Sure, hiking may offer up a great workout (the average person burns more than 400 calories per hour), but it is so, so much more than that. While you’re moving, you’re surrounded by trees, natural scents, and the calm of a quiet trail—so it’s no wonder we feel so good after a hike. In fact, the euphoria we experience after hiking is so powerful it’s even been shown to help reduce feelings of hopelessness in people with severe depression, according to an Austrian study.
So lace up your shoes, grab a backpack, and go get lost in the woods for a little while. Just make sure you’ve got the fuel you need to enjoy every step.
“When I plan a hiking trip, I bring snacks that contain mostly fats and carbs,” says Michael Wolfe, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe. These two macronutrients provide the energy your body needs to keep going—especially if you’re hitting a challenging trail. And though protein isn’t your body’s go-to for fuel, it will help your body recover after longer day hikes or multi-day trips, he says.
The following snacks are easy to stuff in your pockets or pack in your backpack the next time you head off the grid:
Bars are all-star hiking snacks because they’re usually small and can pack a ton of fuel. RXBARs, which are made from whole ingredients like egg whites, dates, and nuts, provide a balanced dose of carbs, fats, and protein.
2. DIY Granola
Kathleen Jones, M.S.A.C.N., C.N.S., nutritionist for The Vitamin Shoppe likes to bring homemade granola on hikes because it provides the fat and carbs your body needs for fuel and is a lightweight way to get calories in. Check out her naturally-sweet recipe:
1/8 tsp pure Himalayan sea salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. MCT oil
2 Tbsp. amber maple syrup
¼ cup seedless golden raisins
¼ cup hemp seeds
½ cup sliced almonds
2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly so everything is well-combined and coated with the wet ingredients. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or just until very lightly toasted. (Keep an eye on the oven.) Let cool before storing in bags or an air-tight container. (Makes six servings.)
These plant-based bars are just about 100 calories and great for shorter hikes. You’ll get both healthy fats (omega-3s for the win!) and filling fiber from the chia seeds—and, bonus perk: Each bar has only four grams of sugar.
When you’re taking a break on the trail or heading home from a day hike, it’s time for protein! Wolfe packs jerky because it provides protein and doesn’t spoil easy. Ostrim’s beef and elk sticks pack 14 grams of protein in just 90 calories—and their shape makes them super portable. To keep your taste buds happy when you’re off the grid, you can also find jerkies in fun flavors, like Three Jerks’ filet mignon hamburger jerky.
Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
5. DIY Trail Mix
The ultimate outdoorsy snack, trail mix is easy to customize and offers the perfect combo of carbs and fat. We don’t completely hate that many store-bought trail mixes are roughly 50 percent M&MS, but you can keep your mix more wholesome by bagging it at home.
Wolfe likes this combo: half a cup each of peanuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. In a third of a cup (about a big handful), you’ll get about 42 grams of carbs and 16 grams of fat to keep you climbing.
In flavors like salted caramel pecan and peanut butter white chocolate, BHU Fit bars are a delicious, guilt-free snack to take out on the trails with you. “They have very clean ingredients, tend to be higher in fat, and are very small and lightweight,” says Jones. You’ll get 13 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbs, and 14 grams of protein per bar.
7. Electrolyte Mix
Okay, what’s in your water bottle may not technically be a snack, but it’s just as important (if not more so!). Kick up your hydration by stirring in an electrolyte mix. These minerals (magnesium, potassium, and sodium) help your body balance fluids and keep your muscles firing properly, says Wolfe. Add grape or raspberry electrolyte power to your H2O with Ultima Refresher’s electrolyte powder, or go for lemon lime with BodyTech’s electrolyte fizz.
Bananas provide just the carbs you need for an energy boost, but they’re easily smush-able in a backpack. Barnana’s chewy banana bites make the fruit more hiking-friendly, and the peanut butter flavor adds a bit of fat for a more satiating and fueling snack.