Are you looking for something delicious and healthy for lunch to take with you on your next hike? This guide is all about making easy and healthy hiking lunch ideas. You won’t need to cook, just light assembly while hiking. You can even prepare some of these ahead of time or whip them up right before you leave.
Easy Hiking Lunch Ideas
All of these delicious hiking lunch ideas are designed to provide you with proper nutrition and keep you full while hiking. These lunch ideas are great for hiking any time of year, with both hot and cold options to best suit your hike. This list of hiking lunch ideas provides a combo of protein, complex carbs, and other nutrition to help fuel your body while hiking.
A quick note on food safety: Pay attention to the temperature outside and the ingredients you’re taking along on your hike. You may need to take a cooler and ice pack (these backpack coolers are great!) to keep your food cold and avoid getting sick. However, depending on the temperature outside, it’s okay to use common sense. For instance, if you’re hiking in winter and temps are under 40°F, you’re probably fine. But if it’s 80°F out and you want to take mayonnaise, you’ll definitely want an ice pack.
Let’s jump right into those easy and nutritious hiking lunch ideas.
Classic Peanut Butter and Jelly
We are all suckers for the classic PB&J. It can be eaten any time of day, but there are plenty of ways to help make it loaded with nutritional content! Make sure to spread a thick layer of peanut butter for healthy fats and protein, along with your favorite jelly on the other side. You can freeze them and bring them frozen to eat later or make them the day of.
- Peanut butter
When I say salad, I don’t mean the one that comes packed full of lettuce and other greens. In this case, I’m referring to egg salad, chicken salad, pasta salad, and other cold salad variety foods. These are loaded with protein, don’t need heat to enjoy, and are so easy to make.
- Tuna salad
- Chicken salad
- Egg salad
- Pasta salad
Ingredients vary by recipe.
Adult Lunchables/Trail Charcuterie
Who doesn’t remember Lunchables as a kid? As it turns out, these make a great portable lunch option – in a slightly healthier, grown-up version. A trail charcuterie, if you will. This usually includes hard cheeses, cured meats, grapes, sliced veggies, crackers, etc.
- Hard cheese
- Cured meat
- Sliced veggies
Charcuterie usually includes meats, cheeses, crackers, nuts, and some other options. So, if you’re looking to put together your own hiking charcuterie board, grab some of your favorites at the grocery store and pack them into a container to take with you while hiking.
The best part about this kind of food on the trail? Everyone can eat exactly what they like. Your picky 5-year-old who hates grapes? No worries. Mandarin oranges for him instead. Your 8-year-old who hates almonds? No problem – have some pistachios! The adult me who hates tomatoes? I’ll take carrots please!
On cold hiking days, we bring a Hydro Flask. However, you could use any insulated double-walled container. We fill it with piping hot soup right before we leave for a hot meal on the trail. Each of us has our own flask to help make packing soup for hikes a breeze. We also like to carry treats such as fruit bars or dried fruit to go with it.
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PRO TIP: Preheat your insulated container with steaming hot water. We use water that is just under a boil for ours. This will take the initial chill out of the stainless steel container so your soup doesn’t immediately start cooling off. Then, once your container is hot, add your soup and pack it among layers in your hiking pack to keep it as warm as possible until you’re ready to eat it.
Alternatively, you can take a backpacking stove with you to be able to heat your soup on the trail! We have the Jetboil Sumo becuase it’s big enough to heat soup or water for all multiple people at once, but if you want something more compact, the Jetboil MiniMo is another great option!
Try a tortilla pinwheel wrap (or roll-up) if you’re tired of the same old wrap ideas. All you need is deli meat, tortillas, cheese, and your favorite veggies inside. We often use hummus, peanut butter, and veggies to make ours – just not all together! 😆
We’ve found we often prefer tortilla wraps over sandwiches when hiking because the tortilla holds up better without getting squished. Depending on the fillings you choose, you could leave these wrapped like a burrito or cut into pinwheels for easy grab-and-go on the trail.
A couple of examples we like are:
- Hummus and veggies: tortilla, hummus, shredded carrots, sprouts, and red onion.
- Peanut butter and jam: Just like a PBJ sandwich, but on a tortilla.
- Nut butter and banana: Spread nut butter on the tortilla, peel a banana and wrap. Easy peasy.
- Turkey Hummus Wrap (see below)
Turkey Hummus Wraps or Other Lunch Wraps
To make this easy wrap idea, you put together: hummus, turkey, lettuce or sprouts, cheese, shredded carrots, and any other fresh produce wrapped into a tortilla.
- Shredded carrots
The classic staple of any lunch is sandwiches, and there is no shortage of ideas here to help you find the perfect sandwich for your hike. Just make sure you keep condiments separate and have a way to keep some cool.
- Turkey or chicken sandwich
- Pita sandwich
- Bagel with cream cheese and lox
- BLT (Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato)
- Peanut Butter and banana
The best bread for hiking sandwiches
If you hate having a smashed sandwich while hiking, your bread could be the main source of the problem! After your sandwich has been rolling around in your bag all day, it can be hard to keep it sturdy. Bread such as rye or sourdough tends to be best for sandwiches with lots of veggies or water-based foods. Bagels, tortillas, and pitas also work well too!
Condiments for hiking sandwiches
Mayo spoils in the heat, and many condiments are the same way. A dry sandwich can be bland and boring, so you usually want to pack condiments with you. Ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce are all safe at room temperature and great for hiking. You can also find single-serving condiment packets, like the ones from restaurants, to use while hiking. As much as I hate single-serving containers with trash, you can buy individually packaged condiments online! These are good options too.
Nut Butter and Crackers
For a simple and easy day hike lunch, don’t underestimate the power of nut butter with crackers. This small lunch is shockingly filling and will help keep you full on short hikes. If you are looking for a meal you can eat while you hike, this is an option you don’t want to skip.
Here are a few of our favorite nut butters that come in single-serving containers and are perfect for hiking.
Whether granola bars or protein bars, these are packed with great nutrition for your hike! These are easy to eat while hiking, making them great for hikes where you don’t have a place to stop off or if you just need something to get you back to your campsite.
Some ideas include:
- Protein bars
- Rolled oat bars
- Granola bars
- Bliss balls
You can make your own or purchase pre-made bars. Here are a few of our favorite store bought brands:
Summer Rolls (or Spring Rolls)
These are so simple to make and can be made before you leave for your hike or prepped days ahead of time. Just make sure to roll them neatly and tightly for easy eating while hiking. You can pack these rolls with veggies such as carrots and cucumber and add a protein such as chicken if you wish.
Ingredients vary by recipe.
We all know how delicious a muffin is. However, when you picture muffins, you might think of chocolate chips or blueberries as your go-to. It’s easy to feed your kids and yourself muffins on a lunch hike, and you can make them savory! Cheese muffins with veggies can be a great way to pack in healthy foods and veggies while hiking.
If you don’t think your kids (or you) will go for savory muffins, give these “Green Goblin” muffins from Happy Herbivore a try. They’re packed with spinach, but disguised as a sweet muffin with banana and pineapple. Our kids love these!
This recipe is best when you have a longer lunch break, but it can still be a fun one to bring! Use pita bread to act as your pizza base, then top with tomato sauce, shredded cheese, and your toppings such as veggies or cured meats. You can eat this hot or cold, and it’s easy to make!
Additional Tips for Day Hike Lunch Ideas
A proper lunch for hiking should include complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats and keep you full. This means that a great way to ensure you are hitting all those in your hiking lunch is to pack white meats and whole grains with veggies in your daypack.
You can also get plenty of those front things like beef jerky, dried fruit, and trail mix during your snacks in between meals. Most importantly, you want to make sure that you eat enough to fuel your body and that you’re staying hydrated.
Best hiking food ideas for hot weather hikes
Hiking in hot weather can burn a lot of calories. Between the energy and the sweat, you can burn a lot without knowing it. Because of the heat, you might want to skip lunch and keep pushing forward. However, you need to resist this urge as much as possible! Hydrating foods such as oranges and apples can help in the hot heat. But your lunch needs to be able to withstand the heat.
My lunch wrap or summer roll ideas are great examples of hot-weather foods that can stay cool and refresh you during your hike. If you have the advantage of using a freezer before your hike, freeze your water bottle or sandwich to help keep it cold on your long hike.
Best hiking lunches for cold weather hikes
Hiking in the cold weather can be just as challenging as hiking during hot days. Unlike with keeping food cold, your problem will be staying warm during the winter months. During the winter months, we like to stick to warmer foods such as soup to help warm up midway through the hike.
Hiking snack ideas
Your hiking snacks should be just as important as your lunches. While you are at home, you will stick to three meals a day in most cases. However, when you hike, you will need more food than you think. You are using energy constantly while you hike, and you must top off from time to time.
Make sure you have a few of your hiking snacks in an easy-to-grab place to help make sure you are ready for them when you need them.
Suggestions for easy hiking snacks include:
- Dried fruit
- Fruit leather
- Granola bars
- Energy bars
- Trail mix
- Beef jerky
Why it’s important to pack a variety of snacks too
Hiking snacks can be just as important as the meal you bring along too. It is essential to keep small snacks that are easy to grab available so you can munch on them throughout your day. This will help keep your energy levels up and help you stay strong on long hikes. Treats that don’t take up a lot of space are preferable and easy to tide you over until you find a spot to eat your lunch.
How to pack a lunch for a day hike
Packing a lunch to take with you on a hike can be tricky. You want to keep your lunch from getting smashed or falling to the bottom of your daypack, never to see the light of day again. If you can, pack sandwiches and other mashable foods in storage containers and keep them near the top of your bag. For foods that require cold, keep them around frozen gel packs.
If you need the extra space, you may want to consider packing your lunch and snacks in a fanny pack for easier access. This will help keep your lunch from getting tossed around your bag while looking for a quick snack.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hiking Foods
What should you eat on a day hike?
Before going on any hike, you should eat before your hike. There are some exceptions to this rule, but in general, you should start your hike by having a hearty breakfast. While on the trail, you want to look for foods that are rich in complex carbs and fatty foods to help you keep your energy up throughout the day.
In addition to the food that you eat, you should also consider how well your food will hold up throughout the day. You should store any food you bring that you don’t want broken or smashed in a hard container. Make sure they’re also leakproof to avoid spills in your daypack.
If you’re looking for day hike foods to spark your imagination, here are a few ideas:
• Tuna or chicken packets
• Hard-boiled eggs
• Ramen noodles (along with a backpacking stove like this one)
• Pasta or Quinoa salad: This is a great way to get in some lean protein and carbohydrates to give you plenty of energy. A fun option is a Greek salad with noodles or quinoa, dressing chicken, olives, cherry tomatoes (or sun-dried tomatoes), feta cheese, red onion, and spinach. Pack it in a double-walled stainless steel lunch container like these and add a small ice pack, and you’ll be good to go until lunch.
• Fresh fruits and vegetables
What should you eat on a day multi-day hike?
If you are planning on taking a multi-day hike, then you want to look for food that will keep well in your bags and that doesn’t weigh much or take up much space. Look for food options that are less water than traditional foods, such as pasta, couscous, or fruits.
Any of these would make a great hiking lunch idea or are perfect for trail snacks. It’s important to have the right food at your disposal, whether you’re taking a short or multi-day hike. Meal planning is key so that you’re prepared.
Here are some examples of simple food ideas:
• Sandwiches with nut butter
• Dried fruits
• Dehydrated meals or freeze-dried meals
• Whole Wheat Wrap
• Pre-packaged meals
• Protein bars
• Summer sausage
• Tuna packets
• Healthy snacks like chopped veggies or protein balls
How many snacks should I pack for a hike?
This is up to you! You want to pack enough snacks for the hike so that it keeps your energy level high and feeds everyone at the same time.
A good rule of thumb is to have everyone pack their own snacks, or at least make a list of the snacks that they want to take, and then compare to be sure that the right food is listed.
It’s better to overpack on the snacks so that you don’t find yourself hungry out on the trails. This is where packing light foods that are easy to carry becomes super important for success!
Is there a way to plan out meals for hiking?
Of course! Meal planning for hiking is a great idea. You can easily take a bit of time a few days or weeks ahead of your hike to get all your food wants in order.
This can be as simple as sitting down and writing out all the foods that you want to take and then starting the process of getting them at the store.
If you’re new to hiking, you can also take some mini hikes and pack some of the foods that you want to take on longer hikes to make sure that you’re happy with your choices.
Don’t forget to also plan out carrying extra water and drinks! You need to be sure that you stay hydrated on your entire hike so that you don’t become dehydrated or fatigued. Having enough liquids on your hike will also help to keep you full and moving, too.
How much water do you need for a day hike?
Water is even more important than your food supply while hiking. You don’t want to run out of water on a trail. This is especially important if you’re hiking during hot summer days. For water, you should plan to bring about half a liter of water for every hour you are on the trail. However, the difficulty and temperature of your hike can affect how much water you need. You will need more water if you go on a long and difficult hike with unshaded hills than an easy hike with lots of shade.
What foods should I not bring on a hike?
While hiking, in general, you want to avoid bringing sugary snacks, carbonated drinks, and foods with dairy (such as milk or mayo) as much as possible. You don’t want to get sick from spoiled food while hiking or deal with foods that will give you gas.
Other foods best to avoid while hiking include:
• Greasy foods
• Deep-fried food
• Lots of sugary snacks such as candy or chocolate bars – though I’ll fully admit we always take some kind of treat along. I’m not above encouraging (or bribing) the kids with a few Skittles. 😜 Just not an entire chocolate cake.
• Sparkling water and carbonated beverages
Final Thoughts on Hiking Lunch Ideas
Whether you are planning to take a long overnight hike or a quick day hike, you want food that will help you stay nourished and keep your strength up on the trail. Hopefully, you found this guide helpful and an asset to take with you on your next hiking adventure. Use it to prep and plan all your hiking food needs.