Without the space limitations of multi-day hikes, there are so many tasty day hike lunch ideas. If you're an avid hiker, you know the importance of fueling your body with nutritious food. But packing a great lunch for a day of hiking doesn't have to be boring! Read on for the most nutrient-packed, flavorful and packable lunch recipes and ideas!
What To Consider When Planning What To Pack
When choosing day hike lunch items, there are a few factors to consider.
- Pack food items that are easy to carry and won't spoil quickly.
- Choose fare that's high in protein, fiber, calories and nutrients to keep you satisfied for a long time.
- Bring snacks and lunches that are ready to eat or easy to prepare on the trail.
- If the day is hot, plan for cool and refreshing foods. If the weather is cold, plan a warm meal or snack.
- Use lightweight containers and plastic bags to easily pack your food in and the wrappings back out. Avoid heavy canned foods if weight is an issue.
- Keep any perishable foods like fresh meat or seafood cold for your day hike. Using a frozen water bottle doubles as drinking water or use a soft, cold gel pack that can be used in case of injury. Hot food like soup can be kept hot in a thermos.
- And don't forget to to pack food that you like to eat. After a good day hiking, you've earned a lunch that you'll enjoy.
Easy to grab snacks are crucial for maintaining energy and an even blood sugar level. It's a good idea to keep things you can eat while walking within easy reach in case you need a snack before others in your group are ready to stop.
Protein bars and energy balls are great hand held snacks to pack for your day hike. Check out these easy recipes that are made for adventuring.
High Protein Super Stars
For easy to pack lean protein, try small tins of canned tuna or chicken, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and protein bars. Cheese strings, cubes of hard cheese, and salmon or beef jerky are also great ideas that aren't too perishable.
Hummus or canned beans are great vegetarian protein options. Nut butters are great on their own or in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is an excellent source of healthy fats.
Fruit + Nuts
In addition to prepared snacks and meals, whole fruits, dried fruit, vegetables and nuts are a good option. Juicy, fresh fruits are always welcome in hot weather and nuts offer lots of energy while taking up minimal space.
Fresh fruit is high in water, fiber and vitamins and whole fruit needs no wrapping. These items are easy to carry, won't spoil quickly, and are high in nutrients.
Olives, pickles, apples, carrots, blueberries, strawberries, nuts, raisins and avocado are just a few great ideas. Just choose and pack your favorite combo.
Trail mixes are another easy to make hiking snack that is easy to eat and share. Dried fruits, fresh veg and granola bars are great sources of complex carbs.
Is there anything more satisfying than a well made sandwich? Here are some great (protein packed) flavor combinations that will fill you up. Use whole-grain bread or buns to add more fiber and vitamins and keep you full longer. While you could pack freeze-dried meals and dehydrated meals, don't these look infinitely better?!
Quality ingredients and a simple recipe will have these wrapped up to go in a flash.
Packable, Make-Ahead Salads
Quinoa salad with roasted veggies or a vinaigrette based pasta salad is a great way to get in some healthy fats and complex carbs. Chicken salad is extra high in protein and the kale slaw with cashews is a great vegan option. The salads below all pack and keep well all day, even once dressed.
Made with cannellini and kidney beans, feta cheese & a zesty, herb vinaigrette, this will excite your taste buds!
Creative Lunch Ideas
Day hike food doesn't have to be boring! If you're looking for creative and fun day hike lunch ideas with different flavors, try one of these meals. Love something sweet? Overnight oats are a great choice, packed with protein and fruit or nut butter. Making savory hand pies or sausage rolls are also a welcome bite while on the trail.
Crackers, Veggies + Dips
Fresh veggies and dip is a classic snack or lunch. Flavorful and healthful dips like hummus, mutabal or baba ghanoush are good choices. Add in some chips or crackers for extra carbs, crunch and flavors.
What about classic crackers and cheese with some pickles? Or get fancy with a full selection of charcuterie, cheeses, dried fruit (figs or dates are great), olives, pickles and spreads. These are easy and delicious to eat and to pack.
Vegan Lunch Recipes
Some of the snack and soup recipes above are vegan and here are some vegan main dish recipes for lunch or dinner in the outback.
Soup In A Thermos
For a cold weather hiking trip, a hot meal is such a treat. Pop your hot soup in a thermos and keep your belly warm while you rest. If space and weight restrictions allow, bringing a thermos of hot water will allow you to make some instant coffee, tea or hot chocolate too!
Muffins and cookies are great ideas for your backpack. A treat that combines protein, fiber and fruit, these will put smiles on little tired faces (and big ones too).
Don't Forget Water
The most important thing to remember when packing for your backpacking trip is hydration - even if it's not a hot day. Be sure to bring enough water for the day with some extra. A water bottle or camel pack are both great options as is a frozen pack of ice for extra if needed.
TOP WATER TIP:
Freeze a water bottle to double as an ice pack for your food and drinking water as it melts. You should plan for ½ a liter (500 mls) per hour of hiking plus a little more in case it takes longer than you think or you get lost.
Staying hydrated is crucial to maintaining your energy level and enjoying your hike to the fullest. Water is essential but if you like some flavor, add a little lemon juice or pack an energy drink like Powerade or Gatorade in addition to your water.
How To Efficiently Pack Your Lunch
In addition to preparing your food and water, there are a few tips for packing and preparing your day hike lunch.
- Be sure to pack your food in airtight containers to prevent leakage.
- Pack your food carefully to prevent squishing or damage. Keep fruit like bananas on top and things that are protected in rigid resealable containers can be stacked underneath.
- Store small, easy to eat snacks within easy reach for eating on the trail.
- If you have fresh meat, eggs or seafood, keep them cold with an ice pack for food safety.
- Pack a little more than you think you'll need in case of emergencies. Small lightweight, high energy things like energy balls, chocolate bars or meal replacement bars are good, unperishable emergency foods.
- If you think you'll need more water than you can pack, take water purifier tablets, a water filter pump or a pot (and lighter) to boil the water for 3 minutes before drinking.
- Not lunch, but remember other safety gear like a small flashlight, a whistle and a compass.
Thanks for reading along, I hope this has helped you find some great, easy day hike lunch ideas.
For more on what I'm cooking up, follow me on Instagram or Facebook. You might also like my FREE printable weekly meal planner.
Cheers friends! Sabrina
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