Stay Energized: Top 7 Hiking Food Ideas

From strenuous mountain climbs to leisurely strolls, the right Hiking Food can give you the energy you need and make your whole trip an enjoyable one.

Whether you are a survival-minimalist or a full-on picnicker, there are lots of options that you can buy at the grocery store, outdoor retailers, and even make at home.

Do you have a favorite food to quell the backcountry munchies? Tell us about it HERE!

Some of the best moments during a hike are spent at the top of a peak sitting down to a nice meal with your hiking friends, or sitting down to a hot dinner at base camp. It’s at these meals where you feel like you’ve actually earned the hiking food you are eating.

Something about having a void in your stomach and burning up all your Calorie-fuel out on the trails makes hiking food even more delicious, however simple it may be.

Here are our top 7 ideas for satisfying the munchies in the backcountry:

1. They don’t call it “Trail Mix” for nothin’. Trail mix is chock full of energy hiking food. Here’s a twist though: customize your own trail mix recipes.

Instead of buying pre-packaged trail mix, personalize it by perusing the bulk food sections at your local market. Organic and health food markets usually have a wider and more interesting variety.

trail mix number 1 hiking food

Try throwing in soy nuts, dried fruits, carob, sunflower seeds, yogurt-covered raisins... and anything else that makes your mouth water. Not only can this be fun and delicious, but it’s a way to add healthful nutrients to your diet.

(This is a great way to get kids involved in the whole outdoors experience too: let them build their own trail mix.)

It doesn’t hurt to add a bit of salt to your mixture, since salt in your hiking food aids in retaining moisture and preventing dehydration.

2. Beef Jerky. Always a favorite hiking food. Get a good dose of protein, fat, and salt—all helpful for the long haul. Mix it up with turkey jerky or salmon jerky for those who don’t eat red meat.

beef jerky number 2 hiking food

In lots of rural areas and towns near great hiking destinations, you can often find locally-made jerkies: salmon, venison, buffalo—you name it.

The lack of water in this dehydrated delicacy makes it perfect for lightweight trekking and lasts for weeks without refrigeration.

If you’re feeling creative and have the free time for a weekend project, try making your own jerky. It’s basically a matter of slicing the meat super thin, whipping up a marinade, and baking on low heat for a few hours to dehydrate.

3. For Sandwich Lovers: Let’s face it, some hikers just can’t give up their sandwiches, even though they add bulk and weight to your pack, and risk getting smooshed before lunch time.

Well for those hikers, I have a few tips and twists on the traditional sandwich.

rolled sandwich number 3 hiking food

If you’re tired of smooshed sandwiches, look for a sandwich-specific plastic container that fits your meal perfectly and keeps it intact.

Try using flat bread or pita, and make a rolled-up sandwich. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil. You now have a compact “stick” that’s easy to tuck into your pack.

In the name of traveling light, reduce the weight of your sandwiches by leaving out the watery vegetables like cucumbers or tomatoes. Keep your hiking food simple.

4. Camping and Backpacking food. This is the Cadillac hiker’s meal in my opinion. Not only easy, but totally satisfying and delicious enough to eat at home for dinner.

freeze dried camping food-number 4 hiking food

I love Mountain House freeze-dried meals in the foil pouches. If you were served these meals in a bowl, you wouldn’t even know they were dehydrated. They come in a variety of dishes, like:

  • Lasagna with Meat Sauce
  • Jamaican Style Chicken and Rice
  • good ol’ Mac and Cheese
  • and many, many, more...

If you're wondering where you can go to find a vast selection of food for hiking and backpacking, including the most popular Mountain House meals, try

Of course you’ll need a way to boil water. Most backpackers these days use a super compact stove/fuel canister system like a Jet Boil unit.

Don’t forget a spoon! It’ll make eating out of the pouch a lot easier (although when you’re hungry enough you’ll find an alternate route).

See James's Review of his favorite Mountain House Meal...

5. Homemade Dehydrated Meals. For the more self-sufficient outdoors-men and women, try making your own backpacking meals. (Test your recipe at home first—you don’t want to waste your only food on a week-long trek.)

couscous number 5 hiking food

As a base, use quick-cooking dry grains or pastas like cous-cous or bulgur wheat. Add spices, raisins, dried bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, salt... You can find some interesting dehydrated ingredients like shrimp, mushrooms, and chili peppers, at Asian and Latin American markets.

Make sure the ingredients are well-dehydrated and your mixture has ample salt, maybe even a little more than you would normally use at home. This will also help prevent the recipe from spoiling.

Pack in an air-tight container and keep cool and dry. When ready to eat, add boiling water and let stand until soft enough to eat. Stir, and enjoy!

6. Energy Bars. Available in large variety at outdoor retailers and health food stores, energy and protein bars are chock full of nutrients in one compact package.

energy bars number 6 hiking food

Unlike years ago, these little bars of pure hiking fuel have become super scrumptious and will tide you over until lunch. They might be all you need on a typical day hike.

See one visitor's review of the Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Cliff Bar...

7. Chocolate. As a chocolate lover, I couldn’t leave this one out. It might not come first to mind as trail food, but for me and many other hikers, chocolate fits right in as one of the top hikng foods.

chocolate number 7 hiking food

Chocolate is the perfect energy food. With the sugar in a chocolate bar, you’ll beat fatigue quickly. Cacao has a certain amount of caffeine, so it also has that pick-me-up affect. The fat in cocoa butter is burnable fuel for active hiking.

Whoever invented chocolate covered nuts was a genius. Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts... delicious and protein packed. In a pinch, peanut M & M’s are great. The outer candy coating reduces the melty mess on hot days.

For a wealth of ideas for picnics and other hiking food ideas and tips, see this great site:

Healthy picnics, healthy recipes and outdoor games. Plan, eat, enjoy! Healthy picnics, healthy recipes and outdoor games for family fun.

What Are Your Favorite Trail Eats?

Do you have a favorite trail mix recipe, jerky, freeze-dried meal, or other hiking food?

Let us know about it!

Enter the Title of Your Hiking Food Here...

Favorite Hiking Food by Other Readers...

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Mountain House Lasagne with Meat Sauce 
My wife and I agree, that the lasagne with meat sauce is, by far, our favorite dehydrated backpacking meal! It is super tasty, super filling, super …

Canned Soup on Treks 
Canned soups are one of my favorite options for hiking food. Not only does it have nutrients and tastes good, it's easy to find a variety of flavors …

Oatmeal Walnut Raisin Clif Bar Not rated yet
I was never a big fan of energy bars... that is until I got a free sample of Clif Bars on a Yosemite hiking trip two years ago. My take on energy bars …

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