Best Hiking Food Ideas for Long and Short Hikes

Planning the perfect hiking trip is done by thoughtfully browsing different websites filled with beautiful pictures and descriptions that can take up to several days. However, once the perfect hike is set for the following weekend, the foods you decide to bring range from forgotten packaged foods sitting in the cupboards or a quick trip to the gas station food aisle.

While both these options may qualify as food, there is nothing worse than pairing your scenic hike with a dried up, crumbly granola bar and browning banana.

Spending just a little extra time in planning ahead for your hiking trip can have you looking forward to your food break as opposed to choking down your packed goods.

When it comes to hiking, some foods are better than others. Some things you have to consider when choosing the best hiking foods include:

  • Will the food spoil or last through the duration of the hike?
  • Is it portable?
  • Is it easy to eat?
  • Is it already prepared or will you have to assemble it?
  • Is it nutritious enough to help you complete the physically-demanding task?
  • Will it create trash that you have to clean up?

All of these should be considered when deciding which foods you should take on your next hiking trip.

Hikers cooking over an open campfire

Best Hiking Food Ideas

In order to make this guide for the 10 best hiking food ideas accessible, we’ve broken down the foods into categories. Each category of hiking foods contain specific qualities that you may be looking for based on what kind of hike you are going on.

Short, hour long hikers won’t be as reliant on the nutritious qualities of the food but may seek foods requiring less cleanup. Contrastly, hikes that can take several grueling hours may emphasize the importance of portability and nutrition.

Nutrition Considerations

Short hikes that only take an hour or two won’t have the same nutritional considerations as an all-day trek. For short hikes, the food you eat before you hike makes much more of an impact than the food you eat during. In fact, most people who go on a short hike will only take an energy bar or piece of fruit and be completely fine.

On the other hand, the long hikes that really take a physical toll on the body will have to take more care when choosing the foods to take. You’ll want a combination foods that will give you a short burst of energy in the short term and a long, sustaining amount of energy for the entire voyage.

Protein and fats are essential to every diet and will keep you from feeling hungry. Foods containing protein and fats also tend to satiate the body for a longer period. Carbohydrates will be your quicker source of energy. Complex carbohydrates (found in whole grains and beans) are great for sustainable energy while a moderate amount of sugars (found in fruits and chocolate) will give you a quick burst if you’re starting to feel very sluggish.

Roasting s'mores over open campfire on a long hike

Food for Short Hikes – Quick and Easy to Eat

Short hikes are a great way for you to get out and enjoy nature without sacrificing and entire day. This option is also great for travelers who didn’t pack the right hiking gear, hikers with children, and beginner hikers not ready to take on the challenge of an all day excursion.

The best foods to eat for these short hikes are those that you can eat quickly, usually while still moving. Often times, these short hikes are populated with other hikers and there may not be a lot of room to stop and sit for a meal, especially with a large group.

Food for Short Hikes (1-3 hour duration)

All foods on this list are quick and ready-to-eat. Portability and speed are the key characteristics of each food, making it the ideal choice for any short hike.

  • Nuts and trail mix
  • Dried fruits
  • Jerky
  • Sandwiches
  • Energy and protein bars
  • Chocolate bars
  • Fruits that don’t require slicing (apples, oranges, bananas, etc.)

Food for Long Hikes – More Nutrient Focused and Filling

Experienced hikers may not find the short nature walks as fulfilling as a hike that can take an entire day. The best part of these hikes is that you get to see and experience certain parts of nature that you just can’t get to on a short, hour-long hike.

The shorter hikes also tend to attract larger crowds and have plaques and other markers that can all be a bit distracting when you’re trying to get lost in nature. For the longer treks, you’ll want to be prepared with plenty of snacks to keep you energized without having to stop until your group is ready for a meal. All the foods in the short hike list above will work great for your snacks but when you need to stop and take in an actual meal, try the foods below.

Food for Long Hikes (Half-day to Full-day)

The foods chosen for longer hikes may require some preparation time beforehand but will make for a delicious and nutritious meal for long lasting energy. There’s nothing better than sitting down for a decent meal after hours of hiking behind you and more hours ahead.

  • Sandwiches
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti
  • Cured meats, cheese, and crackers
  • Burritos
  • Bagels

Make sure to use lightweight, plastic containers!

Food for Long Hikes That Require Cooking

While some longer hikes will allow for longer breaks to eat your meals, some even allow for you time to cook. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Ramen noodles (all you need is hot water)
  • Instant pasta and sauce packets
  • Instant soups and sauces
  • Instant potatoes
  • Tuna melts
  • S’mores
  • Coffee
  • And of course, sandwiches

How to Pack Your Food

While the types of foods you bring on your hike are important, another important fact to consider is the containers you use to pack them. A few extra pounds in your backpack can weigh you down significantly over the course of a longer hike, as opposed to a short one.

Plastic food containers will most likely be your best option for packing your food. Whether you use plastic, zip bags or airtight containers, your load will be much less than using glass or metal containers. Plastic containers are also more malleable, decreasing the chances of your glass containers shattering in your backpack.

Along with your considerations for the weight of your containers, there is also the issue of creating waste. Some of the foods mentioned in the long hike list like the instant pasta or ramen noodles will all create some form of trash with their wrappers. Consider bringing along a waterproof bag to collect your trash after each meal. You’ll keep your pack from becoming a mess of leftover food materials by piling all the trash and leftovers into the waterproof bag.

Hiking and overlooking scenic water and mountain view

Share Your Favorite Foods With Us

If you have any great hiking food ideas that haven’t already been mentioned, give us a shout and we would love to add it to our list.

In the meantime, happy hiking!

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