Hiking Snacks / Food is mostly discussed in terms of nutritional value, but why should we not look for a combination of both taste and nutrition?
I love chocolate. I mean I LOVE chocolate. Maybe even a bit too much, as I find myself eating it at times I really shouldn’t. Hence, I always carry chocolate with me as a hiking snack. However, is it nutritious enough for a hiking adventure?
Luckily, it is one of the things that are actually handy to have with you when hiking. It provides you with enough energy and even has its health benefits. Besides chocolate, there are other tasty hiking snacks that are useful for hiking.
Just as I could not let a day pass by without having some chocolate in my system, there might be some hiking snacks you really enjoy, that provides you with good hiking fuel.
Pre-packing: the Hiking plan
Before we get into the delicious hiking snacks you can or should bring on your day hike, we need to know what kind of hike is ahead of us, so making a hike plan would be the wise thing to do.
Next to the typical hike planning, Put an extra emphasis on:
- How you’ll eat and drink
- What food-related tools do you need
- How much food/nutrition you roughly need
Hiking burns approximately 500 calories an hour, as mentioned in the 10 hiking essentials. Keeping this in mind, a reasonable goal is 2500 to 4500 calories for a full day of hiking, depending on your size, weight, and type of hike.
If this sounds imposing, don’t worry. In my experience having too little or too much food for a day-hike isn’t that punishing. Conversely, when you plan multiple days (like a 3 day-hike) carefully assembling your meal plan is more important.
Therefore, use the recommended calories more as a guideline for a day-hike.
Packing: bring the food!
Even though, we are only planning a single day hike, don’t pack too much extra food. We all made these mistakes in our first day hikes, so don’t worry about making mistakes if it is your first hike. Balancing your meal plan takes experience, and some trial-and-error.
Carrying lightweight (calorie dense) nutrition is a good way to prevent this experience for being too harsh of a learning curve.
A day hike has some advantages over the longer lasting ones, one is that you can actually pack perishable foods, as you are going to consume it the same day. Make sure that you have a cold source to keep your foods chilled if you are hiking in warmer climates.
In addition to the perishable foods, we recommend lightweight and nutrient-dense foods, even for day hikes.
Did anyone say chocolate?
No more beating around the bush, time to mention the hiking snacks you can take along which are tasty and actually good for hiking.
Starting with my personal favorite, chocolate. Have I mentioned this before? Not all kinds of chocolate are good for hiking, but dark chocolate is ideal hiking food for multiple reasons.
To avoid this article from becoming a Bible dedicated to the Gods of chocolate (yes, I could write about the good for days without end), I will just sum up some of the benefits.
- Is calorie dense, it has a relatively high fat and low water content
- Stimulates, because of the caffeine and theobromine, natural components fighting fatigue
- Is an endorphins booster for extra motivation and “feel-good”
- Is a source of antioxidants boosting the immune system
- Improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure
- Is convenient and practical to bring along on your hike
- Is high in fiber
I do have to stress that you look for dark chocolate, and not at milk chocolate. Double check the labels, and take 50% as a minimum.
2. TRAIL MIX
If you ever looked up information about hiking you probably have come across terms like trail mix. Trail mixes typically include nuts, seeds, and dried fruits tossed together. It is perfect travel food because it is lightweight, portable and full of nutrition.
The thing I love about trail mixes is that you can tweak it to your likings, e.g. put extra cranberries in the mix if that is the thing you love!
Trail mixes are good for hiking, because they are:
- Healthy fats
- High in fiber
- Ideal for keeping your blood sugar level constant, as you can just grab-and-go
- Extremely convenient when used in zipper bags
3. DRIED FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Mentioned in the trail mix, dried fruits are something that can be really tasty. If you have a favorite kind of fruit, changes are you also love the dried version of it. Bring your favorite dried fruit or veg to your next hike, they are loaded with micronutrients, fiber and antioxidants.
4. WHOLE-GRAIN OR CORN TORTILLAS
The benefits of whole-grain and corn tortillas are:
- Good source of protein
- Plenty of fibers
- Source of iron
- Good alternative for refined grains, such as white bread and white pasta
When shopping for tortillas try to avoid the ones based on white flour.
5. WHO SAID TUNA?
This is a matter of taste. Some people like tuna, some do not. In my case, I like it a lot. If you do too, you are in luck. Tuna is amazing for hiking, and for day hikes you have a lot of options to enjoy this tasty type of fish.
Tuna is tasty and healthy!
- Good for the heart because of the omega-3
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves the immune system
- Contains B-vitamins, strengthening your bones
Besides the healthy and tasty options listed above, there are plenty of other options which are welcoming to the taste buds and healthy at the same time. Things you could pack for your day hike which provide plenty of nutritional value are:
- Snickers (popular under hikers, for good reasons) or other nut-based bars
- Energy bars (look for the right ones for your hike, more on this in a future post)
- Poultry, salmon or meat jerky
Hiking is good for your health, and you don’t want to spoil the exercise with unhealthy food. That being said, there is plenty of stuff you can bring along for a day hike, that is both healthy, nutritious and doesn’t take up too much space in your bag.
Be prepared for your hike, decide how much food you want to bring along, and pack your bag with hiking snacks accordingly.
Personally, the hiking snacks in my bag on a day-hike are usually a combination of the abovementioned. My usual meal plan consists out of a few tortillas with poultry, lettuce and veggies, one or two bars of dark chocolate, a zip-lock bag with a trail mix, and some salty crackers with tuna.
Again, as mentioned in this post, the amount of food you should bring depends on several factors, so I might carry more or less hiking snacks and food to a day-hike.
Just because you don’t want to burden your back with a heavy backpack, doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy tasty food. Pack some of the tasty hiking food mentioned in this article, and you will enjoy your breaks to the fullest, without having to carry a heavy load like you are a mule.
Be good to your back, to your taste buds and to your body. Bring dark chocolate.
Let us know if we missed your favorite day hiking food!
Other Content: Hiking Blogs
Stefan is a design thinker, with a passion for photography and the outdoors. Just like most designers, he is a life-long learner, interested in everything that moves the world. He's driven when it comes to research, branding, writing, travel, strategy, psychology, and entrepreneurship.