Have you ever actually read, or attempted to read, the list of ingredients in many common hiking and backpacking snacks? Or checked how many grams of sugar is in each thing you eat throughout the day?
Wowza! Many typical hiking snacks are loaded with overly processed, non-food ingredients, as I like to call them, or have lots of added sugar or both!
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Some hikes are already hard enough as it is, we don’t need to add even more stress to our bodies by filling them with food that we can’t actually process or use as fuel.
What makes a hiking snack healthy?
I know, I know, the term healthy is a little subjective. So, what does make a healthy hiking snack?
Every hiker needs to determine their own definition of healthy according to your own body and possibly your doctor if you have certain medical conditions or allergies.
To me, a ‘healthy’ hiking snacks needs to either give me energy or give me nutrients. I also try to stick to minimally processed or whole, gluten-free foods, but even I know that’s not always possible in the backcountry or while traveling. In a pinch, if I need the convenience of a prepackaged snack, I may pick up some Quest cookies, Quest bars, or any of the Slim Fast Keto bars/candies.
While high carb, high sugar snacks may give you a sugar high – that won’t give you enough energy to actually make it through a long, hard hike and will likely cause sugar crashes and bouts of sluggishness and low energy along the way. Like I said, hiking is already hard enough, why throw that into the mix, too?!
Healthy Hiking Snacks
I tend to stick to keto-friendly foods, even on the trail, so these healthy hiking snacks are listed in order from most wholesome, keto-friendly snacks, down to least keto-friendly snacks that still may be a healthy addition to most people’s packs.
- Macadamia Nuts, aka nature’s fat bombs! Healthy fats and proteins will keep you fuller longer and give you more, long-lasting energy than carbs and sugars will on the trail. Plus, fats pack just over double the number of calories per gram as proteins or carbs, which means you can carry those much-needed calories for less weight than a carb-heavy food bag.
- Mixed nuts. I like to keep a small container full of a mix of almonds, cashews, pecans, and macadamias, and then it’s ready to just grab and go.
- Homemade beef jerky or store-bought meat sticks, like pepperoni, beef, or turkey sticks. Always check the ingredients and try to find real meat sticks without a bunch of additives like sugar, gluten, or nitrates.
- Real cheese, either cut off a block at home or individually wrapped pieces or string cheese. I personally love the small, individual blocks of Tillamook!
- Almond flour crackers or Flackers to go with your cheese and meats.
- Crunchy cheese snacks like Whisps or Moon Cheese. These are like what Cheez-its were supposed to be – cheese crackers but are actually just made out of cheese.
- Homemade granola or homemade granola bars. I promise you can make delicious bars at home without all the added sugar and syrups that most pre-packaged brands come with.
- Homemade energy bites or fat bombs. Be picky about which type of fat bomb you make, try to choose ones with a base of nut butter or coconut butter since those will do better out of refrigeration.
- Lilies Dark Chocolate bars or Lilies Chocolate Chips. This really only works in mild or cool weather where the chocolate won’t melt. These are great on their own or mixed in with nuts, granola, or topped with nut butter.
- Nut butters! Some of my favorites are F-bombs (macadamia nut butter packets) sold on Amazon, Justin’s unsweetened peanut or almond butter packets, or if you’re on a multi-day hike – bring along a small jar of unsweetened peanut butter.
- Hard-boiled eggs. For a day hike, I’d peel them at home for convenience’s sake, but for a backpacking trip, I’d leave the shells on and plan to eat them earlier in the trip than later. If you want to get fancy, bring along some mayo, mustard, or hot sauce packets.
- To-go olives. A lightweight snack packed with healthy fats!
- Fresh or dried berries. If you pack fresh berries be sure to either pack them in a plastic container or in a baggy inside your cookpot if you’re backpacking, just somewhere they won’t get squished.
- Fresh veggies like carrots, broccoli, and sweet peppers. These pack great on a day hike and even do well for the first day or two of backpacking trips. Pack a punch and also bring an individual cup of cream cheese (or a few) to dip the veggies in.
- Dried veggies like zucchini chips, crunchy dehydrated mushrooms, chickpeas, edamame (or wasabi edamame!) or dried seaweed snacks.
- Fresh fruit like bananas, apples, pears. Always remember to pack out all food waste and food scraps, never try to toss, bury, or burn food waste in the woods.
- Dried fruit or fruit leather strips. We’re getting pretty high up there now in sugar and carbs, always check the label and try to avoid any added sugars or syrups – fruit is already so sweet!
- Gluten-free pretzels if you need an extra crunch. These are also great to dip in peanut butter, cream cheese, or even hummus.
How to pack your hiking snacks
Pro tip: always keep several healthy hiking snacks on hand and ready to go at home so you don’t need to make any last minute grocery trips or extra stops on the way to the trailhead.
I like to pack all my snacks for the day in either a quart-size Ziploc bag or a small Tupperware container. Then all my trash, wrappers, and any food scraps go back inside said plastic bag or container, and doesn’t leave a mess in my pack or on the trail.
Even if you pack things like cheese and hard boiled eggs, they’ll be fine out of refrigeration for half a day on your day hike, and most likely much longer – up to a few days out of refrigeration – on backpacking trips, depending on the daily temperatures of course. The hotter is outside, the sooner I would eat them on any given trip.
Let us know your favorite healthy hiking snacks in the comments below!
For more hiking and backpacking food ideas, check out:
- 10 Easy Backpacking Lunches
- Vegan Backpacking Lunch Ideas
- 7 Backpacking Meals To Add To Your Menu
- 4 Ways To Make Awesome Coffee On The Trail