Hiking can be an incredibly rewarding hobby – and a great way to see the National Parks. A successful day hiking relies on a few things – a well researched trail plan, proper trail safety and proper nutrition. Day hiking foods are a crucial component to a great hike.
In this article I’ll cover:
- What to eat and what not to eat before a hike
- Day hiking snacks and lunch ideas
- Proper nutrition considerations for hiking food
- Safety tips for hiking foods
What to Eat Before a Hike
Some of the worst hikes I’ve been on were hikes where I hadn’t properly fueled prior to setting out. This happens to me most frequently during sunrise hikes.
It’s critically important to have a proper meal before you hike, and also to have a proper meal the night before.
Breakfast Before Hiking
When planning for a hike, it’s important to fuel your body with the right foods to provide the energy you need to sustain physical activity.
Make breakfast non-negotiable. You need consistent fuel in your body in order to have a safe and enjoyable hike.
Breakfast before hiking should consist of lean protein, complex carbs and healthy fats.
Lean protein is an important component of a balanced diet, and it provides many benefits for hikers.
- Muscle Repair and Growth: Protein is essential for repairing and building muscle tissue, which is important for hikers who need to support their body during strenuous physical activity.
- Improved Endurance: Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, which means it provides a steady source of energy during a hike.
- Satiety: Protein is more satiating than carbohydrates or fat, which means it helps you feel fuller for longer. This is important for hikers who need to maintain energy levels during a long hike.
Some good sources of lean protein to consume before a hike include eggs, Greek yogurt, protein shakes, chicken or turkey breast, fish, tofu, and beans. It’s important to choose lean sources of protein to avoid consuming too much saturated fat, which can lead to digestive issues and sluggishness during a hike.
Complex carbohydrates are a great source of energy and have many benefits for hikers.
- Energy: Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly than simple carbs, which means they provide a more sustained source of energy.
- Increased Muscle Glycogen For Endurance: Complex carbohydrates provide a steady stream of glucose to the body, which can help prevent the “bonking” sensation that occurs when your glycogen stores become depleted. Glycogen is stored in your muscles, which can help improve endurance during a hike.
Some good sources of complex carbohydrates to consume before a hike include whole-grain bread, oatmeal, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, and fruits such as bananas, apples, and berries.
Healthy fats are an essential component of a balanced diet, and they provide many benefits for hiking.
- Sustained Energy: Healthy fats are a great source of energy for hikers. Unlike simple carbohydrates, which can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, healthy fats provide sustained energy that can help you power through your hike.
- Improved Endurance: Consuming healthy fats before a hike can help improve endurance and reduce the risk of fatigue. Fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates, which means they provide a slow and steady source of energy.
- Enhanced Brain Function: Fats are important for brain health and function. Consuming healthy fats before a hike can help improve focus, concentration, and mental clarity.
- Reduced Inflammation: Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish and nuts, have anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming these healthy fats before a hike can help reduce inflammation in the body and prevent soreness or stiffness in muscles and joints.
Some good sources of healthy fats to consume before a hike include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, fatty fish, and nut butters.
Remember to also drink plenty of water before your hike to ensure your body is properly hydrated.
What should you not eat before hiking?
When planning for a hike, it’s important to avoid foods that can cause digestive issues or energy crashes. Here are some foods to avoid before hiking:
- Sugary Foods: Sugary foods such as candy, soda, or pastries can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels followed by a crash, which can leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued during a hike.
- Greasy Foods: Greasy or fatty foods such as burgers, fries, or pizza can take a long time to digest and may cause digestive issues or discomfort during a hike.
- Spicy Foods: Spicy foods such as hot peppers or curries can cause digestive issues or heartburn during a hike.
- High-Fiber Foods: While fiber is important for digestive health, consuming high-fiber foods such as beans, broccoli, or whole grains before a hike can cause digestive discomfort or bloating.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol before a hike can dehydrate the body and impair judgment, balance, and coordination, which can increase the risk of accidents or injuries during a hike.
It’s important to choose foods that are easy to digest and provide sustained energy during a hike. Focus on consuming complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats to fuel your body for the physical activity ahead.
Best Day Hike Foods
When planning food for a day hike, it’s important to bring foods that are easy to carry, easy to digest, and provide sustained energy.
Should You Eat While Hiking?
It’s important to eat while hiking to provide your body with the necessary fuel to maintain energy levels during a long hike.
Consuming food while hiking also helps replenish your body’s glycogen stores, which can help prevent fatigue and improve your endurance.
When hiking, it’s best to eat small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day rather than larger meals. This helps to regulate blood sugar levels and provide a steady source of energy.
Aim to consume a mix of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats to fuel your body.
It’s also important to stay hydrated while hiking, so be sure to bring plenty of water or hydration drinks and consume them regularly throughout the day.
The general rule of thumb is to divide the total miles hiked by 2 in order to know approximately how many liters of water to consume. For example, a 6 mile hike requires at least 3 liters of water.
What is the best food to eat while hiking?
As long as you’re getting a balance of complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats, and you are not consuming greasy or fried food, just about any food is great for hiking.
Foods that don’t require a lot of prep, aren’t messy and can easily be eaten without utensils are the most convenient hiking foods.
Best Foods for Hiking In The Heat
The best foods for hiking in the heat are foods that are easy to digest, hydrating, and provide sustained energy.
- Water-rich Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, cucumbers, grapes, and berries can help keep you hydrated and provide a refreshing snack on a hot day.
- Electrolyte-rich Beverages: Electrolyte-rich beverages such as sports drinks, coconut water, or electrolyte tablets can help replenish your body’s electrolytes lost through sweating, which is especially important during hot weather.
It’s important to avoid heavy, high-fat, and high-protein foods that can be difficult to digest in hot weather, as they can cause bloating, cramping, and indigestion.
Instead, choose light, refreshing, and hydrating foods that can help support hydration and energy levels during a hot hike. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of water throughout the hike to stay hydrated.
Considerations When Planning Day Hiking Foods
When planning day hiking food, there are several considerations to keep in mind to ensure that you have the right balance of nutrients to fuel your body during your hike.
Distance & Duration: How long will you be hiking? Longer trips will require more food. If your hike starts after a meal, like breakfast, you can bring less food on your hike.
Elevation Gain: Not all hikes are created equal. Similar to distance and duration, you’ll want to consider the elevation gain of your hike. A flat 15 mile hike will require less energy than a 7 mile hike with 4,500 feet of elevation gain. Be prepared for how strenuous the trail is and pack your hiking food accordingly.
Nutrient-Density: Choose foods that are nutrient-dense, meaning they provide a high amount of nutrients relative to their calorie content. This includes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Portability: Choose foods that are easy to transport and consume on the go. This includes items such as energy bars, trail mix, sandwiches, and fruits that are easy to carry and eat. Items that are not easily portable include things that require refrigeration or are easily squashed, scrambled or spilled.
Digestibility: Choose foods that are easy to digest and won’t cause stomach discomfort during the hike. Avoid heavy, high-fat, or high-protein meals that can be difficult to digest and cause indigestion or bloating.
Convenience: Pack hiking foods that are convenient to eat and do not require much prep, like heating, cutting, peeling etc. Foods that need to be heated mean you’ll have to bring additional gear, like a jetboil. Anything requiring cutting will also mean more gear to pack and carry. If possible, peel fruit prior to hiking so you don’t have to carry out the peel after you’ve eaten.
Weight & Size: Choose hiking foods that do not weigh too much and are not bulky. This will allow you to have a lighter pack and move more easily, as well as save space in your hiking backpack. If you do choose to bring with heavier or bulkier foods for your hike plan to eat those first.
Hydration: Bring enough water and hydration drinks to stay hydrated throughout the hike. Dehydration can cause fatigue, muscle cramps, and dizziness. If you’ll have access to drinkable water on your hike you can carry less water with you and plan to refill throughout the day.
Temperature: Consider the temperature and weather conditions when choosing foods. In hot weather, choose foods that are refreshing and hydrating, like watermelon or berries. In cold weather, choose foods that are warm and satisfying, like soup in a thermos or a wrap.
Clean Up: Some foods are incredibly messy and aren’t suited well for hiking. Avoid messy foods, like Spaghetti, that require a lot of clean up.
Dietary Restrictions: Consider any dietary restrictions or allergies when choosing hiking food. Make sure to pack food that meets your dietary needs and preferences.
By considering these factors, you can plan a balanced and nutritious hiking food that will provide the energy and nutrients your body needs to perform at its best during the hike.
How much water for a day hike?
The amount of water you need for a day hike depends on several factors, such as the temperature, humidity, altitude, and intensity of the hike, as well as your body weight, age, and fitness level.
As a general guideline, it’s recommended to drink half a liter of water per mile hiked. Of course, this will change based on the intensity of the hike, the climate, and your personal fitness level.
For example, on a 4 mile hike you may need to drink 2 to 3 liters (64 to 96 ounces) of water, depending on the conditions. If the weather is hot or humid, or if you are hiking at high altitude, you may need to drink more water to stay hydrated.
It’s important to start hydrating before the hike and continue drinking water throughout your hike, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Thirst is not a reliable indicator of hydration, and by the time you feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated.
In addition to water, you can also drink other hydrating fluids such as sports drinks, coconut water, or electrolyte tablets to replenish the body’s electrolytes lost through sweating.
Be sure to also bring enough water for any pets or hiking companions and plan to refill your water supply if necessary.
How much water for a 7 mile hike
For a 7 mile hike you’ll want to drink at least 3.5 liters of water.
How much water for 10 mile hike
For a 10 mile hike you’ll want to drink at least 5 liters of water.
Ultimate List of Hiking Snacks
Here is an ultimate list of hiking snacks to choose from!
1. Energy bars (granola bars, protein bars)
Energy bars are a popular hiking snack because they are portable, convenient, and provide a quick source of energy. They come in a variety of flavors and are made with different ingredients such as nuts, seeds, oats, and dried fruits. However, some energy bars may contain added sugars or artificial ingredients, so it’s important to read labels carefully and choose ones that fit your nutritional needs.
My favorite energy bars are Think!
2. Jerky (beef, turkey, or vegan options)
Jerky is a great choice for hiking food because it is high in protein and portable. It is made by drying and curing meat, typically beef or turkey, to remove moisture and extend shelf life. Jerky can be made with various spices and flavors, but it can also be high in sodium, so it’s important to choose brands with lower sodium content.
My favorite jerky is Archer.
3. Crackers (whole grain or rice)
Crackers are a versatile hiking snack that can provide a source of carbohydrates and fiber. Whole grain or rice crackers can be paired with tuna, nut butter or cheese for added protein and flavor. However, some crackers may be high in sodium and added sugars, so it’s important to read labels and choose healthier options.
These gluten free Norwegian crispbread crackers from Trader Joes are my favorite.
4. Energy gels or chews
Energy gels are a convenient and quick source of carbohydrates and electrolytes for hikers. They come in small, portable packets and can be consumed on-the-go without the need for chewing. However, they may be high in added sugars and some people may find the texture unappealing, so it’s important to try different brands and flavors to find ones that work for you.
Energy chews are another portable and convenient source of carbohydrates and electrolytes for hikers. They are small, chewy gummies that can be consumed during breaks or while hiking. They may be easier to digest than energy bars or gels and come in a variety of flavors.
Honey Stinger sells several types of gels and chews, and the pink lemonade flavor is my favorite.
Pretzels are a crunchy and salty hiking food that can provide a source of carbohydrates and sodium. They are easy to pack and can be paired with nut butter or cheese for added protein and flavor.
6. Yogurt & granola
Yogurt and granola is a delicious and nutritious hiking snack that can provide a good source of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Greek yogurt is a great option for hikers as it is thicker and contains more protein than regular yogurt. Granola adds crunch and flavor to the yogurt while also providing additional carbohydrates and fiber.
If you pack yogurt on your hike plan to consume it first so you don’t have to worry about keeping it cool.
7. Candy & sweets
Candy can be a quick source of energy for hikers, as it is high in sugar and provides a fast boost of glucose. However, it should not be relied upon as the primary source of energy during a hike as it can cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash. Candy should be consumed in moderation and paired with other snacks that provide sustained energy.
My go-to hiking sweets are snickers, sour patch kids or skittles.
8. Energy balls
Energy balls are a popular hiking snack that are easy to make at home and provide a source of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. They are typically made with dates, nuts, seeds, and other ingredients that are rolled into small balls that are easy to eat on the trail.
Energy balls can be customized to fit different dietary needs and preferences, such as vegan, gluten-free, or low sugar. They are a convenient and portable snack that can be stored in airtight containers and taken on-the-go during hikes.
These no bake energy bites recipes are my favorite – especially the monster cookie and apple pie flavors.
9. Chex Mix
Chex mix is a crunchy and savory hiking food that can provide a source of carbohydrates and fiber. It is typically made with a mix of different Chex cereals, pretzels, and nuts, and can be seasoned with various spices and flavors. Homemade Chex mix can also be made with healthier ingredients and seasonings to fit individual dietary needs and preferences.
Personally, I’m a sucker for Muddy Buddy Chex Mix, even if it isn’t the healthiest option.
10. Electrolyte Supplements
Electrolyte supplements are a convenient way to replace lost electrolytes during hiking or other physical activities. They come in the form of powders, tablets, or liquids and are typically added to water or other beverages. Electrolyte supplements can provide a quick and efficient source of electrolytes without the added sugars and artificial ingredients found in some sports drinks. However, it’s important to choose a supplement that is appropriate for your individual needs and to follow the recommended dosage instructions. It’s also important to drink enough water along with electrolyte supplements to maintain proper fluid balance in the body.
Gluten Free Hiking Food
11. Trail mix (nuts, seeds, dried fruits) or GORP
Trail mix is a classic hiking food that is easy to make and customize with a variety of ingredients. It typically includes a mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and sometimes chocolate or other sweets.
Trail mix provides a source of protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber, making it a satisfying and energizing snack for hikers. It is also lightweight and easy to pack, making it a convenient snack to take on hikes.
The Omega Trek Mix from Trader Joes is a great store-bought option.
12. Fresh fruit
Fresh fruit is a healthy and refreshing hiking food that provides a source of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber on a hike! It can help replenish energy and hydration levels during long hikes, especially in hot weather.
Some good options for hiking snacks include portable and easy-to-eat fruits like apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, and berries. However, fresh fruit can be heavy and perishable, so it’s important to pack it carefully and consume it within a few hours.
It’s also important to be mindful of waste and pack out any leftover fruit scraps.
13. Nut butter packets (peanut, almond, or sunflower seed butter)
Nut butter packets are a convenient and portable hiking snack that provide a source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber.
They are typically made with natural and wholesome ingredients, such as peanuts, almonds, or cashews, and are available in single-serving packets that can be easily carried in a backpack.
Nut butter packets can be eaten alone or spread on crackers, rice cakes, or fruit for added energy and nutrition during hikes. However, some brands may contain added sugars and oils, so it’s important to read labels and choose healthier options.
14. Cheese (hard cheese like cheddar or manchego)
Cheese is a tasty and nutritious hiking snack that provides a source of protein, calcium, and healthy fats. It can be easily sliced or cubed and packed in a cooler or insulated bag for day hikes or overnight trips. Some good options for hiking include hard cheeses like cheddar, gouda, manchego, or parmesan, which can withstand heat and are less likely to spoil. Soft cheeses like brie or goat cheese can also be enjoyed on shorter hikes or in cooler weather. However, it’s important to be mindful of food safety and pack cheese in a way that prevents it from getting too warm or contaminated.
15. Beef or turkey sticks
Beef and turkey sticks are a protein-rich hiking snack that can help keep hikers fueled and satisfied on the trail. They are typically made with lean cuts of beef or turkey and are seasoned with spices for added flavor.
Beef and turkey sticks are portable, easy to pack, and do not require refrigeration, making them a convenient snack option for hiking. They are also low in carbohydrates and provide a good source of protein, which can help prevent muscle breakdown and aid in muscle recovery.
However, some brands may contain added preservatives, sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients, so it’s important to read labels and choose healthier options.
My favorite turkey sticks are the free range turkey ones from Chomps!
16. Fruit leather or fruit snacks
Fruit leather is a chewy and sweet hiking snack that is made from pureed fruits that have been dried and flattened into thin sheets.
Fruit snacks are a sweet and fruity hiking snack that can provide a quick source of energy and carbohydrates on the trail. They are typically made with fruit juice concentrates and can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors, such as gummies, strips, or bites.
Fruit leather and fruit snacks are lightweight, easy to pack, and do not require refrigeration, making them a convenient snack option for hiking.
Some good options for fruit leather include brands that are made with natural and organic ingredients and have no added sugars or preservatives. However, it’s important to be mindful of waste and pack out your wrappers.
Popcorn is a lightweight and crunchy hiking snack that provides a source of carbohydrates and fiber. It can be easily packed in a resealable bag or container and enjoyed on the trail.
Popcorn is a healthier alternative to many other salty and crunchy snacks like chips or crackers, as long as it is not heavily buttered or salted.
Some good options for hiking include air-popped popcorn, popcorn that is lightly seasoned with herbs and spices, or popcorn that is made with healthier oils like olive or coconut oil.
Nuts are a great hiking snack that provide a good source of healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They can be eaten on their own or combined with other hiking snacks like dried fruit, chocolate, or granola.
My favorite nuts for hiking are almonds, walnuts, cashews and peanuts.
Olives are a flavorful hiking snack that provide a source of healthy fats and antioxidants. They can be easily packed in a small container and enjoyed on the trail. Trader Joes sells single serve packages which are perfect for hiking.
20. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are a nutritious hiking snack that provide a good source of protein, healthy fats, and essential minerals like magnesium, zinc, and potassium. You lose potassium while sweating so replenishing during your hike is important.
Pumpkin seeds can be roasted and seasoned with herbs and spices, or combined with other hiking snacks like dried fruit or chocolate.
21. Coconut chips or strips
Coconut chips or strips are a tasty hiking snack made of baking thin slices of coconut. They provide a good source of healthy fats, fiber, and essential minerals like iron and magnesium. Coconut chips or strips can be eaten on their own, or combined with other hiking snacks like nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate.
22. Protein powder packets
Protein powder packets are a convenient hiking snack that can help boost your protein intake on the trail. They come in various flavors and can be mixed with water or your preferred beverage to make a quick and easy protein shake.
Protein powder packets are lightweight and compact, making them easy to pack in your backpack. They are also a great option for hikers who may have dietary restrictions or prefer plant-based protein sources.
23. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a nutritious and tasty hiking snack that provides a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. It’s also lightweight and easy to pack, making it a popular choice for hikers.
Dried fruit can be enjoyed on its own, or combined with other hiking snacks like nuts, seeds, or chocolate.
It’s also important to choose dried fruit that is free of added sugars and sulfites, which can cause digestive issues for some people.
24. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is a delicious and nutritious hiking snack that provides a good source of antioxidants and healthy fats. It also contains caffeine, which can help boost your energy levels on the trail.
Additionally, dark chocolate can be enjoyed on its own, or combined with other hiking snacks like nuts, dried fruit, or coconut chips. It’s also important to choose high-quality dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids and low amount of added sugars to get the most health benefits.
25. Rice cakes
Rice cakes are a popular hiking snack that are low in calories, fat, and sugar. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, which can provide sustained energy on the trail.
Rice cakes can be enjoyed on their own, or combined with other hiking snacks like nut butter, honey, or fresh fruit.
26. Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are a nutritious and protein-packed hiking snack that can help keep you feeling full and satisfied on the trail. They are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, iron, and choline.
Hard boiled eggs can be enjoyed on their own, or combined with other hiking snacks like crackers or fresh vegetables.
However, it’s important to store hard boiled eggs properly to prevent bacterial contamination and foodborne illness. It’s also a good idea to bring along an ice pack or insulated container to keep the eggs fresh and cool.
Hard boiled eggs are one of my favorite snacks! To save on the weight of a cold pack I usually just plan to eat these as my first snack.
27. Hummus cups with baby carrot sticks or cucumber sticks
Hummus cups with baby carrot or cucumber sticks are a tasty and nutritious hiking snack that are easy to pack and enjoy on the trail. Hummus is a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, while carrots and cucumbers are rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and potassium.
This hiking snack provides a balanced combination of macronutrients and micronutrients, making it a great option for sustained energy on the trail. However, it’s important to pack the hummus cups and vegetables in an insulated container or cooler to keep them fresh and prevent spoilage.
28. Tuna or salmon pouches
Tuna or salmon pouches are a convenient and protein-rich hiking snack that can help keep you fueled on the trail. They are lightweight and easy to pack, making them a great option for backpacking trips or longer day hikes.
Tuna and salmon are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can have anti-inflammatory effects and support heart health.
29. Roasted chickpeas
Roasted chickpeas are a crunchy and satisfying hiking snack that can provide a good source of protein and fiber to keep you fueled on the trail. They are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals like iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Roasted chickpeas can be seasoned with a variety of spices and seasonings to add flavor and variety to your hiking snacks. It’s best to store them in an air-tight container but they do not need to be kept refrigerated for a day hike.
How often should I snack while hiking?
The frequency of snacking while hiking depends on various factors, such as the intensity and duration of the hike, weather conditions, and individual needs.
As a general rule, it’s recommended to consume small snacks every 1-2 hours during a hike to maintain energy levels and avoid hunger. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your snacking frequency based on your hunger and energy levels.
Additionally, it’s essential to stay hydrated by drinking water regularly throughout the hike, and electrolyte-rich beverages can also help replenish the body’s minerals lost through sweat.
I prefer to eat small snacks every 1-2 hours instead of having larger “meals”. Larger meals can make me feel tired or have less energy whereas consistent small meals keep me going.
Remember to consider your personal preferences, dietary restrictions, and nutritional needs when choosing hiking snacks. It’s also important to pack enough snacks to fuel your energy during the hike and to stay hydrated with enough water or other beverages.
Day Hike Lunch Ideas
If you’re looking for something more robust than a hiking snack these day hike lunch ideas are perfect!
Sandwiches are a popular and versatile hiking food that can be packed with a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients to provide sustained energy for the trail. A well-made sandwich can offer a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, making it a satisfying and filling option for longer hikes.
Some ideas for sandwich fillings include lean proteins like turkey, chicken, or tuna, vegetables like lettuce, spinach, or cucumber, and healthy spreads like hummus, avocado, or mustard.
It’s important to pack sandwiches in a way that keeps them fresh, such as using insulated containers or wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Additionally, avoid ingredients that can spoil easily in the heat, like mayonnaise or dairy-based spreads, unless you have a way to keep them cold.
Wraps are a popular alternative to sandwiches for hiking, as they are easy to pack and can be filled with a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients. Like sandwiches, wraps can offer a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy for the trail.
Some ideas for wrap fillings include lean proteins like grilled chicken, turkey, or tofu, vegetables like spinach, peppers, or tomatoes, and healthy spreads like hummus or pesto.
Wraps can also be made using alternative wraps like lettuce leaves or whole-grain tortillas for a lower-carb or gluten-free option.
It’s important to pack wraps in a way that keeps them fresh, such as using insulated containers or wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Additionally, avoid ingredients that can spoil easily in the heat, like dairy-based spreads or cheese, unless you have a way to keep them cold.
Ramen is a popular hiking food due to its lightweight, easy-to-prepare, and filling nature. It can be a good source of carbohydrates and sodium, which can help replenish electrolytes lost through sweating during a hike.
Consider adding in some protein and vegetables to make it a more complete meal. Some ideas include adding canned chicken, tofu, or edamame, and fresh or dehydrated vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, or carrots. It’s also important to pack the ramen carefully, as the noodles can be fragile and prone to breaking. Consider packing the seasoning separately to avoid spilling, and use a sturdy container to prevent any leaks or spills.
Charcuterie boards can be a great option for a picnic-style lunch while hiking. They typically include a variety of cured meats like salami or prosciutto, cheeses, crackers, and fruit or nuts.
These can provide a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to help keep energy levels up during a long hike. However, it’s important to keep in mind that charcuterie boards can be high in sodium and fat, so it’s best to enjoy them in moderation and balance them out with other, lower-sodium options like fresh fruit or vegetables.
Additionally, make sure to pack the charcuterie board in a way that keeps it at a safe temperature to avoid any risk of foodborne illness.
My favorite way to do hiking charcuterie is to have everyone bring something different to share!
34. Smoked Salmon bagel
A smoked salmon bagel can be a delicious and satisfying option for a hiking snack or lunch. Bagels are a good source of complex carbohydrates, while smoked salmon provides lean protein, healthy fats, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Adding some cream cheese or avocado can provide additional healthy fats and flavor. I’m obsessed with Everything But The Bagel seasoning from Trader Joes and highly recommend adding that to your cream cheese or avocado spread.
Gluten Free Day Hike Lunch Ideas
I prefer gluten free options, especially when I’m hiking. Gluten free options are less likely to cause indigestion, bloating, or fatigue. These are some of the best gluten free hiking food options!
35. Thermos of Soup
A thermos of soup can be a great option for a warm and hearty lunch on a cold-weather hike. Soups are often packed with healthy vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates, providing a well-rounded meal that can fuel your body for hours.
In addition, soup can help you stay hydrated since it contains a lot of water. However, it’s important to choose a soup that can stay warm in a thermos and won’t spoil easily. Thick and creamy soups like chowders or bisques may not be the best choice as they can separate and become grainy when stored in a thermos for too long.
Instead, choose broth-based soups like chicken noodle, vegetable, or lentil soup. It’s also a good idea to preheat your thermos with hot water before filling it with soup to help keep it warm for longer.
36. Quinoa salad
Quinoa salad is a nutritious and filling option for a hiking meal. Quinoa is a great source of complex carbohydrates and protein, while also providing essential vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, quinoa is easy to cook and can be flavored with a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor and nutrition to your salad.
To make a quinoa salad for hiking, cook the quinoa ahead of time and mix it with a variety of vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots. You can also add some protein like grilled chicken, chickpeas, or tofu. To keep your salad fresh on the trail, store it in a tightly sealed container with a cold pack or in a cooler.
37. Spring roll
Spring rolls are a tasty and refreshing snack or meal option for hiking. They are made with rice paper wrappers that are filled with a variety of fresh vegetables, herbs, and sometimes protein like shrimp, tofu, or chicken.
You can customize your spring rolls with your favorite vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, lettuce, and herbs like mint, cilantro, or basil.
Spring rolls are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins, and are low in fat and calories. They are also easy to pack and transport, making them a convenient and healthy option for hiking.
Smoothies can be a great option for a hiking meal or snack, as they are easy to digest and can provide a quick boost of energy. Smoothies are typically made with a combination of fruits, vegetables, and liquid, such as water, milk, or juice.
You can add protein powder or Greek yogurt for an extra protein boost.
Smoothies can be customized to suit your taste preferences and nutritional needs. To keep your smoothie cold during your hike, pack it in a thermos or freeze it overnight and let it thaw in your backpack during your hike.
What to Eat After A Hike
After a hike, it’s important to refuel your body with the right nutrients to help your muscles recover and replenish your energy stores. The best post hike meal is one that includes protein and complex sugars.
Aim to eat within 1 hour of completing your hike and make sure to also drink plenty of water or a sports drink to rehydrate and replenish electrolytes lost during your hike.
A proper post-hike meal will help improve and enhance your recovery.
Consuming complex carbohydrates after a hike can help replenish glycogen stores. Additionally, eating lean protein after a hike can help repair damaged muscle tissue.
Both of these will aid in recovery and are important for preventing muscle soreness and promoting faster recovery after a strenuous hike.
Best hike recovery food list
Here is a list of some of the best foods for post-hike recovery:
- Protein-rich foods such as chicken, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans to help repair and rebuild muscle.
- Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, whole grains, and quinoa to replenish glycogen stores and restore energy.
- Dark leafy greens, like spinach, and colorful fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
- Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, and seeds which help reduce inflammation and support joint health.
- Greek yogurt, kefir or cottage cheese for their high protein content and beneficial probiotics.
- Eggs for their complete protein and amino acids.
- Chocolate milk or a protein shake to quickly replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle.
- Bone broth or soup for hydration and electrolyte replenishment.
- Watermelon, grapes, or other high-water-content fruits for rehydration.
- Trail mix or energy bars for a convenient snack with protein, healthy fats, and carbs.
Food Safety Tips
Food safety during a hike is important in preventing food related illness. There’s absolutely nothing worse than feeling unwell on a trail when you’re miles from the trailhead. Here are some food safety tips to keep in mind while hiking:
- Plan ahead. Know what food you’re eating, what utensils you’ll need to prepare and eat it, and whether anything your packing is perishable and should be consumed first.
- Wash your hands! Just because you’re in the wilderness doesn’t mean you’re immune from illness. Hand sanitizer is the most convenient method – just be sure you’re getting something with at least 60% alcohol.
- Use airtight containers. Airtight containers help to prevent spoilage and keep your food fresh.
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Keep hot foods above 140°F and cold foods below 40°F. Use insulated bags or containers with ice packs to maintain proper temperatures. Bacteria grows rapidly when your cold food is warmer than 40°F and your hot food is colder than 140°F – keeping food as close to these temperatures as possible will slow the rate of spoilage.
- Avoid risky foods. Avoid foods that are high in moisture, such as raw meats, dairy products or cream-based dressings, cooked grains and leafy greens as they can spoil quickly and increase the risk of food poisoning. If you do decide to pack these foods, keep them separate from the rest of your food – that way in case they spoil they won’t take out your entire food store.
- Freeze cold foods the night before. This gives you more time before they’re at or above their spoiling temperature. Storing cold foods together in an insulated container will give you more thermal mass and prolong the amount of time they’re able to stay cold.
- Eat perishable items first. Consume items that are more likely to spoil first and then move on to your shelf-stable hiking foods.
Final Thoughts – Day Hiking Foods
There’s really no need to get bored with your hiking foods. With a little creativity there’s an infinite number of options for healthy, delicious hiking snacks!
Written by Claire Fleming
I’m a travel enthusiast who spends half the year in my self-built camper van with my dog, Oscar, and the other half at my home in Raleigh, North Carolina or on international adventures.