Best Hiking Snacks and Lunches
What makes a good hiking snack? It has to give you the energy you need to keep going, travel well while stuffed in your backpack, and of course be super tasty! Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trail mix can get old pretty quickly, and most protein/snack bars either have questionable enjoyment factors or are just sugary empty calories. Here are a few of my go-to snacks and lunches to expand your hiking food horizons.
I have just focused on day hiking, but some are good for backpacking too. Backpacking brings another couple factors into play - weight and size. Look for another post specific to backpacking foods, coming soon.
A kind reminder - please do not feed wild animals either intentionally or unintentionally. Make sure that if you drop something you pick it up and bring it back home with you. There are so many reasons for this: wildlife can become dependent on humans for food and lose their natural food-finding abilities, human food can make them sick or kill them, and animals can lose their fear of humans (this may not seem so catastrophic for a small bird, but very dangerous for larger mammals and usually get's them killed).
Wraps and Sandwiches
Let's get these out of the way first. They are obvious but there are so many options you may not be thinking about. For a quick hike I like to just make a quick tortilla and cream cheese roll up as a snack (add ham or bell peppers for some added excitement), but for a full day hike I want something more substantial. No sandwich is off the table - you can go fancy and have turkey and brie with cranberry sauce in a ciabatta bun or you can go simple and have peanut butter and its favourite accompaniment (jelly, nutella, or banana). I often find myself going for a cheese, cucumber, avocado, hummus, cherry tomato wrap, or a simple cheddar and English chutney sandwich (my Grandma's chutney is insanely good). You can also try switching up your bread layers to a bagel, croissant, or pita. Get creative and see what you can think of.
Because who is going to bring the "board" up a mountain?
My sister and I were hiking together almost every week for a while in 2021 and we decided to alternate who would make lunches and bring them for each other each week. One day we were snowshoeing at Mount Seymour and when we took our break for lunch in a snowbank she started pulling out an array of charcuterie items. There were three kinds of cheeses, crackers, pepperoni sticks, grapes, pickles, chocolate... it just kept coming. She even used little cups for each of us to keep them together and make it easy to eat. I was seriously impressed. Oh and of course she also packed the White Claws!
You have plenty of recipe options for energy balls, however, my favourite is some chocolatey peanut buttery deliciousness. The inspiration behind this recipe came about when I was in Chile and my friend and I had developed a late night hankering for something delicious. We went through everything in my fridge and pantry and took whatever we thought might be good and threw it into a bowl: peanut butter, nuts, corn flakes, manjar (dulce de leche), chocolate chips, coconut flakes... the list was endless and changed every time based on what I happened to have on hand.
These days I typically use:
- Peanut butter (or a nut/seed butter of your choice)
- Peanuts (but you could also use chopped walnuts, or another nut)
- Maple syrup or honey
- Chocolate chips
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Raisins (or dried fruit of your choice)
- Coconut flakes
- Rolled oats
The opportunities for ingredients are endless! Pick your favourites and swap out what you don't want and you are good to go. The idea is that you just need enough sticky stuff like peanut butter or dates to hold everything together. Mix everything together (by hand or in a food processor) and then roll a ball in your hands (or use an ice cream scooper) to your preferred size, and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight to help them hold their shape.
They have so much goodness in them - they're packed full of the protein and carbs you need to keep you going, plus a bit of sweetness as a pick me up. These are one of my favourite things for hiking, camping, and road trips. They're easy to make and they last for a long time if you keep them in a cooler/fridge. If you don't want to make them, you can find similar items in the grocery store and many bakeries or cafés.
Chocolate Covered Almonds
My go-to for a while was dark chocolate covered almonds. They are perfect for a short hike when I wasn't going to eat a full lunch and they transport very well. While you may not want to eat too many, 8-10 almonds usually did the trick and kept me happy and energized for the rest of the hike. If you aren't a chocolate lover you can of course just go for plain nuts or try them covered in yogurt. Your local bulk food store should have lot's of options. For those in the Vancouver area, Ayoub's has some awesome varieties, but your local grocery store or bulk food store will also have plenty of selection. Rancho Vignola in Armstrong, BC is another option for those who want to order in large quantities and they ship all over Canada.
Unlike on a backpacking trip, fresh fruit is great for a day hike. Apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, pears, and berries are just a few of the myriad options available. For soft fruit consider a hard sided plastic container to prevent them getting squished. If you plan on bringing something juicy (read: messy) like a mango or pineapple, you can cut it into bite sized pieces before you go and make sure it is sealed properly in a container.
Fresh fruit is great because it offers some hydration but for an easier, lighter, and less messy option, you can also bring dried fruit like apricots, raisins, dates, papaya, or mango. If you know your berries, you can even pick a few things along the trail if you hike in the right season/location - my trail favourites are huckleberries and wild blueberries.
Please remember that your fruit peels and cores must be taken home with you to dispose of. They do not decompose very quickly and will likely be consumed by animals (which, as we have discussed, is not good).
For a bite-sized mouthful of energy, I love Clif Bloks. There are similar options in the market like Honey Stingers, but I have always stuck with Clif Bloks since I almost gave up trying to get back to the car on a May snowshoeing adventure carrying a heavy pack and sinking into waist deep slush every step. We were racing the sunset and didn't have time to stop for a snack, so I was running on empty when Kristine (my girl at Hikes Near Vancouver) offered me a Clif Blok and I turned into a whole new person with the energy to continue on.
This is such a satisfying lunch when you are sitting on the top of a mountain or next to a clear blue lake. It's satisfying any time, really, but it's a treat on a hike and you are going to make your hiking partners a little jealous. My favourite pasta salad recipe is a greek inspired one, but there are plenty of other recipe options you can choose from.
Recipe: Combine your pasta (cooked, drained, and cooled - you can rinse with cold water to speed up cooling process) with chopped fresh tomatoes, diced cucumbers, diced bell peppers, chopped red onion, and sliced & pitted black olives. Quantities are not really important here - use what looks good to you or what you have available. Season with salt and pepper. Crumble some feta cheese into the mixture. For the dressing, combine equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss to combine.
So what are your favourite trail snacks and lunches? Let me know in the comments below.
Safety Note: Make your own decisions and do your own research about food safety and how long things are ok to be out of the fridge. Outdoor temperature can make a big difference in how long it will take for things to start growing bacteria, so if it's a hot day, you may want to reconsider taking certain foods with you on a long hike that you aren't going to eat right away.