So, you've decided to organize a fun, all-day adventure on the trail, and you're getting down to planning everything out:
What should you pack, how should you dress, what are some essentials you mustn't forget, and what food should you have with you to nourish your body properly?
All these questions are important to answer since the success of your trip depends on how well you prepare for it. Luckily, we have a bunch of guides that will give you the info you need.
In this particular one, we're going to discuss some of the best hiking lunch ideas for any hiking trip that fit anyone's preferences and tastes and are easy to prepare and carry with you.
We're also going to share some general tips regarding food and hiking. What you take with you is only part of the hiking food equation; when and how you eat matters, too.
That way, you'll know that your body is nourished and fueled throughout the backpacking trip and able to carry you through all of the challenges of your long hike.
Without further ado, let's jump right into it!
Backpacking Food Tips & Considerations
Before we get to the actual hiking lunch ideas, we want to go over the basics of all things food and hiking-related. You don't want unpleasant surprises in the midst of your hike.
How Long Is Your Hike?
Deciding how much food you'll need to take is equally as important as deciding what food you'll take.
Both overpacking and underpacking can seriously affect your hike - and not in a good way. So, you need to consider exactly how much food you'll need to take with you.
If you are going on multi-day hikes, you'll obviously need more food - as opposed to a day hike. You'll also need different kinds of food to satisfy your needs and meet your nutrition goals with each meal of the day.
Trail Type And Difficulty
This one connects to the previous tip since the difficulty also affects how much food your body will require:
More challenging, demanding trails that are very steep or go to high altitudes will tire out your body much more than shorter hikes with fewer inclines and less hazardous terrains.
Hiker hunger is a serious thing. You don't want to end up in a situation where you are short on food - and still have a long way to go ahead of you.
If you remember one tip we give you today, let it be this one:
Meal planning is crucial and will ensure that you have all of the food that you need without the risk of over or underpacking.
That's especially crucial for backpacking trips that call for higher volumes of food, take up more space in your backpack, and require more organizing.
You can't just spontaneously pack whatever you feel like in the moment. That would probably leave you unsatisfied and lacking essential foods.
Multi-day hikes mean packing a lot more stuff - and we don't just mean food.
That's why you should save as much space as possible and get rid of any excess items, including bulky food packaging:
Food often comes in boxes that are extremely impractical and difficult to pack in any backpack. So, repackaging your food of choice into something more convenient will save you a lot of space - and a lot of time trying to fit everything into your backpack.
We're big fans of ziplock bags since they preserve food well without consuming too much space in your backpack.
Not all foods can be packed into the same kinds of alternative packaging, though. So, be sure to choose appropriately.
Ziplock bags are best for dry foods, like muesli, granola, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and trail mix.
Organize Your Food
It should be easy to find whatever food you want - and whenever you want. So, for instance, you can organize food according to the meal they're meant for.
That way, if you want breakfast, for example, you can just go for your breakfast pack instead of rummaging through your entire food pack.
Diversify Your Hiking Food
It's easy to gravitate toward your favorite foods when packing for your hiking trip, but we need you to think a bit more rationally here.
Sure, you should pack your favorites to cheer yourself up when you get a bit tired. But in order to get everything you need - lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats - you should bring loads of different foods, including fruits, veggies, meat, sweets, and nuts.
Sprinkling some of the more nutritious foods into your regular choices will ensure that you are both nourished and satisfied.
Aside from the healthy choices that are a must in your hiking pack, you should definitely have some of your fave snacks in there, too.
It doesn't matter if they're nutritious. They can be sugar-filled chocolate bars or a bag of chips. The point is:
Having something to look forward to on a strenuous hike can be a game-changer.
Remember, not all foods you eat have to serve a nutritious purpose. Allowing yourself to enjoy some "less healthy" foods can help you stay on the right track of healthy eating. That goes both for those on and off the trail.
When we mentioned meal planning, we also had something along these lines in mind:
Having strategically planned times to eat during your hike can greatly benefit your mindset, as well as your on-trail productivity.
It can get a bit monotonous during a hike, especially if the scenery isn't as enthralling along the whole way. So, having pre-planned mealtime can be a wonderful motivator.
On that note, get familiar with the trail beforehand and know which parts of the trail are more challenging - and which are easier. You can plan your mealtime according to that and keep your energy levels high when it matters the most.
Nutritious Hiking Lunch Ideas
We can now move on to the main topic and discuss some of the best, most nutritious hiking lunch ideas that you can have on your hike.
We'll give you a bunch of different options to ensure that everyone can find something tasty for themselves. Also, we'll give you versatile options that you can prepare in different ways to avoid monotony and repetitiveness.
Oh, and we'll share some of our favorite snack options that you can munch on throughout your hike whenever you need a quick energy boost.
Let's get into it!
Best Hiking Lunches
You have so many options - ranging from freeze-dried meals, dehydrated meals, and salads to meal bars and sandwiches.
These meals are great for a number of reasons - which is why they're so highly regarded in the hiking community.
The process of freeze-drying is such that it preserves all - or most - of the nutrients that fresh foods have while eliminating up to 80% of the water weight that foods hold when fresh.
There are a bunch of options available, such as lasagna, mac and cheese, pasta, stew - and many, many more. One thing you should be wary of, though, is that these foods contain high amounts of sodium, meaning that they shouldn't be consumed as a regular part of anyone's diet.
They're completely fine for an occasional hiking meal - but keep them as on-trail meals only.
Sandwiches are great because they're extremely practical, versatile, and - well, delicious. You can make a variety of sandwiches for your hiking lunches and adapt them according to your hiking needs.
When it comes to bringing food on the trail for a day hike, sandwiches are hard to beat.
A classic and the king of sandwiches, it was sure to make its way onto this list.
Choose the right bread and the right ingredients, and you can make this a gourmet experience on the trail.
Chicken's a fantastic source of protein and can offer other nutritious benefits - depending on what type of chicken meat you opt for, of course. The most popular is chicken breast because it contains the least fat while being packed with protein.
Pair it with cream cheese, crunchy veggies, and your fave condiments - and boom, you've got a meal!
Here's another staple of backpacking lunch ideas - bagels.
You can make things a bit more fun by putting all of your favorite ingredients - like hard-boiled eggs, hard cheeses, canned tuna, and some cherry tomatoes - into a delicious bagel. Oh, and you could also add some smoked salmon or canned chicken to make it a protein-packed lunch.
We've said this already, but cooked chicken is known to be a source of lean protein. It has loads of protein - but very low amounts of fat and carbs.
So, it will give you the nutrients that you need, but without the additional ones that you might be trying to avoid in your diet.
That said, plain cooked chicken can be a bit boring and bland. You will need some help from the spice department here.
If you're not big on spices, or you don't know where to start, try experimenting with the more basic ones - such as salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder, turmeric, and curry.
Also known as some of the main sources of protein, eggs can also help you out tremendously in your hiking endeavors - especially on a long hike.
They're great on their own, with just a pinch of salt and pepper - but you can elevate this meal by adding some mayonnaise, too.
If you're not a fan of eggs on their own - or simply prefer them in combination with something else - know that they can be added to sandwiches and salads, too.
Hummus is so versatile, nutritious, and delicious - and having it in your hiking lunch repertoire will certainly benefit you.
Chickpeas are one of the most popular sources of protein among vegans and vegetarians, so if you have some dietary preferences or restrictions of that kind, you won't have to worry about getting your protein.
Did you know there's also powdered hummus available? It can be more practical on a long hike - but for more simple ones, you can opt for fresh hummus, as well.
Add it to your sandwich, tortilla wrap, or eat it with some crunchy veggies as a quick and easy lunch; the choice is yours.
If you're not a huge fan of bread, tortillas can be a good alternative. They're also highly practical - and hold all the ingredients tightly packed. You don't have to worry about anything leaking or spilling.
Add some leafy greens, sundried tomatoes, cream cheese - or hard cheese - and some chicken to your wrap, and you're sure to enjoy it on your hike.
Making a pita pizza is a fun way to diversify your hiking lunches. Pita bread is essentially round flatbread that can be eaten on its own, with dips, or used as a base for a pizza.
By adding some shredded cheese, pepperoni or salami, and some tomato sauce, you can have little pizzas ready on the go.
By using whole grain pita, you can add the necessary fiber to your lunches on the trail, which is always a bonus.
You may not think of an egg salad immediately when discussing day hike lunch ideas - but you probably should. When prepared properly, an egg salad can be one of the most delicious hiking lunch ideas out there.
Sure, you'll have to take some extra measures to keep your food cold - but it's worth it.
Just make it as you usually would at home. You essentially use the same basic ingredients:
Hard-boiled eggs, mustard, mayo, celery, and some salt and pepper.
It's one of those hiking lunches that you can pack in a ziplock bag, toss in your meal pack, and you've got a healthy lunch on the go. Plus, you can enjoy your salad with whole-grain crackers, pita bread, or in a tortilla wrap.
If you ask us, pasta is one of the greatest things ever invented. It's versatile, simple to make, fun, and so, so good.
There are many ways you can go about this hiking lunch idea:
You can opt for some delish smoked salmon or canned chicken as your sources of lean protein, and you have some complex carbohydrates in the pasta itself. Add some veggies to get fiber and vitamins, and make a quick olive-oil-based dressing of your choice, and you have a delicious meal in your hands.
The great thing about these fresh food day hike lunch ideas is that they are simple to make, can be consumed cold, and can be easily "refreshed" by adding some dressing right before devouring it.
Hiking Snacks For Your Day Hikes
We've discussed some lunch ideas for your next hike, but let's breeze through some snack ideas, as well. Everyone loves snacks, after all.
So, why not enjoy some while on the trail?
From trail mix and peanut butter to fresh veggies and fruits - here are the best snacks for your backpacking trip!
Fresh fruits and veggies - like any kind of fresh food - are a bit more difficult to bring with you on a hike since they could go bad easily.
That doesn't mean that you can't take them with you, though. You just need some extra prep work.
Apples go brown quickly after they've been cut open - which is pretty unappetizing. To prevent this, you can drizzle some lemon juice on your sliced apples. It will stop them from turning dark.
Apples are great because they can be paired with other foods or enjoyed on their own.
For a more nutritious snack, add some nut butter of your choice onto your slices - our vote goes to peanut and almond butter - and you'll feel your energy rising with each bite.
If you're looking for simple hiking lunch ideas, protein bars should be your go-to choice. While they aren't as fit to substitute a whole meal as meal bars are, they could still give you what you need on the trail - without much hassle.
The choices are many when it comes to flavors; you're sure to find some that you'll enjoy.
Peanut Butter Pretzels
We're huge fans of peanut butter and nut butter in general (as you might've noticed). So, we love any and all food ideas that include them, too.
That brings us to peanut butter pretzels:
They're a fun, quick, and nutritious snack - and a perfect hiking lunch addition.
If you want a dessert on the trail and you have access to a backpacking stove, try melting some dark chocolate and dipping the pretzels before you hit the trail.
Beef jerky is a staple hiking snack because it's so rich in protein and sodium, both of which are essential during strenuous hikes.
You can munch on the jerky on its own - or incorporate it into your hiking lunch for a complete meal.
Fresh or dried fruits are always a good choice, so don't miss out on some crunchy banana chips while you're on the trail. Find them pre-packaged in a healthy food store or make them at home - it doesn't really matter.
Bananas are a source of potassium, which is necessary for keeping normal levels of fluid within your cells. Not to mention that they're delicious and can be paired with so many other foods to make a healthy, nutritious dessert wherever you are.
Make an effort to pre-chop and package some fresh fruit; it will make a difference when you're hiking. They can be refreshing if you keep them cool - but even if they get a bit warm, it won't matter much. They'll still be just as healthy.
Chop some carrots, celery, and bell peppers and toss them into a ziplock bag to enjoy with some hummus, drizzled with a bit of olive oil on top.
It's one of the simplest day hike lunch ideas - and one that's bursting with nutrients, too!
Want to add some crunch to your hiking snacks? Bring some crackers with you - and to make things even better, get some whole-grain ones. They will ensure that you get the fiber that you need.
Crackers and cream cheese are the ultimate day hike lunch when you don't have time for a hot meal.
Trail mix is among some of the most popular hiking snacks out there - and for a good reason. It's easy, mess-free, practical, delicious, and downright nutritious.
You can buy pre-made mixes, or you can make your own blend that will be fully tailored to your preferences and tastes.
Usually, trail mix contains nuts and dried fruits, which is a staple combo for high energy levels, and rich in complex carbs.
Best Hiking Lunch Ideas: Conclusion
When it comes to great hiking lunch ideas, there are so many you can choose from here. It was our goal to give you some inspiration for your next hiking lunch - and ensure that you have what you need to nourish your body.
Freeze-dried meals are the go-to hiking food. They're a staple backpacking food choice, and they should find their way into your lunch pack.
Sandwiches are always a good idea, too, whether it's a sandwich in a bagel with tuna pouches, chicken, salmon, hummus, or an egg salad. Wraps could serve the same purpose for those who don't like bread all that much.
Oh, and if you're feeling particularly fancy, pasta salad can nourish you while being delicious.
Snacks are an important part of your hiking menu, so don't forget about them. Beef jerky, some shredded cheese, apples with peanut butter, banana chips, trail mix - take your pick.
Well, there it is. You now have your hiking lunch ideas, and you can move on to preparing some of your favorites for your future hiking trips.
We'll let you get down to it. Enjoy your hike!