it you should pack, and what constitutes the perfect nourishment and snacks for hiking.
So, if you are tempted to reach for that old tin of tuna gathering dust at the back of your cupboard, don’t! Take heed of the following suggestions and common mistakes, and give yourself a far greater chance of a memorable and sufficiently fueled trip.
Features of Ideal Hiking Snacks
But first, what are the main elements you should be considering before packing specific types of hiking snacks? Let’s take a look.
Keep it light: While your hiking snacks don’t need to be ultra-light, remember that every snack adds additional weight to your backpack. That 500-gram tin of Spam might not seem like a big deal right now, but it will feel like a brick five miles into your excursion. Save the full-sized pineapple for a post-hike celebration, and focus on light products.
Nutrition-rich: Essentially, you need snacks that replace burned calories and maintain your blood sugar level. If this is your first trek, you may be surprised at just how many calories you plow through on a robust hike.
With that in mind, look for options with a good balance of carbs (for quick bursts of energy) and fats & proteins (for sustained stamina.). The former will dig you out of a hole when you need it, while the latter will keep you soldering on at a nice even tempo.
Non-Perishable: It is far better (and more convenient) if your snacks do not require refrigeration. That prawn cocktail that is languishing on the bottom shelf of the fridge might seem a worthy inclusion pre-hike but will become painfully unappetizing after being nestled at the bottom of your backpack for a few hours.
On that same note, an insulated backpack is an option but not a necessity. If you feel the urge to splurge on a backpack with cooling compartments, go for it. Alternatively, just avoid anything that requires refrigeration, and aim for things that will keep.
Convenience: Again, your snacks will likely be in a backpack. Opt for ones that won’t take up too much space and can survive a bit of jostling around. Anything that can be vacuum-packed is a good idea, as a general rule of thumb (although vacuuming packing is nonessential, of course).
Limited packaging: The less packaging, the less trash you’ll have to carry back. Remember, among the myriad of rules that apply to responsible trekking and camping, leave no trace is right up there with the best of them.
Popular Hiking Snacks
Let’s move on to specifics and look at a few suggestions for hiking snacks you can either make yourself at home or grab off a grocery store shelf.
- Nutty Nourishment
The tasty options of peanut butter,
Given nut butter is quite calorie-dense by nature, this is an option for a high-energy snack without weighing down your backpack too much, and if you are on a group hike, a full jar is nice and wallet-friendly. If you prefer to nibble as you trek, consider investing in some compact specialized pouches. We are especially fond of the Yumbutter range, particularly the almond offering.
- Juice Boosts
As you trek, you deplete your body’s electrolytes, so what better way to replenish them than with fresh or dried fruits: a powerhouse of carbs and vitamins while being low on fats and protein? Mangos are a popular choice (both fresh and dried, depending on availability). Make sure to keep fresh fruits within easy reach for continuous nibbling to prevent glycogen depletion.
The Whole Foods Market range of dried fruits incorporates a ‘trial mix’ which, if nothing else, at least sounds like it is trek-worthy, in addition to being incredibly tasty. The 14-ounce variant should last you quite some time without weighing you down (unless you are generously dishing them out to passing squirrels, that is).
Remember, though, some fruits are offered canned – both dried and fresh. Try to sidestep those high in added sugars. And if you find yourself hiking in cooler areas during summer, keep an eye out for trail-side berries: they are an excellent source of carbs and antioxidants.
- Granola bars
While some might argue that granola bars aren’t the epitome of health, it is quite easy to find healthier organic options on
Crackers offer a versatile base for a number of spreads (such as the aforementioned nut butter), but they need to withstand the jostles and jolts of your backpack. Search for robust crackers that can hold their own.
Milton’s produces some pretty scrumptious crackers that feel more like robust kettle crisps, with gluten-free options available as a little added bonus. For a protein kick, consider slapping a little hummus on the cracker.
Stable on the shelf and brimming with protein, jerky is an excellent trail companion and an obvious choice for most people. While many snacks lean towards the sweet, the savory essence of jerky offers a refreshing palate diversion. For those who have the time, there is also the option of making your own.
That may (or may not) sound a little intimidating to some, but it’s simpler than you might imagine, and once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll save a hefty amount of cash.
- Tuna Salad
While we would not encourage the idle inclusion of tinned tuna (nothing would be more unappetizing in the middle of a trek, in our opinion), we do encourage you to take a well-prepared tuna salad in all its imaginative glory.
Tuna salad holds quite the reputation amongst seasoned hikers, so much so that it is practically an iconic trail lunch. Tuna salad acts as a fantastic means of hitting your protein quota for the day during a hike. Bursting with Vitamin B and potassium, tuna aids in regulating your body’s energy processing of proteins and carbs.
Starkist is currently offering a fairly generous 24-pack deal which will serve you well for an entire season (or two) of trekking at a cost-efficient price. This Jalapeno-infused range will provide a fiery little energy boost when you need it.
Impress your trekking buddies by bringing along olives and hard cheese. With olives, you can simply pick your favorite jar, drain the juice and pack them into a watertight resealable container like a ReZip bag. Alternatively, go for something like this Trader Joe’s cracked olive salad, which is genuinely delicious – assuming you like olives, of course.
Cheese (especially hard cheese like cheddar) makes for a compact and rather luxurious hiking snack. Wrap these in a beeswax wrap or seal them in a container to prevent oil leakage or aroma seepage into your backpack. Individually wrapped cheeses from Babybel are a trekking classic and an absolute hit with any kids who might happen to be with you on the adventure.
How Much Should You Take?
As a general ballpark, your body might need around 200-400 calories each hour, adding up to roughly 3,000 calories for a day’s hike. If you’ve set your sights on a specific endpoint (say, the top of a hill or the coast), you could plan for a lovely picnic consisting entirely of hiking snacks once you get there. However, keep in mind that full meals take longer to break down than small snacks.
Tailor your provisions based on:
- The duration of your trek
- Its intensity (Are there numerous steep inclines or rugged terrain?)
- The nature of your hike (Are you heading towards a specific point or simply wandering?)
- The load you’re shouldering
- If you’re going on multi-day hikes, anticipate an increased calorie intake as the days roll on since you’ll start to burn off your body’s fat reserves.
Hiking Snacks Dos and Don’ts
Don’t overpack. A common rookie mistake is to carry more food than required. Stick to lightweight yet satiating food, as mentioned above, and don’t overload the backpack. You will regret it if you do.
Don’t under-pack: Equally as troublesome is not carrying enough. Plan your meals meticulously to avoid running out of food during the crucial last leg of your hike. As with most things in life, balance is vital.
Do avoid bulky Foods: Packing smart is essential. Opt for space-saving, nutrient-rich foods like dehydrated meals to keep your bag light and manageable.
Do mix things up: Break the monotony by varying your meals. Dehydrated meals offer variety without much effort. After all, a satisfying meal at the end of the day can lift your spirits!
Don’t neglect savory foods: Balance out sweet trail treats with some savory snacks. As listed above, jerky and nuts make great, satisfying options.
Don’t pack heavy foods: It may seem tempting, but it adds unnecessary weight. Instead, opt for lightweight and nutrient-dense freeze-dried meals.
Do focus on nutrients: Ditch those calorie-empty two-minute noodles you might be thinking of. They look convenient, but your body needs nutrient-rich food to power through the trek.
Don’t be overly elaborate: White truffle with elvish honey (whatever that is) sounds like a nice fancy treat, but it is impractical on the trail. Instead, opt for quick, easy, trek-friendly meals. Remember, part of the reason you are trekking is to feel at one with mother nature and find solace in the basic nature of walking. Tucking into a lovely bluefin tuna with dainty cutlery might betray that principle somewhat.
Do watch your sugar: While it provides a quick energy boost, it also leads to energy crashes. Once again, aim for a good balance in your meals and snacks.
Don’t ignore dietary needs: Everyone’s body and dietary preferences are unique. Spend time understanding your trail diet before you set foot on the trail. Tailor your food choices to your body’s requirements and enjoy the hike!
Trekking and hiking is a simple affair, and that simplicity should extend to your food choices. Keep it light but calorific, nonperishable, and rich in variety, and you will be just fine. Natural enthusiasm will help fuel you off the sofa and onto the trail, but your body will need real fuel to keep you on it, so choose wisely, and don’t treat your trail food as a low priority.
Now, leave your worries behind and go enjoy the fabulous gift of Mother Nature’s rugged wilderness! We wish you happy trekking, and remember people – leave no trace!