The 10 Best Hiking Snacks of 2021

Fuel up in the outdoors with these easy-to-pack foods

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The Rundown

Best Overall: Clif Bars at Amazon

"Many outdoorsy folks don’t leave home without a Clif Bar in their packs."

Best Budget: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers at Amazon

"This classic snack goes from the classroom to the trail."

Best Vegetarian: Vega Protein Bars at Amazon

"Packed with 20 grams of protein into each bar."

Best Beef Jerky: Organic Valley Mighty Beef Sticks at Amazon

"Grass-fed beef made with recognizable ingredients like organic honey and sea salt."

Best Granola Bar: Nature Valley Granola Bars at Amazon

"Nature Valley Granola Bars deliver a time-tested sweet and slightly salty oat-and-honey taste."

Best Trail Mix: Power Up Trail Mix at Amazon

“A protein-packed and chocolate-free version with raisins and dried cherries for a sweet hit."

Best Crackers: Austin Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers at Amazon

"These crackers pair a cheesy, salty cracker with hearty peanut butter for a satisfying snack."

Best Sweet Treat: Fig Newtons at Amazon

"Sometimes savory and salty don’t fit your cravings. In that case, these sweet, filling treats are the perfect solution."

Best Energy Gel: Honey Stinger Gels at Amazon

"Elite athletes and nutritionists alike recommend Honey Stinger Gels for their simple energy-boosting power on the trail."

Best Fruit: Apples at Amazon

"Sometimes, simple is best."

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself in nature, particularly when you’re traveling. Whether you’re backpacking a multiday long-distance trail or day hiking in the mountains, being prepared will make the experience more enjoyable. An essential part of that is gathering snacks to fuel your adventures. Registered dietitian Lori Russell, who also holds a certification as a sports dietitian and is an ACE certified personal trainer, says the duration, temperature, and intensity of a hike will affect trekkers’ metabolic needs.

“Extended vigorous hiking at altitude while carrying a pack will require much more energy compared to hiking a sea-level path for an hour which will require minimal additional energy,” she says. “While correct fueling can be rather individualized and specific, in general, aim to consume enough to keep you energized and to avoid hunger while out on your adventure.”

We consulted with avid hikers for their favorite on-the-go foods. Read on for those best snacks.

Best Overall: Clif Bars

What We Like
  • Available in several flavors

  • Good for moderate-intensity activity support

  • Sustainably sourced ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Contains a lot of sugar

Many outdoorsy folks don’t leave home without a Clif Bar in their packs. The bars come in a variety of crowd-pleasing flavors, from chocolate chip to white chocolate macadamia nut. They’re crafted for an ideal mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that are meant to sustain bodies before and during moderate-intensity activities. Clif Bars are a feel-good food solution, too, since they’re made from sustainably sourced chocolate, plant-based ingredients, such as almonds and peanuts, and organic ingredients, like rolled oats.

Best Budget: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers

What We Like
  • Choose your portion size

  • Boosts electrolytes

  • Low sugar

What We Don't Like
  • Low protein

This classic snack goes from the classroom to the trail. The pleasing, cheddar crunch of the crackers will keep you going on the trail, and they're priced just right to buy in bulk, so they can be poured into smaller bags for easy packing. Bonus: Goldfish are likely to please the entire family.

Best Vegetarian: Vega Protein Bars

What We Like
  • High in plant-derived protein

  • Available in two flavors

  • Certified vegan

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Vegetarian hiking snacks can be high on carbs and low on protein. Not so with Vega Protein Bars, which pack 20 grams of protein with 26 grams of carbohydrates into each bar. Hiker and editor Jaime Purinton recommends Vega Bars for their multi-source plant-based protein from peas, brown rice, and nuts. “The salted caramel tastes so good, they’re like eating dessert," she says.

Best Beef Jerky: Organic Valley Mighty Beef Sticks

What We Like
  • Grass-fed beef and simple ingredients

  • Six grams of protein

  • Easy to store on-the-go

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive per pack

Long-distance backpacker Inga Aksamit, who has written a book on meals in the backcountry, swears by these beef sticks. “My preferences lean toward healthy eating and clean ingredient lists with minimal additives and preservatives,” she says. Aksamit confesses she’s burned out on many snack brands over the years, but these are among the nibbles that have remained appealing. The great taste of these sticks comes courtesy of grass-fed beef made with ingredients like organic honey, spices, and sea salt. These paleo-diet-friendly jerky sticks provide 6 grams of protein. Being individually wrapped makes these jerky sticks easy to consume on the go.

Best Granola Bar: Nature Valley Granola Bars

What We Like
  • Made with whole grains

  • Available in several flavors

What We Don't Like
  • Only certain flavors contain protein

Nature Valley Granola Bars deliver a time-tested sweet and slightly salty oat-and-honey taste. The chocolate chip flavor satiates a sweet tooth. These bars are pre-packaged for portability and sized right for stashing in a backpack.

Best Trail Mix: Power Up Trail Mix

What We Like
  • Good amounts of protein

  • Ingredients that aren't likely to melt

  • Available in several flavors

What We Don't Like
  • Mix is heavy on the fruit

Trail mix with chocolate, whether chocolate chips or M&Ms, might seem like a good idea when you’re packing your bag at home. However, when you pull out a melty bag on the trail, you might second guess your choice. Power Up Trail Mix offers a chocolate-free version with the addition of raisins and dried cherries for a sweet hit. 

Best Crackers: Austin Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers

What We Like
  • Contains protein

  • Great, classic taste

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Can easily crumble while traveling

Amy Marturana Winderl spent much of 2020 RVing and hiking U.S. national parks, and she loves these simple sandwich crackers. “Sometimes I just want to eat something plain and simple that’s easy to hold in my hands and eat while walking,” she says. “Peanut butter sandwich crackers are perfect for this. They also often come in large packs and are easy to throw in your bag or keep in the car to have on hand post-hike before you get to a bigger meal.” These crackers pair a cheesy, salty cracker with hearty peanut butter for a satisfying snack. They pack 4 grams of protein, 190 calories, and 9 grams of fat into one little package. 

Best Sweet Treat: Fig Newtons

What We Like
  • Great, classic taste

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Low protein

Sometimes savory and salty don’t fit your cravings. In that case, these sweet treats are the perfect solution. Arizona-based outdoors writer Jackie Dishner often throws Fig Newtons in her pack. “They are easy to pack, don’t melt, are hearty and not too sweet,” she says.

Best Energy Gel: Honey Stinger Gels

What We Like
  • Great for during and after running

  • Low glycemic properties

  • Available in multiple flavors

What We Don't Like
  • Best for hard workouts only

Prepackaged gels are handy for the trail since you can keep moving—even running—while eating them. However, if you aren’t used to them, they can be a bit jarring for your stomach. These easy-on-the-tummy gels are essentially honey and water, so they can provide a delicious boost to nearly anyone.

Best Fruit: Apples

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Easy to pack

  • Low sugar

What We Don't Like
  • Low in calories

Sometimes, simple is best. Apples provide an easy-to-pack and easy-to-eat snack on the trail. Avid hiker Irene Ogeto says apples are her go-to snack. “It’s very refreshing after hiking many miles," she says. You can pre-slice them or throw them in your bag whole. Plus, unlike other fruits such as bananas or berries, apples don't succumb as quickly to heat or weight inside your bag, meaning you won't stop for a snack break to find a mushy mess in your pack.

Final Verdict

We love the tried-and-true Clif Bar (view at Amazon) for its wide appeal and variety of tasty flavors.

What to Look For in Hiking Snacks

Packability

For the most part, items that can be packed at room temperature are the most useful. Items like chocolate, cheese, or other perishable foods can be problematic in warm conditions, and they can become unwieldy if you’re bringing along coolers or ice packs to keep them at the right temperature.

 Conditions

Keep in mind where you’ll be hiking. For example, avoid snacks that can be aromatic, like summer sausage, in locations that have a higher bear or large predator populations. Also, be aware of the difficulty and distance of the hike. Longer hikes with more elevation will require more sustenance compared to shorter flat hikes.

 Weight

Carrying your pack even for an hour can be burdensome if it’s too heavy for you. Keep your pack at a comfortable weight—with snacks included—to stay the most comfortable on your outing.

 FAQs

How many calories should I consume on a hike?

Registered dietitian Lori Russell recommends 100 to 200 calories in snacks for an easy hike and 250 calories per hour to sustain energy on a longer adventure. "The exact breakdown of macronutrients won't be too crucial. So instead, you should aim for snacks that contain whole grains, protein, and fat such as fig cookies, whole grain granola bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, jerky, dried fruit, nuts, roasted chickpeas, dry cereal, or energy bites,” she says. “You will always regret not having enough but never regret finishing with an extra bar or bag of trail mix.”  

 What should you do with food scraps?

Anytime you’re in the outdoors, you should follow the principles of Leave No Trace as outlined by the Center for Outdoor Ethics. This involves leaving no evidence of your presence in nature. You should pack out all wrappers and trash, as well as any pieces of food. That includes scraps of banana chips, apple cores, banana and orange peels, and other items that may biodegrade over time, but are generally harmful and foreign to the natural environment you’re visiting.

 How should snacks be stored while hiking?

For loose foods, like trail mix or banana chips, you can use Ziploc baggies, silicone storage bags, or small reusable containers. For larger or fragile foods, you might choose a hard-sided plastic or glass container to protect the contents. In general, you should store your snacks in an accessible part of your pack so you can easily reach them during your outing.

Why Trust TripSavvy?

Freelance travel journalist Ashley M. Biggers started hiking her New Mexico homeland in sixth grade and has taken to the trails all over the world.

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