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How To Pick The Right Foods To Take Hiking

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Welcome. When we first started hiking we would often set out on a whim without proper planning. Often this meant we wouldn’t have any snacks or food with us. As we got older and wiser we started to undertand the value in taking along something to eat so we could keep our energy up. In this article, we explore the best hiking food options and offer tips on how to plan and pack your meals for a successful and enjoyable trip.

When planning a hiking or camping trip, it’s important to consider your food and water needs. Factors such as the length of the trip, the type of food and beverages you’ll carry, and how you’ll eat and drink are all important to consider. Inexperienced hikers (like we were) will often not bring food, or pack the wrong foods when planning a short (3-6 hours) hike. It is easy to forget that when you’re out on the trail, you’ll be burning more calories than usual. Having healthy food packed is crucial to make sure you have enough energy to keep moving.

AI generated image of woman hiker eating a snack

Key Takeaways:

General considerations

It’s a smart idea to plan the food you will take in advance. This will help you ensure you have everything you need and allow you to better estimate the weight and volume of your food.

When it comes to selecting the right foods for hiking, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind.

  1. Nutritional value: Choose foods that are high in nutrients and provide a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. This will help you stay energized on the trail.
  2. Weight and volume: You’ll be carrying all your food with you, so choose lightweight and compact items.
  3. Shelf life: Look for foods that can withstand the elements and won’t spoil. Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods often have a longer shelf life, but they can be more expensive.
  4. Convenience: Choose foods that are easy to prepare and you don’t need to cook. Instant oatmeal, energy bars, and dried fruits and nuts are all good options.
  5. Taste and variety: It’s a good idea to pack a variety of foods to prevent boredom on long hikes.
  6. Water availability: Consider how much water you’ll have access to on your trip and choose foods that don’t need a lot of water to prepare or clean up.
  7. Trash: Look for foods that have as little trash as possible. Since you will be taking all of it out with you having as little to carry is always nice.
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Backpacking Snack Options

It’s important to bring enough food on a hike to keep your energy levels up and prevent hunger. The amount of food you will need depends on a few factors, including your age, gender, weight, height, and activity level.

As a general rule, adults should aim to bring about 200-300 calories per hour of hiking or 1200-1800 calories for a six-hour hike. This can be a combination of snacks and lunch and should include a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Some healthy options for backpacking food include:

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Staying hydrated is crucial when hiking. As we venture into the great outdoors, it’s important to take care of our bodies and ensure we have enough fluids to keep us going. The importance of staying hydrated cannot be overstated, as dehydration can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, and even serious health risks. To ensure we stay hydrated on a hike, here are some essential tips:

1. Pre-hydrate and continue hydrating

Before hitting the trail, it’s important to start hydrating beforehand. Drink at least 4 cups of water before the hike to prepare your body. During the hike, aim to consume about 2 cups of fluid for every hour of hiking. This will help replenish the fluids lost through sweat and keep your body functioning optimally.

2. Pack fluids

Packing fluids is essential, especially for hot weather adventures. Make sure to bring or have access to clean drinking water during your hike. Consider carrying a hydration bladder or water bottles that are lightweight and easy to carry. If you prefer flavored drinks or need an extra electrolyte boost, pack electrolyte drinks as well. These will help replenish essential minerals and keep you hydrated throughout your hike.

Fluid OptionsProsCons
Water- Lightweight and easily accessible
- Can be replenished at water sources along the trail
- May not provide enough electrolytes for strenuous hikes
Electrolyte drinks- Replenishes essential minerals
- Provides an extra hydration boost
- Can be heavier to carry
- May have added sugars or artificial ingredients

Packing Electrolytes for Hiking

When it comes to staying hydrated on the trail, replenishing electrolytes is essential. Electrolytes are minerals that help maintain proper fluid balance in the body and are lost through sweat during physical activity. To ensure you stay hydrated and maintain optimal performance during your hike, it’s important to pack electrolytes along with your water supply.

While salty snacks like salted peanuts can provide some electrolytes, it’s beneficial to pack additional electrolyte packets or drinks to mix into your water. These products are specifically designed to replenish electrolytes and prevent dehydration. Some popular options include LMNT Electrolyte Packets, Re-Lyte Electrolyte Packets, and Instant Bone Broth Packets.

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Remember Food and water for your dog

If you are hiking with your dog it is critical to make sure your dog has enough food and water. The amount of food and water you’ll need will depend on the size of your dog, the length of your hike, and the weather conditions. As a general rule, you should plan on bringing about one cup of food per day for every 20 pounds of body weight. So, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, you should bring about two cups of food per day.

You’ll also need enough water to keep your dog hydrated. A simple rule of thumb is to bring one quart of water per day for every 25 pounds of body weight. So, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, you should bring about 1.6 quarts of water per day.

Be sure to bring enough food and water for the entire trip, as well as extra in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to bring a collapsible water bowl for your dog to drink from. Don’t let your dog drink from natural water sources. Read more about hiking with your dog here.

AI generated image of a hiker and his dog eating a snack

Packing Food for Multi-Day Hikes

When embarking on a multi-day hike, proper meal planning and packing are essential to ensure you have enough food and stay nourished throughout your journey. For extended trips, it’s important to consider the weight, nutritional value, and long-term stability of the foods you pack. Shelf-stable backpacking meals are a convenient option as they require minimal preparation and can last for extended periods without refrigeration.

Meal planning for backpacking involves creating a well-rounded menu that provides a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Consider including items such as dehydrated meals, freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, instant rice or pasta mixes, and canned or pouch meats. These options are lightweight, easy to prepare, and offer the necessary nutrients to sustain your energy levels. Don’t forget to pack individual condiment packets to enhance the flavor of your meals.

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Sample Meal Plan for a 3-Day Backpacking Trip

MealDay 1Day 2Day 3
BreakfastInstant oatmeal with dried fruitGranola with powdered milkProtein bars
LunchTrail mix and jerkyTuna salad wrapsCrackers with nut butter
DinnerDehydrated pasta with sauceBackpacker's chiliInstant mashed potatoes with beef jerky
SnacksEnergy bars and dried fruitBeef jerky and mixed nutsGranola bars and trail mix

Hiking Food Safety Tips: Preventing Food Spoilage on the Trail

When enjoying the great outdoors, it’s important to prioritize food safety to prevent any unpleasant surprises or health risks. Proper food handling while hiking is crucial to avoid food spoilage and potential illnesses. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

AI generated image of a hiker eating a snack

1. Pack Foods That Are Less Perishable

Choose foods that are less likely to spoil quickly. Opt for non-perishable options like trail mix, dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, and jerky. These items have a longer shelf life and are less prone to bacterial growth. Avoid packing foods that require refrigeration or have a short expiration date to minimize the risk of spoilage.

2. Use Food Storage Containers and Bags

Invest in airtight food storage containers and resealable bags to keep your food fresh and protected from external contaminants. Divide snacks into smaller portions to avoid exposing the entire batch to air and moisture every time you open the container. This practice helps maintain the quality and safety of your food throughout the hike.

3. Practice Proper Hand Hygiene

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food, especially if you don’t have access to hand sanitizer. This step is essential to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses caused by bacteria and other pathogens. If water is scarce, pack disposable wipes or hand sanitizers to maintain proper hand hygiene.

4. Keep Raw and Cooked Foods Separate

To prevent cross-contamination, always keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate. Store them in separate containers or use individual sealed bags. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be kept away from other food items to avoid the spread of harmful bacteria. This practice ensures that your food remains safe to consume during your hiking adventure.

5. Be Mindful of Temperature Control

Temperature control is crucial in preventing food spoilage. During hot weather hikes, try to consume perishable foods within one hour to minimize the risk of bacterial growth. In mild weather conditions, aim to consume perishable foods within two hours. If you’re hiking in hot climates, consider using coolers or ice packs to keep your perishable foods chilled and safe to eat.

By following these hiking food safety tips, you can ensure that your meals and snacks remain fresh, delicious, and free from potential health hazards. Prioritizing food safety allows you to fully enjoy your hiking experience while maintaining optimal well-being.

AI generated image of a hiker eating a snack on a log

In conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the right hiking food is essential for a successful and enjoyable trip. It’s critical to select foods that are high in nutrients, lightweight, and convenient to prepare. Dehydrated or freeze-dried meals, energy bars, nuts and seeds, and jerky are all good options.

When packing food for hiking, opt for lightweight and nutrient-dense options that provide a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Items like trail mix, nuts, fresh or dried fruit, energy bars, and jerky are all excellent choices. Don’t forget to pack electrolytes to maintain proper hydration, especially during hot weather hikes.

Proper meal planning and food safety practices are also essential. Create a meal plan that accounts for energy levels and activities, and consider dehydrating your own meals for convenience. Always follow food safety guidelines, such as washing hands, keeping raw meats separate, cooking foods properly, and refrigerating perishable items promptly.

With these tips and considerations in mind, we can confidently embark on our hiking adventures, knowing that we have packed the right foods to fuel our bodies and fully enjoy the beauty of nature around us.


Q: How can I pick the right foods to take hiking?

A: When picking foods for hiking, consider factors like trip length, hydration needs, food safety, and personal taste preferences. Opt for lightweight, nutrient-dense options that provide a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats.

Q: How can I stay hydrated on a hike?

A: To stay hydrated on a hike, pre-hydrate by drinking at least 4 cups of water before starting. Plan to consume about 2 cups of fluid for every hour of hiking. Pack fluids like water or electrolyte drinks and have access to clean drinking water during your hike.

Q: What should I pack for a day hike?

A: For a day hike, pack non-perishable foods that are lightweight and nutrient-dense. Suitable options include trail mix, nuts, fresh fruit, energy bars, tuna salad pouches, and whole-grain tortillas. Avoid packing perishable foods unless you have a cold source to keep them chilled.

Q: How should I pack food for multi-day hikes?

A: For multi-day hikes, pack shelf-stable options and plan your meals in advance. Include items like ready-to-eat cereal, canned or pouch meats, and shelf-stable pasta or rice mix. Don't forget to pack safe drinking water or water purification methods.

Q: What are some food safety tips for hiking?

A: Practice proper food safety by washing your hands before and after eating or using hand sanitizer. Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate to prevent cross-contamination. Cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate perishable foods promptly.

Q: How do I choose hiking snacks?

A: Choose portable, lightweight snacks that provide a good balance of nutrients. Options like trail mix, energy bars, dried fruits, and beef jerky are excellent choices. Consider personal taste preferences and any dietary restrictions or allergies.

Q: Should I pack electrolytes for hiking?

A: Yes, packing electrolytes is important to replenish essential minerals lost during hiking. Mix electrolyte packets or drinks into your water to stay properly hydrated and prevent dehydration.

Q: Any tips for meal planning on the trail?

A: Have a meal plan to ensure you have enough food and avoid running out. Consider your activities and energy levels when planning meals. Pack easily-prepared meals for days with more hiking and more elaborate recipes when you have ample time at the campsite.

Q: What should I keep in mind when picking the right foods for hiking?

A: Consider factors like trip length, hydration needs, food safety, and personal taste preferences. Pack lightweight, nutrient-dense options that provide a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Proper meal planning and food safety practices are essential for a successful and enjoyable hiking experience.

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By Summer and Bill

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Summer and Bill are the dynamic duo behind, a blog dedicated to inspiring others to explore the great outdoors. With a combined lifetime of experience traveling and adventuring across America, they have a wealth of knowledge to share. From hiking to camping, kayaking to travel, Summer and Bill are passionate about helping others discover the beauty of the natural world.

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