Eating on the Hiking Trail

Plan Your Food Before the Hike

Food for Hiking
Pack Right for Your Hike!. Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

Hiking season is here and so is the excitement of lacing up the boots and hitting the trails. Before taking off on your hiking adventure it is important to plan out the foods that will be filling your pack and taking into consideration a few factors. The length of the trip, type of trails and weather will definitely be strong considerations for what you will want to carry along to fuel your body. More food and fluids will be required on a day hike and especially in very warm weather enduring inclined hills. The following list of simple and healthy hiking foods are among the top snacks to pack along to ensure optimum fitness while on the trail.

Bring Plenty of Water

Hiking and Water
Drink Water While Hiking. Tony Anderson Taxi/Getty Images

Think of water as a necessary nutrient as you would a food item. Water makes up over 60% of who we are and influences all of our body processes. Water has an important job and is working around the clock to maintain hydration, digestion, heart and lung function, joint lubrication, protection of our tissues, regulating body temperature, and much more. During a hike, the body will lose water through sweat, breathing, and the occasional bathroom pit stop, so replenishment of this essential nutrient along the path will be necessary. Make sure to pack a few water bottles, and also check for water stations along your hiking area to re-fill.

Pretzels Balance Electrolytes

Salted Pretzels
Pack Pretzels for Your Hike. Juanmonino/Getty Images

Pretzels are typically not included on the “healthy” eats menu, but during hot weather activities like hiking, consuming a few salted pretzels will help keep electrolytes balanced.  Sodium is lost through sweat during exercise and occurs even faster during warm weather activities such as hiking. Electrolytes can become unstable and cause feelings of dizziness, nausea and fatigue. Popping a few pretzels throughout the hike will restore sodium, maintain those electrolytes, and provide some energy for the distance. A sandwich bag full of salted pretzels should do the trick for a day of adventure.

Nuts and Seeds for Energy

Raw Almonds
Raw Nuts and Seeds Make a Great Hiking Snack. Ermin Gutenberger/Getty Images

Raw nuts and seeds are a wonderful portable healthy snack for a day on the trail. While most of the energy value of nuts is in the form of fat, they also provide 6 grams of protein per one ounce serving. Nuts are a superfood providing excellent caloric and nutritional value and can be easily packaged in sandwich bags and tossed in your pack. Knowing that 24 almonds, for example, is a one-ounce serving size will allow you to enjoy this superfood without overindulgence. Opting for salted nut varieties can also help replace the sodium that you sweat out on long hikes. Enjoy nuts and seeds along your trek on the trail.

Dried Fruit for a Healthy Hike

Dried Apples with Skin
Dried Fruit Provides Energy on the Trail. Westend61/Getty Images

Dried fruits are durable and easily packaged for hiking. Selecting organic and minimally processed dried fruits with skins intact are the best choice. Dried apples with the skin are high in antioxidant value and fiber and an excellent source of energy. Dried raisins are a sweet source of iron, an essential mineral for maintaining delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Dried bananas provide potassium, an important electrolyte for regulating fluid balance, muscle function, and a regular heart rhythm. Dried dates are another wonderful source of potassium and excellent snack option. Combine a few organic dried fruits for a delightful and healthy way to fuel your body during your hiking adventure.

Turkey Jerky is Portable Protein

Turkey Jerky
Turkey Jerky is Portable Protein for Hiking. Rob Lawson Photolibrary/Getty Images

Turkey jerky is a favorite hiking food and healthier selection to eating beef jerky. Get a dose of protein, sodium, and some fat all good for the long haul. The sodium aids in replenishing the electrolytes lost during sweat and the bathroom pit stops, while also providing beneficial nutrients for the body. Also, jerky is dehydrated making it very light, portable, durable, and does not require refrigeration. Adventurous hikers may want to try making their own turkey jerky or enjoy purchasing from local specialty stores. In either event, turkey jerky is a top pick to put in the pack.

Tuna with Whole Grain Crackers: a Perfect Hiking Meal

Tuna and Crackers
Tuna and Crakers Make a Great Hiking Meal. 4kodiak/Getty Images

Tuna and crackers are a great portable snack to enjoy mid-way through or at the end of your hike. White albacore tuna comes in individual bags that are easily packed and lightweight.  Complete portable tuna kits can also be purchased and a nice alternative. Lean protein and sodium are enjoyed in this light hike meal and aid in replenishing energy stores and regulating electrolytes. If you are looking for something more substantial to enjoy during your trek, portable tuna is the way to go!

Nut Butter with Whole Grain Crackers for the Trail

Nut Butter on Whole Grain Crackers
Nut Butter on Whole Grain Crackers for a Healthy Hike. Robert Reiff StockFood Creative/Getty Images

Nut butter just got better and can now be purchased in individual squeeze packs that can be placed on whole grain crackers. Ensure the nut butter is organic, natural and GMO-free along with minimally processed whole grain crackers. The healthy fats in nut butter provide superior caloric and nutritional value along with health benefits. Energy stores will be replenished and the body will feel satisfied for hours after consuming this superfood. Nut butters are an all-time favorite snack food and can now be easily enjoyed on the trail.

Energy Bars are Popular but not Created Equal

Energy Bars for Hiking
Energy Bars are a Great Hiking Snack but Choose Wisely. Tanya Constantine Blend Images/Getty Images

Energy bars are probably one of the most popular hiking foods and can be tossed in a pack or shoved in a pocket. Not all energy bars are created equal and some are merely candy bars being passed off as health food. Be selective in your pick of the best energy bar and what they have to offer for your hiking experience. Look for bars that are all natural, made with nothing artificial, containing minimal ingredients and made with things like unsweetened fruit, nuts, and spices. There are some energy bars containing nine or less ingredients and fit the bill for the hiking trail. When it comes to energy bars, read your labels!

Granola is Great Hiking Food

Granola is a Great Hiking Snack. Joe Potato Photo/Getty Images

Granola is an all-time favorite tasty snack food. Not just a cereal anymore, granola has become a powerhouse meal loaded with healthy fats, protein, vitamins and all important for immune function and fueling the body. Granola can be easily made at home using healthy foods like raw nuts, oatmeal, dried berries, coconut flakes, cinnamon and honey. Healthy varieties can also be purchased at local markets and both can be pre-portioned into sandwich bag serving sizes for easy grab and go snacks. Fuel your pack with some healthy granola and hit the trail!

Trail Mix is the Coveted Hiking Food

Trail Mix
Trail Mix is the Coveted Hiking Snack. Ermin Gutenberger/Getty Images

Trail mix is the coveted food for all hikers and the name speaks for itself. Not all trail mixes are created equal, however, and it is important to break down this essential hiking snack so you can choose the best ingredients for your next trek. A good base for trail mix is raw nuts like almonds, pistachios, or Brazil nuts that are highest in nutrient rating. They pack a protein punch along with healthy fats to fuel your outdoor adventure. Adding sweetness to the mix should come from natural, unsweetened dried fruits like dried raisins and coconut flakes that provide energy and antioxidants. It is great to compliment the sweet with some salt by adding salted nuts, seeds, or pretzels which will provide sodium and more protein to the mix. When hiking a long distance, you need to replenish and maintain the sodium levels in your bloodstream, and this is the perfect way to do it. You may choose to create your own trail mix or purchase a quality mix from your local market and both will need to be pre-portioned into serving sizes for easy travel for your adventure. Happy Hiking!

Sources:, health education, Hiking and Camping, Naturally, Jim Gallagher, MS, RD, CD 6/28/10

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 5 Food Tips for Camping and Hiking, Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, 8/31/15

American Council of Exercise, Fit Life, For Camping and Hiking what are the Best Foods to Pack for Proper Nutrition, Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, 10/10

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