If you’d ever go hiking with me, you would quickly learn that I love my trail snacks. I’m always packing extra snacks in my backpack and offering a variety of amazing trail snacks to my outdoor company.
Snacks can help keep your energy level high. And hiking snacks, along with proper hydration, will help keep you full and happy on the trail. There’s also a euphoric feeling when you reach a mountain summit and bite into something delicious as you take in the high-altitude views.
Over the years I’ve tried the gambit of trail snacks — from bars and nuts to dried fruit. I’m sure you’ve tried many trail snacks too, and have your favorites or go-to brands. But hopefully I can broaden your horizons here a bit and allow you to taste-test ones that you might not have heard of before or might not have been adventurous enough to try without a little background on how they taste.
When I head out for a hike, I want to know I have something to eat that’s easy to grab, doesn’t make a mess and has some nutritional value that will help sustain me on the trail. You want to look for snacks that you can easily eat with your hands — allowing you to hike without lugging around utensils, plates or bowls.
Another good tip when packing snacks for a hike is to pack just a little more than you think you’ll need. This is wise if you have outdoor company who may want to taste test some of your snacks or if your hike ends up longer than anticipated. I find that it’s better to overestimate your snack allotment than to be hungry and low on energy when you’re hiking those last few miles of a trail.
I’ve tried to select some diversity in these snacks and really highlight the ones that make me feel good and energized while out on the trails. Here are my top 7 trail snacks and why I love them:
1. Peanut Butter Fit Crunch Protein Bars
Fit Crunch protein bars are a staple for me when I’m hiking in the spring, fall or winter (unfortunately, they melt in the summer.) Since they have six layers and are baked, these protein bars taste more like a candy bar. The closest thing I can compare the taste to is the peanut butter tagalongs sold by the Girls Scouts of America. Very similar!
There’s a crunch in each bite, and they’re surprisingly low in sugar for how sweet and delicious they are. And, they come in other flavors than peanut butter — like peanut butter and jelly, mint chocolate chip, apple pie, birthday cake and more! I’ll buy other flavors occasionally, but the peanut butter flavor is hands down my favorite.
They come in both big and small bars, and both are gluten free. I prefer the smaller bars, which have just 190 calories, 16g of protein and 3g of sugar. I typically pack these as my reward at some point of a hike, like reaching a waterfall, making it half way around the lake, etc.
2. Barùkas Trail Mix
Deemed the healthiest nut in the world, the Barùkas nut is not commonly known in the U.S. This trail mix is filled with raw Barùkas nuts and sweet dried Barùkas fruit — an excellent textured combination. I first saw superfood hunter Darin Olien on the Netflix series Down to Earth with Zac Efron, where they traveled internationally and investigated environmental issues. Since then, Olien started his own company Barùkas. He markets these as “Supernuts of the Savanna.” Both the Barùkas nuts and the dried Barùkas fruit have a unique earthy and nutty taste. And a 12 oz bag of the trail mix is surprisingly filled nearly to the top.
This trail mix is easy to haul on hikes and the nuts have antioxidant power, top micronutrients like magnesium and they’re packed with protein and fiber. They’re also 100 percent vegan, sustainable, wild grown in Brazil and Bolivia and Gluten free. Olien also plants a Barùkas tree for every five bags ordered.
3. Savory Wild Portabella Mushroom Jerky
If you’re a fan of Portabella mushrooms like me, you’ll love this jerky. It’s made of hand-picked Portabella mushrooms from various Pennsylvania farms. It’s the texture of meaty jerky, but it’s mushrooms. And it’s super filling.
Mushroom jerky is also easy to pack, lightweight and filled with vitamin D, selenium, potassium and other antioxidants. The biggest draw to this trail snack is that there are no hydrogenated oils, no MSG, and no preservatives, and mushrooms are naturally gluten free. My favorite flavor is the sesame, ginger and Korean chili, but you can also find this mushroom jerky in roasted garlic and black pepper.
4. Abby’s Better Nut Butter Vanilla Cashew Protein Bites
These cashew bites are a treat for me when hiking! They come in little bite size dough-like balls and actually taste a little like cookie dough. They’re a raw food with just six ingredients (dates, cashews, unsweetened dried coconut, pea protein isolate, pink Himalayan salt and cashew flour.) I love that they are plant based and they don’t melt or freeze out on the trail.
These nut butter bites also come in other flavors like apple cinnamon walnut and pumpkin spice pecan, You can pick up a sample pack of four for under $20, too, to try them. Bonus tip: Like me, you can use code 10KYSHARK for 10 percent off your purchase on the Abby’s Better website, which is good through 2022.
5. Cool Mint Chocolate Clifbar
I’ve tried nearly every flavor of Clifbar REI has to offer and the cool mint chocolate is my favorite, with the limited edition white chocolate macadamia nut flavor as a close second. I like the texture and the minty aftertaste of these bars. And, they’re easy to slip in my coat pocket or legging pocket out on the trail for simple access.
With about 70 percent organic ingredients, made mainly of rolled oats, it’s like eating oatmeal out on the trail. Clifbars also help with sustained energy on longer hikes as I’ll pack two or three for a quick bite when I’m feeling drained.
6. Paradise Green Dried Mangos
Dried fruit in general is a treat on the trail, but these naturally sweet premium dried mangos from Thailand are high on my list. Each slice is unique in shape, and these dried mangos have a nice texture and are chewy on the inside, but not too chewy. They’re a lot tastier than the mini dried fruit pieces found in most trail mix.
These dried mangos are packed with vitamin C, easy to carry, and they don’t melt in the heat or freeze in the cold that I’ve experienced. You can find them online or in a seasonal mega pack at Costco. (They go quick here in Montana!) One of the biggest challenges to packing these mangos and snacking on them out on the trail is keeping others from eating them all.
7. Astronaut’s Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches
I discovered Astronaut ice cream at the Science and Industry museum in fifth grade. It’s been a nice treat even through my adult life. And, it’s a once-in-a-while snack I take on hikes for a special treat. This freeze-dried ice cream is also marketed as trail or backcountry food at retail stores, and from my experience, all tastes the same: delicious.
Since they come ready to eat, you don’t need to worry about refrigerating or freezing them. And, you’re actually eating real ice cream. It is actual ice cream freeze-dried at -40 degrees. It also has a three-year shelf life, but I’ve never had a package that long without eating it. It’s more expensive than other trail food, and if you’re health conscious, it’s not the right snack for you as it has a complicated list of ingredients and contains a lot of sugar.
Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.
Feature image by Maridav, Shutterstock
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