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Best Snacks and meals to pack for hikes

Choosing appropriate food and snacks to bring with you on a hike will help you maintain energy and keep you enjoying your day out. If you don’t bring the right type of food, you could find yourself burnt out with a few miles still to go. The best hiking food is lightweight, nutritious, and full of calories to keep you energized. This post will take you through the best hiking snacks and give you some ideas for lunch.

Have a plan

To provision for your day hike, you need to plan where you will be hiking. You need to know how long it will take and how much you are going to be ascending or descending. This will directly affect how many calories you burn. If you are planning a big day out with long miles and lots of ascent, be sure to pack a few extra snacks. It can also be useful to know what the weather is going to be like so you can plan how much water to bring, and what layers to pack.

Planning for a day hike can be done in several ways. Use maps, like OS maps, to scope out trails and what the terrain may be like. There are also a few great mapping apps like Alltrails and Viewranger. With these you can plot your course for the day to find out how far your hike will be. With your plan established it’s time to choose, and pack, some food for your day hike.

Park your van safely

You’ll likely be gone for a good few hours, if not the whole entire day so make sure you have parked somewhere safe such as a public car park with CCTV.

If you park your van in a remote and secluded spot your risk a break in.

What are the best snacks for a day hike?

Choosing the best snacks for a hike is important. It could be the make or break of your walk. They will give you the extra boost to push you further up the hill or get you further along the trail. 

Its also vital to keep your brain stimulated and to increase your awareness of your surroundings and actions. Choosing the right snack will help keep your wits about you.

The best hiking snack should be:

  • Nutritious: High in carbohydrate, protein, fibre and electrolytes.
  • Minimal cooking required: Snacks should be food on the go
  • Lightweight: Keep your snacks light in weight and easy to carry in your bag
  • Filling: Slow release energy will help avoid any crash and burnouts
  • Bring a little extra: You never know when you might need a snack whilst hiking

While it can be tempting to fill your backpack with an assortment of gummies and sweets, this isn’t the wisest choice. Sweets are a great boost to energy, but they provide this over a short period of time. If you are planning to spend 8 hours in the mountains, you need slow-release calorie dense hiking snacks.

It’s also important to get the right balance between savoury and sweet snacks. If you only pack sweet treats you will soon have cravings for salty food, and vice versa. Try to pack an even split of sweet and savoury so that you can satisfy your appetite.

Here are some of the best hiking snacks to help maintain your energy while on the trail.

  • Fruit and nut mix. Also known as trail mix, this really should be your go to hiking snack. Nuts are loaded with healthy fats to give you slow-release energy. While fruit, like raisins, dried mango and banana chips are full of natural sugar to give you a quick kick of energy.
  • Jerky or other dried meats. Savoury, salty hiking snacks are just as important as sweet ones. As you sweat you will lose salts and electrolytes, savoury snacks like beef jerky can help replenish these.
  • Cheese and crackers. This is a great snack because it is a little more filling. Pre-slice some chunks of your favourite cheese to lay over some crackers. Store this all together in a small Tupperware box in your backpack.
  • Homemade flapjacks. Flapjacks are packed with oats, which is arguably the king of slow-release energy. These also take up virtually no space for the amount of calorie punch they pack. Flapjacks are another top shelf hiking snack.
  • Snack bars. There are so many different types of snack bars around these days, there is bound to be something you like. Take a trip to the supermarket and pick out two or three to pack into your bag.

What type of food should I bring for lunch while hiking?

During a day hike you won’t typically want to cook anything for lunch. It’s better to have something pre-prepared that you can bring in your backpack. Your lunch choice should consist of a good portion of carbohydrates. This will provide that oh so important release of energy. The best carbs are pasta, rice, wraps or bread. These are all great when cold which means you can prepare something the night before.

You also want to include a form of protein for your lunch.  Protein is a macro-nutrient that helps build and repair muscle and as your muscles will be under a lot of strain whilst hiking, you might want to give them some attention.

For vegetarians or vegans, chickpeas, beans, spinach, nuts, and lentils are all great choices. These can be combined with one of the carbohydrates above, and some sort of dressing or sauce for flavour. For meat eaters it’s best to prepare something the night before and eat it cold on the day. Chicken is one of the better choices as it can be adapted to different flavours to suit any dish.

There really are a ton of great options for lunch while hiking, your imagination is the limit. Here are three ideas for lunch on your next day hike.

  • The classic sandwich. The age-old classic sandwich is a viable hiking lunch. However, avoid using thin white bread with drab toppings like cheese slices. Pick out a more filling sourdough or wholewheat loaf and fill it with delectable toppings. Salami, turkey slices, halloumi, pesto, nut butters and humous are all great ideas to stuff into your sandwich.
  • Pasta salad. This is a personal favourite. Pasta is a great choice for lunch on a hike because it is delicious even when cold. Stay away from egg-based products like mayonnaise as they don’t keep well out of the fridge, instead use a dressing or vinaigrette. Pasta salad can be loaded with fresh veggies for a healthy and filling lunch on the trail.
  • Chicken or veggie wraps. Wraps are fantastic because they are hard to squash. This means if they end up at the bottom of your backpack, or get sat on, they won’t be ruined. Sliced chicken can add protein to your lunch, or you can stick with a fresh veggie wrap.

Pre-hike meal

Something that is often overlooked is what you consume before you set out on your hike. Loading with carbohydrates will help ensure you have energy for the day ahead. A big breakfast, like pancakes with fresh fruit, will set you up for your adventures.

Complex carbs, high protein and fibrous foods are the best nutrition for a pre hike meal for the slow release of energy throughout the follow hours.  Whole foods such as wholemeal bread, nuts, berries and Greek yogurt will give you a long release of energy to keep you energised on your hike.

While you are eating make sure to get hydrated as well. Try to drink a litre of water before you even start hiking.

Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for hiking meals, and what type of food to bring with you on a day hike. Let us know what your favourite hiking snacks and lunches are!

Bonus tip

wonderbag 2
There is little better than a hearty cooked meal after a long day of hiking. The trouble is you are exhausted and don’t want to cook anything!
We can’t recommend enough the Wonderbag for times like this. Throw together a stew style meal before you head off, place it in the wonderbag and when you get back from your hike you have a delicious slow cooked meal ready to warm you up.

Try this recipe

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