What do you eat when on a hike? There are lots of differing answers to that question. What kind of hike are you on? Is it a short day hike, perhaps two of three hours, or maybe an all-day hike? How about a backpacking foray of two or more days?

Other variables include your body weight, the difficulty of the terrain, mileage (distance), health issues, speed, cold food, cooking and food allergies.

I’ll just address some general rules. One of those is to prepare to ingest up to 5,000 to 6,000 calories per hiking day. Another rule is to snack every hour or so. Those snack foods should contain 100 or more calories per ounce. High calorie foods may not be the healthiest, so try to stick with those that are low in sugars.

Peanut butter is said to be the hiker’s friend at about 170 calories per ounce; walnuts have even more – about 185 per ounce. Believe it or not, anything made with olive oil is good because of its whopping 250 calories per ounce. One of my favorites, although fairly high in sugars, is a Snickers bar. It has 134 calories per ounce.

There are long-distance hikers who don’t carry a stove, preferring to eat cold foods. I recall that the through-hikers of the 1,700-mile Great Eastern Trail did not tote a stove or, of course, the necessary fuel. However, the weight that was eliminated was replaced by some foods that were off the grocery store shelves in cans and jars.

If backpack weight is an issue, consider carrying a lightweight stove. I made one from an old metal coffee can that weighs just 4.4 ounces. Can’t get much lighter than that; it burns twigs for fuel.

Packets of dehydrated food also cut down on weight. They are fairly expensive, around $ 5 to $ 7 per meal, but are light and convenient.

Granola bars, with their high amount of carbohydrates, will boost your energy level. But be careful here because too many carbs will cause your blood glucose to suddenly spike causing unhealthy repercussions. Store bought granola and energy bars do have a lot of unhealthy sugars. Try making your own to control the ingredients.

Here’s a granola recipe from my daughter Alycia who is careful about her carbs. Mix together the following ingredients: oatmeal, craisins, raisins, green pumpkin seeds, flaked coconut, nuts (your favorite kind), sprinkle with cinnamon, mix with honey and bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

A good website to explore for ideas is nomadhiker.com/thru-hike-calories-per-day/.

Have fun out there and stay healthy.

Daryl Warren has been a serious hiker for many years.


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