What do you pack to eat when you’re heading out on the trail? Does your family have any favorite hiking snacks? Or, perhaps you’re new at this family hiking stuff and you’re looking for a few suggestions.
Below you’ll find a whole bunch of suggestions. Many of the following snacks are relatively healthy and easy options, most of which you can pick up at the local grocery or make in your kitchen.
Also, while these being referred to as hiking snack recommendations, they’re the same snacks you can use when you head to the beach for the afternoon, camping, or for a day of family skiing. They’re just good snacks!
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Here are our favorite snacks for hiking and playing outdoors:
Apples and easy peel oranges
This one gets the first mention because they’re the healthiest of all these options… and because on a hot hike nothing beats biting into a sweet apple or juicy orange! Just remember to bring along a little baggy or container to throw your peels and cores into when you’re done eating them.
Dried apples and pears
Have you ever had a crisp dried apple? They’re so yummy and crunchy. They’re quite addictive really. If you’re looking for a lightweight snack, this is it. Finding dried apples may prove a little challenging. I’m finding them more often in the stores now than I used to. Make sure to check the label because you really don’t need any added sugar or oils on these. They’re perfect just as they are.
If you’re ambitious and happen to have a food dehydrator you can make them yourselves. You’ll need to cut the apples super thin. Using a mandolin type food slicer will make easy work of this task (and have cut myself way too many times). Then, just dry them until they’re crunchy. For my machine that means about 8 hours, but times will vary depending on the temperature and thickness of the apple slices and how your machine works. A little sprinkle of cinnamon before drying is a yummy addition.
Gorp or Trail Mix
Good ‘ol fashioned raisins and peanuts, also called trail mix is probably one of the most popular hiking snacks. We like to make our own. By choosing your own ingredients you have more control on the added oils and sugars that are sometimes in store bought, ready-made mixes. You can also decrease extra oils by choosing raw nuts and seeds over roasted.
Here’s a list of all the various things you can thrown into your trail mix bag:
- Nuts (peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts)
- Seeds (sunflower and pumpkin)
- Roasted chickpeas or corn kernels
- Dried fruit (apricots, raisins, coconut, berries, dates, pineapple, papaya, etc)
- Pretzels or crackers (fish crackers, rice or bean crackers)
- Treats (M&Ms, mini cookies, chocolate covered raisins or peanuts, mini-marshmallows, chocolate chips, etc)
If we have treats mixed into the trail mix our rule is that you can’t pick through the mix. Otherwise, someone (usually me) would pick all the chocolate out first!
As for purchasing trail-mix from the store, this ready-made Coconut Clusters mix has been a family favorite lately. It’s full of dried coconut, seeds, and yummy goodness!
A note on how to package your tail mix: Our family’s standard go-to was a plastic zip-lock bag, but we’ve since discovered Omaiki’s zippered, reusable snack bags. The advantage with these zippered bags is that the kids will always close them properly. I don’t know what it is with my kid’s inabilities to properly seal a zip-lock, but we’ve had too many spilled trail mix incidents to go back to using regular plastic snack bags! Also, as a bonus, Omaiki’s products are ethically made in Canada with Canadian fabrics, they’re easy to wash with just soap and water, and they come in a fun selection of patterns and colours.
Dried fruit and nuts
Instead of mixing everything up, you can just bring along a baggie of pecans or dried mango. If you have picky kids this might prefer this anyway.
A friend of mine, Kirsten from Jasper Nutrition Counseling likes to tuck whole almonds into pitted dates for a yummy hiking snack. We haven’t tried this yet, but I can’t imagine they’re anything but good, especially if the dates are fresh and moist!
The choices for dried fruit are quite extensive these days. Our family is really enjoying these dried coconut chunks right now (although I believe they do have added sugar ).
Have you ever read the ingredient list on a standard granola bar? Your standard grocery store granola bar is full of fat and sugar and lacking in fiber and protein. So, do take a good look before purchasing granola bars. Sometimes I find that spending a little more money on a granola bar might help in getting a healthier version, but don’t be fooled. Sugar is usually the second ingredient regardless of the brand.
Currently our family’s favorite are these fig bars by Nature’s Bakery and the lunch box (nut free) granola bars by Nature’s Valley (I can only find them on the Canadian Amazon– I’m unsure if they’re available in the United States).
If your family likes variety and grab-and-go snacks, here are two suggestions for you:
- Giant variety packs: This giant mixed lot of packaged nuts and healthier bars. Or, this mixed lot of Non-GMO snacks including bars, freeze dried fruit, crackers, and more.
- Snack subscription boxes: My in-laws received three months of the Snack Sack subscription box and it was full of interesting healthy individually packaged snacks, perfect to grab and stuff in your bag for a hiking snack!
Or, you can always try to make your own granola bars and goodies!
My husband and I just finished reading through Food Rules by Michael Pollan which contain a rule ‘eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself’. Isn’t this a great rule, especially for families with treat-loving kids?
Kids love treats! And, I want to give my kids treats. But, I don’t want to givem the all the processed fats, sugars, and preservatives that store bought treats usually contain. This means I try to ensure I frequently have healthier home-made treats on hand.
Some of our favourite trail snack baked treats are coconut trail mix muffins, and a low fat, low sugar oatmeal raisin cookie. We’ve also enjoyed these chocolate almonds bars by Smitten Kitchen, but of course, any treat will do!
Reusable fabric snack bags are great for home-baked goodies too, but muffins sometimes need a solid container to keep them from getting squished in the backpack.
We don’t eat many energy bars in this family. They’re usually full of ingredients I cannot pronounce. They’re high in fats and full of weird things, and they’re costly. For all these reasons we avoid eating many energy bars.
The exception here is Cliff bars. Cliff bars tend to appear less scary in terms of their ingredients and they’re a little more affordable. However, we like to reserve them for our super long hikes or over-night trips. The kids really like these and having a cliff bar after 4 hours of hiking is truly a reward for them, especially if it’s chocolate chip.
Also, there’s always one or two squashed cliff bars in the bottom of our bag as an emergency food source if ever the need arises.
Do you have a tiny hiker in your family? Pureed veggie and fruit pouches are super easy to serve to your small people when out on the trail. They’re compact, easy for kids to use, and come in a wide assortment of flavors, many of them without any added sugars. Kids seem to really enjoy the GoGo squeeze fruit and veggie varieties.
We always have fruit-to-go hanging around in this family. Kids love them. They’re affordable if you buy the mega-packs and they can withstand all sorts of abuse. They also come in small pieces too, more like a gummy candy shape.
Because our kids love them so much we’ve enforced a strict rule that they’re only for out of the house snacking. When my husband is ski coaching his pocket is full of them, my mom-purse usually has a few floating around in it. Our van has a stash and the pocket of our hiking backpack has a whole bunch of them.
While you’ll love their convenience, the best thing about them is their ingredient list: apple puree concentrate, random fruit juice concentrates, citrus pectin, and natural flavor. That’s it.
A little bit about environmental impact and hiking snack options
It is important to try to be conscious of how much individually packaged products are brought into the home. For convenience and grab-and-go snacking, it’s hard to get around the inevitable garbage from all the wrappers. When possible, buy in bulk to cut down on packaging. Also, home-made products never come wrapped in plastic; although, all their ingredients usually do.
I guess what I’m asking is that you are mindful of your waste and always remember to carry out your garbage. In fact, one of the items we usually keep in our day pack is a small baggie for tucking any garbage, used tissues, and fruit peels (I bet one of those cute reusable Omaiki bags would work for that purpose too).
Did you notice I didn’t include chips, candy, and chocolate bars in this list? There are many families out there that find the reward of candy on the trail is a good motivator for your kids. However, I find for our kids this strategy usually backfires in the end. Instead here a variety of other ‘tactics’ to keep our kid’s feet moving when out hiking with kids.
Although, there’s always a time and place for a special treat. Candy is just not a regular in our hiking bag.
If your family’s favorite hiking snack isn’t included in this list I’d love to hear about it. Just add it in the comments below or reach out on social media… and happy hiking!
You might also be interested in:
- Reading about some top tips for hiking with kids from outdoor family experts
- Subscribing to the Newsletter and getting access to a variety of nature scavenger hunts for all sorts of ages and interests
- Heading over to Facebook to like our page and stay current with outdoor family news and inspiration
- Joining the private outdoor loving nature group where you can share, learn, and be supported by other outdoor family enthusiasts