Healthy trail snacks to keep you going

Ian Carroll

Wilderness adventure can be hard, hungry work. Days spent hiking in the mountains, ripping down trails, and pulling on rocks will really wear you out. While it’s never a bad idea to take a sandwich or two into the woods with you, it can be nice to have some snacks that are easy to eat and full of nutrition. Next time you’re headed out, don’t take a Snickers or a Snack Pack; make a trail snack yourself that will be twice as healthy and give you twice as much energy.

Here are five of my favorite snacks to take for a day at the crags, a weekend on the trails, or in the car on a long drive. Heck, I even bust a few of these out in my kitchen regularly. These snacks are not only simple enough to take out, they’re downright delicious and nutritious ways to stay in the game.


trail mix is a great trail snack
Mix of nuts and raisins

There’s nothing like good old raisins and peanuts. Gorp is probably the most quintessential trail snack, and for good reason. It doesn’t make a mess, is easy to eat while you walk, and is packed with nutrition and energy. Furthermore, you can make it however you like. If you want a protein packed mix, add lots of different nuts and seeds. If you want a sugary mix to give you that extra boost of energy late in the day, add more dried fruit and chocolate goodies.

Most towns have grocery stores with well-stocked bulk food sections these days. I go to my local Winco to stock up on cheap gorp makings. Many stores even sell bulk trail mixes that are premade for as cheap as you could make it yourself. Just choose a mix that has the right nutritional balance to suit your needs. Beware the mixes that are mostly sugar, as they will lead to sharp spikes of energy on the trail.

Summer sausage and cheese

salami and cheese is a great trail snack
Delicious cheese and sausage

This is a great trail snack because it is so nutritious. And while cheese doesn’t keep well in your pack without refrigeration, summer sausage and salami do. I will often start a camping trip with both and plan to eat all my cheese on the first day. Then I pair my sausage with something else for the rest of the trip. One of my favorites is raisins. The sweet helps to offset the savory meat and the sugar helps to add energy to the protein.

good trail snacks

If you want a real gourmet treat, bring a box of your favorite crackers or some fresh bread along and you’ll be living like a king on the trail. One of the best trail snacks I’ve ever eaten was flavored Triscuits, honey goat cheese, and summer sausage. I will never forget that day. It was pure glory.

Apples and peanut butter

apples and peanut butter is a great trail snack
Peanut butter and slices of apple

This is not only an excellent trail snack but a great one to keep around every day. The mixture of nut protein and natural fruit sugar provide a balanced energy for your day. Try to find a natural peanut butter that is not loaded with sugar. And make sure to find a chunky one, because who likes creamy peanut butter anyway? I’m just kidding. If you like the creamy peanut butter, chances are you would also enjoy swapping in a jar of Nutella for an extra sweet, dessert version of this trail snack.

The only drawback is if your hands are dirty when you cut into your apple, as mine usually are because the juicy white flesh of the apple will grab any dirt that touches it. I’ve turned apples black before when eating one right after belaying a partner up a climb. So maybe wash up before and after this one.

Super cookies

cookies make a great trail snack
Homemade healthy cookie. Credit:

If you want to bake yourself the perfect trail snack, cookies are a simple and clean way to pack energy along for a hike. You could go with chocolate chip, but they really don’t add much nutritional value to your day.

I usually start with my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe and then add a cup of protein powder in place of flour. Then I crumble in several kinds of nuts, a handful of dried fruit and some chocolate chips. This way I pack nutrition into what would otherwise be just a sugary treat. A single batch of super cookies is usually more than enough to get me through days on the trail. And every time I eat one, I feel like I’m treating myself.

Spicy nuts

If you’re a fan of spicy snacks, then this one’s for you. My favorite nuts to use are peanuts and cashews, but you can use any type you prefer. This snack is protein rich and will inspire you to drink extra water, which is always critical on long day’s hiking.

spicy nuts are an excellent trail snack
Mix of nuts with sipces

To make them, heat canola oil to medium heat in a skillet of an appropriate size. Add cayenne or chili powder, sugar, garlic powder, salt, and maybe a little onion powder, cumin, and curry powder to the oil. Then add your nuts and stir until all are well coated and starting to sizzle.

At this point, you can drain them on paper-toweled cooling racks and call it good, but I prefer to bake them at 300 degrees for several minutes, just until they are nearly dry and starting to brown. This way, they won’t make a mess when I eat them and they get a little extra pop of flavor.

Be sure to plan ahead the next time you’re heading out for an adventure. Take lots of water and a couple of these snacks with you. That way you’ll be good to go ’til the sun goes down.

If you have a favorite trail snack that I didn’t mention here, be sure to let us know on our Outdoor Revival Facebook page.

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ian-carroll is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival