by Diane Spicer
Hiking nutrition for day hikers and backpackers may not be the first thing you consider when planning your hike.
Eating the right food on a hike, regardless of its length, is a big, big deal.
But one concept underlies all of the types of hiking food which female hikers can choose:
Food = Fuel
This page gives you everything you need to know about what to eat (i.e. best fuel sources) on a hike for strength and stamina.
Hiking nutrition is just one big umbrella term I use to share tips on these topics, so you can get started quickly:
Or keep reading for a complete smorgasbord!
Your body needs fuel before, during, and after the hike.
So that explains the big appetite that goes along with big hikes.
Think of it as "refueling".
Do I hike to eat?
And so should you.
For a thorough discussion of what hiking calories are worth to you, read this.
Also check out how many calories you burn on your hike.
Do you winter hike (also known as snowshoeing)?
You need even more calories to keep yourself warm and fueled.
Trail food selection is a vast topic, so use that link to get to an overview.
But it's also a smart approach to break hiking nutrition into the types of hiking you're planning to do.
So let's take a look.
Day hike food choices can ramble around a lot:
You can always rely upon tried and true portable foods such as jerky (protein) and bags of gorp (carbohydrates, fats and proteins from nuts and dried fruits).
But there are many creative ways to pack a hard working hiker's lunch sack, without overdoing it.
It's easy to overlook food safety on a day hike.
It's also easy to read these tips on how to keep your food safe on a hike.
If you've never done one before, use these overnight planning tips to get ready in terms of gear and logistics.
Then turn your attention to your menu, with this in mind:
Dive into the best overnight food selection tips here
As you plan a multi day hiking trip, don't neglect cost, taste, nutrient content, and ease of preparation of your backpacking menu.
It's one of the keys to a successful hiking trip!
Use these detailed backpacking tips, related to specific aspects of trail nutrition, so you don't miss a thing:
While I may not be able to create a great backpacking recipe each and every time, I know one when I taste one!
A backpacking stove, of course!
Choosing a stove is a major decision to make, so use these tips.
You'll also need some lightweight, durable kitchen essentials for cooking and serving your food.
And finally, some tips for keeping your cooking pot, utensils and dishes clean so you can completely avoid food borne illness.
Snacks every so often along the trail are important bribery components of any hike, especially if you're hiking with kids.
I use them to reward myself, keeping my motivation, as well as my energy level, as high as possible.
Here are my favorite hiking nutrition tips for hiking snacks!
If that luscious red berry or glistening mushroom looks tempting, then you'd better know what you're doing, right?
Especially if you find yourself in a (hopefully temporary) survival scenario.
It's called foraging: finding wild edibles like seeds, nuts, berries, mushrooms, roots and shoots, all provided by Mother Nature.
Sometimes you just can't carry enough of the right types of food to keep yourself out of a nutritional hole.
That's when lightweight supplements and supportive nutrients can play a big role in keeping your stamina high.
And is there such a thing as superfoods for hikers?
Coming soon: best recovery foods for hikers
Here's a fact of life on the trail:
You mean water is cellular fuel?
Water is a required daily nutrient, biochemically speaking.
Your trillions of cells are water-based chemistry labs.
Without adequate water, it's harder for your body to
The right type of clean water, in the right amount, is essential to feeling good on the trail.
That's why staying hydrated should be a top priority on the trail.
And what about water in the form of sports drinks?
But the most important thing: make sure your hiking water is clean and free of microscopic trouble makers.
Have you ever heard the expression "You are what you eat?"
Words of wisdom, tied to another expression:
"Garbage in, garbage out."
The reason I bring up these cliches is to urge you to consume the best quality hiking nutrition you can afford (see above for tips).
But we need to go a bit beyond that.
You are what you digest and absorb.
And that requires a bit of knowledge about the human digestive system.
If you're getting feedback from your gut (pain, unease, gas, bloating, weird stools), listen to another tried and true saying: "Go with your gut."
When your body sends you a message, heed it or ignore it, but it won't go away.
And if you're an older female hiker (at least 45 years and approaching menopause), your digestion might be changing a bit.
I happen to like reading medical research articles on nutrition and fitness because it might contain a nugget of wisdom to make me a stronger, happier hiker.
I never know what I'm going to stumble across, on the trail or in the library!
So send me your questions about hiking nutrition, or hiking in general, and I'll do my best to find answers.
Here's a sweet and savory deal:
Let me read through the piles of information published every day (including geeky jargon), and summarize it to give you the bottom line on all things hiking, including what to eat (or not) for better trail performance.
I also summarize the latest news in hiking injuries, gear developments, good deals, useful resources for hikers, breaking news, and whatever else lands on my hiking radar.
What am I talking about?
A free, easy to sign up for monthly newsletter called Happy Trails, and it's even easier to unsubscribe if you don't find it useful.
And of course I don't share your email address, or use it for anything other than delivering the monthly hiking news to your virtual inbox!
Just pop in your email address in the box below, and watch your inbox for the next edition.
And while you wait, enjoy the Happy Trails back issues.
I've pulled together lots of useful detailed information to answer your questions about which trail foods to select for day hikes, overnights, and longer trips.
Take a peek at available titles in my Fast Hiking Facts.
Fact filled, but never boring.
No hype, no fluff, only the good stuff you need!
The current selection includes:
Don't see what you need?
Send me an email with your topic, and I'll get to work on it.
Please don't make the mistake of thinking that it doesn't really matter what you eat while you're hiking.
Your body and your car operate on the same basic principle: fuel in = movement out.
How you feel about your hike is also related to how much fuel is in your tank.
So you're one smart cookie (oooh, one last hiking nutrition pun!) for paying attention to the food you're carrying in your backpack.
I salute you with a swig of water and - why not? - a generous handful of delicious trail mix.
Home page > Hiking Nutrition
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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