We all love a good snack every now and again, regardless of where we are and what we're doing. Snacks lift us up, get us going, and give us a much-needed break amid a chaotic day. Essentially, snacks can often be our best friends.
The same thing applies to all hiking scenarios and outdoor adventures - whether you're going on a day hike or multi-day backpacking trips, hiking snacks simply have to have a spot in your backpack.
But that's easier said than done, right?
It's one thing to acknowledge that you need them, but to decide which hiking snacks you should bring with you is a whole different ordeal. And if you're as indecisive as we are, it may turn into a bit of a nightmare.
So, to prevent that from happening - and to make your planning and packing as enjoyable and hassle-free as possible - we're here to share our fave snacks for hiking and give you a rundown on everything hiking-snacks-related.
Oh, and we'll also share some of our go-to tips regarding eating on the trail to ensure that your body is given proper fuel while.
With that said, let's jump into the world of the best hiking snacks!
Hiking And Food: Tips For Your Outdoor Adventure
As we promised, we'll briefly share some of the tips we find to be essential in terms of eating on the trail since how you eat is intrinsically connected to what you eat.
You're probably already familiar with this particular tip since it applies to hiking in general, but we'll cover it in the context of food here.
How Much Should You Take?
Depending on how long or short your hike is, you'll need more or less food; that part is obvious enough.
Now, when it comes to shorter day-hikes, packing your food usually isn't a problem. You won't need that much of it - and your backpack isn't buried in other hiking gear, anyway.
Multi-day backpacking trips, however, require more food, more backpack room, and carry more weight. That's where planning comes into play.
You obviously want to ensure that you bring the right amount of snacks and be certain that you won't run out of food. On that note, you can use the online calculators made specifically to help you determine how much food you'll need.
They consider the necessary factors such as your sex, weight, the intensity of the hike, the length, and how many calories you'll burn to give you the amount of food you'll require.
Sure, the results sometimes need fine-tuning and adjusting - but they are great for giving you a general idea of how much food you'll need.
Which Food Should You Take?
As far as what kind of food you should take with you, you'll have to consider a couple of things.
Hiking is exhausting; it requires a lot of energy - and you can get real hungry real quick. That means that you will need food that'll give you a quick energy boost - and allow you to carry on with your hike.
Besides, you'll be burning a lot of calories, meaning that you'll have to consume more, as well.
The food you bring must be diverse, calorie-dense, and give you the necessary nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins.
How Should You Pack Hiking Snacks?
Another thing to pay attention to would be how you pack your food. Making smart choices in this department will add to the freshness, taste, and "practicality" of your snacks, so it's our advice to make an effort.
Ziplock bags are a great idea for your trail mix or other homemade snacks that aren't too runny or soft. On the flip side, Tupperware can help you store sandwiches, fruit snacks for hiking, and fresh fruit that's generally much more prone to smooshing and dripping.
Where you place your food is also important:
You want the hiking snacks to be readily available instead of rummaging through your backpack to get to them.
You should always get acquainted with the trail from the comfort of your own home first. Many national parks offer trail info, so that shouldn't be difficult.
And as part of that, you should also determine where the best spots to have a meal are. Usually, there are designated areas along the trail where you can sit and enjoy your meal - but we're not talking about those here.
You should plan your meals so that they align with the trail dynamics.
There are more challenging and demanding parts of a trail - and then there are the more "laid back" ones. You can utilize the easier parts to fuel your body and get ready for what's to come.
Sure, you can eat an energy bar even on the more difficult parts of the trail - but that should be a quick snack to keep your blood sugar levels up, not a full-on meal.
Allow Yourself To Indulge
It's great to be mindful of the nutritional value of your meals and hiking snacks and pick them according to what they can do for your body.
But you shouldn't be too strict with that.
Yes, the majority of your food should be nutritious and serve a purpose - but don't try too hard to steer clear of the "unhealthy" snacks. Treat yourself every once in a while.
If you have a sweet tooth or enjoy a bag of chips every now and then, it's fine to have some on the trail. If you know that the other foods and hiking snacks you have with you will fuel your body properly, there's no reason why you shouldn't make yourself happy and have a chocolate bar (or two) on the trail, too.
Balance is the key; don't forget that!
Enjoy Your Food
It's safe to assume that you won't be having gourmet meals on the trail, so the visual aspect of food is out of the picture. And for those who enjoy food "aesthetically," as well, that can be a bit of a drawback.
That's why we need to compensate.
Make sure that the food you pack is something you generally enjoy eating, rather than forcing yourself to eat foods that you know are nutritious, but you don't really like.
In other words, hiking trips aren't the place for food experimenting.
If you bring something that you end up hating, you risk being a meal short, which can seriously affect the success of your hike.
Beware Of Hiker's Hunger
We've established that hiking is a strenuous activity that burns loads of calories. That may lead to you getting hungry much quicker - and much, much more than you normally would.
Plus, it's easy to forget to eat - or even put off eating because it can seem inconvenient at times - which could only increase your hunger.
So, we want to stress that eating should absolutely be a priority on the trail, not only because it will make your hike easier but also because it'll keep you safe and healthy.
Skipping meals on the trail is the worst thing you could do. So, we'd advise you not to test this theory; just trust our advice.
Best Hiking Snacks To Keep Your Energy Levels Up
Now that we've gone over some of the salient tips regarding food and hiking, we can move on to our main topic - the best hiking snacks.
We'll try to give you a diverse list so that you can find something that'll fit your preferences - and the preferences of those accompanying you on your outdoor adventure.
We'll start off with a staple hiking snack - trail mix.
The reason this one belongs to the majority of hiker's favorite hiking snacks list is that it is every bit as nutritious and delicious as it is simple.
Trail mix is basically a mix of different types of nuts and dried fruits. Some people like to add other ingredients - like candy - to it. Others like to throw some pumpkin seeds into it, too. But the basic recipe contains just the two.
Many pre-packaged ones are readily available for purchase, but you could also make your own trail mix and customize your hiking snack to your tastes and preferences.
People typically add peanuts, almonds, cashews, or hazelnuts as their nut options, with dried fruit, such as raisins, pineapple, cranberries, banana chips, plums, and apricots.
If your little ones will join you on a hike, you can also add M&M's or chocolate chips to make them more inclined to eat some. Be careful about the chocolate melting, though; the last thing you want is a chocolate-covered backpack!
An energy bar is a great option for a quick energy boost on the trail since it's pre-packaged and pre-portioned. All you have to do is unwrap it - and dig in.
But what are energy bars, though?
Well, these bars are generally filled with oats, nuts, seeds, and granola, which makes for a quick source of energy. What is great about these hiking snacks is that they usually don't contain any added sugar.
However, not all energy bars are equally good for you.
So, if you have certain dietary restrictions, make sure that you read the ingredients list before buying one. Many are advertised as healthy - but can still contain refined sugar.
If you're strict about what's in your bars (and how much of it), you can make your own; there are many recipes you can try. Sure, it will take a bit more time and require some effort, but it's worth it for some.
While we're on the topic, we'd like to add protein bars to the list, as well.
Many people use "energy" and "protein bars" synonymously - but there are actually a few key differences to be noted here.
Protein bars have loads of macronutrients and are fantastic for satiating hunger. As such, they are great for people who enjoy intense physical activity. They are also packed with ingredients that support your body in the process of exercise - and recovery.
These bars also contain oats, nuts, and other similar ingredients - but protein bars are actually meal replacement bars, meaning they'll keep you full for longer periods of time. Energy bars are meant to give you short energy boosts; they cannot replace meals.
Okay, we're still sticking to the "bars" category of the best hiking snacks. Here, we have granola bars.
They are similar to the previous two in terms of the ingredients. They usually contain oats and dried fruits, as well as nuts. Unfortunately, the store-bought ones usually contain high levels of sugar.
That's why we'd recommend that you make your granola bars. You'll have healthy hiking snacks with hand-picked ingredients.
For example, if you have high blood sugar, substituting white sugar with a low glycemic index alternative will make your granola bar the perfect treat.
Homemade granola bars also allow you to choose which dried fruit you want to include and if you wish to add dark chocolate chips, for instance.
Energy balls are essentially energy bars - but in a different form. Some people like to use dates to sweeten them; others use maple syrup or other natural sweeteners and add dried fruit and oats.
Sometimes, the texture can be different, too. People can also use ground nut flour or oat flour to get a smoother texture.
The main difference is the serving size, which makes them good to munch on throughout your hike.
Beef jerky's another favorite among hikers - and people in general. The reason? It's tasty, loaded with protein, and rich in sodium.
If you want to get the most out of it, though, you probably won't be able to walk into the local grocery store and get whichever one you lay your hands on first.
You see, most brands put their jerky through so much processing and flavor enhancement that it ends up losing most of its nutrients.
So, don't be lazy. Do some research to find the favorite beef jerky brands of experienced hikers; you'll be thanking them on your next hike.
Now, let's address the sodium:
We're taught that too much salt is bad for us and that we should steer clear of processed foods that contain too much of it. So, how come it's not so bad here?
Well, when you're hiking or doing any strenuous, physically demanding activities, you're bound to sweat. And through sweat, we lose water and electrolytes - which need to be replaced. That's where sodium comes in.
So, yes, you should consume sodium in moderation in everyday life - but a hiking snack with a higher sodium content can be beneficial for you.
Another thing you should beware of is meat sticks:
Beef jerky is made of whole-muscle, lean cuts of beef that are cooked and dehydrated, and most of the fat is removed before cooking.
Beef sticks, on the other hand, are made of chopped and mixed meat that's pushed into casings. So, essentially, meat sticks can contain other nutrients and ingredients than just beef protein.
Either way, beef and turkey jerky are calorie-dense snacks that could get you going in no time - while also giving you the necessary protein.
We all know that fresh fruits are healthy snacks, and they're a crowd favorite for a good reason, too. They're sweet, tasty, and contain the right dosage of nutrients that will get you through to your next meal.
Plus, they contain natural sugar - fructose - which is much healthier than refined sugar found in sweets from grocery stores.
However, carrying fresh fruits may not sound like the most practical of choices since they have a tendency to go bad relatively quickly - and make a mess in your backpack. Making homemade fruit snacks beforehand can be a great alternative, though.
Add some nut butter - along with dark chocolate or some coconut shreds - to your fresh fruit of choice, and you'll get a great hiking snack to take with you on your next hike.
Fruit leathers also rank high among favorite snacks for hikers.
They're essentially the fruit equivalent of beef jerky. There are plenty of recipes available online if you want to make this delicious - and energizing - treat.
Now that you know what to do with your fresh fruit, we can move on to dried fruit. You have so many options here:
Eat them on their own - or add them to a hiking snack that we've previously mentioned.
Whether it's dried mango, dried cranberries, dates, apricots, apples, or any other fruit, you will certainly be able to find a good use for it on your hiking trip.
Here's another plus:
Dried fruit can sometimes taste better than the fresh fruit version. You might like the dried version of a fruit that you don't normally eat - so feel free to experiment.
Nut butter is a staple in the fitness world, primarily due to its versatility and nutritional value. Not to mention, it's absolutely delicious!
The number of different options you'll find in your local grocery store is another bonus.
Almond butter is a great snack for those who enjoy the more bitter nut flavor - and it pairs well with berries, for example.
Peanut butter doesn't need any introduction here; it's probably one of the most well-loved nut butters out there. Make some classic PB&J sandwiches, pair them with bananas or strawberries, or use them in one of your protein bars or energy balls; it's up to you.
Nuts will be your best friends, whether you're making a trail mix or a homemade version of a granola bar and want to add some crunch.
Some people aren't fans of nut butter texture and prefer to get the benefits from the raw nuts instead.
Either way, nuts are a wonderful source of healthy fats, meaning they'll give you some energy - without the negative side effects.
Add mixed nuts to your trail mix - or opt for just one kind that you prefer. It doesn't matter - as long as you include them in your snack repertoire.
One of the tips we shared with you earlier is that you shouldn't run away from candy bars on your hiking trips. There's no harm in enjoying a chocolate bar if you supply your body with enough nutrients through other foods and hiking snacks.
There are plenty of options in this category, and we're willing to bet that you already have your favorites.
Chocolate bars aren't just good for you mentally. Besides giving you an endorphin boost, they'll also boost your energy levels.
And if you have low blood sugar or suffer from diabetes, having a chocolate bar on hand can be quite useful.
Wait, what's the difference between candy bars and chocolate bars?
We usually use the terms synonymously - but there's a slight difference, after all.
You see, the main ingredient in candy bars is sugar (shocking, huh?), and in chocolate, it's cocoa. Granted, they're essentially pretty similar - and they both contain high levels of sugar.
When we think of cheese, we don't really think "healthy." Cheese gets a bad rep for no reason, though.
Sure, if you overeat, you might experience some negative health side effects, but in moderation, cheese can actually be pretty beneficial for you:
Cheese is a source of healthy fats, so you can enjoy it without guilt, as long as you don't overdo it - or are lactose intolerant, in which case... you probably shouldn't eat it at all. (We know you'll still eat some; the taste is so worth it.)
One way to incorporate cheese into your hiking menu is to make one of our favorite snacks - oven-baked cheese crisps. They're super-easy to make, they're (somewhat) healthy, and mouth-wateringly delicious.
If you're looking for a rich, shelf-stable source of protein, tuna is the way to go. You can make so many delicious snacks with it, use it in salads (if you're in the mood for a proper meal), or make dips to munch on with some crackers and veggies.
You can also make tuna melt sandwiches - another one of our favorites.
One thing we must warn you about here is the level of mercury found in canned tuna. You should eat it in limited amounts to avoid mercury poisoning. Don't worry, though; you have to consume a lot of it pretty much every day to actually get affected.
Good Hiking Snacks: Conclusion
You likely opened this guide wanting to see a hiking snack list and get inspired for an upcoming hike - so we tried our best to give you just that, plus some handy tips.
We shared some of our favorite snacks, including energy, protein, and granola bars, trail mix - a classic snack for hiking - and beef jerky.
Moreover, we wanted to inspire you to try some homemade snacks, like fresh fruit snacks for hiking paired with peanut butter and chocolate - a combo that is bound to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Oh, and don't forget the oven-baked cheese crisps, either!
We also discussed the benefits of dried fruits and nuts - be it in the form of nut butter or raw.
And hopefully, we've given you enough ideas regarding what you can take with you the next time you hit the trail to make sure that you have something nutritious and tasty to munch on while hiking.
Now, we'll let you get to packing. Have fun!