I remember taking a winter ice climbing course a few years ago, and my guide gave us the best advice: in winter, lunch should start as soon as breakfast ends, and end as soon as dinner starts. Translation: when you’re not moving, eat! The thought that I could eat whenever and whatever I wanted during winter hiking and climbing definitely helped ease me into the sport (heehee).
All jokes aside, staying properly hydrated and fueled is pretty important when you’re doing any physical activity. For me, snacking intermittently just works better than eating large meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I’m out hiking. For you, that might not be the case; it’s all about learning to understand your own body and what it needs for fuel.
So, to share with you some of the snacks that work best for me, I decided to raid our “snack box” – it’s literally a re-purposed Amazon shipping box that sits on top of the fridge. We keep all of our snacks for hiking in the box so that we can easily divvy rations up when we decide to head out for a day trip. These are things I don’t typically eat during the week (I try to stick with fresh fruits & veggies at work), so they’re out of the cabinet and I’m not tempted to grab them for my lunchbox.
Here are some of the things I found in our snack box this week:
Granola / fruit / nut bars:
Bars are great because they’re easy to eat with one hand and stash in the hip-belt of your backpack. I’m always nibbling on snacks and don’t want to hold up my hiking group, so I tend to keep a granola bar always handy. Some of my favorites are
- Larabars – These are a good nut-free option. Coconut Chocolate Chip was in the box this week, but I also really like Cherry Pie.
- Kashi – I found some Pumpkin Flax Granola, which is my favorite!
- Kind Bars – I’m on a Mint Chocolate kick recently, but also like Coconut & Almond.
Nut butters are great for some protein & healthy fats, and the fruit pouches are good for a quick and natural sugar burst. I have even scooped up baby food fruit/veggie combos before when they were on sale… they’re less likely to have extra added sugars.
- Justin’s Nut Butters – I’m a big fan of Chocolate Hazelnut and Maple Almond Butter.
- Man-goo-zers – I found these at Ocean State Job Lot this week for $ .30 a pouch! We will usually grab whatever brand is on sale. You can find some pretty fancy brands out there, but I have personally never tried them.
Meat / cheese / crackers:
Looking to have a fancy picnic at the summit? A nice plate of meat and cheese never disappoints! Not to mention that these three items together will give you carbs, protein, and fat to keep you going. Try packing….
- Beef Jerky or a meat stick – I have tried brands like Epic Bar and Vermont Smoke & Cure which I enjoy, but in a pinch we will run to the store and pick up salami or something like that.
- Block of cheese – Need I say more?
- Crackers – Any brand you like! You’ll notice that I had a stash of Keebler cheese & crackers this week. My personal favorite is the Pepper Jack Cheese and Club Cracker combo.
Nuts / seeds / trail mix:
It’s very easy to make your own mix of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and m&ms if you want a chocolate kick. Try almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, etc. … just remember to hike out the shells! Leave no trace, please.
Fresh or dried fruit:
Bananas tend to keep well in a backpack, but we have also hiked with apples, grapes, peaches (my favorite!!) and dried fruits like mango. The one thing to keep in mind with dried fruit is that it sometimes has a lot of added sugar in it. We personally are big fans of Trader Joe’s dried mango because they sell an unsweetened version. Or, better yet, make your own! As with your nuts and seeds, remember to pack out any peels or cores with you.
I personally struggle with staying hydrated, as I sometimes don’t like the taste of plain water (it’s a horrible habit that stems from too much juice & soda in childhood and I know, I know, I’m trying really hard to fix it). To encourage myself to drink more, I usually keep 1 Nalgene full of water, and 1 Nalgene filled with some sort of electrolyte or low-sugar mix. It’s a personal compromise, and might also be good if it’s a really hot day and you’re losing a lot of fluids through sweat.
- True Lemon – I buy this brand because it only has 1 gram of sugar per packet, and uses ingredients like stevia and crystallized lemon.
- Gu or Nuun tablets – I have used these and other brands for electrolyte replenishing. Again, good if you’re sweating and losing excessive fluids. (Fun fact: Chris likes to eat Jelly Belly sport beans for his electrolytes.)
- Instant coffee / tea – This is more of a winter thing when I’m looking to warm up my body. I like to have a coffee before heading out for the day, and will sometimes make herbal tea in a thermos so I can enjoy a warm drink at the summit or crag.
CHOCOLATE / sweets:
I’m a self-professed chocolate lover with a very demanding sweet tooth. Hiking is one of those times I let myself indulge a little and enjoy a candy bar or some other chocolate treat when I reach a difficult summit.
- Honey Stinger – Even though it’s chocolate and it tastes like a sinful treat, they’re pretty low in fat and give me a little boost of energy. I also really like the gingersnap flavor.
- Candy bars – Yup, this is the not-so-healthy contribution to the post. Chris & I will sometimes pack some Reese’s, Kit Kats, or other personal favorite candy bars. Particularly in the winter, the pro tip is to keep a candy bar in your inside jacket pocket so it stays warm. You earned it, right?
So, that’s a sneak peek of what you’re likely to find in my backpack during a day of hiking. What are your favorite snacks to take on the trail?