Good hiking snacks can make all the difference in maintaining your energy level, stamina, and fun. If you’re planning a day hike (or more), look to these healthy snacks and hiking lunch ideas.
You’ll find helpful tips, below, to help you plan the best food to bring on a hike!
Editor’s Note: This post was updated with fresh content in November of 2023.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure for more information. As an affiliate, I earn a small commission every time you make a qualifying purchase through one of my affiliate links (if applicable) at no additional cost to you.
CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn how to plan to say nourished during your day hike with good hiking snacks. You’ll discover delicious hiking lunch ideas too! Here are the highlights:
- Why it’s Important to Plan Food on a Day Hike
- Make Your Hiking Plan First
- Be Sure You’ll Stay Hydrated
- Bring Nourishing Hiking Snacks
- Pack a Healthy Lunch – Hiking Lunch Ideas
- Hiking Food Tips to Remember
- Final Thoughts on Good Hiking Snacks
- Going Beyond the Day Hike (Tent Camping)
Before we get into those things, let’s first have a look at why it’s so important to plan your food out when you ‘re hiking. This is important even for long hikes so you have enough calories, and even if you’re planning a short hike.
Why It’s Important to Plan What to Eat on A Hike
Everyone benefits by getting out in the fresh air and enjoying some exercise. That’s because taking some time out of a busy schedule to go for a day of hiking is great for your mental and physical health.
However, you should never underestimate the importance of taking good hiking snacks with you.
Because a day hike isn’t the same as a nice walk in the countryside. The first thing is, you will need to keep your energy levels up to ensure you are safe and nourished throughout whether you are hiking Moraine Lake or exploring your local nature preserve. (It’s especially important to pack the right things for a quick energy boost on longer hikes.)
Look to healthy fats, like avocado and olive oil, as well as natural sugar, like honey. Leave the junk food behind.
If you’re in a hurry, grab ready meals from Ideal Nutrition or similar delivery that offers healthy foods to keep you fueled for a long time.
It’s even more important if you’re mountain biking. (If you want to take a bicycle on your day trip, you can book one here.)
Now, let’s get into the useful food tips and hiking lunch ideas for when you’re going for a day hike.
Make Your Hiking Plan First
Planning your hike ahead of time is a great idea for several important reasons.
- It will give you a better idea of how far you’re going to go and what you might see when you’re walking.
- You will be able to determine your food and water needs for your excursion.
- You can pass this plan on to a friend or loved one. Then, should something unexpected happen and you don’t return home as planned, they can let authorities know exactly where you had intended to be.
When you plan ahead, you’ll need to consider the following:
- The location and route you’d like to take
- Length of the hike in both time and distance
- How much you’ll be able to carry (weight)
- Equipment you’ll have with you (weight)
- Tools you might want to invest in to make the day comfortable
Once you’ve determined and made a note of these factors, you can better plan for your nourishment.
But before you begin you must learn whether can you bring hiking poles on plane.
Be Sure You’ll Stay Hydrated
Food is important, but making sure you have enough water is even more so.
It’s crucial that you can stay hydrated throughout your hike, You’ll want to plan this out first.
How much water you will need will vary. The amount of water all depends on the climate, level of exertion, and your individual needs.
And if you’re older, you will have on average 10% less fluid in your body than young adults.
For starters, you can use a simple formula: For every hour you are planning to hike, plan to have two cups (16 oz.) of water with you.
So, if you’ll be hiking for 8 hours, you’ll want to bring a gallon (16 cups) of water.
The exception is on a hot and humid hike. Then, the recommendation is four cups per hour.
If that sounds like too much to carry, you could invest in a hydration backpack like this one. That will ensure you have plenty of water and make it easier to carry.
You can also sip from it as you go, rather than having to stop and pull out water bottles from your napsack.
To get a head start on hydration, drink one or two cups of water before you set off. Pre-hydrated also means you’ll have less to carry on your trip. This is helpful, especially as you’ll need to carry food.
Also, avoid drinking alcohol the night before a hike. That’s because alcohol causes dehydration.
In addition to a water bottle, it’s a good idea to bring some toilet paper with you, too, when ‘nature calls.’
Bring Nourishing Snacks for Your Hike
Water keeps you hydrated, but food will provide the sustenance you need in terms of energy and electrolytes (salt). That’s why you’ll want to pack the best hiking snacks.
You’ll get hungry mid-morning and mid-afternoon, so pack some trail snacks.
That’s because you’ll be spending a lot of energy when you are hiking, even if the terrain is relatively flat.
21 Good Hiking Snacks
Your snacks for a day hike need to be energy-giving, with plenty of nutrients packed into them. Opt for natural ingredients with a high nutritional value whenever possible. Look for nutritious snack options the next time you visit Trader Joe or your local grocery store and you’ll be ready to go!
Here are a few of our favorites. Pick one or two of these delicious hiking snacks, from fresh fruits to nut butters. They’re sure to become some of your favorite hiking snacks.
That’s because you’ll be spending a lot of energy when you are hiking, even if the terrain is relatively flat. For the perfect snack combination, choose from a variety of different flavors, such as:
- Energy bars – Clif bars, Kind bars, and other protein bars. Just watch out for the added sugar content that can tip your blood sugar
- Trail mix – which you can make yourself. It’s easy to make your own trail mix! (If you have a sweet tooth, you can add in a few chocolate chips, but opt for main ingredients with higher grams of protein.)
- Fresh whole fruits – such as apples, bananas, oranges
- Dried fruit – like raisins, dried apricots or Medjool dates
- Frozen fruit – like frozen grapes!
- Peanut butter pretzels or nut butter packets, a great source of protein
- Your favorite nuts and seeds, like macadamia nuts or pumpkin seeds
- Raw vegetables – try snap peas with a healthy hummus dip
- Homemade energy balls or energy bites
- Tuna packets and crackers
- Olive packs – yes, that’s a thing!
- Beef jerky or meat sticks/meat bars
- Applesauce squeeze packets, an easy way to eat without utensils!
- Dark Chocolate-covered almonds
- Hard cheeses – be sure to bring along cold pack to keep it fresh
- Dried cheese – like Parmesan crisps
- Fruit leather – again, watch the sugar content
- Granola bar or homemade granola bars
- Whole-grain tortillas
- Banana chips or plantain chips
Make sure to store your hiking snacks where you can easily reach them. The easiest way it to tuck them into the side pocket of your backpack. That can be a great option so you’ll have easy access to your favorite snacks.
Plus, you can get a quick and healthy energy boost at any moment on your backpacking trip. Good snacks like this are much better option than reaching for a candy bar or other sugary snack.
Hiking Lunch Ideas to Pack for Your Hike | Easy Hiking Snacks
If you’re planning to be out for the whole day, you’ll need something that you can eat for lunch. This would be a larger meal than the hiking snacks you’ve packed.
As with the snacks, make choices that are light-weight, nutrient rich, and will travel well. The good thing about packing savory snacks is they will be comforting, too.
When you are thinking about what food to take with you for lunch, it’s important to consider the weather and choose accordingly.
For instance, if it’s hot weather, one of the easiest hiking lunch ideas might be light sandwiches.
Here are some delicious, nutritious sandwich ideas for hiking that make a great snack.
20 Great Sandwiches for Hiking
- Peanut Butter, Jelly, Banana & Honey on Wheat Bread
- Nutella, Sliced Almond, and Golden Raisins or Dried Cranberries in a Whole-grain tortillas
- Turkey, Swiss, Apple, and Honey Mustard in a Pocket
- Ham, Cheddar, Olives, Whole Grain Mustard in a Roll-ups
- Hummus, Bell Peppers, and Cucumber in a Pita
- Chicken Breast, Lettuce, Pickles, and Avocado on Rye
- Roast Beef and Chives Cream Cheese on a Sesame Bagel
- Brie Cheese, Apricot Jam, Apple on a Baguette
- Bacon, Romaine Lettuce, Tomato, Avocado on Country White (add mayo packet)
- Fresh Vegetables & Pesto in a Folio Parmesan Cheese Wrap
- Nutella on an English Muffin with a Chopped Peanuts and drizzle of Honey
- Spring Wrap with Carrots, Lettuce, Cucumber, Vermicilli, Basil, and a smear of Peanut Butter
- Salad Mix with sunflower seeds in a Whole Wheat Pita, dressing on the side
- Caprese Sandwich with Sliced Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese, Basil on a hearty Ciabatta
- Grilled chicken, peppers, and onions in a Corn Tortilla Wrap
- Cheddar Cheese on Buttered Bread – it may melt along the way, like a Grilled Cheese!
- Buffalo Chicken with Shredded Carrots, Thinly Sliced Celery Sticks, Blue Cheese in a Tomato Wrap
- Meatballs and Provolone Cheese in a Sub Roll with a side of Marinara Sauce
- Almond Butter and Sliced Strawberries on Multigrain Bread
- Fresh Spinach, Feta, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts in a Spinach Wrap
Once you decide on your lunch for a hike, you’ll want to keep them contained. You can wrap them in plastic wrap or paper and foil.
Even so, it’s likely that your sandwich will get squished to a certain degree. But that’s okay! The good news is it will just be a bit like panini!
To avoid a mess, bring any sides in a in a well-sealed condiment container, like this one.
Finally, pack your lunch along with ice packs. An ice-pack will ensure they’ll stay cool until lunch time.
Or, you can get this compact freezable lunch pack. You simply freeze the entire bag overnight it take care of keeping your lunch cool by itself. You can fold it up after you eat.
That way, your sandwiches will be as fresh as possible.
Otherwise, you’ll have a sticky, unappetizing mess on your hands and in your backpack.
Food for Cold Weather Hikes
If the weather is cold, a good option is a thermos of a hearty kind of food. Think: white bean and kale soup [recipe here]. There’s nothing like enjoying your favorite recipes on the go.
Invest in a good thermos to keep your soup, chili, or other meal nice and hot. This awesome insulated THERMOS even comes with a spoon. And, it’s stainless steel, so clean-up will be a breeze.
Hiking Food Tips For a Day of Hiking
Remember to take an ice pack if you’re taking perishable food with you, especially if it’s a hot day. The last thing you’ll want is to get sick from food poisoning partway through your hike. How much food to bring will depend on your hike.
And, before eating your great hiking snack, be sure to clean your hands with soap and water or clean wipes.
Please, take any trash with you at the end of the day. For that, bring a zip-lock bag. I recommend these resealable SmellyProof Bags. They’ll come in handy for your next hiking trip, and an odor-free plastic bag is perfect for road trips, too!
Final Thoughts on the Best Snacks to Bring on a Hike
Once you have your plan, your lunch, plenty to drink, and enough hiking snacks to see you through, it’s easy to have a wonderful day hiking in the wilderness. Just make your list of the best snacks to bring to ensure an awesome experience.
After all, when you have the right food, there’s nothing better than getting back to nature.
That’s especially when you’re well-prepared for your next adventure with these popular hiking snacks. Have a good hike!
Going Beyond The Day Hike
If you love day hiking and have been thinking about extending the adventure to tent camping, you can begin by camping close to home.
Here are some tips to get started:
Pro Tip 1: You’ll want to choose your camp site wisely.
Pro Tip 2: It’s important to select a good quality tent.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about these and the other Important Tips for Tent Camping Close to Home. You can also read this article: The Ultimate Romantic Trekking Expedition: Happy Trails to Togetherness
About the Author: Jackie Gately
I'm Jackie Gately, your travel confidante and the creative force behind Enjoy Travel Life, awarded the "Best Casual-Luxury Lifestyle Blog (USA)" in Travel and Tourism by LUXlife Magazine for four consecutive years With 25 years of published expertise, I'm a seasoned writer, editor, and photographer curating inspiring travel guides and lifestyle tips for empty nesters. I hope to kindle your spirit of exploration, encouraging you to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality. Learn to minimize your pre-travel angst and maximize the joy of exploration with insights from my experiences. Let's make every adventure a celebration of this exciting phase of life! Follow my social channels for more inspiration.
This article is a collaborative post and may contain affiliate links. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure.
Photo credits: Mountnaineer – Hermann Traub, PB&J – Muhammad Ragab, Trail Mix – Thomas B., Trail Map – USA-Reiseblogger, Soup in Thermos – StockSnap (Pixabay); Roll-up – Nishant Aneja, Granola Bars, Annelies Brouw (Pexels).