Food may be essential as fuel for the body, but good food is fuel for the soulMalcolm forbes
I had always struggled with what food and/or snacks to bring with me during my hikes. I think I am finally able to come up with a list of my favorites. There are a few considerations when it comes to hiking food, the quantity, nutrition value, and of course, the taste. I think I am considered a picky eater, and with a lot of food allergies and food intolerance, I have to choose my food wisely. Everyone reacts to food differently, and the food and snacks listed here had been working for me. You may have to modify it to fit your specific diet requirement. Generally, my backpack is always ready with all my essentials. On the day before my planned hike, I would do a final check, add gears as needed, charge my camera batteries, pack water and food, and I am ready to go. For this post, I will discuss the water and food planning for day hikes only.
Water – this is the heaviest item in my backpack. It weighs a little over 2 pounds for every 1 liter. The general rule of thumb is to drink 1 liter of water every 2 hours of hiking, with small sips before you get thirsty. I usually bring 2 to 3 liters for my day hikes. I also carry electrolytes replacement tablets, especially during strenuous or warm weather hikes where I sweat a lot. Hydration with electrolytes is essential in those circumstances to avoid fatigue and low energy.
Pre hike food options – eat at least an hour before the start of hike. Meals high in carbohydrates with some protein and fiber will provide the essential fuel to sustain your energy level. Examples of meal options are hard/soft boiled eggs, oatmeal with fruits (fresh or dried), yogurt with granolas, breakfast burritos or toast with eggs, nut butter, brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks for hydration.
Food and snacks options during hike – as we hike, it is crucial to replenish the loss of fuel throughout the day. Keep in mind to pack food that will provide sustained energy and fill us up. These include food high in carbohydrates and some protein. To avoid electrolytes imbalance, consuming salty snacks or electrolytes replacement drinks would help.
- Bars – they come in various forms and nutritional values. My favorites are Clif bars, Kind bars, Honey Stinger waffles, and homemade nutty coconut energy balls (different types of nuts, nut butter, and coconut flakes), Snickers bars. I have also heard good things about ProBar and Aussie Bites. Most of this food will provide the much-needed carbohydrates and protein for sustained energy.
- Peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets which are available in a large container from Costco
- Gummy bears or fruit gummies, my favorite is the Black Forest Organic Gummy Bears available in a large box from Costco.
- Dried fruits, my favorite is Made-in-Nature organic dried apricots (I was bummed that it was no longer available at Costco). My new favorite is Mariani organic Malatya dried apricots from Amazon, which is just as good. Both of these brands are made with no added sugars and unsulfured. I bought them in bulk packages to save on cost since I eat them frequently.
- Nuts such as almonds, and store-bought or homemade trail mixes.
- Fresh fruits such as bananas, grapes, mandarin oranges, and apples. You may be able to forage some berries along the trails in some areas during the berry season. Remember to pack out all the peels and seeds.
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels, hummus, and pita bread or whole-grain tortillas, shelf-stable salmon and tuna pouches to eat as is, or make your own sandwiches.
- Beef, pork or salmon jerky, pepperoni sticks, carrots, celery stick with nut butter, boiled eggs, string cheese, crackers, and dark chocolate, Fritos corn chips.
- For cold-weather hikes, bring thermos of hot tea or hot cocoa.
- Avoid creamy, cheesy, high fat and spicy food to prevent indigestion and stomach upset.
Food safety in hot weather – I tend to avoid perishable food so that I do not have to worry about bacteria growth on my food. However, if you must bring that meat and cheese sandwich with you, there are a few options to keep them at a safe temperature. You can use a lightweight, thermal insulated food bag that can be easily roll up and add a thin freezer gel pack. Alternatively, you may use frozen grapes, frozen energy bars, or frozen yogurt sticks as cold packs. They will thaw sufficiently by the time you are ready to enjoy your sandwiches.
Post hiking food – eating and hydrating after a hike is just as important as before the hike to help with recovery. Drink about 8 ounces (a cup) of water right after the hike and try to avoid alcohol and highly caffeinated drinks. Try to eat a meal within an hour after the hike to enhance recovery. I usually keep some snacks and water in the car to replenish some energy and then go for a more satisfying meal later.
Miscellaneous reminders – don’t forget hand sanitizer to clean hands before eating. Keep your food cover as much as possible when eating if you spot the notorious food robbers (gray jays). They can be dangerous and relentless in trying to snatch the food from you. Unfortunately, human has trained them well by feeding them. Sometimes, small animals such as squirrels and mice may find their ways into your backpack, so please keep it secured and zipped.
Hiking had allowed us to reach some of the best lunch venues in the world. I hope to inspire and motivate you to start hiking and see those spots for yourself. Maybe I will see you on a trail sometime soon. Happy New Year and happy trails!
You’re are off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.Dr. Seuss