Mountain Summit Photo on Colorado 14er
Wellness

Hike Series: My Favorite Hiking Snacks

Hiking is one of my favorite activities, and when I consider it, the hiking snacks are one of the best parts! Often, I refer to my hiking pack not as my backpack, but my SNACKPACK. However, even on the trail, I’m mindful of finding healthy foods that provide optimal nutrition for the activity at hand.

For my hiking snacks, I look for clean ingredients, no vegetable oils, minimal added sugar, and a balance of macronutrients. I’ll choose a few options that are higher in carbohydrates for glycogen replacement on long hikes, and plenty of healthy fats and protein to keep me satiated.


Clean Ingredient Hiking Snacks

Here are a few of my GO-TO hiking snacks for on-the-trail:

  1. Jerky – This is a high-protein, low-fat, and convenient snack to have in your bag. It’s lightweight AND packs a lot of nutrients per calorie (aka nutrient-dense). I like jerky in all its forms: Traditional Jerky, Jerky Sticks, and Jerky Bars! Some of my go-to brands are EPIC, PaleoValley, Chomps, and Thrive Market.
  2. Dried Fruit – I like dried fruit for the carbohydrate content. It packs well, and you don’t have to worry about it melting or getting bruised. I often snack on dried mango, dates, figs, and banana chips. One thing to watch out for is added sugars! I am careful to choose fruit that is simply dehydrated and unadulterated. If you’ve got the time, you can dehydrate your own. Some of my favorite choices: Joolie’s Dates, Bubba’s Nana Chips, and BARE snacks.
  3. Bars – This could be a post all on its own. The “snack bar” market is saturated. That can be a good thing, and a bad thing. It means there is A LOT to sort through when choosing a packaged bar. I always check ingredient lists for top allergens (dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts) and I am very mindful of the oils included. If you have a specific nut or seed intolerance, be very careful with your bars! When hiking, I look for a bar that is well balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. I avoid very high-fat bars as they tend to melt when stashed in a backpack all day. Instead, I’ll look for a fruit/nut/veggie blend. The sugar content of bars can be extreme. Check the ingredient list for hidden sources of sugars!
  4. Trail Mix – Trail mix is one of my favorite foods. I love a good sweet-salty mix. Unfortunately, many pre-made trail mixes are loaded with sugar and roasted in toxic plant oils (like canola oil). Instead, buy the raw ingredients and build-your-own! Check out this great post for ideas to create the perfect mix.
  5. Nut Butter – Single serve squeeze packs of nut butters are perfect for getting in calories without a lot of volume. This can be useful if you’re just not feeling like eating, but know you should. There are many varieties of nut butters out there. I like mixed nut butter, cashew butter, sunflower butter, and even coconut butter!
  6. Crunchy Snacks – Having something crunchy to munch on gives you some variety in your snacking. There are a number of packaged options that fit this category. However, anytime you’re buying roasted snacks (chips, etc) it is very important to check for Canola Oil and/or other hydrogenated oils. If you’ve got the time, consider making your own roasted chickpeas, beets, or kale! Other items to look for: Grain-Free Crackers, Crunchy Edamame, and Plantain Chips.
  7. Energy Chews / Electrolytes – I typically avoid “energy gels”/goos/chewables unless you are competing in an endurance race of sorts. However, an extended day hike may last 6+ hours at high-altitude. Having electrolyte and simple-carbohydrate-loaded chewables can help mitigate symptoms of altitude sickness* such as headache and nausea. Most individuals will not need to rely on these; but it can be a nutrition “tool” to have on hand when sickness strikes.

Hiking Snacks Break on the Trail
Snack break in the Colorado mountains

Eat Before You’re Hungry

Hiking in the high-country can be uncomfortable on the body. You are expending a great amount of energy to propel yourself up a mountain. Don’t forget that the hike doesn’t end when you’re at the top: you’ve still gotta make it down. At high-altitude you will find breathing more difficult, and it can also affect your appetite. You’ll perform better if you drink continuously, and eat before you feel hungry. Small snacks that are within reach are ideal, instead of stopping for a full snack or lunch break.

*Some nausea or headache is possible, but know the warning signs of altitude sickness and retreat downhill if necessary.

Tamales while Hiking in BV Colorado
We packed up Farmer’s Market Tamales for this hike!

Happy Hiking! What are your favorite trail snacks?

  • Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking to expand my snack knowledge and find new options

Click below for my Fueling For Hiking PDF from The 14er Experience-


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Kate Daugherty is a Functional Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist candidate specializing in mind-body wellness. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to bring the physiological body into balance. Kate offers nutritional consultation and functional medicine healing at her clinic, The Facility, in Denver, Colorado. Read more about her nutritional approach here and her background here.

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