Best Day Hike Foods
With the weather getting colder and winter quickly approaching, I’ve been taking more day hikes than backpacking trips. I wanted to write a post on some food options you have for day hiking since the foods you take for that and backpacking can be quite different. When I’m planning a backpacking trip, I’m primarily concerned about the weight and caloric density of each piece of food I’m carrying. For day hiking, I don’t really worry at all how much my food weighs but instead try to focus on taking something fresh that I enjoy eating and that is relatively healthy. While day hiking, you won’t have to worry about foods going bad so you can throw in some foods that need to be refrigerated but will be fine for a few hours in your pack. The best day hike foods are delicious and nutritious.
1. Trail Mix
Great for day hikes and backpacking both, trail mix is nutritionally packed and has a high caloric density. This means you get a lot of calories per ounce which helps cut down on pack weight. Nuts and seeds are high in healthy fat, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Trail mix is great for providing sustained energy during your hike. There are so many creative ways you can combine ingredients. Click the link below for some trail mix ideas.
2. Fresh Fruit
Fresh fruit is a luxury out on the trail for most backpackers because its far too heavy and bulky to carry for a multi day hike. Day hikers on the other hand can and should take some fresh produce. Not only can it help keep you hydrated, but it will give you a quick boost of energy. Fruit never tastes better than it does while out on the trail. Some favorites I like to bring hiking are apples, berries, oranges, and sliced pineapple.
3. Nut Butters
Nut butters are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. I like that nut butter is really versatile and you can eat it plain, mix into other foods, or spread on other foods. Sometimes if I’m really feeling lazy I will just create a nut butter mixture for breakfast with foods like coconut, oats, dried fruits, other nuts, and seeds. Add peanut butter to oats and honey and make these delicious peanut butter bars. Butters can also help make some interesting combinations of sandwiches or wraps. Some wrap combos I’ve tried are nut butter with honey, cacao, dried banana, chia seeds, dried strawberries, dried coconut, dried apple, or dates. For more info on different types of nut butters and my top picks check out my Backpacker’s Nut Butter Guide below.
4. Dried Coconut
I like to sneak coconut flakes in with other foods like trail mix or nut butter. Dehydrated coconut is high in fiber, iron, and healthy fat. The healthy fat and fiber in dried coconut will help you stay full longer and ward off hunger between trail snacks. The iron content helps with circulation, transportation of oxygen in your blood, and tissue maintenance, which are important for hikers. I mentioned coconut above as a good addition to nut butters and trail mixes. Its also great in homemade energy bars.
5. Energy Bars
With so many options for energy bars these days, you don’t have to sacrifice health for convenience. Many companies have gotten on board with the health conscious among us and offer organic, gluten free, no sugar added, raw, and plant based bars. You can also make your own bars if you really want to control what you are consuming. There are meal bars, protein bars, endurance bars, and what I call activity/hybrid bars. If you want to learn more about the different types of bars and which ones I recommend, check out the link below.
When I say cheese, I’m not talking about the processed American “cheese” slices. Look for a cheese that is organic and even better would be a 100% grass fed raw cheese. Grass fed raw cheese is higher in vitamins such as A, D, E, and K and also high in B complex vitamins. Cheese is also high in healthy fats, protein, and calcium. 100% grass fed raw cheese can be hard to find at the grocery store so I recommend looking for a local farmer that might be able to supply you. You will taste the difference! Localharvest.org and eatwild.com are great resources for finding a small local dairy farmer near you.
7. Dark Chocolate
Sometimes you just need a quick pick me up while hiking and dark chocolate seems to do that for me. Its high in antioxidants, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins. Dark chocolate can also improve cognitive function and memory and studies have shown it to improve heart health. Keep in mind, you don’t want to go overboard with this but consuming small amounts can be good for you. Even better would be to snack on some cacao nibs while out on the trail.
If you’re going on a longer day hike, you will probably want to take a lunch with you. Some people just snack all day, but I enjoy a lunch break for most full day hikes. The easiest and tastiest option I have found is some sort of wrap or sandwich because I usually already have the ingredients at home to make it. You can get fancy with a sandwich for a day hike that you otherwise would not be able to bring on a long backpacking trip. Some of my favorite combinations are nut butter banana, egg avocado and spinach, black bean patty and greens, chickpea “no tuna” salad tomato and greens, and sprouts with veggies and avocado.
So what about you, what are your favorite go to day hike foods? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!