Hiking season is here, although it never really goes away, am I right? As the weather warms up, it gets easier and more comfortable to get the little adventurers out on the trail.
Keeping kids fed while hiking is essential for a good time. There is nothing worse than a hangry toddler or the complaints of “I’m hungry” or “When are we going to eat” when you are less than a mile in.
Water: I know this isn’t a snack. But it is the first thing you should pack. It’s a good idea to bring more than you think you need and to have some extra waiting in the vehicle for when you return. Hydration is key!
**Tip: During winter months, it’s worth it to bring a thermos of hot chocolate.
Fruit & Veggies: Non-perishable, hard to bruise fruit and veggies that stay fresh without being refrigerated. It’s a healthier alternative to sugar packed, processed fruit snacks. This snack is not as filling, but could be paired with another higher calorie snack.
- Sugar Snap Peas (a ‘go-to’ for our toddler)
Trail Mix: A Classic! Trial mix on the trail is just so awesome. You can eat on the go and customize as you please. If you like the premixed stuff at the grocery store, have at it. For the picky eaters, those with allergies, or if you just know what you like; throwing together a quick trail mix is a snap.
Dried Fruit: If trail mix isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you’d prefer just the ingredients. Anyone have kids that don’t like their food to touch? Individual ingredients are the way to go.
Crackers: Here is a filler. Whole wheat crackers of any variety is bound to keep your little adventurer going. It’s something that can be paced and eaten on the move. The only downside, it can be crumby.
**Tip: If you have a little one in a backpack carrier, don’t feed them crackers until they are out of said carrier. You’re crumb-less hat and hair will thank you.
Pretzels: Twisted or stick, this snack can’t miss. I actually prefer pretzels to crackers on the go for two reasons. First, they make less crumbs and don’t fall apart in a strong little grip. Second, they seem to be more filling than crackers.
Fruit Strips: Not the healthiest choice but it is convenient and can be used a great reward/bribe for accomplishing a certain distance or hill. They don’t take up any space and can be easily tossed in the snack section of your pack.
Prepackaged Snacks: Isn’t the world of food great these days? There is a smorgasbord of ready to to roll snacks just waiting to be tossed in your hiking bag. Most snacks that your kids enjoy are sold in individual servings now. Some of our favorites include:
- Granola Bars
- Gold Fish/ Cheese Whales
- Fruit snacks
- Cookie Snacks (as a treat)`
Puree Pouches: Apple sauce is the bee’s knees for our littlest adventurer. There are so many different flavors out there to try and bring along. We have migrated more to just apple sauce and the like, but there are whole meal pouches that can provide a more filling snack. If you are looking for a more filling snack, check out the pouches that have sweet potatoes, rice, or other carbs snuck in there.
What Not To Bring
I hate to be nit-picky, but there are a few less than desirable snack items out there that can stay home.
Allergens: Even if you aren’t the one allergic to a food item, leave any allergen that anyone in your group has at home. If a member of your hiking party goes into anaphylactic shock; you’re going to have a bad time. Avoid the risk altogether.
Perishable Foods: Leave the yogurts and cheese at home. I know some them come in convenient tubes and individual packs, but they go bad. Even with a cooler, they don’t stay cool forever and who wants to carry a cooler? I sure don’t. When that food starts to warm up even a little bit, you end up eating questionable dairy. That’s not something I gamble with.
Bruise-able Fruit: Bananas, pears, kiwi, etc…. Though delicious, they will bruise in your bag or squish all over everything. Bananas are, however, a great snack for when you get back to the car. And the potassium can help relieve muscle cramps.
Messy/Inconvenient Food: This one is more at your discretion on what you consider messy. Even a simple trail mix can become messy in the wrong hands. What I have in mind when I think of messy foods is something like pudding cups or fruit bowls. It requires more of a sit down style snacking and needs a spoon. Gets too complicated and in the end, messy.
**Tip: Speaking of messes; a small pack of wipes in your bag is quite handy.
Pack the Snack
Tossing your selections into a pack is a no-brainer; but here are a few things that I’ve learned from experience that I’ll share with you.
Taste Test: As mentioned in previous posts for little adventurers; make sure you kids like the snacks you bring before you bring them. In the middle of a hike is not the best place to learn your hangry toddler doesn’t like something.
Pack Options: This is especially helpful for longer durations, nobody wants to eat only dry crumbly crackers for six hours. Having a variety will help break up the monotony of trail food.
Pack More: Whether your kids are working those little legs or riding in a carrier, they will be wearing themselves out. Have extra snacks available to replenish those burnt calories.
Pace It: Don’t burn through your snacks in the first hour. If you’ve just started and your kids are asking for something to munch on, set a goal to reach before digging into the bag. I like to use benches or mile marks as our goals. If benches and mile marks aren’t an option at that location, I use the Alltrails app on my phone that tracks our hike. I can see how far we’ve gone and pace our snacks by that. Pacing younger kids is more of a challenge. If our little guy is in his pack, I like to hand him pretzels one at a time and only when he asks for them. Otherwise, he eats them all or tosses them into the woods.
Rewards: Having a secret, special snack ready for when your little adventurer accomplishes a great task or concurs a fear is a neat idea. For instance; if your are tackling a greater distance or encounter a steep hill/climb, encourage your kiddo to concur that a obstacle for a reward on the other side. Or don’t tell them and have it as a surprise.
Let the Kids Work: There is a sense of pride and independence that comes with having your kids choose there own hiking snacks and carrying it themselves. My 10 year old daughter has been carrying her own hiking pack for several years. It feels like she is more of a hiking partner now than a little adventurer. Her bother, 2 years old, is now carrying a pack around the house pretending to hike. He’ll have his own bag soon enough!
There are so many snacking options on the market and things you can whip up at home. You’ll find what works for you. I hope that these suggestions give you a head start and some of my trial and error has set you up for success. Happy snacking!