Hiking snacks are as essential as sunscreen, trekking poles, or rain gear. After all, it won’t always rain nor is the sun guaranteed to shine, but I’ll always need calorie-dense hiking fuel. That logic is what inspired me to create this list of the best hiking and backpacking snacks.
As hiking fuel, snacks should be healthy, good-tasting, and supply long-lasting energy. To compile this list, I courageously researched and taste-tested dozens of delicious, protein-rich snack offerings (a thankless job, I assure you).
Salty or sweet, fresh or dehydrated, meaty or vegan, they’re all here. Conduct your own taste tests and choose ones that have plenty of core nutrients and are guaranteed to start your mouth watering in anticipation of the next rest stop.
I usually bring packaged energy bars and trail mix that I’ve made at home from items in the bulk section of my local store. These are snacks with a high calorie-to-weight ratio, meaning there’s a lot of nutritional bang in every small bite.
Always read the product labels and look for the core nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Let’s kick off this list with the most popular forms of trail snacks.
Why start with energy bars? Well, they’re hugely popular, widely available, tasty, compact, and relatively affordable. But check the package label to see if the ingredients match your idea of what’s healthy and nutritious. Here are a few we can recommend:
Small but mighty, CLIF Bars are my favorite energy bar. They come in a wide variety of flavors and are simply delicious.
White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, my favorite, has 9 grams of protein, 17 grams of sugar, and 260 calories. Yes, that’s a tad high in sugar, but it’s seriously tasty and will provide that much-needed boost.
My tip for Honey Stinger Waffles — pass them a few times over a steaming cup of coffee and release the waffle’s gooey goodness.
At around 150 calories per waffle, 11 grams of sugar, and 21 grams of carbs, these are one of the lighter and more compact snacks on this list.
For the gluten-free crowd, there’s a tasty cinnamon version that a good friend raves about.
Bobo’s Oats are one of my go-to trail breakfast bars because they’re incredibly nutritious and provide a reliable jump start for mornings on the trail.
I recommend the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip or Dark Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt. However, any of their many flavors will leave you thinking about seconds.
Half a bar contains 180 calories, making one bar ideal for splitting into two snacking sessions.
Nature Valley granola bars are another favorite of mine. Fruit, nuts, chocolate — all blended together, with loads of flavors, and readily available from most grocery stores.
The Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Protein bar is low in sugar at just 7 grams and packs 10 grams of protein and 190 calories.
While Greenbelly Meal Bars may look like a snack, they contain anywhere from 400 to 700 calories and are actually more of a packable meal replacement for backpacking.
Pre-packaged and needing no preparation or cooking, these bars are nutritious and super convenient for those demanding days on the trail.
From Chocolate to Spiced Apple, these ready-to-eat mini-meals run $8 each. The hearty Dark Chocolate Banana meal bag has 660 calories, 95 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of protein, making it a nutritional booster rocket for your backcountry adventures.
Gluten-free, organic, and Canadian-made Hornby bars are close to my heart. If you’re seeking a peanut-free energy bar, these guys sell an absolutely incredible Pumpkin Fudge Energy Bar.
Hornby Bars are dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free, with 100% organic ingredients, making them ideal for hikers with dietary restrictions. At around 360 calories a bar and 12 grams of protein apiece, these deserve a place in your pack.
I can’t get enough oats on the trail, and these flapjack bars are juicy and a decent source of natural protein. Vegans will especially treasure these gluten-, transfat-, and wheat-free treats.
Each bar contains 217 calories, 10g of protein, and only a smidge of salt. Plus, no artificial sugars or sweeteners, so at 12g of sugar per bar, you can trust that the ingredients are natural.
There’s no need to hit the trail with energy bars alone. That would get old. Here are our top recommendations for all other hiking snacks, like trail mix, chocolate, jerky, and more
You can easily create your own blend, or purchase one of the many pre-packaged options — the classic mix of nuts, fruits, seeds, and maybe a little bit of chocolate is the perfect way to stay energized on the trail.
Plus, with a range of micro and macronutrients, a convenient bag of trail mix in your pocket will top up your tank with protein, carbs, and fiber.
Honey-roasted peanuts are a weak spot for me, but cashews and almonds are delicious as-is, without any added sweetness. A bag of nuts can stave off hunger longer than any sugary snack, so you’ll always find some on my desk.
Just one cup of peanuts contains 800 calories, and almonds clock in at 500. That’s an excellent calorie-to-weight ratio. Nibble on a bag of high-calorie nuts and cruise up those hills.
Dehydration removes the water from fruit and creates a stable and calorie-dense snack with a longer shelf-life, all while retaining its original sweetness. Delicious dried fruit options include raisins, dates, and prunes.
Dried fruit can contain up to 3x the fiber, vitamins, and minerals (by weight) of fresh fruit, so even a handful will deliver the sugars and carbs your hard-working body craves.
Fresh fruit may not be as packable, but a bite of crisp apples or fresh blueberries will go a long way to restoring you. Blueberries are naturally high in fiber, which will help you feel fuller, for longer. It’s the same with bananas and oranges — all of my usual favorites.
Fresh fruit likely won’t travel as well, getting battered and mushed in your pack, especially on longer journeys. But being a healthy source of sugars, vitamins, and fibers, they’re still a sensible choice.
I love a good slice of Brie, but it doesn’t travel well. But sliced cheese like Cheddar or Edam will keep for a few days and are a great addition to wraps or to melt over a steaming bowl of noodles.
Choose hard cheeses — Cheddar, Edam, Parmesan, and Gouda — over their softer cousins, to extend the shelf life. Be aware that packing cheeses in plastic containers can make them sweat.
For me, a bite or two of chocolate is the perfect way to end a long day on the trail. I’ve earned this, which puts a smile on my face as I sigh and wind down by the campfire.
My weakness is Whittakers Creamy Milk, a New Zealand brand worth searching for and packing on your next adventure. Their motto says it best — “Break off a piece of nostalgia or travel to a new taste destination.”
Teriyaki beef jerky is an even more delicious version of regular jerky. Easily add it to anything — wraps, sandwiches, noodles, or munch on small pieces throughout the day. It’s super portable and non-perishable.
McSweeney’s Teriyaki Beef jerky combines a lot of protein with delicious flavorings that give it a distinctive sweetness. It comes in Regular or Zero Sugar versions. Some versions are higher in sodium than others, so watch your intake.
This is a meat-free alternative to regular beef jerky, which makes it more sustainable while retaining the nutritional benefits you’d expect from traditional jerky. Noble Jerky offers a delicious range of flavors, including Teriyaki (my favorite) and Sweet BBQ.
Vegan jerky still tends to be high in sodium, so it’s best consumed in moderation. But with the key ingredient often being a non-GMO soy protein, there’s zero cholesterol and low levels of fat and carbs.
Peanut butter is my go-to snack ingredient, on toast or snack-a-jacks. Carry it in a small container or combine everything beforehand.
Peanut butter can vary widely in added sugar, so read the label carefully. Healthier nut butter will be runnier, which isn’t always convenient for travel, but that’s because it consists only of nuts and their natural oils, plus healthy nutrients like vitamin E and iron.
PowerBar has been a leader in sports nutrition for years and has an incredible range of tried and true products. Their PowerGel range comes in ‘Original’ or ‘Hydro’ brands.
They recommend 1-4 pouches per hour during training or exercise. Each pouch contains 100 calories, 26g of carbs for the Original, and 25g for the Hydro, with the Hydro containing slightly more sugar at 13g per pouch.
I don’t usually carry candy on hikes. It’s just too sweet for me, and my blood sugar levels spike unpredictably. But if you’ve got a sweet tooth, sugar is the mother lode. A handful of candy might be just what you need.
Any candy will be high in sugar, artificial flavors, and preservatives, but an occasional bag of Haribo or Skittles can be forgiven if it gets you through those grueling switchbacks or up never-ending flights of stairs.
Here’s what mattered most as we compiled this list of favorite snacks: the nutritional benefits, a high calorie-to-weight ratio, price, plus shelf life — no one wants food deteriorating in their pack.
Snacks should be tasty. If replenishing calories was all that mattered, we could all refuel by eating kibble! No, thanks, we’ll stick to snacks, and have compiled some of the best for your consideration. Some have added sugar, but many deliver great taste from natural, healthy sources.
Pack food that will keep you going on the trail. Sugary snacks, while delicious, aren’t going to give you sustained energy throughout the day. Instead, consume a decent amount of core nutrients that will leave you feeling energized and focused on the natural beauty all around you.
Simply put, calories are fuel. They’re vital to energizing you, and you’ll burn through a lot. Foods with high calorie-to-weight ratios, such as the nuts we discussed earlier, will save space and weight in your pack and provide the nutritional fuel you need.
It’s essential to choose foods that aren’t going to go bad in your pack, even if you’re just out for the day. Dehydrated foods such as nuts, raisins, or jerky are what you want.
You’ll want to save space and weight in your pack for upscale main course meals by choosing calorie-dense snacks to eat on the move. We looked for no-fuss or pre-mixed snacks with minimal packaging.
Big brand name hiking and backpacking snacks are easy to find and often relatively cheap, but seldom the most nutritious. We’ve included a few here, but also recommend that you try making your own trail mix blends, for example, by visiting the bulk food section of your favorite store.
Now it’s your turn to sample and choose your own best hiking and backpacking snacks. Be bold, and vote for flavor. And remember…
Snacks can be a guilty pleasure at home, but I’m convinced they’re 100% guilt-free on the trail. Just look at how high they are on my packing list, right after ‘trekking poles.’ That makes them “essential,” right?
Conclusion: It’s my sacred duty to toss back handfuls of salty, sweet, or fatty calorie-dense energy bars, nuts, and dried fruit as I trudge up the trail. After all, I’ve got to replenish all those burnt calories. I have no choice, right?
Sarcasm and irony aside, what are your favorite hiking snacks? Please share your list or recipes in the comments section below. Thanks, and happy trail nibbling to all.
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Last Updated on June 23, 2023