Hiking takes a lot of energy and calories, so when hunger strikes on the trail you shouldn't just reach for any old snack. Your body needs more fuel to keep going, while your taste buds want something enjoyable. Thankfully the best snacks to take hiking find that perfect balance.
Consider a few qualities when planning your hiking menu. The best snacks will check all 6 of these boxes.
A few treats tend to hit the spot among seasoned hikers.
After working up a sweat on the trail, it makes sense to nibble on something high in calories. You're burning more of them, more quickly, which means your body is looking for replenishment. But that doesn't mean you should grab some Flamin' Hot Doritos and head for the hills. Junk food won't keep you going for long. Your body wants a good mix of carbohydrates and protein to stay energized and keep your mind focused.
When you're so hungry you find yourself wondering if it's okay to eat tree bark (Go for the pine) your body is asking you for some protein. Protein wards off the feelings of hunger, boosts your immune system, and hit helps repair you muscles.
Nut butters are high in many of the nutrients hikers need like calories, protein, and carbs, but they also contain other energizing vitamins which help the body process energy. They can be made with peanuts, like traditional peanut butter or other healthy nuts such as almonds. They can also come with other goodies mixed in, like chocolate or berries (we're partial to the variety at Saratoga Peanut Butter Company). You can make a nut butter and jelly sandwich -- just pack in a box not a bag to avoid it getting crushed in your backpack. Otherwise spread some on celery sticks or between your leftover breakfast pancakes, which are a lot stronger than bread, have useful carbs, and taste great.
Nothing tastes better on the trail than rich, tender, smoked trips of marinated meat, and it makes sense why. First, the amount of salt found in jerky helps replenish salt lost as you are sweating. Loosing too much salt through perspiration can trigger low blood pressure, causing you to become lightheaded or faint. Second, beef, pork, or other varieties of jerky are optimal when it comes to the levels of protein for hikers to stay full, especially given the size. Just 2oz. can pack up to 28 grams of protein. Opt for grass-fed, pasture-raised options made with natural ingredients.
When you want your snack to fill in for lunch, tuna packets can make a lot of sense. Tuna fish itself is filling, high in energizing B vitamins, and good Omega fats. A traditional tuna sandwich, however, can get flattened in your bag, making it hard and messy to eat. Besides, if it is mixed with mayo, it could go bad in the heat of your bag. The work around are tuna packets - a ready-to-eat pouch or tin of tuna salad that are sometimes flavored. All you need is a fork, or better yet, crackers, celery sticks, or carrot chips.. Look for packets that source their tuna responsibly, like Wild Planet.
If you love cheese at home you will love it on the trail, but not just any kind will do. Hard cheeses are sturdier than their soft cousins and resist melting. Think Parmesan, Manchego and Gruyere. They're high in protein, calcium and taste great with other trail favorites like beef jerky. If you're good with a knife, it can be used to carefully carve off small, bite-sized pieces on the spot, or it can be sliced up at home and brought in container. You can also make things a lot easier and order a sliced up cheese board to go: The Grazery in New Paltz has quite a few options plus they sell breads, meats, and more!
When every few steps feels like a mile, you're running out of steam. Carbohydrates are needed to wake you back up. When you don't get enough of 'em, body fat and protein get burned for energy, which makes you feel queasy and lethargic if you are not used to it.
The best carbs for hiking are simple, unprocessed, and don't come from junk food.
There's a reason granola has a big reputation: it's a sweet and crunchy treat that's teaming with carbs. Made from a mix of whole oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, all of which are high in fiber, granola helps keep you invigorated and full throughout the day. Sweetened with syrup or honey, it also gives you quick, sugary jolt. Raspberry Fields Farm in Ulster County, New York makes some of the best artisan batches of granola around, especially if you like apple pie.
Don't underestimate the power of dried fruits. The best kinds contain high amounts of potassium, which helps your body maintain good levels of hydration and staves off muscle cramps. Plus, they'll perk you up with natural sugars, iron, vitamins, and magnesium. Choose fruits high calories such as these:
The Hudson Valley's Tierra Farm has a delicious array of organic options.
After so many dried snacks, fresh fruit can seem like mana from heaven, and they're just as good for hikers as dried snacks - filled with fiber, natural sugar, and plenty of nutrients. Even though many ripe fruits are great for hiking, not all make an ideal passenger in your backpack. Avoid soft fruits like strawberries and bananas unless they're kept in a sturdy, lightweight container. Choose fruits that are strong like apples, which can be found in abundance in the Hudson Valley. In fact, we have a great orchard just across the street at Wright's Farm.
It's hard to find savory and crunchy treats that don't get crumbled into a powder in your bag, which is one part of what makes roasted chickpeas so great. They take on the texture of a light nut and are able to stand up to the rigors of your backpack. They're also high in fiber and protein, making them a filling, energizing treat. Bonus: Roasting chickpeas is easy to do at home.
If you've ever shopped for trail mix you already know there are a million different kinds, including mixes specifically for energy or protein. In reality, carbs and protein are present in all trail mixes but some may lean in one direction or the other, depending on the recipe. Mixtures with candied nuts, caramel popcorn, chocolate and dried fruit usually have a good amount of sugar. If you see more savory items like jerky, sesame sticks, and raw or roasted nuts, it's a sign it may have a few less carbs.
Consider the length and difficulty of the trail. The general rule of thumb is to pack about 2,500-4,000 calories of food per person, per day. However, a person doing an all day, 10-mile trail with 5000 feet in elevation will need more calories than a few miles jaunt around a lake.
If you're new to hiking there are a few common mistakes to avoid.
A good hike hinges on preparation and that includes snacks. The best treats have more calories than normal but aren't necessarily junk.
To fight hunger, focus on foods that contain high amounts of protein, and to stay alert choose foods that are high in carbohydrates. Always reach for snacks that have a good distribution of nutrients and are full of flavor - our variety of delicious, protein-rich jerky, sticks, and bites gives you a lot to choose from.
When you set off for the wilderness, having just the right balance of snacks in your bag lets you keep your focus on the trail and the beautiful nature that surrounds you.