Top Favorite Trail Foods
Let me start off by saying, I love food. I haven’t always felt this way (there are still definitely moments when I feel like I don’t), but throughout recovery from an eating disorder, I’ve made strides in trying to enjoy food again. It’s through hiking that I’ve been able to make the most progress with my relationship with food. Because quite simply, I can’t hike if I don’t eat. I have found that food is a vital part of life, both on and off the trail. Not only is it important to consume it regularly to properly function, but it’s also equally essential to enjoy it.
In preparation for my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I’ve had to fuel myself appropriately in order to train for this adventure of a lifetime. While doing so, I’ve discovered a variety of foods that I like. Here is a list of my favorite trail meals and snacks!
Related: The Best Backpacking Meals
They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and while each time you eat is beneficial for a variety of reasons, there is some truth to this old saying. A morning meal is the perfect chance to start off your day of hiking feeling energized and ready to go crush some miles.
1. Cold-soaked oatmeal with trail mix and Carnation’s Breakfast Essentials drink mix
This is my go-to breakfast when I’m too tired and don’t want to think too much about what to have. I love the convenience factor of cold-soaking, as all I have to do is dump the ingredients into a Talenti jar, add water, let it rehydrate overnight while I sleep, and bam! I wake up in the morning and it’s ready to eat. It’s like magic.
The awesome thing about this breakfast is it’s so hefty and filling, I stay full for hours while out on the trail. It really gives me the fuel to power through a challenging day of hiking ahead. Plus, it tastes amazing! Let’s be honest, oatmeal by itself is boring. Adding the trail mix provides some much needed crunch and the Breakfast Essentials turns everything into a heavenly chocolate mess all while giving me extra nutrients.
Tips: I normally use two or three instant oatmeal packets depending on how hungry I think I’ll be. Use the flavored ones for a better taste. Maple brown sugar is what I like the best. Also, add peanut butter or M&M’s as desired to beef up this meal.
2. Nutella tortilla wrap with trail mix and/or dried fruit
If there’s one thing I’ve learned while training for the AT and going on overnight shakedown hikes, it’s that tortillas are my best friend. While they can be a little heavy to carry, I love how easily they slide into my pack. Because they are flat, I don’t have to worry about them getting squished by something.
Overall, this meal is legit. The Nutella gives me something to look forward to in the morning and satisfies my sweet tooth, because in all seriousness, Nutella is the fruit of the gods. Adding trail mix and dried fruit takes this meal to the next level and supplies balance to the force by providing something chewy in the midst of all that dry tortilla and hazelnut explosion. What’s not to love?
Tips: Not a Nutella fan? Try using peanut butter or your favorite nut butter spread instead. Marshmallow Fluff is also a great option by itself or with another spread. I also normally eat two wraps, but you could totally have more, especially as hiker hunger sets in on the trail.
Typically this midday meal is had while stopping to take a break from hiking. I’ve found it needs to be something quick and easy as I don’t have time to boil any water and cook something. However, this meal is essential in providing more fuel to help get you through the remainder of your hike. Therefore, it still needs to pack a punch.
1. Tuna tortilla wrap with chips
Along with tortilla wraps, tuna has become a major stable item in my food bag. I buy the individual StarKist packets because they are super lightweight and cheap. They also come in a variety of flavors, so I never get bored of what I’m eating!
Tuna and a tortilla is filling, but adding chips to the mix makes this meal even better. I usually crunch up a small bag and sprinkle it inside the wrap for added texture. However, you could easily eat the chips by itself as a side instead.
Tips: I definitely suggest eating at least two wraps with two bags of chips to give yourself enough energy and satisfy those mid-hike hunger pains. Doritos are my chip of choice with Honey Mustard Pringle’s being a close second, but you could use any kind. Also, if you aren’t a fan of tuna, StarKist and other brands make packets of chicken and salmon.
2. Bean and cheese dip burrito with chips
Again with the tortillas? Yes! They’re so versatile it’s incredible. This time, though, instead of a wrap, this epic hiking meal consists of an action-packed burrito. Fritos brand makes an awesome bean and cheese dip that I dollop inside the tortilla along with the chips.
The bean and cheese dip both come in a small can that doesn’t weigh too much. They can obviously expire quickly, so I typically am mindful and try to use these items up first. This meal really hits the spot and is especially good for when I’m getting sick of tuna, but still crave something dense.
Tips: For more flare, add taco seasoning. Nacho Doritos work well with this meal as well as Fritos. As stated before, eating two burritos seems like a good rule of thumb.
As the hiking day comes to a close and your feet are tired of walking, nothing sounds more delicious than being at camp with some good food. After a long day of pushing your limits, you owe it to your body to rest, recover, and replenish what you expended during the hike to be ready for tomorrow’s adventures. That’s where a hearty dinner comes into play!
1. Ramen with peanut butter and Thai-flavored tuna
Oh yes. This blog post would not be complete without the infamous Hiker Trash Pad Thai. This meal is one of the best post-hike dinners in my opinion, as it not only tastes amazing, but fills me up and launches me into a powerful food coma.
Before I first ate this, I thought ramen noodles and peanut butter would be the most disgusting thing on the planet. However, after having tried it multiple times now, I was sorely mistaken. Combined with the Spicy Thai-flavored tuna packet, this totally hiker trash dinner tastes incredible, especially after many miles out on the trail.
Tips: One to two ramen packages seem to do the trick. Add the ramen seasoning packet for more flavor. The standard chicken-flavored packet is always a good option. Also, this meal could be either cold-soaked or cooked over a stove depending on individual preferences.
2. Instant mashed potatoes with bacon bits and mini pepperoni
I have to be honest. I thought this meal would be super gross as well until I tried it. But as it turns out, your standards seem to lower when you’re hiking and you go from being a civilized food snob to eating almost anything, no matter how weird it sounds.
Despite this fact, I love this meal. The bacon bits and mini pepperoni really make it taste incredible and provide much needed flavor to the sometimes boring mashed potatoes. And even better, instant potatoes live up to their name as they almost literally rehydrate instantaneously while cold soaking. This is perfect for those days when I’m really too hungry to wait for dinner to cook.
Tips: To create a perfect ramen bomb, try adding ramen noodles to this already decadent meal for a heftier dinner.
Not only are meals important, but so are snacks in between in order to tide me over and keep me fueled enough to really go the distance on trail. It is typically advised that a human being needs about three snacks per day regardless of physical activity. Therefore, while hiking rigorously throughout the day, it is incredibly essential to have at least four or more snacks while out on the trail. This depends heavily on how long a hiking day lasts. I try to shoot for a snack every 60 to 90 minutes or so, which means sometimes I have three or four and sometimes I have six or more! It really just depends on how my body is feeling and what I may be craving. However, everyone is different.
Because trail mix and granola bars can get old, I try to keep my snacks fun and interesting. Here are a few of my go to snacks!
- M&M’s (especially the caramel filled ones. The hazelnut and peanut butter filled ones are amazing as well).
- Pop-Tarts (I’m the kind of person who likes to dream outside of the plain Brown Sugar/Strawberry Pop Tart box and try something different. S’mores, Hot Fudge Sundae, Peanut Butter, and Strawberry Milkshake are some of my all-time favorites).
- Clif bars (Surprisingly, I haven’t gotten sick of them yet. I literally haven’t had a Clif Bar that I don’t like. The Coffee limited edition ones are currently at the top of the list for me as of right now, but I also enjoy the Peanut Toffee Buzz, Peanut Butter Banana, Cool Mint Chocolate, and Sierra Trail Mix as well).
- Twizlers and Swedish Fish (Gummy candies like these typically don’t keep me full for very long, but they are perfect if I want something to munch on while hiking).
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