Hiking excursions provide an incredible opportunity to engage with the natural world while stimulating your body with healthy exercise, but what foods should you bring along on your outdoor adventure to keep your body happy and well-nourished?
As an activity-based hobby, hiking generally demands a higher intake of nutritious foods to power your body, supplying it with the drive to keep running at a comfortable level. This makes it important to choose fresh, hardy foods that’ll positively impact your hiking experience and maximize your stamina.
Regardless of whether you plan a single or multi-day hike, it’s best to select lightweight foods that supply your body with adequate energy to tackle strenuous trails and remain active for a prolonged amount of time.
What to Eat Before Hiking
Carbohydrates supply the main fuel for your muscles, so opt to consume easily digestible carbs before setting out on your hike. Proteins are also essential for exercise to build, maintain and repair muscles, making them a healthy addition to your pre-hike meal.
Fueling up with nutritional staples like oatmeal, eggs, fruits, and vegetables, provides your body with lasting energy and improved endurance, filling you up without weighing you down.
If you take the initiative to eat a good meal before your hike, you should feel invigorated for a long time after, but it’s important to continue refueling your body as you hike. While certain backpacking snacks serve as ideal dietary solutions regardless of the hike you commit yourself to, your preparation may shift slightly depending on if you aim to set out on a single or multi-day hike.
What to Eat During a Single Day Hike
Single day hikes afford you a little more flexibility in that you can choose to pack perishable foods to eat. However, if you do, don’t forget to protect perishables from the heat and insulate them, as they can spoil when exposed to warm conditions. With certain foods like fruit, it may be better to consider something durable like an apple instead of a banana.
The same logic applies to the packaging of food, as individually sealed string cheese would work better than a package of shredded cheese.
While hiking, you may discover a suppressed appetite, but remember to eat, ensuring your body regulates its temperature well and remains energized. Snacking over the course of your hike is crucial, so aim to eat nutrient-dense food at least once an hour.
Some of the best foods to eat while hiking includes energy bars, granola bars, nuts, and trail mix, as each of them offers the carbohydrates and protein necessary to recharge your body. Snacks that feature added sugars are problematic when hiking, as they can cause your energy to crash.
Along with regular eating, frequent hydration is key. Take periodic sips of water, whether or not you feel thirsty.
If you find yourself needing more water than you pack, exercise caution when drinking from natural sources. Boiling water to kill off any microorganisms is recommended to assure one’s safety, but water filters or purification tablets can also be used to make it suitable for consumption.
When seeking to maintain one’s hydration, it’s important to realize that your stomach needs to re-hydrate dried fruit to digest it, so if you don’t refuel your body with enough fluids, you could become dehydrated.
What to Eat During a Multi-Day Hike
For multi-day hiking excursions, many of the same snacks can be incorporated into your diet, but more attention will need to be given toward the inclusion of filling meals that replenish your body after a tough day of exercise.
While limited to foods you can bring along in your backpack, there are several easy campfire dinners you can make to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to recharge, whether that be instant noodles, rice, soup or beans.
There’s something distinctly rewarding about cooking over a campfire, but without a familiarity for best practices, you may encounter some issues, so there are a few aspects you should take into consideration.
Before starting your fire, make sure it’s contained by a ring, which serves as a physical barrier between the flames and any nearby plants. Depending on the conditions of your hike, you may already have access to a fire ring at a campsite or on a trail, but if you don’t, you’ll need to build one from scratch. Make sure you oil the grate or pan before adding your food, or you’ll end up with a sticky mess and half your food in the fire.
Prior to setting out on your hike, spend some time researching whether or not locally sourced wood can be used for your campfire. Several national parks forbid campers from collecting wood in the surrounding area since it would disrupt the natural landscape and native wildlife.
With a cast-iron pan and oil for cooking, your food will be a welcomed treat after a long day of hiking.
Always Come Prepared
When it comes to eating while hiking, preparation is key. With healthy snacks to continuously refuel your body as you hike, you’ll maintain your energy and enjoy the experience even more.
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington