When going for a hike, sometimes my energy level dips and I think it’s down to the food choices I make before and whilst on my hikes.
Because of that, I’ve decided to be more purposeful in what I eat on a hike. So I thought I’d do some research and find out the best foods to take hiking to keep the body fueled all day without energy slumps.
So, what is the best food to take on a hike? It’s best to take a mix of high carbohydrate and high protein snacks and meals. Including nuts, trail mix, granola bars, and beef jerky. Long hikes or overnight camping hikes, it’s good to take pasta, rice or quinoa to provide a solid meal after a hike. It’s also important to bring enough water, and a Lifestraw or purifying tablets.
The intensity of your hike will dictate the food you need on the trail.
Will you be out for an hour or two or will you be out all day? Is your hike an overnighter Will you be climbing in steep terrain or are you traversing a flatter area?
All of these factors play a part in determining the best foods you will want to take on your hike.
Before deciding on what food to take hiking you need to make sure you have breakfast.
Eat Your Breakfast Before You Hike
Most nutrition experts agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day no matter what.
If you are planning on going for a hike, don’t skip breakfast in favor of just waiting to eat on your hike.
Be sure to eat a high carbohydrate meal with some protein in it, at least an hour before you start your hike.
This gives your body time to digest and assimilate the meal. With a good breakfast, you will be perfectly primed for the hike ahead.
An ideal meal would be oatmeal with peanut butter (or nuts), honey. Maybe some scrambled egg.
It covers you on carbs, fats, and proteins.
And also don’t overboard and eat too much as it can then have the opposite effect and make you feel lethargic.
The Best Foods For Hiking Are Ones That Give You Steady Energy
No matter the overall length of your hike, a good rule of thumb is to eat a snack every hour or two. Try to keep your snacks small. If you eat too much, your energy will go to digesting the food instead of powering your body.
Great snacks that give steady boosts of energy are:
- Dried fruit and nut trail mix – there is an infinite number of options to choose from. You can even make your own!
- Jerky – there are many options for beef, chicken, pork or salmon jerky. There’s also great tasting vegetarian options available.
- Fresh whole fruit, and Fruit Leathers.
- Energy bars, chews or gels
- Granola Bars
- Peanut Butter on rye bread.
Plan Your Hiking Food Ahead Of Time
Whether your plan is for an overnight trip or just a picnic before heading home, be sure to plan ahead for quick and easy, nutritious and filling meals.
If you’ve got a portable stove or cookpot then you can rustle up something warm and filling!
There are many options for easy-to-make meals on a hike that just require boiling water. You can mix and match these options to come up with a great meal on the trail.
- Instant Dehydrated Soups
- Freeze Dried Veggie Mixes
- Salmon or Tuna cans
- Instant Pasta Mixes
- Instant Mash
- Instant Oatmeal
Should You Eat Lunch When Hiking?
If your hike is short and you are planning a picnic at your final destination, then you may want to prepare for an afternoon meal or a really hearty snack to give you the energy to get back home.
However, if your hike is particularly strenuous or you are going to go on an extended hike of 6 hours or more (whether you plan on camping overnight or are doing a loop) it might be in your best interest to skip the midday meal.
Instead, power yourself through the hike with nutritionally dense, high energy snacks (eating every hour or two as suggested) to keep hunger at bay, fuel your body and keep your energy levels high.
We all know that after a good workout or long hike, eating a large and filling meal tends to “deflate” you energetically – as all your energy goes to digesting.
It’s best to save the big meals for the end of the day when you are relaxing.
Being Hydrated Is More Important
The most important food you take on your hike is not actually food – it’s water.
Make sure to bring enough water along to drink a liter of water every 2-3 hours during your hike.
If you are going on an extended hike or planning to camp overnight, bring along a water filter (something like this Lifestraw) or purification tablets just in case the water you drink isn’t clean.
Remember, by the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated.
Avoid dehydration from the start by drinking plenty of water one to two hours before you hit the trail.
Are sports drinks OK to take on the trail? Yes and no. If your hike is short, sure – bring one along. The electrolytes will help power you through the challenges of the hike and the sugars will keep your energy up.
If you will be hiking all day or you are planning to camp overnight, it’s probably a better idea to bring along electrolyte tabs or powder mixes.
These are small, lightweight and take up nearly no space in your pack. They provide all the benefits of a sports drink without having to carry the extra weight. They also taste better than water.
How do I meal plan for a multi-day backpacking trip? When you are going out for a simple day hike or overnight, you can bring plenty of food and eat pretty well on the trail.
However, if you are going to be on a multi-day backpacking trip, you will want to take the time to really consider your meal plan.
The best foods for a multi-day hike are the same, but you really need to consider how much it will all weigh when packed in the backpack.
Here are some quick tips:
- Try to pick foods that are nutrient and energy-dense for their weight. High-calorie foods such as peanut butter or hummus are often sold inconvenient to pack pouches. Salmon or tuna packets are lightweight and provide a huge dose of protein.
- Plan each meal and each snack of each day. For a long hike, it might be worth purchasing energy bars or granola bars instead of carrying a large bag of granola or trail mix. This helps you control the portions throughout your hike and minimize the weight and bulk of your snacks.
- Purchase food in packages that provide multiple servings. Buy a slightly larger pack of powdered eggs or instant potatoes. One package = multiple meals.