We here at Field Mag are strong trail snack enthusiasts. Food literally keeps us going through the long haul and is as good a reason as any to plan a trek. Beyond trusty boil-in-the-bag meals from brands like Mountain House and Good To-Go, and our perennial favorite astronaut ice cream, when heading into the backcountry or out on the trail it's important to pack tasty snacks as reliable as your favorite puffy jacket. After all, if you don't want to eat them, then you're just carrying extra weight for nothing.
While it’s hard to beat a bag of GORP—Good Old Raisins and Peanuts for the uninitiated—we wanted to dig a bit deeper into the new niche of design-y outdoor snack brands that are bringing fresh aesthetics and healthy flavors to the trail experience. With that in mind, the following nine options are some favorites that cross all dietary needs, budgets, and taste buds.
Best For: jerky junkies
Biltong describes the process that takes cuts of meat and dries it according to a vinegar and air drying method that originated in South African countries (but may be of Dutch descent, depending on who you ask). What separates biltong from jerky is that the preservation process is much less invasive and focuses on what nature brings to the equation. Biltong is cured and marinated in a simple vinegar solution or dry rub for 24 hours, then air dried in big slabs for several days. The result keeps more of the protein in the meat (as opposed to jerky’s slow cooking, which degrades it). It’s a go-anywhere snack that satisfies the jerky craving without the extra additives.
Best For: vegan jerky junkies
Beef production is a considerable contributor of carbon emissions, so opting for an alternative snack every now and then is a great way to help reduce the climate impact of your buying decision. Moku (Hawaiian for “land division”) is a promising new brand making jerky out of dried king oyster mushrooms. While the texture may fail the meat test, the tasty Hawaiian flavors will have you reaching for another piece. (If you’re really into vegan mushroom jerky, check out Vegky too.)
Price: $40 (variety pack of six)
Best For: the tuna fish adverse
We love almost everything Patagonia Provisions makes, but the flavor and texture of their smoked salmon is especially awesome. It’s hard to find high-quality seafood in a portable vessel (get it?), and the commitment to sustainable farming matches Patagonia’s more well known environmental efforts. This salmon comes from a small Alaskan community harvested through river fishing, which doesn’t disrupt larger salmon stocks in the ocean. For backpacking, bring along a fresh baguette and enjoy with the 6 oz fillet for lunch on day one.
Best For: a walk in the park
You knew we had to include at least one classic trail mix. What makes Shar (pronounced like “share”) different is a commitment to ethical and transparent ingredient sourcing. The mix features nine ingredients, many sourced here in the USA (which is more than your average grocery store blend can say). Plus, the packaging is simple, modern, and recyclable.
Price: $23 (3-tube pack)
Best For: ambitious day hikers
Cacao is one of those “superfoods” you’ve likely been hearing a lot about, but may not really be sure if it’s worth the hype. Short answer? It is. The flavonoids in cacao offer a range of benefits, and offer a great quick energy jolt if you’re looking at crushing 10 miles before sundown. At first glance, tahini doesn’t seem like a good pairing, but sesame and cacao are an unexpected wicked duo.
Price: $28 (7-pack)
Best For: impromptu trailside coffee breaks
From the makers of GU Energy (what your marathoning friend probably uses mid-race) comes this organic and gluten-free take on the classic Dutch stroopwafel. The point here is to bring natural fuel sources like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom into an everyday sweet snack that won’t send you into a sugar crash. Pro tip: they’re just as good with campfire coffee as mid-hike midday.
Price: $18 (10-pack box)
Best For: getting the kiddos past mile 2
Getting your little ones onto the trail is one thing, but keeping them happy? That’s another. Without A Trace snacks are free of the top eight allergens that affect kids (and kids at heart) and feature wholesome ingredients in a range of shapes—from bars to bites. The Power Bites, made with sun-ripened dates, raspberries, and a bit of chocolate, is a sure bet to alleviate the dreaded hangry weekend hiker, regardless of age.
Best For: eco-conscious expeditions
What sets Impact apart from the million other snack bar brands is being among the first to implement a certified circular supply chain. In simple terms, this means that the entire production cycle-from creation to consumption to waste is meant to integrate back into the planet. The fact that they’ve done so without sacrificing design, or taste, is even better.
Price: $21 (7-bar box)
Best For: alpine starts (or lazy Sunday mornings)
Overnight oats are one of those wonder foods that make breakfast as simple as 8 oz of your preferred milk and a few shakes of a mason jar. If you’re looking to get on the trail ahead of the crowds, you can eat Brave on the way and it’ll keep you full ’til lunch. You could also stash it in a snow mound and have the next morning’s meal all set. Or, just keep it in the fridge and you’ve got breakfast when you’re too lazy/hungover to make anything else.
Price: $40 (8-pouch bundle)
Best For: alternative diet dessert enthusiasts
For those who have had to switch to a gluten-free or dairy-free diet, dessert is perhaps among the most missed foods. Fortunately, Base Culture has a line of proven sweet treats, including this banana bread. This is a great option to stash in a cooler as the reward for finishing that 2,000’ out-and-back before lunch.
Price: $42.99 (6-pack)