13 Best Hiking Snacks To Energize Your Climb

What are the best hiking snacks out there?  Homemade flax and protein balls, grass-fed beef jerky, and bagel PB&J sandwiches are a few of my favorites.   

From completing hundreds of miles of trails over the years, I’ve learned the importance of finding the right balance of nutrients, calories, and ‘packability’ for your day hikes.  This is even more important in hot weather. 

This article will run through my top 13 hiking snacks, including a simplified recipe for my favorite homemade snacks.  So, get ready to elevate your hiking snack game!

What Makes a Good Hiking Snack?

Not Too Bulky or Heavy: Especially for those with knee problems or Achilles tendon problems like me, you’ll want to keep your pack as light as possible.  

You don’t want to pack something with a lot of extra packaging or that won’t fit well in your backpack.  Bulky foods would include things like bags of potato chips and individually packaged cereal cups.

We want a low packaging-to-food ratio here.  Often, I’ll take the snack out of its original packaging and put it in my own ziplock baggie.   I do this all the time with snacks like hard crackers and trail mix.   

close-up image of a plastic Ziplock bag filled with nuts and popcorn
To save space, I’ll often take crackers and trail mix out of the packaging they are purchased in

Calorie-dense: Depending on how many miles you plan to hike in a day, you’ll need a lot of calories.  If I’m hiking hard, I try to eat a snack (300 calories or so) every hour or two.

Shelf-stable: You won’t want to pack food that needs to be refrigerated or won’t do well in the heat.  Bringing your leftover chicken pasta from last night’s dinner isn’t a good idea here. 

Won’t Get Smashed: Even if you keep your snacks at the top of your bag (which we recommend), the odds are that things will shift around and get smashed while you hike.

Soft crackers, regular bread, and potato chips are foods to avoid unless you don’t mind eating a bag full of crumbs.  If you want to pack a sandwich, there are better bread options (we like to use bagels).  

Won’t Melt: Most people underestimate how much the sun’s rays will heat your bag.  More than once, I’ve pulled my long-awaited chocolate bar from my bag only to find it completely liquified.

If you want to bring chocolate, go for something like M&Ms with your trail mix as these tend to fare better in the heat. 

Balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat: This is super important, especially on long hikes.  Carbohydrates provide quick energy, but if you don’t balance this with proteins and fats, you’ll get a quick blood sugar spike followed by an energy crash. 

Also, proteins are important for building and repairing the (many) muscles hiking works.  Fats are calorie-dense and great for maintaining your energy over a long time frame.  

two cheese sticks on a table with a roll of homemade fruit leather; one of the best hiking snacks
Combining a protein (cheese sticks) with a carbohydrate-dense food (fruit leather) will give you a great balance of macronutrients

Adequate Salt Content: When hiking, especially in hot weather, you’ll lose salt through your sweat.  Besides staying hydrated and wearing a great hot-weather hiking shirt, having salty snacks is one of the best ways to prevent feeling sick on the trail.  Beef jerky, salted nuts, and cheese are all great sources of salt. 

Tastes Good: Hiking can suppress your appetite, so you’ll want to have snacks that taste good and that you’ll want to eat.  

I try to find a good balance between healthy and tasty, which is why I love packing things like trail mix, homemade protein balls, and hummus.  They are easy to customize and make tastier by switching out ingredients.   

Best Hiking Snacks for Any Trail

So, without further ado, here’s my list of favorite hiking snacks.  These are great for day hikes, and most (except the fresh fruit) are also fantastic for multi-day backpacking adventures. 

1. Homemade Flax and Protein Balls

My homemade flax, nut, and protein balls are my number-one choice of hiking snack.  Not only are they a perfect balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, but the flax gives you a great boost of omega-3 fatty acids.

These protein balls are calorie-dense, easy to prepare, and don’t easily smash.  I’ll prepare a big batch every few weeks and store them in the freezer. 

close-up image of homemade flax, protein, coconut, and walnut balls.  A great, nutritious hiking snack
These flax, walnut, and protein powder balls are easy to make, nutritious, and pack well

My Protein Balls Recipe

Feel free to swap out ingredients and play around with proportions, but this is the basic recipe I use:   

  • 2 cups ground flax seed
  • 3 scoops whey protein powder (chocolate, vanilla, or Oreo)
  • 3TB shredded coconut
  • 3TB chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (room temperature)
  • Water, as needed to achieve moldable consistency

Mix the dry ingredients first, add the wet ingredients, then mix, adding water as needed to achieve desired consistency.  Shape into 1-inch balls, then freeze until ready to use on the trail.

2. Homemade Trail Mix

Trail Mix is a classic hiking snack, and for good reason!  Nuts are calorie-dense and easy to pack, and adding raisins or chocolate gives you a great carbohydrate boost.

I love making my trail mix because I can swap out ingredients to make it healthier or just add variety.  Our favorite place to find cheap trail mix ingredients is Winco Foods (or look for bulk food stores near you).

close-up image of plastic bag with walnuts, popcorn, dried edamame, and coconut flakes
My favorite homemade trail mix has walnuts, coconut, dried edamame, and popcorn

My Basic Trail Mix Recipe

  • 1.5 cups salted nuts 
  • ¾ cup seeds or dried edamame
  • 1 cup dried fruits (we like dried/chopped mango and dried cherries)
  • ½-1 cup coconut, fun candy, or chocolate (M&Ms do better with not melting)

I’ll then divide this into small plastic bags to easily grab and snack while on the trail. 

3. Low-Sugar Beef Jerky

Beef jerky is incredibly protein-dense and won’t smash in your pack.   

I prefer the Archer grass-fed zero-sugar jerky.  It’s got a whopping 24g of protein per 140-calorie bag.  I’m a big fan of the original flavor, but they’ve also got Spicy Sesame Garlic and Mustard BBQ. 

I’ll pair a few fruit leathers with a bag of beef jerky for a perfect, balanced hiking snack. 

pieces of Archer low-sugar beef jerky on a kitchen table
I love Archer’s low-sugar beef jerky

4. Homemade Dried Chickpeas

Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, in and of themselves have an excellent macronutrient breakdown.  According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, each cup of cooked chickpeas has the following (rounded to the nearest quarter gram):

  • 14.5 g of protein
  • 4.25 g of fat
  • 45 g of carbohydrates

Also, chickpeas contain a wealth of micronutrients, like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and more.  

You can purchase dried chickpeas at most grocery stores, but they can be expensive.  I’ve found that making them myself is the way to go.  It’s a little time-intensive, but you can make a huge batch that will keep well in the freezer and last for months.

My Basic Dried Chickpeas Recipe

  • One 1-lb bag dry chickpeas
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Salt to Taste
  • Seasonings to Taste

To Prepare Chickpeas: place the entire 1-lb bag of dry chickpeas in a large slow cooker or pressure cooker.  Cover the chickpeas with water (at least 2 inches) and cook on high for 6-8 hours (or 45 minutes in a pressure cooker).

Once the chickpeas are soft, drain the remaining water.  Spray a large cookie sheet with olive oil, and place chickpeas in a single layer on the cookie sheet.  Spray the top of the chickpeas with olive oil, and season to taste.  

cookie sheet covered in a single layer of garbanzo beans
Roasting your own chickpeas is an inexpensive way to make a big batch of healthy hiking snacks

Bake in a preheated oven (375 degrees) for 45 minutes to an hour until crispy.  Move the chickpeas around with a spatula halfway through the cooking time to turn them and evenly cook the other side. 

Let the chickpeas cool completely before dividing them into portion-sized bags.  Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

5. Tuna Packets and Hard Crackers

Packaged tuna is awesome for so many reasons.  Fish provides a fantastic source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  And, individual tuna packets are easy to pack, easy to open (no can opener needed), and pair perfectly with crackers.  AND, they feel sort of like a real meal (great for our hiking dates).

Also, we love the flavor options with packaged tuna.  Our current favorites are the Tuna Creations flavors by Starkist.  We love their Sweet & Spicy and Thai Chile the best. 

With crackers: you’ll want to opt for something that won’t turn into crumbs in your backpack.  We love woven-style crackers, like Triscuits.  Their dill and sea salt version is SO good!

Instead of doing crackers, our runner-up option is the Starkist Smart Bowls.  These packets have tuna mixed with rice, beans, or quinoa. 

easy-open package of albacore tuna sitting on a kitchen table
These tuna packets are easy to pack and easy to open on the trail
box of triscuit crackers held by a person's hand
You’ll want to go for firmer crackers, like Triscuits

6. Low-sugar Protein Bars or Meal Bars

Protein bars are another trail classic, and they score at the top of my list in the ‘taste’ category.  

You’ll want to look for protein bars that have fewer added sugars (some of these are loaded with extra sugar).  Our favorites are the Think bars, and the ONE bars.  Both of these brands come in all kinds of fun treat-like flavors (brownie, birthday cake, etc).

a hand holding a ONE protein bar and a quest chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bar
My two favorite protein bar brands are ONE bars and Quest bars. Both are low-sugar and taste great

7. Protein Powder and Cereal

This one is a little unconventional, but it’s cheaper than protein bars or jerky and is a great way to pack in the protein.  Also, it’s fairly easy to pack. 

We’ll put a scoop of protein powder and a half cup of oats into each baggie.  Then, on the trail, all you have to do is in a little water from your water bottle and voila, you’ve got a cereal-like snack.  

This snack does require that you bring a small Tupperware and a spoon, which is a little bulky but not heavy.  

clear ziplock snack bag with chocolate protein powder and cereal
Protein powder cereal is another great way to bring shelf-stable protein with you on the trail

8. Bagel PB&J 

For those of you craving a sandwich on the trail, a bagel PB&J sandwich is the perfect option.  Unlike regular bread, bagels won’t get smashed in your bag.  And, if you add plenty of peanut butter, this bagel sandwich is a great balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. 

TIP: spread nut butter on both sides of the bagel and then add jam on top.  This prevents the jam from soaking into the bread and making your sandwich soggy. 

If you’re not a PB&J fan, another great option is simply a premade bagel with cream cheese.  The cream cheese is a source of fat and protein, while the bagel will give you a good carbohydrate boost. 

9. Cheese Sticks and Fresh Fruit

I’m such a big fan of fresh fruit that I’ll bring it on my day hikes (despite the weight).  Pick fruits that won’t bruise easily, like pears or chopped fruit in a tupperware.

Not only is fresh fruit packed full of vitamins and carbohydrates, but it will also give you a hydration boost (especially water-heavy fruit like watermelon). 

Cheese sticks are great because they are already packaged and ready to go.  They are a great protein source to combine with more carbohydrate-heavy snacks, like fruit leather, dried fruit, or your bagel sandwich.  And, for long hikes, cheese is a great source of salt.

Note about melting: regular cheese sticks are prone to melting.  If you’ll be hiking in hot temperatures, opt instead for harder cheeses. 

half a pear and a cheese stick on a purple napkin, sitting on a kitchen table
Fruit and cheese pair well together and are a perfect, balanced snack for the trail

10. Hummus and Carrot Sticks

Another garbanzo-bean-based favorite of mine.  Again, for this one, you’ll need to pack a small Tupperware (not the best pick for multi-day hikes or a backpacking trip), but for day hikes this is a good option and a great source of complex carbs.

Pair this with a small bag of baby carrot sticks, and you’ve got a healthy and satisfying trail treat. 

purple plate with hummus-covered baby carrot sticks
Hummus is another chickpea-based favorite of mine

11. Hard Boiled Eggs and Fruit Leather

Hard-boiled eggs are another protein-dense favorite.  You’ll only want to bring these on shorter day hikes, and I’ll sometimes bring along a small ice pack.  

For fruit leather: I love making my own in the air fryer or on a cookie sheet in the oven. Simply puree your fruit, spread in a thin layer on your baking sheet or air fryer tray, and place in the over at the very lowest setting for 6 hours.

The eggs, combined with fruit, will give you the perfect balance of carbs, protein, and fat. 

two hard-boiled eggs and a small fruit rollup on a purple napkin
You can make your own fruit leather in the oven, or purchase fruit leather singles

12. Hard Candy

Sometimes it’s nice to have a bit of a distraction on the trail, and I always bring along a few pieces of hard candy.  

My favorite hard candy is sugar-free Werthers. 

close-up view of a package of Werthers candies
I always bring a few hard candies with me on the trail

Ginger candy is another option and is extra beneficial (especially when hiking at high altitudes) as it can help with nausea and inflammation.

13. Best Hiking Snack for the Summit: Nut Roll Candy Bar

While I usually try to keep my added sugars to a minimum, I love enjoying a nut roll at a peak-finishing treat.  Nut rolls, compared to chocolate candy bars like Snickers, won’t melt in your backpack or get smashed. 

BONUS: Electrolyte Packets or Drink Enhancer

We always throw a couple of powder electrolyte drink-enhancer packets into our bag.  The flavors are fun which motivates me to stay hydrated, and the electrolytes are important for long, hot hikes.  

Tips for Packing Your Hiking Snacks

  • Use gallon Ziplock bags to organize your food and keep it separate from your other hiking gear.  Bring an extra bag to pack out your trash
  • Keep your snacks on top or in a separate pocket.  This helps prevent them from getting smashed. 
  • Use plastic containers for any fragile or messy foods (day hikes only)
  • Pack your heavier hiking gadgets at the bottom of your backpack.  This helps keep more lightweight items (like your food) on top. 
  • Pre-prepare sandwiches.  Then you don’t have to bring along a knife.
  • If you want to bring something perishable: bring a small ice pack
an open gallon Ziplock bag on a kitchen table
Gallon Ziplock bags are great for organizing your snacks and packing out your trash

Tips for Leaving No Trace

Leaving no trace on is so essential to keeping the trails clean and protecting wildlife. The most important thing is this: If you bring it in, pack it out (even your toilet paper, unless there are dedicated restrooms).  Here are some other tips to minimize your impact on the trail: 

  • Don’t use the trail trash cans.  These often don’t get emptied regularly.  It’s always better to just pack out your trash. 
  • Bring a dedicated Ziplock bag to pack out your trash 
  • Be mindful of the wind!  If it’s windy out, be careful not to set wrappers on the ground.  Instead, put all trash items in your backpack immediately.  
  • Don’t feed the animals: This can make them sick and can disrupt their natural food-finding patterns. 

The Best Snacks for the Trail: The Bottom Line

When preparing for a long hike in the great outdoors, selecting the right snacks is one of the most important things to consider. These great ideas will keep you energized, satisfied, and ready to keep exploring the great outdoors.

Best Hiking Snacks FAQ

What is the Best Snack for a Long Walk?

Even though there are differences between hiking and walking, the best snacks will be similar for both activities.  The perfect snack for a long walk will have a balance of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein, and will be low in added sugars. 

Some fantastic snacks for a long walk include carrot sticks and hummus, low-sugar protein bars, cheese sticks, and fresh fruit. 

What is the Best Energy Food for Hiking?

The best energy foods for hiking will have a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.  Carbohydrates provide quick-acting energy, while fats and proteins will help provide longer-duration energy and rebuild muscle. 

Some of the best energy foods for hiking are nuts and fruit, low-sugar protein bars, and beef jerky. 

What is the Healthiest Trail Snack?

Healthy trail snacks will have an even balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and will be low in added sugars and other artificial additives. 

Some of the healthiest trail snacks include carrot sticks and hummus, homemade protein powder and flax bars, and fresh fruit with cheese. 

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