Ultimate Guide to Hiking Snacks: Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

hiking snacks

Hiking can be a physically demanding activity requiring a lot of energy and stamina. Without proper fuel and nutrition, hikers may experience fatigue, hunger, and dehydration, hindering their performance and overall experience.

Have you ever felt fatigued, hungry, or dehydrated during a long hike? Do you struggle to find snacks that provide sustained energy and hydration to keep you going? Do you want to improve your performance and overall experience on your next hiking adventure?

Hiking Snacks

Hiking snacks are the perfect solution for outdoor enthusiasts looking for high-quality and nutritious snacks to take on their hikes. Snacks that are specially formulated to provide the necessary energy, nutrients, and hydration to support your body during long hikes and outdoor adventures are what you are looking for.

In the Past

The standard trail snack for many hikers was a jar of peanut butter. While peanut butter is still a popular choice, countless options are now available to hikers of all experience levels. From energy bars and jerky to dried fruits and nuts, there are many convenient and nutrient-dense snacks that are lightweight and easy to pack.

These options are delicious and provide the energy and sustenance needed for a long day on the trail. Additionally, more specialized dietary options are available, including vegan, gluten-free, and low-sugar options, catering to the needs of hikers with specific dietary requirements.

The days of just packing a jar of peanut butter as a trail snack are long gone, and there are now many exciting and tasty options for hikers to choose from.

Key Benefits of Snacks

Having good hiking snacks with you on a day hike is essential for several reasons:

Provides Energy

Hiking can be a strenuous activity that requires a lot of energy. Good hiking snacks can provide a quick energy source to help you maintain your stamina throughout the hike.

Prevents Hunger

Hiking can be a long and tiring activity, and preventing hunger from setting in is essential. Having snacks on hand can help you avoid feeling hungry and keep you fueled for the hike.

Hydration

Many hiking snacks also contain water and electrolytes that can help keep you hydrated, especially during hot and dry weather conditions.

Nutritional Value

Choosing good nutrient-dense hiking snacks can give your body the necessary nutrients and vitamins to help you feel good and maintain optimal health.

Boosts morale

A good snack can also boost morale during a long hike. It can help provide a much-needed break and a moment of enjoyment that can help you keep going. Having a good hiking snack with you on a day hike is essential for maintaining energy, preventing hunger, staying hydrated, providing nutrition, and boosting morale.

Great Hiking Snack Ideas

Many popular hiking snacks are nutritious, energy-boosting, and easy to carry on the trail. Here are a few healthy snack examples:

What snacks should you take with you on a hike?

Trail mix

Hiking Snacks

A classic hiking snack typically includes nuts, dried fruits, and sometimes chocolate or candy for an extra energy boost. Look for mixes with various nuts like almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. You can easily make your own trail mix; if you need to add chocolate, add dark chocolate chips.

Energy bar

Hiking Snacks

These bars are packed with protein, carbohydrates, and other nutrients that provide sustained energy and are available in various flavors and formulations. Try to find bars low in added sugars to keep from crashing later.

Jerky

Hiking Snacks

Turkey, chicken, or beef jerky are high in protein and low in fat, making them a popular and convenient snack for hikers. Just do not overdo it; jerky can be loaded with sodium—a great shelf-stable item.

Fresh fruit

Hiking Snacks

Bananas, apples, and oranges are popular hiking fruits as they are easy to carry, provide hydration, and contain natural sugars to boost energy.

Nut butter packets

Hiking Snacks

Portable packets of peanut butter, cashew butter, almond butter, or other nut butter items are convenient and provide a good source of protein and healthy fats—a great shelf-stable item.

Granola bars

Hiking Snacks

These bars are packed with nutrients and fiber, making them a good choice for hikers who need a quick energy boost—a great shelf-stable item.

Cheese

Hiking Snacks

Cheese is a good source of protein and fat, making it a filling and satisfying snack that can be carried on the trail. You can often find a cheese stick packaged with meat sticks, beef jerky, or other meats at your local grocery store.

Dried Fruit

Hiking Snacks

Dried fruit is lightweight, portable, and packed with nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It also provides a quick energy source and has a long shelf life without refrigeration. I love dried mango, but I tend to eat it all in the first mile, peanut butter pretzels too.

When it comes to choosing the best hiking snacks, it’s important to consider the nutrient balance they offer. A good hiking snack should provide a source of carbohydrates for energy, protein to help repair and rebuild muscles, and healthy fats to help sustain energy levels.

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for your body during physical activity, so it’s important to choose snacks that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fruits rather than simple sugars. Protein is also essential for repairing and building muscle tissue, which can help prevent soreness and fatigue during and after a hike.

Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and avocados, provide sustained energy and help keep you feeling full and satisfied. Choosing hiking snacks that balance these three macronutrients will help ensure you have the energy and nutrition you need for a successful hike.

Where to Find These Best Hiking Snacks

You can find healthy snacks for hiking, backpacking, or any other outdoor activity in many places. Here are some options:

  • Grocery stores: Most stores carry a variety of healthy snack options, including fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, trail mix, and granola bars. We love Trader Joe’s for ingredients to create our own snacks.
  • Health food stores: Health food stores often have a wider selection of healthy snack options, including organic and specialty items.
  • Online retailers: Many online retailers offer healthy snacks that can be shipped directly to your doorstep, such as dried fruits, jerky, and energy bars.
  • Farmer’s markets: Local farmer’s markets are a great place to find fresh, locally grown produce that can make for great hiking snacks.
  • Outdoor stores: Stores specializing in outdoor gear and equipment often carry a variety of hiking-specific snacks, such as energy gels and chews.

No matter where you choose to shop, be sure to read the ingredient labels and choose snacks that are low in added sugars and high in nutrients to ensure that you are getting the most out of your snacks. If you are looking for gluten-free or dairy-free items, they are becoming more widely available, especially online.

Packing your Favorite Hiking Snacks

When packing your favorite hiking snacks in your backpack, it’s important to consider their weight, size, and durability. Here are some tips on how to pack your hiking snacks effectively:

  • Choose lightweight, compact snacks that won’t take up too much space in your backpack.
  • Use resealable plastic bags or small Tupperware containers to keep your snacks organized and prevent them from getting crushed.
  • Consider packing snacks like dried fruit, nuts, and jerky that can withstand high temperatures and won’t melt.
  • Place heavier and denser snacks, like granola bars or trail mix, at the bottom of your backpack to distribute the weight evenly.
  • Pack enough snacks to last the entire hike, but be mindful of not overpacking to avoid carrying unnecessary weight.
  • Bring along a reusable water bottle or hydration system to stay hydrated to complement your snacks.

By following these tips, you can effectively pack your favorite hiking snacks in your backpack and ensure you have the fuel you need to enjoy your outdoor adventure.

Easily Made Homemade Hiking Snacks

If you like to know what is in your snacks, the best way is to make your own. The internet is full of easy recipes to make any of the following items and many more. So if you need a great hiking snack, try one of these:

Some of Our Favorite Snacks

Energy Balls / Energy Chews

Hiking Snacks

Energy balls are a popular snack typically made from a combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and other ingredients that provide a quick and convenient energy source and calorie-dense. The exact ingredients can vary depending on the recipe, but some common ingredients include dates, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, coconut, and spices. Protein bars work, too, but do not fair too well in warmer temperatures.

Oven Baked Cheese Crisps

Cheese crisps can be made from various kinds of cheese, including cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella. They can also be seasoned with herbs, spices, or other flavorings to enhance their taste. Some people even use cheese crisps as a substitute for crackers or chips in recipes like salads or dips.

They are a delicious and healthy snack option that can be enjoyed as a standalone snack or used in various recipes. They are easy to make, require minimal ingredients, and can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Fruit Leathers

Hiking Snacks

Fruit leathers are a great choice for hiking snacks because they are lightweight, compact, and provide a quick burst of energy. Made from pureed fruit that is dried until it becomes a chewy, flexible sheet, leathers are a convenient and healthy snack option that won’t weigh you down on the trail.

Banana Chips

Hiking Snacks

Banana chips are a great option for hikers looking for a tasty and nutritious snack that can quickly boost energy on the trail. These dried fruit chips are made by slicing bananas and then frying or dehydrating them until they become crispy and crunchy. Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates, which can help provide the energy needed to sustain long hikes.

Mixed Nuts

Hiking Snacks

Mixed nuts are a great choice for hikers looking for a filling and nutritious snack to help sustain their energy levels on the trail. Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts are high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber, which can help keep you full and satisfied for longer periods.

Mixed nuts are easy to pack and can be stored in a backpack or pocket without the risk of getting crushed or melted like some other snack options.

Fresh Veggies

Hiking Snacks

Fresh veggies are an excellent option for hikers looking for a nutritious and low-calorie snack that can help keep them energized and hydrated on the trail. Vegetables like carrots, cucumber, and cherry tomatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals are a good source of fiber, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer periods of time.

Homemade Granola Bars

Hiking Snacks

Granola bars are a great option for hikers looking for a tasty and nutritious snack that can provide sustained energy on the trail. These bars are typically made from a combination of oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and are often sweetened with natural sugar like honey or maple syrup.

Homemade granola bars are a great source of complex carbohydrates, which can provide sustained energy over long periods of time. They also contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied on the trail.

Hiking Snacks, We Do Not Recommend

Call us crazy, but I do not think packing candy bars or other chocolate bars is a good idea. A candy bar may seem like a quick and convenient snack option for hiking, but they are not an ideal choice for several reasons.

Hiking Snacks

Candy bars are typically high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and calories but low in essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. This can lead to a short-term burst of energy, followed by a sudden drop in energy levels, leaving you feeling tired and fatigued.

Additionally, candy bars can be heavy and take up a lot of space, making them less than ideal for packing in a backpack on a long hike. Depending on the climate and time of year, candy bars can also melt and become messy and unappetizing, making for an unpleasant hiking experience.

While candy bars can be a convenient and tasty snack option for occasional use, they are not the best choice for sustained energy and overall health during a long hiking trip. If you have a sweet tooth and must-pack chocolate bar, then at least grab a dark chocolate one.

Should you bring snacks with you on a hike?

Yes!

Bringing snacks with you on a hike is essential for several reasons. First and foremost, hiking can be physically demanding, and snacks provide the necessary energy and nutrients to keep your body going.

When you’re hiking, your body is burning calories, and replenishing them is essential to maintain optimal performance. Snacks provide a quick energy source and can help prevent fatigue, hunger, and dehydration, affecting your hiking experience.

Secondly, snacks can also help regulate your blood sugar levels. Hiking can cause fluctuations in blood sugar, which can lead to feelings of fatigue, weakness, and even dizziness. Snacks that are rich in complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy.

Bringing snacks with you on a hike is an excellent way to ensure you have the energy and nutrients needed to keep going and enjoy your hiking experience. Choosing healthy, energy-boosting snacks is essential to help you maintain optimal performance and stay hydrated throughout your journey.

Hazards from Lack of Nutrition on the Trail

Hiking Snacks

Dehydration

Dehydration can have various symptoms, which may vary depending on the severity of the condition. When hiking, it is essential to be aware of the signs of dehydration to prevent it from worsening. Some common signs of dehydration that can occur during hiking include:

  • Thirst: Feeling thirsty is the most common sign of dehydration. If you feel thirsty while hiking, it is a sign that your body needs more fluids.
  • Dry mouth and throat: When your body is dehydrated, your mouth and throat may feel dry and sticky.
  • Dark yellow urine: Dehydration can cause urine to become dark yellow or amber in color, indicating that the body is conserving fluids.
  • Headaches: Dehydration can cause headaches due to a lack of fluids to the brain.
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness: Dehydration can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Dehydration can lead to a lack of energy and fatigue.
  • Muscle cramps: Dehydration can cause muscle cramps and spasms, particularly in the legs and feet.

In severe cases, dehydration can lead to confusion, rapid heartbeat, and fainting. If any of these symptoms occur while hiking, it is essential to stop, rest, and rehydrate immediately.

Exhaustion

Being exhausted or tired on a hike can be bad for several reasons. Hiking is a physical activity that requires a lot of energy and stamina, and when you’re tired, it can affect your overall performance and experience. Here are some reasons why being tired on a hike can be problematic:

  • Increased risk of injury: When you’re tired, your reaction time slows down, and your coordination may be impaired, increasing your risk of falls and injuries.
  • Decreased motivation: Being tired can affect your motivation levels, and you may find it harder to push yourself to continue the hike. This can lead to a negative experience and may discourage you from going on future hikes.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Hiking often requires focus and attention to navigate the terrain, especially hiking in challenging terrain. Being tired can impair concentration and make staying focused on the trail harder.
  • Dehydration: When you’re tired, you may not feel like drinking enough fluids, leading to dehydration. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and muscle cramps, making it harder to continue the hike.
  • Risk of getting lost: When you’re tired, you may become disoriented and lose your sense of direction, increasing the risk of getting lost.

Being tired on a hike can negatively impact your experience and may increase the risk of injury and dehydration. It’s essential to listen to your body and take snack breaks to avoid fatigue and ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Low blood sugar

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia can be a significant issue while hiking because it can lead to several symptoms that can affect your hiking experience and safety. Blood sugar refers to the glucose level in your blood, which is the primary energy source for your body.

During hiking, your body constantly burns calories, and your blood sugar levels can drop quickly, especially if you’re hiking for an extended period or at a high intensity. When your blood sugar drops too low, it can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Fatigue: Low blood sugar can cause feelings of extreme tiredness, making it challenging to continue hiking.
  • Weakness: It can cause weakness in your muscles, making it harder to navigate difficult terrain or carry a heavy backpack.
  • Dizziness: Low blood sugar can cause dizziness and lightheadedness, increasing the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Confusion: It can cause confusion and difficulty thinking, making it harder to navigate the trail and stay on course.
  • Irritability: Low blood sugar can cause irritability and mood changes, affecting your overall hiking experience.

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels while hiking is essential by eating healthy, energy-boosting snacks and staying hydrated. Snacks that are rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats can help regulate blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy throughout the hike.

Drinking water and electrolyte-rich fluids can also help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate the symptoms of low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be a significant issue while hiking, and it’s crucial to take steps to maintain stable blood sugar levels.

How much food should I pack?

The amount of food you should take on a hike depends on several factors, including the duration of the hike, whether it is day hiking or backpacking, the intensity of the activity, and your personal dietary needs. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine how much food to take on a hike:

Plan for at least one meal and several snacks

Depending on the length of your hike, plan for at least one full meal and several snacks throughout the day. Snacks can help provide sustained energy and prevent hunger between meals.

Calculate your calorie needs

Calculate your estimated calorie needs based on your weight, activity level, and hike duration. Generally, plan to consume between 200-300 calories per hour of hiking.

Consider your personal dietary needs

If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, make sure to plan accordingly and bring food options that are safe and appropriate for you.

Pack lightweight, nutrient-dense foods

When packing food for a hike, choose lightweight, nutrient-dense foods that provide sustained energy and are easy to carry.

Bring extra food

It’s always a good idea to bring extra food in case your hike takes longer than expected or in case of emergencies.

The amount of food you should take on a hike varies depending on your individual needs and the length and intensity of your hike. Plan ahead, pack nutrient-dense foods, and bring extra in case of emergencies to ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.

Packing snack food for backpacking trips

When packing snack food for a backpacking trip, it’s important to choose lightweight and nutrient-dense options that won’t take up too much space in your backpack. Dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, jerky, and trail mix are all great options.

Portion your snacks into small, resealable bags or containers to make them easier to pack and access on the trail. Consider bringing a mix of sweet and savory snacks to keep things interesting.

Finally, make sure to pack your snacks in a convenient location in your backpack for easy access throughout the day; what you pack in, please pack out. Let’s all follow the Leave No Trace guidelines.

Final Thoughts

Healthy hiking snacks are a must-have for anyone planning a day hike or outdoor adventure. Hiking can be physically demanding and require a lot of energy and stamina, so it is essential to pack hiking snacks that will fuel your body with the right nutrients to maintain optimal performance.

Hiking snacks provide a source of energy, hydration, and essential nutrients that can help prevent fatigue, hunger, and dehydration, which can hinder your overall experience on the trail. By choosing nutritious, energy-boosting snacks, hikers can stay energized, hydrated, and focused on their journey, making for a more enjoyable and successful outdoor adventure.

So, be sure to create your own hiking snack list and pack healthy hiking snacks for your next hike to support your body and enhance your overall experience in the great outdoors.

See you on the trail!

Author

  • Patrick

    A co-founder of life in utopia, a online platform that celebrates outdoor activities and travel. Patrick is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys skiing, hiking and backpacking. When he's not exploring the natural world, Patrick loves spending time with his wife and two dogs.

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