10 Energy-Packed Foods to Bring Hiking

You are what you eat, especially when you’re playing outdoors. Hard work while you’re hiking or backpacking requires lots of energy intake, so packing foods that are delicious, nutritious, and lightweight is key. Thankfully, finding tasty foods with plenty of calories, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats is easier than you think.

Shoot for foods that are made of wholesome, unprocessed ingredients in their natural state. The best will contain lots of energy and are ready to go, giving you more time to enjoy the wonders of mother nature, instead of the inside of your kitchen.

Pack around a pound and a half of food per day on short-mileage trips. For longer, more strenuous journeys, have closer to two pounds. You should aim for about one hundred calories per ounce of food, with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for optimal energy production. These homemade and prepackaged options are a great balance to meet all of your nutrition needs.

1. Nuts

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 172

Fat: 15 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 6 g

Iron: 3% DV

Calcium: 3% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 1% DV

Nuts are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. By packing just a few servings in your bag, you’ll gain lots of protein and healthy fats. These can be packed in their whole, unprocessed form, or in the form of nut butters to spread on crackers or fruit.

 

2. Jerky

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 116

Fat: 7 g

Protein: 9 g

Carbohydrates: 3.1 g

Iron: 8% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

You can make your own jerky with a dehydrator or purchase pre-made varieties. Turkey, goose, beef, and venison jerky are popular. It can be made out of virtually any type of meat. You can also use dried hard meats in casings, such as salami or summer sausage. These don’t have to be refrigerated and pack lots of protein for minimal weight. For vegetarians, soy jerky is also available, although this isn’t quite as high in calories.

 

3. Tuna packets

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 60

Fat: 3 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 0 g

Iron: 6% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Canned tuna will add too much weight to your pack, but plastic-packaged tuna is high in calories, protein, and healthy fats, along with critical omega-3s. Some tuna products are packaged in olive oil or water, making it an even healthier choice. Just make sure to bring a disposable bag to hold trash items and keep your gear clean.

 

4. Dried fruit

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 78

Fat: 0 g

Protein: 1 g

Carbohydrates: 20 g

Iron: 1% DV

Calcium: 1% DV

Vitamin A: 1% DV

Vitamin C: 3% DV

Store-bought dried fruits tend to contain unhealthy and unnecessary added sugars that can make you groggy and lethargic. For the best and healthiest dried fruits, make your own at home with a dehydrator, or purchase unsweetened varieties of favorites, such as mango, pineapple, and papaya.

Dried fruit is more compact than fresh fruit and also lasts much longer on the trail. It will add crucial fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet, even though it contains relatively few calories compared to other foods.

 

5. Energy bars

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 135

Fat: 4.5 g

Protein: 10 g

Carbohydrates: 15 g

Iron: 10% DV

Calcium: 17% DV

Vitamin A: 15% DV

Vitamin C: 25% DV

Energy bars are a more processed food that pack easily, but they do tend to contain more chemicals than other trail foods. Several manufacturers offer high-protein energy bars that contain nearly a day’s worth of protein, but watch out for unhealthy added sugars. Nevertheless, these store and pack well and can be quickly eaten on the trail. Aim for granola or energy bars with at least 20 grams of protein per serving.

 

6. Cheese

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 113

Fat: 9 g

Protein: 7 g

Carbohydrates: 0.5 g

Iron: 1% DV

Calcium: 20% DV

Vitamin A: 5% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Choose hard cheeses that don’t need to be refrigerated or can tolerate some warmth without changing form, such as sharp cheddar. At over 100 calories per serving, these add a substantial amount of fat, calcium, and magnesium, all of which are necessary for rebuilding sore muscles and joints while you’re on the trail.

 

7. Whole grains

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 124

Fat: 4 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 20 g

Iron: 6% DV

Calcium: 1% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Whole grains provide plenty of heart-healthy carbohydrates, and many are high in healthy vegetable fats. Grab some crackers and cereals instead of breads, as most breads contain excess water weight with fewer nutrients, thus making them an impractical addition to your pack. Tortillas, wheat crackers, granola, whole grain muesli, and Grape Nuts provide healthy options without taking up a lot of space.

 

8. Chocolate

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 150

Fat: 10 g

Protein: 2 g

Carbohydrates: 16 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Chocolate should be packed and eaten sparingly, but can provide a great boost of energy and a dash of phytonutrients and carbohydrates. Dark chocolate is the most nutrient dense and adds healthy fats and calories. It also serves as a nice treat at the end of a long day of trekking—an added bonus!

 

9. Seeds

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 165

Fat: 14 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 7 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C:0% DV

Like nuts, seeds can be eaten on their own or processed and purchased as butters. The best contain high levels of health fats and include sunflower, chia, pumpkin, and flax seeds.

 

10. Hummus

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 30

Fat: 1 g

Protein: 2 g

Carbohydrates: 4 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 2% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Hummus doesn’t last as long out of refrigeration as these other foods, but it makes a great option for wintertime hiking or adventuring. Chickpeas, the primary ingredient, are high in protein and healthy fats. Hummus is a nice, savory addition to your whole-wheat crackers or breads, and weighs next to nothing in your pack.