Cheap, easy, & yummy hiking snacks for kids (from an outdoorsy mom)

What do you pack to eat when you’re heading out on the trail?  Does your family have any go-to snacks for hiking?  Or, do you just rummage through the cupboards and grab whatever randomness you find?

Below you’ll find a whole bunch of hiking snack suggestions – all sorts of relatively healthy and easy options for the trail, most of which you can pick up at the local grocery or make in your kitchen.

Not just for hiking: While these are 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, road trips, or for a day of family skiing.  They’re just good snacks!

various snacks like apples, oranges, and granola bars all perfect hiking snacks

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Here are our favorite snacks for hiking and playing outdoors:

1. Apples, (easy-to-peel) Oranges, and Carrot Sticks

This one gets the first mention because they’re the easiest 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.

a girl biting into an orange
Small oranges are super yummy hiking snacks!

2. Dried Apples & 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.  However, finding crisp dried apples may prove a little challenging.  I’m finding them more often in the stores now than I used to. In fact, I’m seeing them regularly at Costco these days.

We particularly like freeze dried fruit pouches or dried apples and pears when backpacking with kids as they are so light!

Tip: 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.

How to make your own dehydrated apples for a light-weight hiking snack:

If you’re ambitious and happen to have a food dehydrator you can make them yourselves. 

  1. Cut the apples super thin. Using a mandolin type food slicer will make easy work of this task. (Just make sure to use the hand guard – I have cut myself way too many times!) 
  2. Lay out the apple slices without overlapping them.
  3. Then, just dehydrate 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.

3. Gorp or Trail Mix

Good ‘ol raisins and peanuts, also called trail mix, is probably one of the most popular hiking snacks there is! 

We like to make our own.  By choosing your own ingredients you’ll have more control on the added oils and sugars that are so often main ingredients in those store bought, ready-made mixes.  You can even go one step healthier and use raw nuts and seeds over roasted.

How to make trail mix:

Here’s a list of all the various things you can thrown into your trail mix baggie:

  • Nuts (peanuts, pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, etc.)
  • 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, gummies, etc.)

Tip: Don’t add anything that will melt… chocolate chips in the trail mix in the summer can be a huge mess! But, chocolate chips on a snowy winter hike should be just fine!

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 M&Ms 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! Oh, and I’ve been finding it at Costco too!

various snack foods like granola bars, fruit, nuts, and dried fruit on a picnic table
A spread of our favourite snacks for hiking with our kids

4. Dried Fruit & Nuts

Instead of mixing everything up, you can just bring along a baggie of pecans or dried mango.  If you have picky kids they might prefer this anyway.

A friend of mine, likes to tuck whole almonds into pitted dates for a yummy hiking snack.  These are delightful!

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). 

5. Granola Bars

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 (which I buy at Costco) and the nut-free lunch box 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), but they’re widely available in Canadian grocery stores.

Or, you can always try to make your own granola bars and goodies!

Our favourite snack subscription:

all the treats and snacks available in a snack sack subscription box

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!

Our kids loved the variety!

6. Home-baked Treats

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 give them 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 best hiking snacks are homemade muffins, and a low-fat, low sugar oatmeal raisin cookie.  We also enjoy 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.

a girl holding a zippered reusable fabric snack bag while she bites into a cookie
Eating some home-baked raisin cookies from our reusable snack bags.

7. Energy Bars

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 calories and full of weird things, and they’re costly.  For all these reasons we avoid eating many energy bars.

The exception here is Clif bars.  Clif 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 sharing a Clif bar after 4 hours of hiking is truly a reward for them, especially if it’s chocolate chip brownie flavour!

Also, there’s always one or two squashed Clif bars in the bottom of our bag as an emergency food source if ever the need were to arise.

8. Squeeze Pouces

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.

These were a must when out hiking, adventuring and camping with toddlers. I loved that they had caps for quick little snacks and we could save the rest for later.

9. Fruit Leathers

We always had fruit-to-go hanging around in this family.  Most kids love them.  They’re affordable if you buy the mega-packs and they can withstand all sorts of abuse.

Because our kids loved them so much we’ve enforced a strict rule that they were 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 had a stash, and the pocket of our hiking backpack had 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. Yes, a piece of fruit would be better, but these rank pretty high in my mind for convenience!

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 away any garbage, used tissues, and fruit peels.

READ MORE: interested in knowing what and how we pack for a day hike? Check out this article next!

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 day pack.

If your family’s favorite hiking snack isn’t included in this list I’d love to hear about it.  And hopefully you found a few good suggestions to try next time you’re out adventuring or hiking with your kids.

granola bars, trail mix, oranges, and other hiking snacks, text reads grab and go hiking snacks

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