As both foodies and hikers, we’ve compiled a list of the best day hiking lunch ideas! Heading out on the trail but sick of the same boring snacks and lunch options? Luckily for you, we’ve compiled our favorite hiking lunch ideas in the article below. We spend almost all of our weekends hiking and have tried all of the ideas on this list so you can trust that the hiking lunch ideas in this article are easy to pack, portable and most importantly, delicious! Keep on reading to see how to spice up your backcountry lunches!
Hello! We are Sarah and Matt, and we are avid hikers, backpackers, and outdoor adventurers. Since early in 2020, we’ve been traveling around the United States, making a new place our home every few months. In each new spot, we try to hike and explore as much as possible.
As a result, we spend almost all of our weekends out on the trail. Having spent so much time hiking and backpacking, we’ve fine-tuned our meal preparation and planning.
We’ve tried countless different hiking lunch ideas, some much tastier than others. But more so, we know how much of a struggle it can be to pack a delicious and nutritious, but easy, lunch while hiking.
In this article, we’ve listed our favorite hiking lunch ideas and included some information on what you should consider when packing a lunch for the trail.
Best Day Hiking Lunch Ideas
With all that background out of the way, let’s get into our favorite hiking lunch ideas. For reference, this list is in no particular order.
- Hummus, pita and veggies
- Wrap with Nutella, peanut butter, and banana
- Buffalo chicken sandwich
- Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Wrap
- Asian chicken wrap with peanuts
- Pretzel roll, turkey and cheese
- Backcountry Charcuterie
- Bagels and cream cheese or peanut butter
- Cold Peanut noodles
- Fancy PB&J (almond butter, blue jam on English muffin)
- Pasta Salad with chickpeas
- Dehydrated meals
Hummus, pita, and veggies
Hummus with some pita bread or chips and a selection of veggies, such as carrots, bell peppers, or celery makes for a great healthy lunch on the trail! You can buy individual hummus packets and mini pitas to make packing a breeze.
Technically, hummus should be refrigerated but it’ll probably be fine if you don’t wait too long to eat it. Alternatively, pack a lightweight lunch box with icepacks if you want to carry some additional weight.
Wrap with Nutella, Peanut Butter, and Banana
The classic Nutella, peanut butter, and banana combination is perfect for hikers with a sweet tooth. Peanut butter provides the protein you need, while banana is a great source of carbs. The Nutella? Well, that’s just for a sweet kick.
We like brining wraps on hikes, especially longer trips, because they are thinner than bread, take up less space in your bag, and won’t get squished.
For this hiking lunch idea, we’d recommend bringing each ingredient in an individual package (and the banana whole) and assembling once you break for lunch.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwich (or wrap)
For hikers looking for something on the spicier side, a buffalo chicken sandwich is a great and easy option. You can mix up some canned chicken with buffalo sauce and make your sandwich at home or bring a single serving of chicken already loaded with buffalo flavor. Canned chicken tends to last for a good while outside of the fridge.
For extra flavor, sprinkle a packet of ranch dressing powder into your chicken.
For this and any other sandwich option on this list, you can always sub out the bread for a wrap to save some space.
Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Wrap
This day hiking lunch idea came together while wandering around a grocery store in preparation for a backpacking trip. Tired of the standard PB&J, we wanted something a lunch that was easy to pack, but a little more exciting and less sweet.
Enter, chicken, bacon and ranch: backcountry style! Grab a pouch of plain shredded chicken, a packet of ranch dressing powder, and a bag of bacon bits. Mix it all up in a tortilla wrap, and you’ve got yourself one tasty hiking lunch!
Tip | Pre-cooked bacon bits can be found in the condiments aisle at most grocery stores. Technically, they are supposed to be refrigerated after opening, but as long as it’s not going to be extremely hot, we’ve found they last well for a couple of hours out on a hike.
Asian chicken wrap with peanuts
Similar to the buffalo chicken above, you can buy single-serving packets of sesame chicken that are perfect for throwing on a wrap while on the trail. Add some peanuts for an extra crunch and some more protein and you have a great hiking lunch idea.
For some freshness, you could also pack some sliced green onions or baby bell peppers.
Tip | To make your hiking lunch super easy, check out these tortilla pockets! They make it super easy to mix up your chicken and sauce and avoid making a mess on the trail.
Pretzel roll, turkey and cheese
A classic sandwich combo, this could really be any deli meat, with cheese on a pretzel roll. Most deli meats in the states are loaded with so many preservatives and antibiotics that they last for way longer than you think outside the fridge (kind of scary, honestly).
For the cheese, if it’s going to be a hot day, opt for a harder cheese, like extra sharp cheddar, that will stay firm in warmer temperatures.
Spice your sandwich up with a little honey mustard or spicy mustard.
One of our favorite hiking lunch ideas is what we like to call backcountry charcuterie. No, you don’t need a fancy wooden board and 8 different meats, cheeses, and spreads. For backcountry charcuterie, things get a bit simplified.
We find that cured meats, such as pepperoni and salami, hold up well outside the fridge and make the perfect base for a hiking lunch. Pair your favorite pepperoni or salami with some pretzels or crackers and hard cheese and you have a tasty hiking lunch.
As a side note, if you’re still feeling a little iffy about bringing cheese onto the trail on a hot day, you can swap it out for cheese crackers, like Cheez Its. Same taste and will certainly last longer!
Bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter
Another easy, satisfying, and tasty hiking lunch idea, who doesn’t enjoy a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter? To be fair, most people don’t put peanut butter on their bagels but…again, if you’re not sure about bringing cream cheese on a hike, peanut butter is a great substitute.
Whether you go with cream cheese or peanut butter, you’ll have plenty of protein to go with the carbs of the bagel.
Cold peanut sesame noodles
One of my personal favorites, cold peanut sesame noodles take a little bit of preparation but are a super tasty treat on the hiking trail. There are tons of different recipes online for cold peanut sesame noodles with varying levels of complexity but in general, here is what you need:
- Noodles – spaghetti works just fine but lo mein noodles are my preferred choice if you can find them
- Soy sauce
- Peanut butter
- Sesame oil
- Rice wine vinegar
- Chili garlic sauce
- Sesame seeds
To make the noodles, first begin boiling water and once boiling, cook your noodles according to the directions on the package. In a separate bowl, combine soy sauce, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, a touch of sesame oil, and as much chili garlic sauce as your taste buds can handle (spicy!).
You can then either hand mix the ingredients using a whisk or blend together using a food processor or blender. Once the noodles are don cooking, combine with your sauce, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and you’re good to go!
It’s hard to make something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich truly fancy, but we like to spruce ours up by using almond butter, different types of jams, and an english muffin. We like to use these single serving almond butter packets that are easy to pack.
Another thing we like to do throughout our travels is stock up on local jam from whatever area we are visiting. Often, you can easily find different jams with different fruits local to the area.
Tip | If you’re hiking in the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, or the Idaho/Montana area, make sure to pick up some huckleberry jam! It’ll take your PB&J to the next level.
Pasta Salad with chickpeas
Another one of my personal favorites, cold pasta salad with chickpeas is a great hiking lunch. I like to add chickpeas to add some protein and make the lunch a bit more filling. The best part is that pasta salad is totally customizable. My go to recipe includes the following ingredients:
- Pasta (I prefer rotini – for some reason I feel like this is the classic pasta salad noodle but I have not idea why!)
- Cucumbers – cut into small pieces
- Feta or parmesaon cheese
- Chickpeas – one can, drained
- Italian dressing
Take all those ingredients and you have a tasty, nutritious, hiking lunch idea!
If you’ve ever gone backpacking, you’re certainly familiar with dehydrated meals. With options ranging from chicken pad thai to mac and cheese to lasagna, the range of dehydrated meals is wide and varied. To make a dehydrated meal, you’ll need to bring a portable stove on your hike so you can boil water. You then add the boiling water right to the dehydrated meal, wait for it to cook in the bag, and you have a delicious meal!
We typically only eat dehydrated meals for dinner when we’re backpacking for a few reasons. First, they are expensive costing anywhere from $8 to $15 per meal. Second, we don’t usually carry our Jetboil on day hikes, opting for meals you don’t need to boil water to cook.
And finally, these meals are often pretty large in terms of calories – more than we need for a quick lunch on the trail. That being said, if you are hiking with a partner, you could share one meal and likely be pretty satisfied.
Nonetheless, dehydrated meals are much more delicious than you’d expect. We prefer anything from Backpackers’s pantry, but are especially fond of the pad thai and mac and cheese.
How to pack a hiking lunch
In the sections below, we’ve outlined a few helpful tips and reminders when packing your hiking lunch ideas.
Complex carbs and protein
First off, we aren’t nutritionists so we aren’t up-to-date on the latest trends and fads in the nutrition world, but in general, when packing lunch for a hike, you want to primarily focus on including complex carbs and protein.
Complex carbs, which are found in foods such as bread, rice, beans, pasta, and starchy vegetables, will give you the fuel you need to continue your hike after lunch. Protein-dense foods, such as meat, cheese, beans, and nuts, will keep you full for the duration of the hike and help make sure your muscles have the nutrients they need to keep pushing.
Try to stay away from foods that are high in sugar or are greasy and fatty.
Storage and portability
Of course, when planning out your hiking lunch, it’s important to consider storage and portability. Mainly, you don’t want to be lugging around anything that wull add unnecessary weight or bulk to your bag. As such, it vital to pack foods that are high-calorie and low-weight.
In addition, you need to think about what will last for a few hours in your backpack. If you’ll be hiking in colder weather, this is less of an issue, but most people hike in warmer temperatures and the inside of your backpack will be even hotter than the air. Assuming you aren’t planning on hiking with a cooler or freezer pack, you’ll want to pack foods that can withstand a few hours in warmer temps without spoiling.
On a related note, you’ll see that a few of the items we included on our list of hiking lunch ideas don’t exactly fall into the category foods that you’d except to last for a while in the heat. But a few things are important to remember:
First, some of these items, like hummus, cheese, or pasta salad, will last longer outside the fridge than you think. We are of the mindset that Americans in particular sometimes get too caught up in keeping things super cold.
We’re not saying you can leave cheese out of the fridge for two days and expect it to be good. But hard cheeses are perfectly fine to eat if they’ve been out of the fridge for a few hours, in our opinion at least.
If this still makes you a little squeamish, only pack these items on hiking trips where you know the temperatures won’t be too high.
This almost goes with out saying but you’ll also need to consider convenience when packing your hiking lunch. Primarily, you don’t want to pack foods that require prep time, additional utensils, plates, or really much additional work.
Again, remember that you’ll likely be tired from hiking and you don’t want to be carrying anything you don’t need. Quick and easy is always better!
Another consideration that almost goes without saying but don’t pack anything in your hiking lunch that you aren’t certain you’ll enjoy eating. That may sound absurdly obvious, but I still think we have a bag of trail mix somewhere that we bought because it sounded good in the store, even though I’ve never liked trail mix.
Your taste buds aren’t going to magically change on the trail. If you don’t eat it in the course of your daily life, you aren’t going to like it as part of your hiking lunch.
Other useful resources
Looking for more resources to help plan for your hike? You may also be interested in the following:
- What Do You Really Need to Pack for a Day Hike?
- What to Pack for Hiking in the Rain
- Best Hiking Jackets for Women
- All the Gear you Need for a Backpacking Trip
- Our Complete Road Trip Camping Essentials plus Checklist
- 59 Best Songs About Travel & Adventure
Questions about our day hike packing list? Let us know what questions you have about what to pack for a day hike below!