6 Delicious Hiking Lunch Ideas That Are Actually Filling

hiking lunch ideas
Explorer Chicks having lunch on a Virginia wilderness survival training and hiking adventure.
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Who ever gets tired of the classic trail peanut butter and jelly sandwich, trail mix, and granola bar hiking lunch? It’s great, but hey, it gets old sometimes.

Lucky for you, we take food seriously here at the Explorer Chick headquarters and we’re all about some bomb backpacking food to go along with strenuous hiking. Because it’s not just about the food — it’s about the fantastic women we get to chow down with.

Plus, good food (and lots of it) means less hangry outbursts or meltdowns. But to get there requires some thoughtful meal planning and creative packing solutions. That’s where we’ve got you covered with these creative hiking lunch ideas and other tips to create your own meals on the trail.

Your Guide to Trail Nutrition

yummy lunch ideas

First things first is making sure you get enough food and nutrients to fuel for a long day hike.

Protein

Protein is key when thinking of day hiking food ideas. It will keep you feeling full longer as a metabolism booster and it will be a good source for muscle repair.

Here are a few suggestions when it comes to packing in your protein with trail snacks.

  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Energy bars and protein bars, either homemade or store bought
  • String cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Lean beef jerky or other dried meats
  • Tuna packets
  • Nut butter like peanut butter packets or almond butter

Carbs

No two carbohydrates are created equal. While carbs have gotten a bad rap with a few diet fads, they do have an importance in some capacity. Carbs come in the form of sugars, starches or fibers and there are complex or simple carbohydrates. Complex carbs are where it’s at. Simply put, a complex carb, like in veggies or whole grains, is absorbed slower so your glucose levels won’t spike. The bottom line: complex carbs provide a more consistent energy source.

Fats

Much like your carb intake, there are a few fats that are necessary and will help fuel you when you’re burning calories on the trail. Foods with healthy fats, like nuts and seeds in your trail mix are providing energy and cell growth. With the trifecta of good and healthy proteins, carbs and fats, you’ll have the ideal lunch for hiking fuel.

The Best Hiking Food to Have on the Trail

best hiking lunch ideas

What Explorer Chicks say about our trail lunches…

“I loved the lunch sandwiches SO much I have started making them at home and sharing them with friends. New food options were a big bonus I wasn’t expecting!”

Explorer Chick on our Zion and Bryce Canyon National Park Glamping Trip

Buffalo Chicken Wraps

buffalo chicken wraps

Ingredients:

  • Shredded rotisserie chicken or chicken packet or vegan substitute
  • Any type of crunchy lettuce like romaine
  • Chopped celery
  • Buffalo sauce
  • Blue cheese crumbles or vegan substitute
  • Ranch dressing
  • Tortillas or gluten free wrap

Mix your chicken, celery and sauces together to make a chicken salad. Place in the center of the tortilla wrap, sprinkle blue cheese crumbles and place one or two leaves of lettuce and tightly roll the tortilla and pack into a container or reusable sandwich wrap.

Mediterranean Pitas

mediterranean pitas recipe

Ingredients:

  • Pitas
  • Hummus
  • Sliced sweet or roasted peppers
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Spinach or arugula
  • Feta cheese or vegan substitute

Spread hummus into pita opening, place a small handful of spinach or arugula, then sprinkle feta cheese. Line cucumbers and peppers on either side of the pita and top with another small pinch of feta cheese. Wrap in reusable sandwich wrap or place in a container.

Thai Peanut Wraps

thai peanut wraps

Ingredients:

  • Sliced cabbage or slaw mix
  • Optional: chicken
  • Thai peanut sauce
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas/garbanzo beans  
  • Peanuts
  • Tortillas

Incorporate chickpeas, edamame and chicken together and place a small dollop in the middle of your wrap. Place cabbage or slaw mix and drizzle Thai peanut sauce on top. Finish with crushed peanuts for garnish. Wrap in reusable sandwich wrap or in a container.

Chicken Pesto Wraps

chicken pesto wraps

Ingredients:

  • Rotisserie chicken or vegan substitute
  • Pesto (Trader Joe’s has a fantastic dairy-free version)
  • Roasted red peppers
  • Goat cheese
  • Spinach
  • Almonds
  • Tortillas

Place a small handful of spinach in the middle of the wrap. Mix pesto with rotisserie chicken and place on wrap. Place roasted red peppers on top and finish with a sprinkle of goat cheese and slivered almonds. Fold tightly and place in container or reusable sandwich wrap.

Everything Bagel Avocado

everything bagel avocado

Ingredients:

  • ripe avocado
  • everything bagel seasoning
  • crackers
  • optional: prosciutto

Slice avocado, sprinkle everything bagel seasoning on top. Scoop with crackers or place prosciutto on top for a delicious snack.

Asian Chicken Wraps

asian chicken wraps

Ingredients:

  • Tortillas or gluten free wrap
  • Sliced cabbage or slaw mix
  • Chicken packet (substitute tuna or salmon) or vegan substitute
  • Wonton slices or slivered almonds
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Asian sesame dressing

Take your tortilla and place a mix of all ingredients in the center. Fold and pack in reusable wrap or container.

What Explorer Chicks say about our trail lunches…

“Food was super yummy! Was very impressed with the meals. Easy but filling and tasty!”

Explorer Chick Ann on our Grand Canyon Backpacking Adventure

Expert Lunch Prep Tips

Cooking in Yosemite.
Cooking while backpacking in Yosemite.

You don’t have to be a culinary connoisseur to put together a tasteful hiking lunch. Here are a few tricks to level up your lunch while on the trail.

Chicken Packets or Pre-Cook

Keep it easy with pulled, pre-cooked chicken. For longer a backpacking trip, keep it non-perishable with chicken packets that are easy to pack.

Salad Kits

Just add your favorite protein like meat, beans or cheese and toss it into a wrap or pita for a quick, hearty hiking lunch option.

Personalize for Dietary Preferences

Take some tried and true recipes and add your own zest or dietary preferences. Make any sandwich or wrap gluten free, dairy free, veggie friendly or vegan.

women's hiking trip in yosemite

Note: we have yet to find a gluten free wrap we like. Instead, skip the wrap, toss it in a Tupperware, and pack a fork.

Pack it out

Even “biodegradable” items (like fruit peels, pits or food scraps) are still a big “no no” to leave on the trail. It negatively impacts the wildlife around where you’re visiting (and no one wants to see your old banana peel while hiking). Remember that food waste is still considered littering. Keep your waste low by bringing along reusable items like small camping utensils, bamboo chopsticks and bees wrap sandwich wraps.  

Treat Yo Self

Some things may seem extravagant, but it makes the hiking or backpacking lunch break better. You may be at a lunch rest stop feeling tired and not as chipper as you did at the trailhead. Little things like seasonings, spices, sauces or a special treat like a piece of dark chocolate can really feel luxurious if you’re tired, hungry, and sore.

Plus, it forces you to SLOW DOWN. Look around! You’re in a beautiful area with some fantastic people! Kick back and enjoy.

Make it fancy

Just because you’re in the wilderness, doesn’t mean your hiking and backpacking food has to be bland! Make your own spice blend and put it in a small reusable container and sprinkle on top of your wrap or sandwich to kick it up a notch. Bring them along in something small, light and reusable like a baby food jar, prescription pill bottle, or a silicon travel size cosmetic container.

Want to bring something that’s a liquid? Pack it in a flask — a lightweight way to carry a dressing or oil. Looking to heat things up? Take a baby hot sauce bottle or bring along Sriracha on a keychain to add some spice and flavor to your hiking and backpacking meals.

Meet the Writer

Abbie Synan

Abbie Synan is a freelance writer who focuses on sustainability initiatives within the tourism industry. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she has been traveling full time since 2013, hopping the globe, visiting over 95 countries while exploring ways to be a more mindful global citizen. She is the sustainable travel expert for Wanderful, an international travel community, as well as the content co-lead for Impact Travel Alliance, a global organization educating and inspiring travelers.

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