10 Best Foods to Pack on Outdoor Adventures

Note: A version of this article was also published last week as a note by Nature Rocks via their Facebook page. Thanks go out to Nature Rocks for featuring tips from OutsideMom.Com.

Summer is officially here—the longest day of the year has already come and gone, and now it is time to hike in earnest!  Quick before winter shows up again!  Each summer I empty out my well-worn pack of all the junk has accumulated in it over the last year, turn it inside out and shake out the debris, and re-stock it for the year.  I have a food pouch in my pack.  In it there resides a constant supply of (mostly) non-perishables that are (always) tasty.  Today I’m sharing with you my list of favorite hiking foods; like a good wardrobe these items are cheap, and can be mixed and matched in any combination to create delectable moments in your mouth (ummm… that last part should actually never happen with your wardrobe…).

  1. Nuts. Almonds, peanuts, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, pecans are my favorites.  All can stand alone, some are wonderful when candied (pecans and walnuts especially!), and most are good when combined with dried fruit and little bits of sugar (see trail mixes below).
  2. Dried Fruit. Pears, cranberries, raisins, coconut, bananas, apples, cherries, peaches.  The pears, peaches, and apples can be dried at home very simply.  The others are generally inexpensive at the grocers.
  3. Trail Mix.  I know, I know, it seems like cheating because I listed nuts and dried fruit—70% of any trail mix—separately.  But Trail Mix really deserves its won category just for that other 30% of stuff: cheerios, white and normal chocolate chips, toffee bits, Mini marshmallows, butterscotch chips, M&Ms, milk duds, and cheerios… or whatever else you have on hand.  Trail mix is so flexible!  My personal favorites:  1) almonds and cranberries (also good with white chocolate chips), 2) peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms, 3) cashews, dried cherries, and coconut 4) Anything with butterscotch chips.
  4. Cheese.  Many folks are afraid to take cheese hiking.  Soft cheeses must be refrigerated after all, hard cheeses don’t taste good by the slice, and semi-soft cheeses get oily and look rather horrid after a few hours out of the fridge.  Some cheeses do remarkably well on the trail, however.  And believe it or not, a sweating cheese (one that gets oily) is still tasty and won’t hurt you.  You can even think of your pack as a microwave in which you’re making very slowly making a cheese enchilada.   Sharp Cheddar, Gouda, String Cheese, Babybels, and Laughing Cow are all excellent choices for the trail that won’t sweat, and taste good no matter how long they’ve been away from the fridge.
  5. Fruits and Veggies.  Many fruits and veggies don’t travel well.  Unless they’re on the top of your pack and you’re not jostling about much, avoid grapes, cherry tomatoes, peaches, plums, cherries, or pears.  Apples and cucumbers do fairly well (and cucumbers are great vehicles of salt, which you lose on the trail).  Better still are carrots, avocados, oranges, and dates.
  6. Meat. While I personally hate tuna, many swear by it as a trail food—it comes in lunch-sized packages, and goes well on crackers, they tell me.  If you go the tuna route, make sure to bring along a plastic bag to seal the pouch in afterwards, or you will smell of fish for the rest of your hik.  Alternatively, beef jerky is a good source of protein and salt, and weighs very little.  I absolutely love summer sausage while hiking.
  7. Crackers and Mixes.  Pretzels, Triscuits, Ritz, Wheat thins, whatever cracker you prefer—they are wonderful with cheese (even melted in your pack cheese—especially with avocado and summer sausage!).  Goldfish are good, and can be thrown into trail mix, but aren’t as good for eating with slices of avocado.  If you want a little added kick, I like Spicy chex mix
  8. Bars.  Granola bars are excellent trail snacks, and many people like protein bars like these or these.  I suppose candy bars also fall in this category—my sister and I used to celebrate at the top of any peak we hiked with a Butterfinger.  Nowadays I’m most partial to homemade granola bars.  These are my three favorites:  1, 2, 3.  (And these look wonderful too but I haven’t tried to make them!)
  9. Hard candies.  Nothing better—just a little flavor in your mouth when you stop for water.  Here are my favorites:   Sesame Candies, Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans, Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers, and Toffee or Peanut Clusters (Here are recipes for making your own: 1, 2, 3).
  10. Bread. I’m not a huge fan of bread per se on the trail—it just seems unappetizing and leaves my mouth dried out.  I do like tortilla shells with cheese, peanut butter and honey, or hummus, cucumbers, and tomatoes (the pb&h, or hummus and tomato I make in advance).  My newest favorite bread product, though, are these (cheesy bread puffs).  What I love most is that you can make them in advance, throw them in the freezer, and then just bake and bring along as many as you want on hike-day.

Items added to this list last week via the Nature Rocks Facebook Page were: sardines, kippers and canned oysters. What foods would you add to this list?

17 Comments so far

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  1. I like to pack a hunk of french bread. It’s good squashed flat with a piece of swiss cheese in between. Mmmm.

  2. Peanut butter and honey mixed together in a squeezy tube. It’s like GU for kids, but without all sorts of crazy ingredients. :)

  3. Your pack sounds a lot like my pack. I’ve realized the past year that we don’t like sandwiches out on the trail. We eat a lot of nuts (Trader Joe’s has interesting ones, such as cinnamon almonds) and my homemade gluten free power bars. Cheese and crackers, fresh apple slices, natural M&Ms, and salami seem to be the continual favorites. We have to be a bit creative to avoid gluten, but it’s good for us to let the kids have sweet things they wouldn’t normally have at home while hiking. Keeps them encouraged!

    • Hiker Mama – I could defiantly add suckers to this list. It’s all about incentives!

  4. Oh, and homemade fruit leather. I may have a riot on my hands the day I forget to pack the fruit leather.

    • Oooohhhh… Totally forgot about fruit leather. Yum!!! Great idea on the pb&h in a tube. You’re a genius, mamabee!

    • MamaBee – Good call! So, do your kids eat the GU with the kipper snacks… ;)

      • Eww, *never* PB&H GU with the kippers. Though yesterday the kids had sardines followed by raspberries, so maybe I shouldn’t say never just yet…

  5. Beth

    This is not a plug for the product I am selling, but I would add stroopwafels. They are packed with energy and so far my kids love them and so do my nieces and nephews.

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  12. […] Cheese. Bring a block and a grater, gate it at home beforehand or buy pre-grated. Cheese is actually a really great food to bring camping, a lot of cheeses even do well for a few days with no refrigeration. […]


    I'm Lindsey. I'm an environmental educator, my husband's a biologist. The outdoors is infused into everything we do; which explains why I'm better at mud pies than home decorating. More About Me

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