Hiking Snacks: What To Eat To Fuel Yourself On The Trail

Hiking snacks

In many ways, hiking is a perfect passion. You can explore spectacular landscapes and enjoy being in nature while simultaneously giving yourself a workout. This makes the whole experience both fun and beneficial to your physical and mental health.

What you eat whilst hiking is crucial to your enjoyment and success when out on the trail. If you neglect food and ignore your bodily needs, then both enjoyment and your performance will suffer as a result.

That being said, no one wants to cram down a whole load of energy gel packets and protein bars throughout a hike. Though these can be beneficial, there are plenty of better hiking snacks to eat that aren’t quite so artificial.

Hiking snacks

What food groups are best for hiking?

You should be eating a mix of food groups when out hiking. Carbohydrates are going to provide you with that slow-burn energy to be released over many hours. Complex carbs are going to be most efficient at this — think whole grains or wholemeal, and food that is less starchy.

Next, you want to include some protein. This will help rebuild and grow your muscles. Don’t go overboard with protein because it can be hard to digest and doesn’t settle well if eaten excessively on the go.

Fats are the most energy-dense of your food options and can provide you with a real burst of power even when eaten in small quantities. The key is to go for healthy fats — such as seeds, nuts, and avocados — and not just a load of fast food.

Last, we have sugar. This is great for giving you a spike in blood sugar and rapid energy levels, but it’s quickly followed by a decline. You don’t want to eat too much sugar as it’s not particularly stable and you’ll find your energy levels shooting up then dropping you into fatigue not long after.

How often should I eat?

A good hiking day should begin with a substantial breakfast. Oatmeal/porridge or wholemeal toast with eggs and avocado should tick all the boxes for what your body needs. Coffee or tea for a little caffeine burst is no bad thing either.

When you hike, you burn energy. You’re breathing hard, your body is respiring, and you’re pumping blood to your muscles thus fuelling your body to get you to the top of that big hill!

The harder you work and the longer you hike, the more your energy reserves will deplete. Often if you wait until you feel hungry and fatigued, it’s already too late and your body will be desperate for some energy.

The way to combat this is to eat little and often. Hiking snacks should be taken on the go and in small portions throughout your hike. Often you don’t have time to stop and set up camp for lunch or to eat bigger meals during the day. Doing so can actually lead to you getting cramps so this habit is best avoided!

It’s better to graze your way through the day. Just make sure you start and end the hike with a more substantial meal to keep your total calorie intake balanced.

Energy bars
Cereal, trail and energy bars are great hiking snacks

What makes a good hiking snack?

Lightweight and compact: You’ll want to keep your backpack light and don’t need bulky items taking up valuable space. Lugging around cans or Tupperwares of food just isn’t practical.

Minimal packaging: You must leave no trace when enjoying the outdoors, which means all rubbish needs to be taken away with you. It’s best to bring hiking snacks that don’t use too much packaging.

Calories: Hiking is a fairly strenuous activity — particularly in the hills — and will draw on your body’s energy resources. This means that you’re going to want to pack hiking snacks that are calorie dense and will provide substantial energy.

Nutrition: You’ll want to consume complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats to keep your energy levels up while avoiding too much sugar.

Taste: Perhaps the most important thing — taste! A hiking snack is no good if you don’t enjoy eating it. Luckily, things like cereal bars and trail mix are delicious, nutritious, lightweight and compact.

How to store hiking snacks

When choosing your hiking snacks, a big thing to consider is how they will survive on the trail. You can’t pack perishables, as they will be ruined by a lack of refrigeration in no time.

The hiking snacks you choose should ideally be non-perishable items that can last in a backpack for a day or even a few days. Dried, powdered, and packaged foods are often your best bet. You’ll need to shop around a bit to find what you like and what works for you.

If you’ll be backpacking for a few days, it’s a good idea to pack your hiking snacks in easily accessible pockets so you don’t have to turn out all your clothes and sleeping bag to reach them. It’s worth separating them into individual storage bags in case there are any leaks or spills.

Trail mix while hiking

Good hiking snack examples

On your hike, you can pack granola bars, cereal bars, and trail bars. These bars are easy to store, and they are loaded with oats, nuts, fruit, and sometimes chocolate. They give you a nice dash of energy and taste great too.

Next, you can look at nuts such as pistachios, hazelnuts, peanuts, and walnuts. These are great examples of healthy fats that are calorific and energy-dense. Select raw nuts if you can and avoid nuts that have lots of added salt as this will only dehydrate you.

Dried fruit is another good option. Mangos, apricots, and raisins are all sugary and high in vitamins. They won’t squish and spoil like ordinary fruit either. Combine both fruit and nuts in a trail mix pouch to give you the ultimate hiking snack.

If you love sandwiches or want something more substantial, try to go for a wrap instead. It survives the rough life of a backpack much better than bread and is easier to consume on the go. A wholemeal wrap with jam and nut butter — such as almond or peanut butter — is both tasty and filling.

Some of my favourite hiking snacks include trail mix, apples, dark chocolate, cereal bars, flapjacks, malt loaf, dried fruit, mixed nuts, and wraps filled with nut butter and jam.

Nut butter and jam wraps
Nut butter and jam wraps are filling and delicious

Don’t forget about hydration

Although water is not technically a hiking snack, it is instrumental to your overall health and welfare on the trail. If you neglect hydration, you won’t make it far enough to consider what you want to eat anyway!

Always ensure you have at least 1.5 – 2 litres of water per person — more if you’re hiking in hot conditions. You can also make use of isotonic drinks or fruit squash if you want to get a little more sugar and vitamins from your drinks.

It’s a good idea to have a snack almost as often as you stop for a rest break. That way you’ll always be refuelled, hydrated, and ready to combat whatever the world has to throw at you.


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