Best Foods for Hiking - AdventureTripr

Best Foods for Hiking

Marjorie Geling · April 20, 2022
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Choosing the right food to bring on a hike can help you feel amazing and ready to conquer any terrain, whether you're taking a brief afternoon trek or planning a week-long hiking trip. But what makes a good day hiking snack? We’re going to quickly go over what makes a balanced hiking snack, and then we’ll give you a few of our favorites that both satisfy cravings and give you the nutrition you need.

 

Best Foods for Hiking
Best Foods for Hiking

What makes a good day hiking snack?

Before deciding on the best hiking snacks to bring on the trail, there are a few things to consider:

·         How difficult is the hike?

·         What is the distance?

·         What is the elevation gain?

·         What is the weather forecast?

These questions will all result in a slightly different answer to what a “good” snack is. For example, if you go on a casual, 60-minute hike on a cool, fall morning, you probably won't need to bring a lot of snacks or worry about electrolyte replacement. However, if you're trekking up a high hillside on a hot, summer afternoon, you'll need to consider bringing adequate nutrition, electrolytes, and fluids.

Here is the nutritional breakdown to consider what is appropriate for your specific hike:

Types of nutrition you need for your hike

 

Hiking burns a lot of calories
Hiking burns a lot of calories

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates will give your body the immediate, accessible energy it requires. Complex carbs have a high fiber content, which means they can help you feel fuller for longer by slowing the digestive process and resulting in a more balanced, continuous release of energy. A few examples of complex carbohydrates that are easy to pack in your bag are apples or whole-grain crackers.

 

Sugar

It is not uncommon for a hiker to deplete energy stores and need a quick pick-me-up under certain circumstances such as lengthy hikes, or if you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded along the trail. This could be a sign your blood sugar has dropped too low and you’re in need of a quick energy boost. Dried fruit or a sweetened granola bar can be a great help in this situation.

 

Protein

Proteins are the body's basic building blocks. Protein in your hiking snacks will provide you with lasting energy, keep you feeling full, and provide your muscles and tissues with the nutrients they need to repair after your hike. Lunch meats, yogurt, or nuts are all packable protein options to incorporate into your hiking snack repertoire.

 

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats, like protein, will keep you feeling full and provide a continuous source of energy. Unlike carbohydrates and sugar, fats are processed slower by the body, providing sustained energy rather than a spike in blood sugar. Fats are also essential in muscle recovery, and are not to be overlooked! Healthy fats to bring on the trail could include nuts, seeds, or avocados.

 

Sodium

Including sodium in your hiking snacks can be highly beneficial. Sodium is a vital electrolyte that is lost when we sweat. Electrolytes help to maintain hydration and control muscular contractions. Salty snacks to bring on a hike you know you’ll break a sweat on are pretzels or crackers.

Water

Of course, don't forget to bring plenty of water too! Dehydration can cause cramps, confusion, and disorientation, causing even the most experienced hikers to stray from their intended path. When you add nausea, vomiting, and dizziness to the mix, you've got a recipe for disaster.

If possible, drink water slowly in the hours before hiking. Preparing for your hike by staying hydrated will go a long way toward ensuring adequate hydration throughout your activity. In general, bring at least a half-liter (16 ounces or 2 cups) of water for each hour of hiking.

For tips about staying hydrated on the trail, visit our blog here.

How many calories do you need?

On average, most people burn 200-300 calories per hour for a moderately difficult hike
On average, most people burn 200-300 calories per hour for a moderately difficult hike

Your optimal calorie requirements are determined by several factors, including your personal information (age, weight, height, etc.), as well as the type of hike you're on. For example, a short trek on flat terrain burns fewer calories than a longer hike on steep, uneven terrain.

On average, most people burn 200-300 calories per hour for a moderately difficult hike. Since many hikes last several hours, your total calorie burn can easily reach higher than you might realize. This is why for long or strenuous hikes it is better to bring more than you might initially feel is necessary!

When calculating calories and hiking snacks, keep in mind that you want to maintain a steady level of energy, and there are a variety of reasons that can cause you to require more calories than just the length of time on the trail. Factors such as elevation gain, altitude, and temperature can all impact how much energy your body is using to keep you pushing forward.

When in doubt, listen to your body, and don’t go multiple hours without stopping for a snack. 

Our favorite hiking snacks 

A nutritious snack for day treks or the first day of a backpacking trip is fresh fruits and vegetables
A nutritious snack for day treks or the first day of a backpacking trip is fresh fruits and vegetables

The best foods to bring on a hike are ones that are easy to eat with minimal utensils, are  lightweight, calorie-dense, and balanced between carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Here are some of our favorites!  

·         Energy bars: Energy bars are small and can provide a significant amount of protein and carbohydrates. Look for bars that contain vitamins and minerals, as well as healthy fats, to replenish your body’s nutrient stores.

·         Energy chews or gels: Energy chews or gels can provide similar benefits to nutrition bars while taking up less space in your bag and being easier to consume. Energy chews are typically flavored like gummy candies and may contain additional minerals and electrolytes. During a long hiking trip, energy gels and chews are ideal for a quick calorie and sugar boost.

·         Fresh fruits and vegetables: A nutritious snack for day treks or the first day of a backpacking trip is fresh fruits and vegetables. Toss some apples or carrots into your backpack for a refreshing, juicy snack.

·         Dried fruits and vegetables: When packing for a hiking trip, dried or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables are a great option that doesn’t have the weight of fresh fruits and vegetables. Dried fruits have a candy-like flavor without the added sweets and can be a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

·         Trail mix: A favorite hiking snack among many, trail mix is high in protein and healthy fats. Toss some dark chocolate or dried fruit into your trail mix to make it a treat with an extra boost of energy! 

·         Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds themselves are high in protein and healthy fats, and have a good calorie-per-ounce ratio, making them a great, balanced option for staying fueled on the trail. Nuts and seeds can be eaten plain, or packed into some granola bars and nut butter.

·         Jerky: Perfect for lengthy hikes, jerky takes up very little room in your pack but packs a punch of protein. Jerky comes in a variety of meats, including turkey, salmon, beef, and venison, as well as practically any flavor you can imagine.

·         Lightweight pouches of tuna: Instead of bringing canned fish on your camping trip, bring light pouches of poultry, tuna, or salmon. These packets come in single-serving sizes, making them a convenient and quick source of protein.

·         Hummus: Hummus is a nutritious and invigorating hiking snack because it is high in calories, carbs, fiber, and protein. Hummus is delicious with raw vegetables or spread over crackers, tortillas, or bagels.

·         Cheese: Cheese, like many of the other foods on this list, is nutrient- and calorie-dense, as well as a high-protein source. For a quick snack, cheese goes great with fresh fruits and vegetables, jerky, crackers, or it may be added to nearly any meal for extra richness and taste.

 

Enjoying your hike, no matter the length or difficulty is much easier when you have the right snack options! Now that you know some of our tips and tricks for staying fueled and energized while on the trail, it’s time to get out there!

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