Favorite Trail Treats

There are several key moments I live for in the backcountry—stringing my hammock on a couple leafy trees, getting lost in conversation among good company and devouring a hot meal after hours of hiking. The last one is perhaps the most pivotal. I mean, while it’s fair to say that anything tastes pretty good after miles of hiking under a pack, it’s also true that some meals taste better (and pack better) than others. Also, I don’t know about you, but food is both a motivator and a comfort for me in the backcountry. Thoughts of alpine lakes and mountain summits certainly get me outside in the first place. But its the promise of a warm meal and hot drink that powers me through the last few miles of any trek.

That said, since my first backpacking trip years ago, I’ve really upgraded my snack and meal game. Once upon a time, I dined exclusively on soggy PB&Js and smashed bananas. And while I wouldn’t exactly snub my nose at either of these things on the right occasion, I’ve definitely refined my snack selection over the years. I now know what I’ll crave on the trail, what will give me that needed boost of energy and what will satisfy me without making me sick.

So whether you’re new to backpacking or just looking to freshen up your backcountry meals, take a peek at some of my snack staples. Maybe they’ll give you some ideas for your next outing. .

  • Dry Salami — For me, salami is an absolute must. I slice it up and eat it solo as a snack or on a tortilla for lunch. I love savory food, so this really satisfies that craving on the trail. Dry salami doesn’t need to be refrigerated, which is why it’s perfect for backpacking (or long road trips). Plus, it feels like a slight upgrade from your generic PB&J. I typically nab a few links at Trader Joe’s, which has a variety of flavors (like its seasonal truffle oil-infused salami) to keep your palate entertained for many, many backpacking trips to come. My favorite? The Columbus Salame Secchi. I ate about four links on a recent road trip and am still not tired of it.

  • Tortillas If you’ve ever packed a sandwich for a backpacking trip, then you know the disappointment of retrieving it from the depths of you pack after a long day of hiking—it’s completely squished. Solution? Swap the fluffy bread for tortillas. Whole wheat or regular flour tortillas are my favorite. I’ll eat them plain, with salami or with a packet of nut butter (almond or hazelnut, for me). It’s a quick, easy, pack-proof snack.

  • Nut Butters — As I mentioned above, I often eat tortillas with a bit of nut butter (hazelnut for a sweet snack/dessert or almond). I also like to flavor my morning oats with a nut butter or simply eat it as a snack straight from the pack. It’s easy to eat while walking, and one small pack has about 200 calories.

  • Oats — My friend Lauren is a fantastic backcountry breakfast chef. She brings dehydrated eggs, ham and a packet of Hostess Donettes (the latter a tradition from her childhood). I look so forward to her breakfasts when we hike together. That said, I’m a wee bit simpler in the breakfast department. If you’re like me, a packet of oats will suffice. I either opt for plain, instant oats (flavored with nut butter and coconut shavings) or a packet of cinnamon Quaker oats. My boyfriend and I lovingly refer to the cinnamon oats as “donut oats,” because of their high sugar content. But … whatever. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  • Gummy Bears — While I wouldn’t recommend these in any other scenario, gummy bears are another staple of mine in the backcountry. These sweet treats are great for helping you power up a hill or trudge through the last few miles to a campsite. The sugar gives me a burst of energy, which can be pretty important if I’m short on time before the sun sets. And yeah, gummy bears taste pretty great, too. *Insert shrug emoji for second time*

  • Tea and Hot Chocolate — A hot drink is a great way to warm up as you settle into your camp. I don’t typically drink coffee, so tea (peppermint or green) or dairy-free hot chocolate are my go-to drinks. A few tea bags or scoops of hot chocolate mix, and I’m set.

  • Dehydrated Meals — The vegan Backpacker’s Pantry meals are among my favorite backpacking meals. As someone who doesn’t consume dairy, I’m so happy to have found a selection of dehydrated meals I love. I enjoy these so much, in fact, that I’ve been known to eat them off trail as well. Lazy Monday night dinner, anyone? My favorites are the Three Sisters Stew and Chana Masala.

  • Naan Bread Perfect for scooping up the last bits of your dehydrated meal.

  • Fruit & Nut Mix — Trader Joe’s is a great place to find an assortment of fruit and nut mixes. However, I much prefer making my own mix at a spot like Winco. It’s super affordable, and you can tailor it to your preferences.

  • Energy Bars My favorites are the chocolate sea salt RXBARS, cool mint chocolate Clif bars and Larabar chocolate mint truffles.

  • Dried Mango — Chewy, sweet carbs. Trader Joe’s dried mango slices provide necessary energy without getting squished.

  • Fresh Fruit — Any fruit will do, but make sure to pack out your trash (apple cores, banana peels, etc.)

  • Snickers Bar — Lastly, I always bring an “emergency Snickers bar” or two. Why? While working as a reporter, my news team wrote a story about a man who survived a couple weeks lost in the woods by rationing a Snickers bar and melting snow. The calorie-to-weight ratio of a Snickers bar is pretty fantastic, so I always pack one in case. And if I don’t use it? I just enjoy the treat at the hike’s end.