What To Eat While Hiking: Food Ideas For Every Hiker & Backpacker

Rilor Staff
Update: November 24, 2021
Table of Contents

What to eat while hiking?

Hiking is a physically challenging activity. It requires comprehensive preparation and training. At the same time, you need to be adequately equipped to tackle the challenges that the outdoors bring. 

Moreover, you should be appropriately nourished before, during, and after hiking. The proper food and drinks can help you complete the trip without experiencing the "bonk," which is the dwindling glycogen in the liver and muscle regions. Once this condition hits you, your body feels that it has drained its energy. 

I have listed all the fundamentals for proper diet and nutrition while hiking below. Make sure that you read them so that you can remain fit in your next hiking excursion. 

Basics Of Hiking Nutrition

One should know that your body should have enough calories so that it can handle physically rigorous activities. It is the fuel that keeps you moving. Based on research, the ideal source of calories that your muscles should burn is carbohydrates. 

But of course, you don't want to over-consume carbohydrates, as it can make you feel full and weary. Hence, I recommend that you eat "light" sources of carbohydrates before your hike. Examples of these foods are oatmeal, eggs, yogurt, or pasta. 

Don't forget your fruits and veggies, too!

You should never miss breakfast before a hiking trip. Continually replenish your system, even if you have a good evening's sleep before the big day. You don't want to find yourself quickly exhausted, even while you are still at the beginning of the trail.

Furthermore, you should have enough protein content in your body. It strengthens your muscles and hastens the repair of broken tissues. This nutrient will help you scale the ascent with utmost finesse! Even during the trip, hikers are recommended to have regular protein intake. The more you strain your body, the more protein that it needs. 

Proper Hydration

Surely enough, no hiker can complete their trip without proper hydration. Specifically, pre-hydration is one of the keys to successful hikes. Based on the consensus, it is suggested that hikers should chug half a liter of water before their trip. In this way, they wouldn't get thirsty quickly. 

During the hike, it is recommended that you drink at least half a liter of water every hour while doing strenuous activity. Depending on the temperature and level of exertion, you might need to increase the volume of water that you need. Hiking during peak summer would compel you to drink about a liter of water every hour. 

Water is not the only issue that you need to address here. You also have to manage your body's electrolyte content. If you lose too much of it, your body might collapse from exhaustion. An hour of physical activity might not be a problem. But if the hike will take a couple of hours or days, electrolyte loss becomes a serious issue. 

You could mitigate this problem by replenishing your body's potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium content. You can do this by always bringing electrolyte powders and tablet mixes. Don't forget to follow the directions on their labels for proper consumption.

What To Eat Before Hiking

As mentioned earlier, having adequate carbs in your body is essential for a sufficient calorie supply. But of course, you need to be diverse in your body's fuel, ensuring that it is fully packed with nutrients that can help you handle rigorous activities. 

The primary pre-hike foods are oatmeal, whole-grain cereals (no sugar), and eggs. As much as possible, they should be present on your plate before you head to the trail. There are other food ideas that you can consider here, such as yogurt, berries, peanut butter, apples, raisins, and nuts. 

Furthermore, drinking at least four cups of water before the hike can help you navigate the trail without the risk of dehydration. Don't ever leave your premises for a hike with an empty stomach. That's forbidden!

What To Eat While Hiking

You can't hike without snacking along the way. These two things are inseparable and for an obvious reason, of course. 

If the hike is short, maybe you can skip the in-between consumption. However, for day-long and multi-day hikes, you need to eat from time to time. It is recommended that you munch something healthy and invigorating for even an hour. You always have to pay attention to the rigidity that the hike brings. If you think that your current terrain is highly intense and requires exertion, you need to double the amount of food that you eat. Carbohydrates and proteins are incredibly essential here. 

Meanwhile, the following are some of the recommended foods that you should eat during a hike. Keep in mind that these selections are also chosen based on their portability--or how easy you can bring them on your trip.

  • Whole grains - Buckwheat and oats are full of vitamins and minerals, making them extremely healthy intakes. At the same time, they are rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber.
  • Nut and seeds - They are light but packed with minerals, vitamins, protein, fiber, and healthy fats. 
  • Dried fruit - They aren't susceptible to perishing because their water content has been taken out. But at the same time, they still retained their original nutritional contents. 
  • Jerky - Jerkies are an excellent source of protein. They are also available in different variants, such as turkey, chicken, and beef. 
  • Nut butter - Aside from being delicious, nut butter is also rich in healthy fats, protein, and calories. 
  • Dehydrated meals - You can also try dehydrated vegetables, fruits, poultry, and meat. They are flavorful and abundant in nutritional content.
  • Protein bars - As mentioned, protein is an essential component for every hiker and backpacker. Hence, it makes sense that they consume protein bars on their excursion. 
  • Tuna and salmon - Don't bring canned fish anymore. Instead, opt for packets of tuna and salmon. They are great energizers, as they give lots of proteins. 
  • Hard cheese - Unlike ordinary cheese, hard cheese has a long shelf life. Furthermore, they contain lots of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B, and healthy fats. These nourishments are essential to keep you physically active. 
  • Trail mix - A trail mix is a popular delicacy for hikers. It is a great source of protein and healthy fats, after all. The best thing about trail mixes is that you can make one in your own kitchen!

Keep in mind that you need to drink water whenever eating dried fruits. After all, your stomach has to "water" them so that they can be digested properly.

Meanwhile, choose snacks that have little to no sugar content. Sugar rush can be a good thing, but the exhaustion that comes after is something dreary.

Bringing fresh sandwiches might be a good idea. However, make sure that you can store them properly to avoid food-borne problems. 

What To Eat After A Hike?

After you reach your campsite or destination, it feels good to have a hearty feast. However, it would be best if you still mind what you eat.  

You have to remember that your body uses lots of glycogen, calories, and proteins so that you can complete the hike. It is your duty to replenish these nutrients for energy restoration and muscle repair. After a hike, some of the excellent intakes are the following: fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, pasta, and rice. You should also eat lots of meat and poultry. 

But at the same time, you should avoid the temptation of eating junk foods. Burgers, soft drinks, and alcohol will just negate the physical benefits that hiking has given to you. They can also make you groggy and sluggish. 

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