Embarking on a hiking adventure requires not only physical strength and stamina but also proper nutrition. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best foods for hiking, including meal replacement shakes, natural nuts and oils, high-protein options for both meat-lovers and vegetarians, and other trail-friendly delights. With these tasty and nutritious backpacking food suggestions, you'll stay energized and ready to tackle any trail.
We're going to try to avoid to much information on the obvious dehydrated meals (although they and MRE's are always an option) and focus on a mix of lightweight and nutritious options that shouldn't require too much in the way of meal planning.
Backpacking trips shouldn't be too stressful, and the food doesn't need to be something that would make Gordon Ramsay proud, we're looking for backpacking food that's simple, lightweight, space conscious, nutritional and most importantly that it tastes pretty good.
1. Meal Replacement Shakes
Whilst meal shakes are good backpacking food, they stand out over their simple protein counterparts for one core reason, you need the calories whilst hiking, and you want to get the complete nutrition blend. But, it's important to pick ones that mix well in a simple blender and taste good with water alone and don't need to be mixed with milk. They take a lot of the stress out of meal planning and you don't have to worry about proper food storage. The best part is that they don't take up nearly as much space as other backpacking food options.
Rootana : The Number 1 Meal Replacement Shake for Hikers
When it comes to meal replacement shakes, Rootana is the number 1 choice for hikers. Packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, this delicious shake provides a convenient and tasty way to fuel your body during long hikes. As far as backpacking food goes, it's generally a healthier option than your traditional dehydrated meals and takes up just as little space on any backpacking trip especially ones where pack weight is a concern.
Why Choose Rootana?
Rootana offers a perfect balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to keep you going on the trail. This meal replacement shake is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals, ensuring that you're getting all the nutrients you need while hiking. All of this in a shake that tastes delicious and takes five minutes to make, you’d be crazy not to give it a go on your next trail. But, the main reason we really like it as far as backpacking meals go, is that it tastes good with just water, it mixes really well in a normal shaker (unlike a lot of meal replacement shakes) and covers all the boxes you want from a good backpacking food.
It's also pretty well priced as meal replacement shakes go and you can get the best Rootana deals here.
How Does It Taste?
Finding the best flavor of meal replacement shakes can be subjective, but Rootana’s offering is a cut above the rest as it lacks both the synthetic aftertaste and the chalky texture that is so prevalent in other meal replacement shakes. This is thanks to its real food formula, which includes absolutely nothing artificial which leaves Rootana with an amazing real food taste that has you coming back to more.
You may find the flavor is a lot more subtle than you’re used to if you’ve tried meal replacement shakes before, as it’s quite typical for them to use strong flavors in order to overpower the smells and tastes of the non-food ingredients. Rootana cleverly circumvented this need by simply not including any non-food items to begin with. This left them with only one conundrum, how do they make it sweet? And that’s when they landed on including coconut sugars, which have a much lower GI level than the more common sugars, meaning it won’t spike blood sugar in the same way that makes sugars so dangerous. This has left Rootana with a wonderfully morish, subtle but sweet oaty flavor. Our favorite is vanilla, as the soft flavor of the vanilla just sits on top of this already gorgeous flavor in a really satisfying way for us.
Honestly Rootana ticks all the boxes for great hiking meals, find it here.
Instant Knockout Complete fits in as an option for people who are looking for a higher protein content, again it's another meal replacement shake that takes a lot of the thought out of having to meal prep or plan.
Similarly, it covers all your essential vitamins and minerals it's just got a higher protein to carb blend. It tastes good as well and doesn't have the consistency of glue like some other high protein meal replacement shakes.
And most importantly it mixes well and tastes good with water, is easy to mix in a normal shaker and doesn't end up lumpy.
Natural Nuts & Oils: Nutrient-Dense Energy Sources
Natural nuts and oils are some of the best foods for hiking, thanks to their high calorie content, low carb nature, and healthy fat content.
Natural nuts like almonds, macadamias, pecans, and cashews offer numerous nutritional benefits, making them ideal for backpacking diets. Packed with natural fats, they provide concentrated energy in a compact and portable form, suitable for omnivores, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and keto diets. These nuts are rich in healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, offering a well-rounded snack choice.
With a variety of options available, you can mix different nuts or choose individual varieties based on your preferences. Whether you enjoy the buttery texture of macadamias, the distinct flavor of pecans, the creamy crunch of cashews, or the versatile almonds, there's a nut to suit everyone. Furthermore, you can customize the flavor by selecting salted or unsalted options, providing either a satisfying salty kick or a more neutral taste to match your preference.
Apart from their delicious taste and convenience, natural nuts offer significant health benefits. Regular nut consumption is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, improved brain health, and better weight management. Their nutrient density helps curb hunger and maintain energy levels during hikes, making them an excellent choice for quick and nourishing snacks or nutrient-dense additions to backpacking meals.
Unsweetened Nut Butters
Unsweetened nut butters, like almond, peanut, or cashew butter, are a nutritious and versatile snack for hikers. They offer a concentrated source of energy with healthy fats, proteins, and fiber, making them ideal for sustaining fuel during long hikes or strenuous activities. You can enjoy them on crackers, bread, or straight from the jar, enhancing the taste and nutritional value of your meals. Nut butter is also rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, supporting heart health, brain function, and overall well-being. When selecting nut butters, choose those without added sugars or artificial additives for a pure and natural option.
As you can see unsweetened nut butters are a valuable addition to a hiker's pantry. They provide concentrated energy, versatility in usage, and a range of nutrients
to support your body during outdoor activities. Whether you spread them, eat them as is, or incorporate them into meals, unsweetened nut butters offer a delicious and nourishing choice for hikers seeking both fuel and flavor on their adventures.
Adding olive oil to meals is another great way to increase calorie intake and provide healthy fats. With 200 calories per ounce, it's a compact and efficient source of energy that is delicious, portable and convenient for any hiker.
3. Treats: Add Some Joy to Your Hiking Diet
Having some treats on the trail can make your hiking experience more enjoyable. Indulge in some dark chocolate, dried fruits, or other delicious options to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 90% or higher is a delectable treat for hikers. Its rich flavor and unique properties make it a satisfying choice for outdoor adventures. With its high calorie content and low sugar levels, dark chocolate provides an energy boost while satisfying a sweet tooth. It is also compatible with various diets, including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options.
Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants called flavonoids, which offer potential health benefits for heart health, brain function, and overall well-being. Choose high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 90% or higher to maximize its benefits. In summary, very dark chocolate is an energizing and guilt-free indulgence for hikers, offering both deliciousness and potential health advantages on the trail.
Unsweetened dried fruits like mango, strawberries, and apricots are a tasty addition to hiking treats. They offer natural sweetness and a variety of flavors, making them a delightful snack choice. These lightweight and non-perishable fruits can be enjoyed on their own, providing a convenient and nourishing option for hikers during quick breaks or longer treks.
Pairing unsweetened dried fruits with dark chocolate creates a delicious and flavorful combination. The sweet and tangy taste of the fruits complements the rich and slightly bitter flavor of dark chocolate, resulting in a satisfying balance. The chewy texture of dried fruits and the smoothness of dark chocolate create a pleasing contrast. Moreover, unsweetened dried fruits are nutrient-dense, packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, providing a quick energy boost and supporting overall health during outdoor activities.
When selecting unsweetened dried fruits, ensure they have no added sugars or preservatives. Opting for organic options can minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Pack your favorite dried fruits in resealable bags or small containers for freshness and easy access on your hiking trips. In summary, unsweetened dried fruits are a convenient and nutritious choice for hikers, whether enjoyed alone or combined with dark chocolate. Consider including them in your next hiking adventure for a delicious and wholesome snacking experience. And of course you can always make your own trail mix and include dried fruit.
What About MRE's And Dehydrated Meals?
Odds are for any longer hike you're going to want some dehydrated meals or dehydrated vegetables of some sort. This is pretty much standard practice when it comes to meal planning, they don't take up much space and most people are going to have some method of boiling water, even if it's just for instant coffee. A couple of top picks are:
2. Dehydrated Potatoes
3. MRE's/Dehydrated meals
Freeze dried meals are generally an easy way to make sure that you're getting everything you need and dehydrated backpacking meals are an easy way to make things simple, mix that up with meal replacements and some energy bars and you're pretty much covered. Even if it's likely you won't be having the most exciting backpacking food out of your hiking group.
A lot of people also swear by instant oatmeal, but a lot of this tends to come in relatively bulky pots, and we'd say you should keep the same in mind with ramen, you're better off getting a simple pack rather than a make in the bowl type which is technically what gets' it put in this section. Instant mashed potatoes on the other hand aren't a taste that everyone likes, but many a backpacking dinners have been made up of mash and some sort of meat or sauce.
What Fresh Foods Can I Take Hiking?
Generally speaking this is really going to depend on how much food space you've got, and even then there's not too many fresh foods you'll want to pack. Generally speaking you'll want to take foods that are relatively sturdy. If it squashes easily you probably don't want it in your bag. A few good examples are:
You'll need to think about your calories though as these aren't over dense. Generally most fresh fruit isn't going to survive too well. For example bananas may seem like a good idea, they're good for carbs and come pre wrapped, but once you've had to scrape exploded banana mush off your clean boxers you may think otherwise. If you've got plenty of space at the top of your backpack, and can bag them up though then they can be pretty good. Just be careful. And obviously you're going to want to avoid small berries and anything overly squishy when it comes to fresh fruits.
Of course, make sure that any fresh fruits you bring don't require refrigerating!
Other Ideas for Saving Pack Weight And Space
Powdered milk - This one is an obvious one when it comes to hiking and there's a reason that powdered milk makes every list, simply put, normal milk spoils and whilst you could theoretically take uht milk, it's simply not practical. Although we all know that powdered milk isn't as good as the real thing.
Tortillas - Tortillas are a great option for any backpacking meal plan, they take up very little space, and are great for making easy to eat snacks.
Avoid Canned Foods - We're not saying don't take any canned foods with you, but they are heavy, if you are taking them, you should try to plan your backpacking meals around including this with something else. Beans and instant mashed potatoes for example. Rather than just the can of beans.
Get Sachets Where Possible - This one may seem a little bit desperate, especially if you really want to take your hot sauce with you. But, if you can find sachets, you can take up a lot less space. In general, we don't recommend that everyone get quite so pedantic unless you want to take a lot of different sauce options with you. A bottle of your favorite condiment isn't going to be the end of the world.
You Can Take Herbs, Just Be Sparing - Ok, so you don't want to load up with your kitchen counter, but adding a bit of garlic powder, pepper and salt can spice up a lot of otherwise bland experiences. Depending on what your sensibilities are and the region you're in, you could always scavenge some herbs yourself!
Why You Should Bring Food on Hikes
Embarking on a hiking adventure is an exciting opportunity to connect with nature, challenge yourself physically, and explore new trails. However, amidst the enthusiasm for the great outdoors, it's essential not to overlook the importance of proper nutrition. Bringing food on hikes is not just a matter of convenience; it is crucial for fueling your body and ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are a few compelling reasons why you should always pack food for your hiking trips.
First and foremost, food provides the energy your body needs to tackle the physical demands of hiking. Walking for extended periods and navigating challenging terrains requires stamina and strength. By consuming nutritious meals and snacks, you replenish glycogen stores, which are essential for sustaining endurance. Whether it's a hearty breakfast before hitting the trail or small, frequent snacks throughout the day, fueling your body adequately can prevent fatigue and help you maintain optimal performance.
Furthermore, food serves as a source of nourishment and sustenance during hikes. Nutrient-rich meals and snacks provide essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that support overall health and well-being. Hiking exposes you to the elements, and your body requires proper nutrition to stay hydrated, regulate body temperature, and support the immune system. By packing a variety of foods that offer a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, you ensure that your body has the necessary fuel and nutrients to function optimally.
Additionally, bringing food on hikes allows you to customize your meals and snacks according to your dietary preferences and restrictions. Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or keto diet, you have the freedom to select foods that align with your needs. This not only ensures that you enjoy your meals but also helps you avoid any discomfort or adverse reactions that may arise from consuming incompatible foods.
Lastly, having food readily available on hikes offers a sense of security and peace of mind. Unexpected delays or changes in weather conditions can occur, extending the duration of your hike. By carrying extra food, you are prepared for unforeseen circumstances and can sustain yourself until you reach your destination or find assistance if needed. Moreover, having food on hand allows you to take breaks, refuel, and recharge your energy levels, enabling you to fully enjoy the beauty and serenity of nature without feeling rushed or fatigued.
In conclusion, bringing food on hikes is a fundamental aspect of any successful and enjoyable outdoor adventure. It provides the necessary fuel, nourishment, and customization options to support your physical exertion, maintain health, and accommodate dietary preferences. By packing a variety of nutritious and delicious foods, you ensure that you are prepared for any situation, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the wonders of nature while staying energized and satisfied throughout your hiking journey.
What's The Best Backpacking Food? Conclusion
Proper nutrition is crucial for a successful and enjoyable hiking adventure. In this comprehensive guide, we have explored a range of foods that are perfect for fueling your body during long hikes. From convenient meal replacement shakes like Rootana to natural nuts and oils, high-protein options for both meat-lovers and vegetarians, and delightful treats, we have covered it all.
Rootana has emerged as the number one meal replacement shake for hikers, and in our eyes something that should be in ever backpacker’s arsenal, providing essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in a delicious and convenient form. With its perfect balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, Rootana keeps you energized on the trail. The lack of synthetic aftertaste and chalky texture sets it apart from other meal replacement shakes, thanks to its real food formula. The subtle yet sweet oaty flavor, achieved by using coconut sugars, makes Rootana a truly enjoyable choice.
By incorporating any of these delicious and nutritious foods into your hiking menu, you can fuel your body, maintain energy levels, and enjoy your outdoor adventures to the fullest. Whether you choose Rootana, natural nuts and oils, treats, protein-packed foods, or tuna in olive oil, these options will keep you energized, satisfied, and ready to conquer any trail.
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