How to Fuel Your Hike

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
by Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
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How to Fuel Your Hike

In 2020, 57.81 million people over the age of 6 went hiking in the U.S. That’s huge jump from the 49.7 million people who hiked in 2019 and 47.86 million who hiked in 2018. In addition to the response to COVID lockdowns, much of the popularity comes from how inclusive the activity is; little equipment and skill is needed to get started on a beginner route. Of course, once hooked, you can take your activity from day trips on paved paths to more uncharted, adventurous territory. Regardless of skill or terrain being tackled, one thing remains the same: How important it is to fuel your hike as you spend the day being active and exposed to the elements.



Hiking is a slow sport, and trails are typically designed to be hiked for several hours at a time, meaning hikers can expect to be out in the wild for that duration at a minimum. The longer your adventure, the more food and drink you need to bring. To bring your food along, find a pack (backpack, hip pouch, etc…) that fits the demands of your adventure; size, pockets, water reservoir and comfort. As your hike times increase, be mindful of food-safety concerns. For hours out in the sun, packing non-perishable options are best, and for multi-day trips, lightweight foods bristling with high caloric and nutritious value are key.


Looking to enjoy the view over breaking a sweat? Take nutrient dense, whole foods along like fruit, trail mix and sandwiches. If you plan on using bursts of energy to tackle technical sections of trail, bouldering or parkour-style hiking, bring foods that provide-quick burning energy like sport bars, gels and drink mixes.


Snack-ready food that can be consumed with your hands and without extra equipment is the easiest way to go. If your trek is multi-day and demands a more complicated nutrition plan, consider all food ‘accessories’ you’ll need: utensils, a cloth napkin or moist towelettes, lightweight plates/bowls, ice packs, cooking equipment, etc. On remote trails, there is usually a ‘carry in, carry out’ policy, meaning you take your trash with you. Try more sustainable options like Beeswrap, Stasher Bags and titanium utensils to keep your waste to a minimum.



Trail Mix
Dried Fruit
Granola Bars
Granola Bars
Jerky (grass-fed beef or ahi tuna)
Date Rolls
Electrolyte Mix
Rice Cakes
Pureed Food Pouches (think elevated baby food)
Freeze-Dried Snacks
Sport Gels
Crackers with hummus/cheddar/nut butter

Fueling your hike should be more carefully thought out than tossing random snacks into your sack. Always consider the goals of your hike and overall nutrition when choosing your options and remember to eat and drink consistently throughout the activity to keep energy and hunger levels controlled.

Originally published May 2018, updated August 2023

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About the Author

Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD
Lori Russell, MS RD CSSD

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @HungryForResults.


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