Confession: There’s a little — ok, maybe big — part of me that loves hiking just as much for the mid-trek snacks as for the breathtaking views.
I think it’s because of the kinds of food we prepare for these lengthy journeys with. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a hiker making his/her way through the woods holding a Big Mac and fries? Don’t get me wrong. I’m the first to grab an Oreo from an open sleeve on the counter and to fill my freezer with dark chocolate peanut M&Ms. But when preparing a backpack with food for a hike, it’s essential to fill every nook and cranny with the kinds of ingredients that can fuel you up a mountain, over a rock scramble, down an insanely steep slope.
These are the kinds of foods that I wish I were dedicated and disciplined enough to commit to all the time. But like I said, I’m a sucker for sweets. My family owns a chocolate store fergodsake.
So of course, I was very much in my element throughout my vacation in Colorado. From short, creek-side hikes along the St. Vrain to practically vertical moments near Hanging Lake; from extremely flat surfaces where the trees never grow to moments of awe staring up –longingly — at Long’s Peak; Noah and I covered our fair share of terrain during our time spent in Colorado.
We also ate our fair share. These are the foods that helped us get there.
Planters Digestive Health Mix
While I’m a sucker for traditional DIY trail mix, most of the time, I throw in chocolate, and most of the time, all that chocolate melts and leaves a gooey bag of ick. I’m a huge fan of this trail mix. Made with pistachios, almonds, tart cranberries, crunchy granola clusters and sweet cherries, it’s easy on the stomach and packed with a big energy punch. I love the combination of flavors. Just don’t try to buy it in New York. I kid you not, a can of these in Manhattan will run you upwards of $9. In Colorado, we paid $6.
Fruit is obviously a great option when hiking, but my biggest problem is that I’m not a huge fan of citrus or apple, which are two of the most popular items because they’re so easy to toss into a backpack and forget about. Screw easy though. Figs are incredibly delicious and are just sweet enough to satisfy any craving for sugar you might be feeling as your juices run low. Look for figs in a hard case so they don’t get squished on the run.
Raspberries are another healthful way to reintroduce sugar back into your body in a natural manner during or after a vigorous hike. I have never tasted a sweeter raspberry than after hauling my body over the rock scramble that leads to Chasm Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.
It’s light. It’s filling. And there are enough carbs to fuel you in either direction, both down and up. Plus, a loaf of bread is versatile and typically satisfies many parties at once. For Noah, it served as a hero, into which he stuffed salami and cheese. For me, it was a canvas for chocolate almond butter. Which brings me to my next point.
Or peanut butter. Or sunflower butter. Whatever your heart desires; I just happen to really like the taste of this one particular almond butter made by Justin’s. Maybe because it has chocolate mixed in. Maybe because it tastes like Nutella. Either way, I’m drinking the Cool-Aid and standing behind this protein-packed item.
Okay, so it’s not the most nutritious cheese in town. But the packaging that these mini cheese wheels come wrapped in is pretty tough to beat. They’re super convenient on-the-go, and easy to grab without having to stop. Stomach grumbling? Just pull one out, and keep on trucking.
I’ve lost count of the number of people who make fun of me for munching on seeds all day. I love them though — especially pumpkin seeds. They’re crunchy and good for you. Win-win. I’ve especially been loving this brand of pumpkin seeds lately — Eden Organic. I found them in a health food store back home near my office, and then again while out in Colorado. It’s the perfect size package for a day out on the trails, and a they come in various flavors. Noah and I chose spicy!
All-Natural Fruit Leather
This brand of fruit leather — Veggie-Go’s — is incredible. Again, I actually discovered these at my health food store in midtown. So you can guess my excitement when I stumbled into a little stand of Veggie-Go’s fruit leathers at the local farmers’ market in Boulder. Slightly more expensive than the one’s back in New York, I splurged on a handful since, being that I was at a farmers’ market, it was likely going to a good cause. Not that I’m a calorie counter, but there are less than 20 calories in one of these bad boys, making them a great option for hikers who need something sweet mid-trail.
Apricots, quinoa and cinnamon, oh my! I picked up this crazy-sounding bar at a random coffee shop on the way to the Ceren St. Vrain trail midway between Boulder and Estes Park. I saw it on the counter. I loved what it had to offer. I bought it. It was as simple as that.
While this sounds like something I’d absolutely love, I’ll be honest here folks, this tasted like shoe. Maybe there really is something wrong with mixing pleasures — at least in these amounts. I took one bite, and shoved the rest into the recesses of Noah’s backpack. On the bright side, at least it’s packed with nutrition and is probably GREAT for hikers who can muster the taste.
Dairy Queen Blizzard (kidding, but not really)
By the time Noah and I got done with our biggest hike of the trip, which would be one of the last, we were spent. And so I’ll end this little write-up with another confession: After 5 hours on the trails, 8+ miles and nearly 3,000 feet with very little oxygen, we returned to reality and wanted nothing more than to scarf down a Blizzard. That led me to look up the closest Dairy Queen once I got service again, which led to this.
This, my friends, is a vanilla, Oreo, cookie dough and rainbow sprinkles Blizzard. And it was worth every single bite.
What do you pack in your bag when hiking? What are your favorite on-the-go bites?