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Taking a hike is fun and a great workout, but you may ask what snacks for hiking are best?
The answer to this question isn’t always boring and tasteless protein bars when better options are available.
To give you fresh ideas on what type of food to bring on a hike, I put together this guide to healthy hiking snacks. The best snacks for hiking require little to no preparation, and all are excellent foods for both day hikes and long treks.
With a few minutes of prep, you can fill your backpack with delicious treats to satisfy your hunger and provide plenty of calories and nutrition to keep your muscles moving!
What Makes a Great Hiking Snack?
The best hiking snacks are those that keep you going when you feel tired or hungry, that won’t make you feel sick, and that keeps your blood sugar levels even.
A good snack also fits your dietary needs, especially when you have food allergies that require special attention.
Before my first ever Appalachian Trail hike (just a portion!), I remember thinking about what kind of food should I bring on a hike that would be lightweight and easy to buy or make. Carrying enough water would be heavy, and I didn’t want my snacks to add a bigger burden.
I didn’t have the experience to understand the demands on my body of hiking for hours on end and made the mistake of bringing along lots of sugary snacks. While they were tasty and the sugar rush boosted my spirits for a few moments, they did nothing for my overall endurance and hunger.
I also didn’t read labels carefully and found that many of the snacks had dairy in them that upsets my stomach and led to some embarrassing bathroom situations along the path.
Don’t make the mistakes I did, and instead select foods for hiking that hit on all these points:
- They won’t melt, squish, or leak in your backpack
- They don’t require refrigeration
- Can be eaten with one hand
- Bite-size portions perfect for sharing or rationing out across the day
- Full of protein and fat for muscle endurance
- Good calorie to weight/size ratio
- Tastes good
- Meets any dietary restrictions
- Not overly salty or sweet
Best Hiking Snacks to Pack on a Day Hike
All of these hiking snacks are easy to pack, hold up well to hours of walking in different climates, and can be prepared in short order so you can hit the trails with little fuss.
Best Homemade Hiking Snacks
1. Personalized Trail Mix
The ubiquitous DIY trail mix is the top hiking snack choice because it packs well, delivers protein and fat to satisfy your taste buds, and you can tailor the mix to your liking.
Start your trail mix blend with your favorite raw nuts, seeds, or granola in a bowl.
Make the flavor profile sweeter by adding raisins, dried cranberries, coconut shreds, banana chips, carob, chocolate, or dehydrated fruit.
You can also opt for a more savory profile if you don’t have a sweet tooth and add in chunks of hard sausage, firm cheese, dried veggies, or bits of beef jerky.
2. Peanut Butter Energy Bites
These quick, no-bake, bite-size snack balls provide a protein punch perfect for keeping your energy up and even during day hikes.
There are several recipes available online, with my personal favorite being the Protein and Peanut Butter Energy-bites version by Ambitious Kitchen that adds chia and flaxseed to the mix.
The basic ingredients are peanut butter and protein powder, with all the extra additions a personal choice.
TIP: To reduce the stickiness of the finished balls, roll them in sesame seeds, chia seeds, cocoa powder, or other “barrier” food, so they’re easy to grab and eat while keeping your fingers clean.
3. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs are inexpensive, cook up quickly, lasts for hours without refrigeration, and deliver a range of amino acids that help keep your body in peak form while hiking.
Hard-boiled eggs also have vitamin D, calcium, all the B vitamins, and some fat.
Pack them in a hard-sided container to prevent being crushed, and you have the perfect walk-as-you-eat hiking snack.
4. Veggie Sticks
Raw vegetables won’t provide many calories, but they offer a nutritional boost to stoke your muscles after hours on the trail.
The best veggies for day hikes are easy to cut into sticks for compact packing and ease of grabbing and eating while on the move. Celery, carrots, snap peas, and cucumbers (cut away the center seeds) all hold up well to the vigours of the trail.
5. Peanut Butter with Nutella Sandwich
Upgrade your sandwich with some chocolate flavor by adding Nutella instead of messy jelly to your peanut butter and bread.
Nutella blends hazelnuts with cocoa for additional protein and fats with enough sweetness to brighten your mood and help you keep moving down the trail.
Best Pre-Packaged Hiking Snacks
1. Jerky or Meat Sticks
Beef jerky and meat sticks come in various flavors, are lightweight, durable, and high in protein. You can buy packages of jerky or meat sticks in just about any grocery or convenience store.
For a real treat, try out jerky or sausage sticks from local hunters, butchers, or specialty shops made from animals such as deer, alligator, bison, elk, or even fish.
Like my favorite grass-fed beef sticks from Paleovalley, meat sticks are more like a dried slim sausage with more fat than jerky. The saltiness can help balance the sodium lost in your system from sweating.
2. Tuna or Chicken Foil Packs
Tuna foil packages provide Omega-3 fatty acids and protein, while the chicken in foil packets deliver Niacin, B3, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Bring a fork and rip open these easy-to-carry packs and eat right from the bag. Each pouch contains a good portion of food without bogging you down and making you sleepy.
3. Olive Foil Packs
Hikers love the convenience of single-serving foil packs, and when the food inside is olives, it upgrades your hiking snack experience.
The olives are pitted and provide healthy fats and salt. Some brands, like OLOVES, offer a range of flavors like basil and garlic or rosemary and lemon to spice up your hike.
4. Peanut Butter Pretzels
Pretzel bites stuffed with peanut butter brings a delightful salty crunch to your day hike and keeps you energized by offering carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Many brands sell a version of peanut butter pretzels, most in a small, single-serve bag perfect for tucking into your backpack for a high-calorie snack when you’re feeling a little weary.
5. Protein Bars
Ok, yes, protein bars are still a hiking snack staple. Thankfully, you don’t have to settle for tasteless cardboard blocks anymore, as competition in this niche market is fierce.
Look for brands such as Power Crunch or MTN OPS for the perfect blend of nutrients, flavor, and texture that’s anything but boring.
6. Fresh or Dried Fruit
Fresh fruit is always a good hiking snack food, but it can bruise inside your backpack.
Your favorite dried fruit will transport better, last longer, and provide natural sugar, vitamins, and minerals.
7. Cheese and Crackers
A firm cracker like a Triscuit or those from the Crunchmaster brand won’t break apart in your backpack and provide the carbohydrates your body needs to fuel your hike.
Hard cheese slices are the perfect topper that adds fat, protein, and taste while keeping nicely for hours without refrigeration.
8. Liquid or Powder Electrolytes and Water
Water is a hiking necessity, but physical exertion and sweating deplete the body of essential electrolytes that can leave you with muscle fatigue or cramps.
A small packet of either liquid or powder electrolytes, from brands like Propel or Nuun, dropped into your water will give you a liquid “snack” that will rejuvenate your body.
Candy delivers a high-calorie boost when blood sugar levels drop, so keeping a stash in your backpack during a hike is smart. The treats are compact and can be a real lifesaver when you don’t have time for a full meal.
Dark chocolate or chocolate dipped fruit is a better choice over pure-sugar candies, as they add antioxidants or vitamins your body needs. On the other hand, sucking on hard candy, such as Jolly Ranchers, can keep saliva flowing when your mouth feels dry during a challenging portion of your hike.
Taking advantage of the great outdoors brings health benefits for the mind, body, and soul. When you keep the best hiking snacks on hand at all times, you’ll always be ready for spontaneous hiking opportunities.
All the snacks for hiking on the lists above are perfect for those who want to create fast homemade food that suits your tastes or those who prefer ready-made items for no-brainer nutrition.
All the snacks are delicious and will give you the energy you need to tackle the trails and enjoy every adventure!