Whether you’re about to go on a morning hike or you’re planning to hike for multiple days, it’s really important to know what kind of foods you ought to take. If you pack too heavy, you’re going to burn an excess amount of calories. If you pack too light, you’ll be lacking energy and strength. We’re here to tell you about best foods to eat on hikes and to help you out to make the most out of your chosen trail!
What should I focus on?
It’s really important to know your own body and its needs. We all know when we get hungry, we know our meal schedule and the quantity and volume of meals. Keep in mind that you’re going to burn a significant amount of calories while hiking so switching up a little bit the food routine may work in your favor, especially if you usually work at an office from 9 to 5.
- Don’t overpack. It’s a rookie error and almost everyone has to go through it. But it’s okay and everyone learns on their mistakes. Stick to foods that are small, light, caloric and nutrient dense. Find a balance between savory and sweet that works for your liking. And remember it’s fine to eat a 2-minute noodle soup if you pay attention to the nourishment of other meals!
- Carbohydrates and proteins are your friends now! Choose them over fatty and sugary foods that can quickly make you feel sleepy. It’s best to stick to foods that are going to nourish you and your body with lasting energy. If you begin your day with a big bowl of rich oatmeal, it’s going to keep you full and energized for long! That means you won’t waste as much time during the day of hiking as you’ll be fine with snacks every couple of hours. Don’t forget the healthy fats!
- Drink a lot of water. It’s super important to stay hydrated on a day to day basis but when you’re constantly on the move, your body needs it even more. If you happen to hike during warmer months the water intake should be even higher. It’s best to bring a bottle with a filter so you can enjoy your fresh stream water whenever you’d like. The streams in Iceland are generally considered to be very clean but you never know if some sheep decided to do their business close around. Another advantage of such solution is the fact, that you don’t have to carry a huge 2L bottle around, hoping it’s going to last for a day.
- Bring something fresh. It doesn’t matter you plan to do a single day hike or a multi-day one, the fresh food will be great even for the first two days or so! It could be sandwiches, bananas, apples, some pasta or rice with veggies made in advance. Veggies like carrot, onion, radish, celery or cauliflower stay fresh for a long time outside refrigerator. Carrots dipped in hummus or peanut butter are a great snack!
- Consider lyophilized food. Lyophilization is a process that’s used to create high-quality food products with the nutrients “locked-in”. Such food is absolutely safe and there’s a lot of companies on the outdoorsy market that offer such solution. It’s highly advisable to buy such meals! They take very little space in you backpack, they’re super light and you only need to add boiling water to make them ready. But first it’s worth to try them at home to make sure your stomach will be fine, no one likes such surprises while being out in the wild 🙂
- And what’s most important… don’t stress too much! It’s a great idea to start easy, try some day hikes first with different difficulties. You can gradually up your game to multiple days if you feel confident. And remember… it should be all about fun and safely stepping out of your comfort zone!
What should I remember about?
- Plan out your meals and pack a little extra. It’s best to create a Notes page on your phone with every day and every meal noted with all the ingredients needed. They you can be sure you won’t miss anything as well as you won’t bring a huge excess amount of food. It’s wise to bring a little extra as everything might happen in the mountains. It’s rare in Iceland but do your research on mountain huts that offer food on hiking trails. It’s a great way to save space and limit the weight of your backpack.
- Do you research on how much calories your body actually burns during a hike. This page helps a lot on this issue. Every person burns a different amount that’s depends on many factors: the weight, the height, the fitness level, is it a flat hike or a mountainous one, if it’s cold or warm and so on. If you roughly find out how much calories you need an hour, it’s way easier to plan out your meals.
- Make sure you buy everything you need before you leave town. The further away from Reykjavik, the smaller the shops and it’s more difficult to buy exactly what you want or need. Here’s a map of grocery stores and fast stations in Iceland so get familiar with it for your own convenience and safety.
- As mentioned before, choose lightweight and compact foods. Dehydrated meals are you friends, as well as dry foods and snacks. It’s also worth to repack and organize bulky foods into smaller portions, for example like granola, crackers or nuts.
- Good nutrition is KEY! Stable energy meals and snacks will keep you energized for long without any sugar crashes. High-protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber and electrolytes do work in your favor.
- You’re going to thank yourself if you pack easy to prepare meals. No one wants to waste their time and energy on cooking on a gas stove every night, having to do the dishes afterwards. Keep in mind that the lyophilized food tends to be more expensive so it’s great to have it alternately with some instant soup or noodles.
- Pack as little cooking tools utensils as possible. Plan meals that require minimal use of such tools. Less kitchen equipment results in lighter backpack and less time spent on washing them.
- Find out if you’ll be able to sleep at mountain huts that are quite common in Iceland. There is no staff at them but it’s best to book them in advance to make sure you’ll have your place. Their equipment is absolutely minimal but if you sleep at one, you’ll have more convenient conditions to cook your meal, eat it and wash the dishes.
- And most importantly… stick to the foods you actually like! Otherwise the hike won’t be as joyful. There’s a huge selection of healthy hiking foods out there so you’ll definitely find something for yourself.
What food should I pack for hiking?
- Dried foods. As mentioned before, it’s light, it’s nutrient dense and filling. It keep you satisfied for long, it saves time and gives a lasting boost of energy. Rice or legume pasta works great as well, just add dried veggies to it and you’ve got your meal’s covered. Let’s not forget about pre-made oatmeal mixes, store-bought or done by yourself! Oats mixed with chia seeds and flax meal are a great base for your energizing breakfast.
- Fresh foods. Go easy on your stomach and treat it with fresh snacks, like a bananas, apples, carrots or even sandwiches and pre-made pasta or rice to enjoy on your first day or second day of the hike.
- Dried fruit and nuts. They’re high in calories, light but filling, healthy and are a great snack in between larger meals. Trail mixes have been created to be the perfect snack for hikers so feel free to grab a pocket or two. Just watch out for any excess amount of salt.
- Energy gels and/or something like chia squeezes. They do well if they’re not cooled, super easy to keep them in your side pocket ready on the go. They’re a great way to quickly give you a boost of extra energy.
- Nutrition/protein bars. There’s a huge variety of them on the market so you’ll have no problem choosing watch you like. Bear in mind they might be packed with sugars so always check the ingredient list!
- Spices! Let’s not forget they’re the base of each delicious meal. Some of them also have anti-inflammatory properties so it’s a great addition to keep our bodies well during strenuous hikes.
- Other foods like cheese, hummus, nut butters, chickpea chips, crackers, jerky, canned fish and any other snacks that you like. Whether you’re vegan or omnivore, you’ll find anything that suits your liking. Tip for the vegans: there’s a store at Skeifan called Vegan búðin, where you’ll find a huge selection of plant-based products. Lots of them are also available at regular grocery shops but there’s definitely a larger selection of them at Vegan búðin.
What should I eat before and after a hike?
Whether you hike just for one day or multiple days, you need to fuel your body. Your body uses glycogen stories for energy during exercising. Some proteins are also broken down in your muscles so you have to restore them after you’re done with the day of trekking. Being mindful of the food you consume will help your body to be stronger and more efficient.
Things that you should look for in your food before and after hiking are: carbohydrates that replenish your glycogen and proteins that provide amino acids that help you muscles to rebuild.
It’s best to focus on such foods as:
- Pasta, rice
- Nut butters, nuts
- Cheese and vegan alternatives
- Greek yoghurt, regular or vegan
- Leafy greens
- Lean meats or vegan options as well as legumes
- Protein powders are a great supplement as well, especially if they also contain BCAA.
If you’ve still got any doubts or questions, don’t be afraid to write us an email! We’ll be more than happy to answer you. We’re experienced hikers that know the specific conditions here in Iceland. Feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and enjoy your hike to the fullest ☺️
All of the photos included in the article have been sourced at unsplash.com.