High-energy hiking foods to pack on the trail

Photo by Johnie Gall
Photo by Johnie Gall

“I’m sorry for the way that I acted when I was hungry” had become my unintentional catchphrase on long, hard hikes. Then I decided to stop being dumb and learn what foods to pack for long-lasting energy (no, you will not be able to make it to the top of a 14er on Goldfish and some water. You’ll throw up at the summit. Go eat something).

In addition to bringing twice the amount of water your body typically needs, fill your backpack with protein in the form of raw or dry-roasted almonds or walnuts, candy bars with peanuts, all-natural turkey or beef jerky, nut butters, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables and trail mix or energy bars—just beware of prepackaged foods targeted for the mass market. They’re often laden with huge amounts of sugar and grease that will just bog you down. Or make you yell at your boyfriend/girlfriend/dog.

Pack: High antioxidant nuts like raw or dry-roasted almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pistachios.

Don’t Pack: Greasy, salted, or honey-sugar coated nut mixes.


Pack: A Snickers candy bar or a Baby Ruth candy bar.

Don’t Pack: A Butterfinger or Twizzlers.


Pack: Fresh or dried bananas, apples, or carrots.

Don’t Pack: Easily bruised, sugary fruit like strawberries or water-heavy vegetables like celery.


Pack: Turkey or beef jerky.

Don’t Pack: A greasy Slim Jim.


Pack: Peanut butter or almond butter

Don’t Pack: All-natural peanut butter during winter months because it freezes in cold temperatures.


Pack: Trail mix or a trail mix bar

Don’t Pack: “Energy” bars laden with sugar and junk, or trail mix heavy on white or milk chocolates. Look for mixes that have dark chocolate, high-energy nuts, and dried fruit without a sugar coating.

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