What to eat when hiking – day hike


What to eat when hiking is important and you should start at least two days before the hike to hydrate and drinking water regularly.

The act of hiking can suppress your appetite, so plan to feed yourself anyway as calories play an important role in regulating body temperature and to keep you fueled. On the day of the hike trying to eat at least an hour before the hiking.

Planning what to eat for your day hike:

  • What to eat before the hike?
  • What to eat during the hike?
  • What to eat after the hike?

What to eat before the hike?

Protein and complex carb combinations are perfect, start with nice breakfast eggs, bacon and whole wheat bread or bowl of oatmeal, eat some fruit and drink two cups of water or an energy drink.

What are complex carbs?

Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains.

Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, vegetables, berries, bananas, nuts, broccoli, spinach, whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, apple, beans, oats, and brown rice.

Both simple and complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy.

What are the simple carbs?

Donuts, sweets, white bread, Coca-Cola, cookies, chocolates, and honey.

Complex vs Simple Carbs

I can’t eat in the morning especially that early so I normally start with a protein shake.

My protein shake recipe:

USN Hyperbolic Mass (all-in-one)
Tbsp. Peanut butter
Tsp Jacobs coffee

All mixed together.

PS: A pre-workout shake also works well. Be careful which shake you use and take into consideration if you have any health issues.

As a rule, I try to drink more water so if I drink a cup of coffee I will drink a glass of water before I drink anything else.

The same if I drink juice, I will drink a glass of water as well before I drink anything else. This is an excellent way for me to drink more water and to stay hydrated during the day.

An hour before the hike, I would then drink my shake, one glass of Orange juice and one glass of water.

What to eat during the hike?

Eating during the hike is very important as you need to keep your body fueled with enough calories to keep hiking and enough salt to keep sweating so that you can drink enough water.

You need high energy salty snacks.

  • Trail Mix
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Crackers
  • Cheese
  • Ready-made tuna pouches
  • Whole-grain tortillas
  • Biltong (beef jerky)
  • Energy bars
  • Granola bars
  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Sandwich

I don’t like soggy sandwiches so I normally put the ingredients in different Ziploc bags and then just take it all out and make the sandwich when we stop to eat.

You can also make the sandwich and just vacuum it.

Sandwich recipes:

2 Rye of whole wheat bread slices
Halloumi cheese fried before packing
Cold meat like roast beef/Ready-made tuna pouch
Rocket salad
Mustard Sauce/Mayonnaise


2 Rye of whole wheat bread slices
Cucumber & Butter lettuce
Mayonnaise sauce

Every few hours rest for at least 20 minutes to give your body time to digest the food you are eating and re-fuel your muscles.

Hydrate Regularly

Drink enough water, take a sip of water regularly during the hike – if you only drink when you are thirsty you are already behind.

Do not drink alcohol on a hike as alcohol and beverages with high caffeine levels can have adverse effects when trying to stay hydrated.

Here is a quick guide on how to hydrate:

  • One (1) liter for every 2 hours depending on how hot it is and your pace.
  • I always take a 500ml energade/game frozen extra with my water.
  • I leave an extra 500ml energade frozen in the car for after the hike.

For more information see my blog about Hiking skills and Techniques.

Do not over drink on the water for that can cause Hyponatremia.

What is Hyponatremia?

Hyponatremia is decreased in serum sodium concentration < 136 mEq/L caused by an excess of water relative to solute as per Wikipedia.

If you are experiencing a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, poor balance, confusion, and has been drinking water regularly, it could be that you are suffering from Hyponatremia and you should immediately eat a banana and rest for a while to see if the symptoms disappear.

That is why if you drink Game or a drink that puts the electrolytes back in combination with water the possibility that you would get Hyponatremia is slim.

Electrolyte recipe:

75ml Lemon juice
75ml Pomegranate juice
375ml unsweetened Coconut water
1.5ml Salt
500ml Cold Water

Mixed together.

Drinking Water

What to eat after the hike?

You should eat about 1-2 hours after the hike and again protein and complex carbs meal would be best.

I like to eat steak, mushrooms, onions, and a salad, or I will have chicken, brown rice, broccoli, and mixed veggies and a fruit salad with cream for dessert.

Food management is important

Combine healthy nutrition with the weight of carrying the food is key. For a day hike eat a protein and carb breakfast before the hike and drink enough water during the hike.

A picnic as part of the hike is also an excellent idea as you can eat and rest for at least half and hour before continuing on your hike.

Remember to hydrate after the hike as well, drinking energy drinks that can put back the electrolytes lost.

Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time.” Paul Staso

Let’s go hike.


Wikipedia, MedlinePlus.

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16 thoughts on “What to eat when hiking – day hike”

  1. Great tips for what to eat while hiking. I do a lot of camping and canoeing and your list was actually very similar to what I take with me on my trips. Very much enjoyed your shake recipe, going to try it out. Thanks!

  2. Interesting article have bookmarked this for the future reference, maybe because I have quite an interest in this topic. Thanks for sharing
    Jason 🙂

  3. Hi Cornelia,

    Loved your article, easy to follow nice colours, content was great, always good to know the aspects of the benefits of preparation, when going hiking.
    Now, my problem would be with the foods quoted, as I am a veggie, and I noticed a lot of meat products, I know there was tuna, [ha, ha,] so I would take a mountain of fishy products with me on any hike.

    I loved everything I read, a great job, I like really good articles, articles that keep me locked-in, your article, did just that,

    Well done, easy on the eyes.

    Thanks again,

    Joe 90

    Joe 90

    1. Hi Joe, I see a lot of fish in your hiking future. 🙂
      Luckily complex carbs are all about the veggies so that will definitely help. I will keep in mind next time to add a few vegetarian recipes as well. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Hi Cornelia,

    This is a great article. I was actually planning a hike in Scotland before the pandemic happened. I used to live in Scotland and they have some beautiful areas to hike.

    It’s a good job I came across your article because I now know what to eat beforehand, during and after. Hopefully we will be allowed to travel and hike in the not too distant future.

    Thank you for sharing, and keep up the great work on your site.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Tom, thanks for the comment. Yes, hopefully, traveling will be soon in all our futures but luckily if you are able to go out – hiking can still be something to enjoy maybe not in the sense that we are used to but we will be outside. 🙂

  5. A great article with lots of good practical tips on what to eat and drink whilst hiking. It is very important to note that hiking over over long periods can severely affect the salt levels in ones body so the salty snacks you mentioned are very important to take along as well as adequate water supplies. Jim

  6. Hello Cornelia, Thank you for your great tips for me. I drink a lot of coffee each day but rarely drink water. I think I am trying to follow your way that drinking water before drinking coffee.

    Nice article, very easy to understand and clear structure, with informative tips.

    1. Hi Daisy, thank you for the comment. Technically speaking coffee does have water in 🙂 – I love coffee too. Good luck with drinking more water.

  7. Hi Cornelia,

    Thanks for this, a very thorough post!

    My favourite pre hiking breakfast has always been peanut butter and banana porridge, yummy and contains an excellent mix of complex carbohydrates, protein, sodium (if you use salted peanut butter) and potassium from the banana.

    One of my old housemates gave me a sandwich tip as well for non-soggy high protein sandwiches that keep make a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a whole grain bread (I choose a seeded oatmeal one if at all possible… is my oatmeal obsession apparently yet?). Add a slice of a mild cheese to the middle if this combination seems odd to you, however, there is a large following for sharp cheddar too… (suitable for vegetarians too). Wrap as standard and then pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to go. It is my go-to hiking, cycling and endurance running food.

    Your post-hike steak sounds like my perfect meal, perhaps that’s what I should have for dinner!

    Thanks again,

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for the tip on the non-soggy sandwich, I will try it with cheese, I mean syrup and sausage go well together so I guess cheese, peanut butter, and jelly could work. 🙂

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