Bored with your current selection of hiking snacks? In this post, we’re sharing all the best hiking snacks including budget-friendly DIY recipes as well as our favorite store-bought snacks for hiking.
Day hiking is great when you want to get outdoors but don’t have the time to commit to an overnight backpacking trip. In just a matter of hours, you can find yourself deep in the wilderness, far away from civilization, surrounded by nature—and still be home to sleep in your own bed. It’s the best of both worlds!
Even though you’re just hiking for the day, it’s still important to be prepared. Hiking burns a lot of calories, so it’s important to pack the right kind of snacks to keep your energy up on the trail.
What makes a good day hiking snack?
The best snacks for hiking have the following attributes:
Relatively lightweight: Snacks don’t need to be ultra-lightweight for day hiking (like they would for a multi-day backpacking trip), but you will be carrying them every step of the way, so, perhaps, a full-sized watermelon isn’t the best option 😉
Nutrition: You will definitely want to be replacing those calories you’re burning and keep your blood sugar level up. Look for snacks that pack a lot of calories into a small serving, and that have a good balance of carbohydrates for quick energy, and fats & proteins for “staying power”.
Shelf-Stable: You can bring an insulated tote or backpack with you if you want, but it’s best if your day hiking snacks don’t require refrigeration.
Portable and packable: You will probably be storing your snacks in a backpack. You want snacks won’t take up a ton of space and won’t get smashed to smithereens over the course of your hike.
Minimal packaging: The less packaging you take out on the trail, the less trash you’ll need to hike out with.
Our favorite snacks for hiking
Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter—whatever your preference, nut butter is a great hiking snack. Spread it on crackers or fruit, use it to make a sandwich, or just eat it plain. Nut butter is very calorie-dense, so you get a lot of energy for the weight.
If you’re doing a big group hike, a full jar might be the most economical option. But if you want to snack as you hike, you might want to pick up some of the smaller squeeze pouches. We’re big fans of Justin’s and RX Bar packets. (The RX Vanilla Almond Butter is our favorite!)
Crackers are a great building block for lots of different hiking snacks, but if they’re too delicate they’ll just get pulverized in your pack. Look for sturdy crackers that have some structure to them. Trader Joe’s make some delicious “crips” with flavors like Fig & Olive and Mango & Ginger that hold up well. If you want a protein boost, pack along some instant hummus — just add water!
Sort of in the cracker category are those mini peanut butter or cheese cracker sandwiches. Ritz Bits were one of my all-time favorite snacks as a child. I would eat an entire box myself if left unattended. They’re also a great hiking snack. The filling binds the crackers together to make them pretty durable, but storing them in a hard-sided container would be a smart idea.
Dried fruit & nuts
Every hike we’ve been on in recent memory has featured some type of dried fruits and/or nuts. Nuts are loaded with long-lasting protein and fat while dried fruits offer a quick pop of energy.
We are very partial to the nut and dried fruit selection at Trader Joe’s because of their prices. If you don’t have a TJ’s nearby, check your grocery store’s bulk bins to keep the price down, or Nuts.com is a good online source for dried fruit & nuts.
Homemade trail mix
Trail mix is a great on-the-go snack that can be super customizable. We like to keep a small bag somewhere easy to reach so we can grab a quick handful whenever we stop for a water break. Some of our favorite homemade recipes have been our Maple Glazed Trail Mix and Sweet & Spicy Trail Mix. Or, check out this post for more trail mix recipes!
*If you are going hiking in warmer temperatures, we would advise against trail mix that contains chocolate, yogurt dipped raisins, or anything else that can—and ultimately will—melt.
While fresh fruit isn’t a great multi-day backpacking food because of its low calorie-to-weight ratio, for a short day hike, a nice piece of fresh fruit can be really refreshing.
We suggest going with something that won’t bruise easily (peaches) and aren’t messy to clean up (oranges). Apples, pears, pre-peeled oranges, or berries that are stored in a hard-sided container are all good choices.
Fruit leathers are a great way to bring the flavor of fresh fruit on the trail without the weight and clean up.
Shelf-stable and loaded with protein, homemade jerky is a fantastic hiking snack. Unlike a lot of other snacks, which can skew towards the sweet side of the spectrum, the savory flavor of jerky can be a nice change of pace.
Making your own beef jerky at home is a lot easier than you might think and once you learn how you’ll save tons of money. Some of our favorite recipes are our Teriyaki Beef Jerky and our Classic Beef Jerky.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, no worries! There are plenty of amazing brands out there producing some incredibly tasty jerky. Some of our favorites include:
Along the same lines as jerky, meat bars are another portable snack that packs a lot of protein. Epic Bars and Wild Zora are a few of our favorites brands. These can be a great keto alternative to traditional “energy bars”, which typically contain a fair deal of sugar and carbs.
Tuna or chicken packets
Ready-made tuna and chicken salad packets are a great shelf-stable option for a more substantial hiking lunch. You can find a variety of flavors like Buffalo Chicken or Herb & Garlic at your local grocery store. These are great spread onto crackers or rolled into a flour tortilla wrap. We ate these extensively during our John Muir Trail hike and would still recommend them.
We love to take olives with us when hiking. Similar to the hard cheeses above, olives can really class up a trail-side lunch spread.
Obviously, you can pick up a jar of your favorite olives, drain the liquid and repack them into a resealable, watertight container like a ReZip bag. Brands like Oloves also make convenient on-the-go packets.
A nice hard cheese can really class up your next hiking snack break! Hard cheeses like smoked gouda, aged cheddar, or even some varieties of gruyere are plenty dense and durable enough for the trail. To prevent oils and smells from permeating anything else in your backpack, wrap the cheese in a beeswax wrap or place it in a resealable container.
Babybel makes wax-wrapped cheeses that are perfectly sized for personal consumption. Tillamook and Cabot also make excellent cheese sticks which are great options for kids.
Oven-baked cheese crisps are another great option. They’re lightweight, super durable, and filled with calories. We get the Trader Joe’s version, but you can also find them regular grocery stores sold as Moon Cheese and Whisps.
Homemade granola bars & bites
You’d be surprised how easy it can be to make your own granola bars and energy bites.
Here are a few of our favorite granola bar & bite recipes from our site:
- Homemade Chewy Granola Bars
- Cherry Garcia Energy Bites
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars
- S’mores Granola Bars
- Trail Mix Bliss Balls
We are living in the golden era of energy bars. There are just so many of them we can hardly keep up. Our strategy is to mix and match the brands and flavors so we don’t get burnt out. Some of our favorite go-to’s are:
It the same concept as an energy bar, except it’s a cookie! If you’re looking for a trail snack that feels a little more like a dessert, then these are a good option.
A Dutch pastry (literally “syrup waffle”) is a wafer cookie made from two thin layers of baked dough joined by a caramel filling. They are super calorie dense, very durable, and actually taste better when they’re a little warmed up. You can find them at Trader Joe’s, most grocery stores, and online. A few sports energy brands like Honey Stinger and GU have also started making their own versions as well.
Candy bar (Summit Snickers!)
While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend a candy bar as a go-to hiking snack, we’re big fans of the summit celebration. Basically, once you reach the summit (or the high point) of your hike, it can be fun to have a little something special to celebrate the moment. The “summit Snickers” is definitely a thing, but you can substitute it with any extra treat you like.
If it’s going to be hot out, make sure you have it buried somewhere in your pack so it doesn’t melt!
A strenuous hike in warmer weather can quickly turn into a sweat-fest. All that sweat can cause your body to lose a lot of natural salts and electrolytes. Your body will naturally replenish itself with a balanced diet, but to speed up the recovery process you can dissolve a Nuun tablet into your water. The result is a fizzily, bubbly drink that helps your body recover faster.
Clif Shot Bloks
Containing a quick hit of sugars and electrolytes in a chewy gummy form, Shot Bloks are designed to keep you from “bonking”. If, after prolonged exertion, you find yourself feeling faint or weak out on the trail, there is a good chance you’re experiencing a drop in glycogen in your muscles – a.k.a “bonking”. Shot Bloks provide you with quick and easy energy to get your back to normal.
How to pack your hiking snacks
Where it makes sense, we recommend repackaging your hiking snacks into reusable containers. The less disposable trash you take out onto the trail, the less chance there is of accidentally dropping a torn wrapper or plastic cap.
We’re big fans of reusable plastic bags like (re)Zip and Stasher. These are perfect for storing your trail mix, jerky, fruit leathers, hard cheeses, etc. They come in a lot of fun colors, are easy to clean, and replace single-use baggies.
For snacks that are a little more delicate, a hard-sided reusable container is the way to go. We prefer ones with a rubberized gasket and locking sides to ensure the top doesn’t pop off if things shift around in our day packs. This kind of hard sized container is perfect for fresh berries, sandwiches, and wraps.
If you want the ability to keep food and drinks cold, you can even bring a soft-sided cooler. You’ll probably want to use a reusable ice pack, which will add weight of course. But pulling out an ice-cold LaCroix at the summit will be a real treat!
Also, think about the food you’re packing and try to anticipate the type of trash it will generate. It can be a smart idea to pack along a dedicated trash container. Or, plan on converting one of your food containers into a trash container once you consume its contents.
Leave No Trace
The goal is to pack out everything that you packed in during your hike. And we mean literally everything.
Even biodegradable food items like cracker crumbs or apple cores disturb the local ecology and incentivize wild animals to associate humans with food.
When small oversights like this get amplified by hundreds of hikers over many years, it can lead to really unfortunate results.
So be part of the solution by packing smart, and leave no trace. If you’d like to learn more about the central tenants of the Left No Trace philosophy you can read about them here.