Last year, my little family embarked on a summer filled with hiking adventures ranging from 1 mile to 14 miles, and one of my biggest takeaways was the fact that packing food for summer hiking was VERY different than packing for other seasons. Some of my normal go-to foods (such as sandwiches made with cold-cuts and mayo) just don’t hold up in the heat of summer without having to haul some sort of cooling method. I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of carrying more than we have to! So with some help from the Hike it Baby community, here is a list of summer-friendly foods to take on the trail that can stand up to the heat:
1. Nut butter: This has always been my go-to trail snack for hikes. There is just something special about sharing a good ol’ peanut butter and jelly sandwich with your toddler from the top of a peak with an incredible view! Not a fan of jelly? Try honey instead as a delicious alternative! Almond butter and hazelnut chocolate spread are other favorites for yummy sandwiches.
My daughter can eat countless PB&J sandwiches, but my sons get bored of it quickly. However, one thing they can’t get enough of is Nutella. So I slap some on a taco-sized soft tortilla, roll it up, and it’s the best snack in the world. It’s so easy, even my 5-year-old helps prepare it for our hikes! – Vong from the Kansas City, MO, Branch.
I hate having to keep things cool, and I also hate smooshed sandwiches. I have three kids, two with food sensitivities and one with food allergies. I pack tortillas (they are already flat so they won’t smoosh), a to-go thing of peanut butter or equivalent, fruit squeeze pouches, fruit snacks because that’s how the littlest goes up in the carrier some hikes, crackers or pretzels, and grapes or oranges. – Laura from the Dayton, OH, Branch
2. Tuna fish: The tuna kits have been our friend on hot summer hikes. They come with everything you need for a protein-rich meal!
I will buy a bunch of [tuna fish pouches] and grab some mayo packets from the grocery store deli (usually FREE), and I tape a mayo packet to each pouch so they don’t get forgotten/lost. I pack a spork and usually eat it right from the pouch, but sometimes I’ll bring a wrap with me. I love my spork! I never go hiking without it! – Lyndsey from the Monadnock Region, NH, Branch
Quesadillas are our go-to for hiking in any season. Throw a little taco seasoning in for fun. We mix up the cheeses, add black beans, bell peppers, pepperoni, etc. Anything goes!! Tortillas with peanut butter and thinly sliced apples … We love tortillas too much perhaps. – Megan from the Capital Region, NY, Branch
Fruit and veggies
Fruits such as apples, oranges and pears that don’t need extra cushioning or refrigeration are ideal and refreshing after a long, hot hike. And veggies like carrots and broccoli are also great options for trail snacks. Another option that is easy but may cost more is dried or freeze-dried fruits.
There are tons of options here, but options containing healthy fats, carbs and protein are best! Nuts, seeds and soybeans, especially almonds, walnuts and roasted edamame, are great for energy. Snack bars are easy snacks as they are packaged individually. Between Clif Bars, KIND Bars, Lärabars, etc., there are tons of variety (be sure to read the label as some have “interesting” ingredients). Jerky is also a good choice for protein. You can find everything from beef, duck, fish, to even alligator jerky! Pureed food pouches are not just for babies and toddlers; adults can get good nutrition from the pouches our kiddos love. They’re also refreshing on a hot day.
If you’re up for the extra work, there’s nothing quite like a homemade muffin on a hike, whether it’s an old family recipe or from a box! I like to add chopped nuts or oatmeal to box recipes for a quick and easy boost. Another snack you can make on your own (or buy!) is trail mix. The sky is the limit as there are tons of varieties available (I often use leftovers from recipes involving nuts and go from there).
For trail mix, we go to the bulk bins here at Sprouts, and I let my boys pick one of them that’s on sale.” – Susanne from the Tulsa, OK, Branch
Add dried fruit with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or nuts – no chocolate (it melts) – but you could put carob in it.” – Erin from the Capital Region, NY, Branch
More Good-to-Know Tips
1. Food allergies: For those with food allergies, finding trail snacks can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible.
Sunflower seed butter can be an alternative to nut butter for some folks. – Kati from the Washington, DC, Branch
We have nut and egg allergies, so we have to avoid those. We go with Bare Fruit Chips, Moon Cheese, Harvest Snaps Green Pea Snack Crisps, Epic Bars, fruit, frozen yogurt pouches, and carrots. – Jordan from the Ann Arbor, MI, Branch
2. Taking perishable items: For those times you do have to pack perishable items but don’t want to bring along the extra weight of ice or cold packs, planning ahead what you’ll bring and when you’ll eat can help the foods not spoil in the heat.
We take cheese sticks since they have to be in the heat for a while to actually go bad, and I take frozen fruit, and it’s still cold when they want to eat it. – Lacey from the Kenai Peninsula, AK, Branch
We are picky eaters as well, so sometimes I will freeze a salad (tabouli or pasta with lots of veggies) the night before so it’s still cold when we eat, depending on the hike. – Laura from the Dayton, OH, Branch
We eat the more perishable foods first and leave the non-perishables for later. – Kayla from the Grand Rapids, MI, Branch
What are your favorite summer-friendly food options for hiking? Let us know in the comments below!
Written and photos by Natalie Kendrach and Rebecca Hosley.