Take a Hike (And Not Be Hungry)

A good hike on a beautiful day is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors. There’s just something about putting on those hiking boots or trail shoes and setting off for a few hours of trekking in the woods that is good for body and soul. It’s also good for working up an appetite (or at least a thirst). Even if you’re just hiking for a short while, it pays to always be prepared with food and drink. Here are a few tips for satisfying your hunger on your next hike…

If you’re making a trail mix, like this Kid Crunch Trail Mix, opt for low-sodium or unsalted ingredients to avoid increasing your risk of dehydration.

Make water a priority.

More important than food, not having enough water can be dangerous on a hike—especially if something happens and you end up being out longer than planned. Water is essential for so many body functions, and a sunny, hot day increases the need for fluids. Hiking or walking away from a source of potable water means you’ll need to bring your own—even if your hike is just an hour long. On the day of your hike, make sure you are adequately hydrated prior to leaving. Because water is heavy, it helps if everyone lugs his or her own water. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, plan on bringing 2 cups of fluid for every hour of hiking you’ll be doing. If you plan to be gone more than a day and won’t have access to clean water, bring a water filter and water purification tablets. And, if you’re hiking in extreme heat and for longer than a couple hours, consider bringing along an electrolyte replacement product (such as a tablet you can add to water—find them online or at outdoor activity retailers/sporting goods stores).

If you’re hiking with a dog: they’re no safer drinking pond water than you are, so be sure to take into account your dog’s hiking hydration needs when you plan how much water to bring.

Take snacks for short hikes.

You won’t need lots of food for shorter hikes (and you won’t want to carry a bunch of food you won’t need), so snacks are the way to go. I like to take things that won’t get crushed, because inevitably something ends up on top of the food (maybe that’s just my problem?). For that reason I don’t take sandwiches, but if you have a way to pack that addresses this problem nicely, then go for it. Do keep in mind that meat, poultry and eggs can only safely be held out of refrigerator temps for 2 hours. If you’ll be hiking longer than that before eating, opt for a sandwich filling that is safe out of the fridge (think nut butters, hummus, cheese, etc). Or, you can tote along a cold-pack to keep your sandwich chilled. Another idea is to use tortillas instead of bread. Good snacks options for a short hike include unsalted nuts, fruit, granola bars, cereal, carrots and celery.

Don’t pack salty snacks.

Yes, you’ll be sweating, but short hikes won’t typically deplete your electrolytes to dangerous levels (and regular food contains plenty of them anyhow). What could be a problem is noshing on super salty foods, which will then just augment your thirst. Typical trail snacks like jerky, trail mix, pretzels and crackers contain a lot of sodium. Just skip those for short hikes. And, if you must have trail mix (I happen to love it), consider mixing your own using unsalted nuts, a whole-grain cereal and a little dried fruit.