Beginner’s guide to what to eat when you go hiking

Trader Joe's trail mix

Snacking is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was super excited to write this post (and equally surprised it took me this long to get to it). Outdoors activities open up a glorious new world of snacking. What other reason could possibly justify the purchase of Sports Beans? Yes, those are a thing. And yes, they’re just as awesome as they sound.

As a self-proclaimed snack connoisseur, getting outside has not only provided me the opportunity to see and do amazing things but also to eat amazing things. Here are my favorite snacks to get me through a few hours of hiking (let’s be real, a hike of any length justifies bringing along any of these items). Some are outdoors specific, some are “real world” food, all are delicious.

Sports Beans

Yep, sporty jelly beans. I have to admire Jelly Belly’s efforts to expand their product line with sports beans. If you don’t like jelly beans, I don’t like you. You’re missing out and should try these anyways. Honestly, the main reason I like them is because of how hilarious the concept of a sport bean is. And the packaging was hot pink. And it’s an excuse to basically eat candy.

Apparently I've been buying the EXTREME version. Sports Beans gettin' crazy!
Apparently I’ve been buying the EXTREME version. Sports Beans gettin’ crazy!

Sports Beans are more of a pre-activity fuel since they’re basically all sugar and caffeine. There are people that are out for long enough that they need them during long hikes/bike rides/runs to keep going, but I honestly turn for home when I’m that exhausted.

The beans do genuinely give you an energy boost, which has been nice on mornings when I’m dragging a little bit (like the time we slept on the ground after our air mattress pump broke…). The pomegranate flavor is the only one I’ve tried because I didn’t feel the need to attempt to improve on perfection. However, do not eat them immediately after brushing your teeth. They are much less delicious then.

Beef Jerky
Somehow, I managed to live my entire life without ever eating beef jerky, 100% sure of the fact that it was completely disgusting. I have been a picky eater my entire life, but as I’ve gotten older I have had more trouble refusing to try new things in social situations. So if someone I don’t know very well shoves a food item in my face, I will politely choke it down. Usually, this actually has a positive result – me finding out I love something that my boyfriend has been trying to get me to try for years, much to his annoyance (falafel, tofu, and in this case beef jerky).


After discovering how delicious beef jerky actually is, I’ve become completely enamored with it as a hiking snack. It doesn’t take up much room in your backpack, it’s very filling thanks to high protein levels, and I’m fairly certain it is impossible for jerky to ever go bad. Edit: I recently found a bag of what was formerly beef jerky in the bottom of my horseback riding trainer’s trunk at the barn. It CAN go bad, and when it does, it’s VERY bad.

My favorite kind is Jack Links peppered jerky, but my boyfriend also enjoys honey BBQ (this tasted too mustard-ey for me) and teriyaki. Amazon even offers a SUBSCRIPTION for beef jerky. That’s a real thing. A beef jerky subscription. Thank you, Jeff Bezos.

Trail Mix
Last summer, I fell in love with the sweet and salty Rite-Aid brand trail mix. You can buy it in massive bags, usually for fairly cheap and very often on a buy one get one free sale. Denver’s only flaw is that there are no Rite-Aids near my house, so my hunt began in the fall for my replacement mix. Sidenote: my mother legitimately offered to buy bags of Rite-Aid trail mix and ship it to me from Maryland. That’s commitment. Or the love only possessed by the mother of an only child.


Anyways, once Trader Joe’s opened in Denver, I was introduced to their massive trail mix selection. It is impossible to not find a blend that you like. I personally enjoy creating my own by combining the “Simply Almonds, Cashews, and Chocolate” mix (guess what’s in it?) with a more traditional raisin-ey mix like the “Go Raw” mix, which has almonds, walnuts, cashews, and raisins. The chocolate mix on its own is chocolate overload (yes, it does exist. I was surprised too!), so doing a little mix and match produced the perfect blend for me.

I’m fully convinced that ProBars descended straight from heaven. One bar will fill you up like an entire meal normally would, and all of their flavors are amazing. They’re made with only high-quality ingredients, and while the $3-ish price tag per bar may give you sticker shock, keep in mind that the bars legitimately serve as an entire meal. If you buy them in person at REI, you get 10% off when you buy 10 at once, but I’m not totally sure how long the bars are good for.


My favorite flavors are Superfruit Slam and Chocolate Mint, but all of them are good. Plus, I only break out the ProBars for weekend adventures, so that also helps make them even more endearing. Delicious, keeps you full, symbolize outdoorsy time – what’s not to love?

As a friend of mine recently said, clementines are oranges without all the bullshit. Easy to peel and eat, clementines are another of my favorite hiking snacks. Clementines are another great source of fuel that are easy to pack, relatively mess-free, and are obviously good for you too.

If you’re still not feeling any of the snacks I recommended, just pack something that is filling but not too heavy (both literally and figuratively). Food with high protein counts are good for long-term energy, but bring something that can give your blood sugar a boost as well so you don’t fade on the trail. Finding what works for you is what is most important!

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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