It doesn't matter if you’re hopping onto an easy trail for a short hike or going on an epic 5-day trek through the Himalayas: hunger will strike. And when it does, it helps to be prepared with the most portable, nutritious, and delicious snacks possible.
When thinking through the ideal snacks to bring, you should go with ones that provide energy, prevent you from crashing, and contain a good balance of nutrients.
We’re going to quickly go over what makes a good hiking snack, and then we’ll run you through our 20 favorite hiking snacks that satisfy cravings and give you all the nutrition you need.
Why you need to bring healthy snacks on a hike
You should always pack snacks on a hike. When you hike, you are constantly spending energy and burning calories. Keeping yourself fueled makes sure you have the energy you need to keep moving.
And you never know when your hike will end up being longer than you think. A few years ago I took a hike outside of Chattanooga, TN. I didn’t bring any snacks and only had a liter of water. I took a wrong turn and ended up hiking for 12 miles instead of 6! It was miserable, and it wouldn’t have been if I had prepared properly.
Snacks help you get past the inevitable hiking burnout
It’s common to hit a wall in the middle of your hike. This happens all the time in endurance sports, and there’s even a specific term for it — bonking (how fun is that).
Bonking happens when your body burns through its glycogen stores, causing you to feel like you are running out of steam. The glycogen stores in the liver and muscles act as sources of energy when you work out, and the more strenuous the workout, the quicker these glycogen stores deplete[*].
If your glycogen stores become too low during a workout, your muscle cells won't be able to make enough ATP — the molecule that provides energy for muscle contraction[*]. The result? You just want to take a nap on the trail instead of finishing.
Bonking usually occurs within a few hours of hiking if your body is not fueled properly, which is where snacking comes in. When the endurance wall is imminent, you might start craving something sweet like candy to get a fast jolt of energy, but a processed sugary snack is the last thing you need on a hiking trail — opt for healthy carbs and protein instead. These will keep you energized without the crash, and both bread and meat snacks are good options.
Okay! Now onto our favorite hiking snacks!
Our 20 Favorite Hiking Snacks
There are three macronutrients to keep in mind when choosing your snacks: carbohydrates, fat, and protein, so opt for a variety of these for the best results.
1. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky is a go-to hiking snack because it’s high in protein, which keeps you full, and it’s easy to pack. Beef jerky does have a lot of sodium, though, so try not to go overboard! Another fun perk of beef jerky is all the flavors! I like to take a different kind every time I go hiking or backpacking.
Bananas are full of potassium, an electrolyte that is lost in sweat, and it can provide a burst of sweetness to satisfy your sweet tooth during a hike. Potassium also helps fight off muscle cramps and keeps you hydrated[*].
3. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter contains protein, healthy fats, and calories. Peanut butter is a well-known natural fuel and can keep you energized and full. If you are allergic to peanuts, then you can swap it for other nut butters like almond or cashew.
Some brands make single-serving peanut butter packets and dehydrated peanut butter, too, which are easy to carry on a hike. When I go backpacking I love to pack a bit of dehydrated peanut butter to add to my oatmeal in the morning.
4. Veggie Sticks
Vegetables are packed with nutrients and vitamins that can help with immunity and digestion[*].
Carrots, celery, and broccoli all keep well on a one-day hike without being refrigerated, and cucumbers are made up mostly of water, so they can keep you hydrated too. Eating healthy on the trail is always refreshing!
Why not pack some hummus with your veggie sticks? Hummus is super nutritious and has a low glycemic level, which can help keep blood sugar at a healthy level. Hummus is also full of plant-based protein that helps maintain your muscles and energy levels[*].
6. Nuts and Seeds
If you’re looking for a compact snack full of protein, nuts and seeds are a good choice. There are so many options to choose from, and you can mix and match walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews — you name it.
7. Trail Mix
Trail mix is a mixture of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds, and it's no coincidence that this snack is named after the "trail".
Trail mix can give you a quick boost of energy, is easy to transport, and is made with various flavors. Just make sure to get a mix that has a healthy balance between sweetness and fats. Some trail mixes are mostly candy!
8. Apple Slices
Apples are always a delicious and juicy treat. Not only does it feel good to bite into a crunchy fruit on the trail, but apples are also a great source of natural sugars and vitamins. Try pairing apple slices with peanut butter for the ultimate trail snack.
Granola is a mix of oats and nuts and can sometimes contain a little bit of sweetness from either cinnamon or dried fruit. It is also very portable and can last you the whole hike. Just like trail mix, try looking for granola that doesn't contain too much sugar.
10. Tuna and Crackers
Tuna is an excellent nonperishable food to bring when hiking. It is full of protein and easy to eat with some healthy crackers or a piece of bread. I’d go with the tuna packets over the cans — that way you can save space and weight in your pack.
11. Fresh or Dried Fruit
Dried and other fresh fruits are classic hiking staples for a reason. They are full of natural sugars and are easy to carry. If you want to prioritize packability, you can opt for dried cranberries, cherries, apples, and banana chips.
12. Olive Packets
Don’t sleep on olives! Many companies produce single-serving olive packets that you can throw in your bag. They are a great salty snack for a long hike and contain lots of healthy fats. Olives also contain antioxidants that can help fight free radicals[*].
13. Medjool Dates
Medjool dates are sweet, chewy, and delicious when you are craving sugar on a long hike. You can eat them alone or do what I like to do, which is dip them into peanut or almond butter. There is no snack shaming on the trail!
14. Beef Sticks
We’re a bit biased, but we think beef sticks are about as good as a snack can get on a hike. They’re portable, full of protein, and flat-out delicious. When choosing beef sticks, it's important to make sure they don't contain MSG, preservatives, and other additives. The best beef sticks are grass-fed and Whole30 approved!
15. Pork Rinds
Pork rinds are a good "grab and go" option for hikers who crave protein and fat-heavy snacks. Pork rinds pack a delicious crunch and provide sodium, fat, and protein. There are many flavors to choose from, and if you are feeling fancy, you can even make them at home.
16. Protein Bars
Protein bars are a go-to for many athletes who need to refuel during or after their workout, but not all protein bars are made equal. Some commercial protein bars contain a lot of sugar and additives, so it will take a bit of detective work to find a bar that meets your needs. Look for low sugar, high-protein varieties for the best results.
17. Orange Slices
I know we already talked about fruit, but oranges deserve a shout-out of their own. Orange slices are very easy to pack and are amazing on the trail. They also always remind me of playing soccer as a kid. Nostalgia and natural sugar? Yes, please.
Just put some orange slices in a ziplock bag for a juicy treat. Oranges also contain vitamin C, which can support the immune system and fight free radicals[*].
This salty and starchy hiking snack is light and easy to carry. The carbs in pretzels will help you get a jolt of energy, and the salt provides electrolytes. If you bring hummus these are perfect to dip into that as well.
19. Applesauce Squeeze Packets
When you don't have room for pieces of fruit, this easy-to-eat snack can come to the rescue. Single-serving packets of apple sauce can provide you with fruit sugar and carbs to help you stay energized. Applesauce is also full of Vitamin C. This is a good option for kids, too!
Popcorn is a whole grain snack that is full of carbs, protein, and fiber. Instead of getting store-bought varieties that are full of butter, you could pop your own kernels in a paper bag in the microwave for a healthy homemade hiking snack!
How many snacks should you bring?
That depends. The exact number of calories you'll burn on a hike depends on a few factors like the difficulty of the trail, your pack weight, your weight, gender, and the time you spend hiking.
On average, long-distance trail hikers burn up to 4,500 calories a day[*], and someone who weighs 160 pounds will burn around 425-450 calories per hour of hiking, which means that they would need 800-900 calories on a 2-hour hike to break even.
You can estimate how many calories you might need for a hike by adding or subtracting to that number, depending on your weight. And remember, it’s better to overpack than under-pack!
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