Whether you're doing a short afternoon hike or planning a week-long excursion, it's important to choose the right food to take with you on your hike. This will help you feel good enough to tackle any trail. The best foods to eat on a hike will serve as fuel to help you recover after an exhausting hike. When planning your diet for long hikes, look for light, filling and nutritious snacks and meals.
Planning trekking food for a day trip
The best foods to take with you on a hike are those that provide sufficient energy while remaining light. Instead of fatty or sugary foods that can make you feel low on energy or lethargic, choose foods containing complex carbohydrates and protein for all-day energy. If you start your day with a healthy, protein-rich meal, you can make it through a long day's hiking.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when planning your diet for a day's hiking:
The best foods for hiking are rich in nutrients and provide lasting energy. Instead of sugars, which only offer a quick energy boost, choose proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. These nutrients digest more slowly and release a steady supply of energy.
When choosing food for day hikes, you're not limited to non-perishable foods. Bring fresh fruit or vegetables and cheese for a quick, refreshing snack on the trail. Also, enjoy your favourite sandwich for lunch.
For shorter or less difficult day hikes, you can choose to bring a small cooler for even more choice of hiking food. Enjoy a cold pasta salad, refreshing drink or other perishable food when you bring a cooler and ice pack.
Stay hydrated, don't miss a thing
Drink water before your hike and carry enough to last you the whole day. Don't forget to drink water even if you don't feel thirsty, especially on hot days. Staying hydrated will also keep you energised and feeling good.
Decide how much food and water you need to take with you, depending on the length and intensity of your trip. Just in case, bring a bit more. You'll be burning up energy all day. So pack enough water and snacks to keep your body well fuelled.
What about a multi-day tour?
If you're planning a multi-day hike, it's even more important to choose food that's compact and light. When you're covering miles of trails every day, every little bit of extra weight in your pack makes a difference. You'll also want to choose foods that take up as little space as possible in your bag. Choosing nutritious and satiating foods is also essential for keeping you going on long or difficult hikes. The best foods for long hikes are light, small, easy to eat and healthy.
Light food, in the right quantities
Reduce the weight of your bag by choosing light, compact foods. Pack dehydrated or freeze-dried meals or other dry foods and snacks. Pack bulky items in plastic bags to save even more space in your bag.
Estimate the number of calories you will burn each day. Take into account your weight, the weight of your rucksack, the degree of difficulty of the hike and how long you plan to hike each day. If you want to maintain your weight during the hike, take enough food with you to compensate for all the calories you will burn each day. However, you should always bring a little extra food in case you fall behind. If you're hiking in cold weather, your body will also need more calories to stay warm.
Healthy, easy eating
Choose foods rich in protein and complex carbohydrates to give you energy. You're going to burn a lot of calories every day. So take foods rich in calories, protein, fibre, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Foods that offer stable energy will also make you feel full. They will do this without weighing you down or making you break down.
Choose foods that provide plenty of nutrients while taking up as little space as possible. The best backpack foods have a high calorie-to-weight ratio.
Plan meals that are easy to prepare After a long day on the trail, you'll be glad of a hot, easy-to-prepare meal. Plan meals that can be prepared in one go or that don't require any utensils. We're talking about dehydrated meals, rice or instant noodles. These quick, satiating meals also require a minimum of cleaning up. This will allow you to rest up for the next day's hiking.
Kitchen tools and utensils reduced to a minimum Keep your bag as light as possible. Plan meals that require a minimum of cooking utensils. A simple saucepan can be used to boil water.
There are lots of options for light food and dehydrated meals. So you can always find hiking foods you like. At the end of a long day's hiking, you'll be grateful for the comfort of a delicious meal.
The best hiking foods for a multi-day trip
The best hiking food is light, compact, healthy and delicious. Here are some types of food to consider for your next hike:
- Perishable food As you eat non-perishable food for the rest of your trek, you may want to pack a few perishable items to enjoy on the first day. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be a refreshing start to your hiking adventure.
- Cheese Full of protein and calories, cheese can add richness to almost any meal. It's available in many varieties and can be stored for several days if managed wisely.
- Dry food Rice, instant noodles and soup mixes are some of the best foods. They're light for hiking and take up very little space in your bag. These easy-to-prepare foods can also become creative meals. They can be combined with dried vegetables, beans or spices.
- Food packages Instead of heavy, bulky tins, look for your favourite tins in lighter packaging. Packets of tuna or salmon can provide healthy protein and are ready to eat. You can also leave your can opener at home.
- Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods Dehydrated or freeze-dried meals: Although a little more expensive than other options, dehydrated or freeze-dried meals offer excellent convenience. All you have to do is heat up some water and enjoy a satiating, high-calorie meal.
- Spices Some backpacking meals can be a little bland. But the addition of spices can make them much more enjoyable. Bring your favourite spices to cook like at home (salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, chilli or cinnamon). Add them to your hiking meals. Pack your spices in plastic bags to save space, but don't forget to label them.
- Olive oil Olive oil: High in calories and fat, olive oil is an excellent source of energy. Try drizzling olive oil over tuna or crackers, and mix them with pasta or rice. This will give them more flavour and moisture. If you're backpacking, take a small bottle of olive oil with you. Use a waterproof bag to prevent it from spilling.
- Water filter or purification tablets You won't have enough room in your bag to carry bottled water for your entire trip. Think about taking a water filtration method instead. A small portable water filter or water purification tablets are two excellent options.
- Powdered drink mixes Adding powdered drink mixes to your water can give you extra electrolytes for refreshment and energy. You can also use protein powder as a simple way of getting more protein during your ride.
What about a snack?
Having a few nut- or seed-based bars for quick and easy nourishment between camps is a great way to keep your energy up during long treks. One of our favourites is a bar designed for sporting activities: Coup d'barre.
Recommended food before your hike
Before setting off on your hike, start the day with a healthy, nutritious meal. For a day hike or a long excursion, fill up on carbohydrates and proteins. This will help you tackle any mountain. Here are some of the best hiking foods to eat before you go hiking:
1. Oat flakes
Oat flakes are rich in fibre and full of healthy carbohydrates. This makes them an excellent choice for lasting energy. If you want to add protein, add protein powder or mix in some peanut butter. Sprinkle nuts, seeds or dried fruit over your oatmeal. Top it off with honey for a delicious, satiating breakfast.
For a longer journey, instant oatmeal or porridge is a quick and easy breakfast option.
Full of protein and easy to prepare, eggs are another excellent option for a pre-race breakfast. Just one large egg contains around 77 calories and 6 grams of protein. This makes them extremely rich in nutrients. Eggs are also rich in B vitamins and amino acids that contribute to energy production. The amino acid 'Leucine', found in high concentrations in eggs, also promotes muscle recovery. It can also be beneficial for endurance training. When you're preparing for a long hike, incorporating eggs into your diet will help you develop your endurance and build strength.
In a rucksack, powdered eggs can be an excellent alternative to ordinary eggs. This popular hiking breakfast is light and can be prepared quickly.
3. The fruit
Fruit, which is rich in carbohydrates and full of delicious natural sugars, makes an excellent snack during a hike. Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar, choose a crunchy apple. It offers a slow release of energy with around 25 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fibre.
Bananas are another perfect food to eat before a hike. They provide healthy carbohydrates and are rich in potassium and vitamin B6. Bananas can even be as effective as a carbohydrate drink in providing energy during endurance sessions.
For a balanced meal before a hike, add some fruit to your morning oatmeal. Alternatively, mix it with a bowl of Greek yoghurt. It's also an excellent source of protein to combine with carbohydrate-rich fruit.
Fruit juices often contain a lot of processed sugars, so choose fresh fruit whenever possible. If you're going hiking for several days, remember to start your day with a portion of dried fruit. Dried fruit can also be a delicious addition to oatmeal. Look for dried or freeze-dried fruit that contains no added sugar. This will give you a healthy energy boost without the sugar crash.
Like fruit, many vegetables also contain healthy complex carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes are a vegetable rich in carbohydrates and fibre. It also contains 50 % of the recommended daily dose of manganese per portion. Manganese is a mineral that contributes to metabolism and helps your body break down carbohydrates. Carrots, green leafy vegetables and beetroot are other vegetables to enjoy before a hike. Carrots are a perfect choice for a long backpacking trip, as they can last longer without refrigeration.
5. Nut butters
Nut butters are an excellent source of protein and fibre for healthy energy. They are essential for strength. They are available in many varieties. These include almonds, cashews, pecans and the classic peanut butter. So, no excuses, you can easily find a flavour to suit your taste. Nut butters can be spread on wholegrain toast or mixed into your morning oatmeal. It's a perfect combination of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
For long backpacking adventures, nut butters are available in compact, easy-to-eat packs. You can also choose to nibble on plain nuts and seeds instead.
6. Lean meats
Lean meats, such as poultry or fish, provide protein without excess fat. Protein is an important macro-nutrient that stimulates metabolism and helps build and repair muscle. If you go hiking for a long time or tackle difficult summits, your muscles will thank you for this support.
Sometimes, on a long backpacking trip, it's not possible to bring fresh meat with you. Choose a jerky made from turkey, salmon or other lean meats.
Before embarking on a long hike, a bowl of wholemeal pasta can be an excellent way of filling up on carbohydrates. Also, mix in lean meats and vegetables for a balanced, protein-rich meal. Choose a light sauce for the pasta rather than a creamy cheese sauce and take a reasonable portion size. Although pasta provides excellent energy, too many carbohydrates can end up weighing you down.
Recommended food for your walk
If you've had a good meal before your hike, you should feel energised for a long time. However, it's always important to top up your energy levels during the hike. Take enough food with you so that you can have a small snack every two hours or so. By regularly supplying your body with nutrients, you'll be able to stay energised throughout the hike.
The best foods to take on a hike are easy to eat without cooking. Especially if you're hiking for several days, you'll be grateful for a quick lunch without having to stop and unload your pack. Here are some of the best foods to eat when hiking:
Nutritional or energy bars are compact and can offer a large dose of protein and carbohydrates. Look for bars that contain vitamins and minerals for energy, as well as healthy fats. Choose nutrition bars that contain mainly natural ingredients, with no added sugars, to get the most out of them.
Dried fruit mix is a classic hiking snack that provides protein and healthy fats.
Nuts and seeds provide healthy fats, a high concentration of protein and an excellent calorie/gram ratio, making them one of the best foods for hiking. Enjoy nuts and seeds in granola bars or nut butters, or simply nibble them on their own.
All kinds of fruit
- Fresh fruit and vegetables Fresh fruit and vegetables are a healthy snack for day hikes or the first day of a backpacking trip. Put some carrots or celery in your pack to cool you down while you tackle the mountain.
- Dried fruit and vegetables Dried or freeze-dried fruit and vegetables are perfect for backpacking when space is limited. Dried fruit tastes like sweets without the unhealthy processed sugars and can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. Seaweed is a perfect option for dried vegetables, as it's very light, crunchy and delicious.
Protein and calories
- Dried meat Ideal for long-distance hikes, jerky takes up very little space in the pack and provides plenty of protein.
- Cans of tuna or salmon Canned tuna, salmon or sardines are a quick and easy protein supplement. They also often contain oil, which provides a significant energy boost.
- Hummus : Full of calories, carbohydrates, fibre and protein, hummus is a healthy and energising hiking snack. Hummus goes very well with fresh vegetables or can be spread on crackers, tortillas or brown bread (which dries out more slowly).
- The cheese Like many of these recommended foods, cheese is rich in nutrients and calories. Cheese is an excellent source of protein and goes well with fresh fruit and vegetables, jerky or crackers.
What food should I pack in my hiking bag?
At the end of a day's hiking, you'll probably return to your camp or go home, but on a backpacking trip, you'll end each day in a tent or refuge. For multi-day hikes, plan healthy, filling meals for dinner to replenish your energy and rebuild your muscles. Although you're always limited to the food you can carry in your rucksack, dinner is the time when you can enjoy a hot meal cooked over an open fire.
Here are some trekking food ideas to inspire you when preparing your trekking dinners:
All you need is water!
- Instant noodles or rice Instant noodles: Quick and easy to prepare, instant noodles are a popular meal when hiking. Rice is another good option, which can be spiced up with vegetables and seasonings. Both noodles and rice are high in carbohydrates and are fairly easy to clean up once the meal is finished.
- Couscous Couscous cooks even faster than rice or noodles and is rich in fibre and carbohydrates. You can also enjoy its unique texture and create your own recipes by adding your favourite spices.
- Mixed soups Soup mixes are available in a wide range of flavours and can be prepared quickly with hot water. Soups with a meat-based broth can also offer extra protein as well as sodium.
- Dried vegetables : Dried vegetables are an excellent way of adding more vitamins and minerals to your hiking meals. Mixing dried vegetables into noodles, rice, couscous or soup improves the taste and health benefits.
- Lenses These compact legumes are full of protein, fibre and iron and can be cooked in rice or added to couscous.
- Dried beans Like lentils, beans are full of protein and other nutrients. They fit easily into your bag and make an excellent base for a meal. Black beans and refried beans can be prepared quickly by adding boiling water.
- Freeze-dried meals Freeze-dried meals: Often more expensive than other trekking foods, freeze-dried meals are the most practical and are available in many different flavours.
Recommended food after your hike.
When you exercise, such as when hiking, your body uses its glycogen reserves for energy. Certain proteins in your muscles are also broken down when you exercise. After exercise, the body needs to replenish its glycogen reserves and repair its muscle proteins. Eating certain foods after exercise can speed up this process and help the body repair itself after a hard ride.
The best foods to eat after a hike are those rich in carbohydrates and protein. Protein-rich foods provide amino acids that help the body rebuild muscle proteins, while carbohydrate-rich foods help replenish glycogen stores. Carbohydrate consumption is particularly important during endurance training, such as long hikes. The body is better able to replenish its glycogen and muscle proteins after exercise. So try to eat a meal about 45 minutes after an intense hike.
When you plan a meal for the end of your day's hiking, you have a lot more flexibility because you're not limited to what you can fit in your rucksack. Here are some good meal options for after a hike:
- Rice or pasta
- Oat flakes
- Potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Green leafy vegetables
- Lean meat
- Greek yoghurt
- Nuts or nut butter
Be careful not to overindulge - although it may be tempting to stop off at your favourite burger joint, you'll feel much better after enjoying a healthy, filling meal.
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