Hiking and backpacking is strenuous work that demands high calorie trail snacks. Depending on terrain, how heavy your back is, and how fast you’re going, you can burn anywhere from 300 to 700 calories per hour. That’s a whole lot of calories!
On the upside, you shouldn’t have a hard time staying fit if you’re doing this kind of activity on a regular basis. On the downside, you need to take in a lot of calories. Lots and lots of calories.
Think about it. The average person burns 2,000 calories a day. If you’re burning 500 calories an hour for a six-hour hike, that’s 3,000 calories just in that portion of the day, never mind the calories you burn setting up your tent, building a campfire, or walking around birdwatching.
To keep yourself going, you need some serious fuel for the fire. So we’ve put together a list of the best high calorie trail snacks for keeping your energy level up and fatigue to a minimum.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are some of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. They have to be. In nature, they may sprout into baby plants, which will rely on the nut or seed pulp for energy until it’s grown leaves and begun to produce energy through photosynthesis. What better use for this natural wonder than to use it to fuel your body?
As an example, almonds contain 170 calories per ounce. A six-ounce bag contains 1,020 calories, enough to replenish a lot of the energy you’ve burnt up while you’re on the trail. Other nuts are similar. Peanuts also contain 170 calories per ounce. Cashews contain 160. Pistachios contain 160. Brazil nuts contain 184. Walnuts? 183 calories.
And let’s not forget about seeds. Sunflower seeds provide 173 calories per ounce. Pumpkin seeds offer 151 calories per ounce.
These are all calorie dense foods, and they’re readily available in small bags for easy munching while you walk. Just make sure to pack out your empty pouches, and dispose of them appropriately in the trash.
Peanut Butter (and Other Nut Butter)
What’s better than eating delicious, nutritionally dense nuts? Crushing them up and churning them into a paste for compact storage! No, we’re not talking about some advanced astronaut food. We’re talking about peanut butter, Nutella, and other pureed nut products.
Nutella (the brand name almond butter) contains 150 calories per ounce. Peanut butter contains from 150 to 180 calories per ounce, depending on what brand you buy and how much delicious, calorie-dense corn syrup they pour into each jar. Just make sure to keep your canteen handy; you’ll need some water to wash this snack down. If you want a grab-and-go option for the trail, check out Yumbutter. We liked it so much we gave them Gear of the Year here.
There’s a reason people crave sweet, sugary foods. And it’s not because Mother Nature is secretly in league with the world’s dentists. It’s because back in caveman times, sweet and sugary meant fruit. Fruit was – and still is – one of our best dietary sources of vitamins. And it only grows seasonally, so for a hunter-gatherer it’s imperative to eat it immediately, while it’s fresh. As a result, we humans evolved to crave sweet things.
Carrying a giant bag of apples or apricots may not be practical on the trail, but technology has given us a better way. With dried fruit, you can get all the calories your body needs to sustain an hours-long hike, along with the vitamins you need to maintain optimal nutrition.
Dried fruit provides a lot of carbohydrates, but for sustained energy you need protein. You know what’s rich in protein? Meat. And while it’s not practical to carry a bag of hot dogs or a slab of steak on your hike, a few bags of beef jerky can go a long way towards staving off the gnawing beast of hunger.
Beef jerky provides a generous 116 calories per ounce. And if you’re avoiding red meat, there are plenty of dried chicken and turkey options available for conscientious eaters. If you don’t want the extra sugar that a lot of beef jerky is made with, give these a shot.
Olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil are all excellent sources of calories and nutrition. Olive oil provides 240 calories per ounce. Coconut oil offers the same amount. Avocado oil isn’t quite as calorie-dense, but still provides a respectable 124 calories per ounce.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you start drinking oil instead of water on the hiking trail. That would just be disgusting. But adding a tablespoon of oil to your soup, pasta, or freeze-dried snack can turn your average meal into a calorie-packed energy powerhouse.
At the End of the Day…
Many people are hesitant about eating high calorie snacks on their hike. Hiking is supposed to be healthy, and calories are bad, right?
No. Not always. And not in this situation.
You need the energy to get through your hike. So stack up on these high-calorie trail snacks, and enjoy your time in the outdoors without a rumbling stomach.