Food for Walking and Hiking

Healthy Snacks for the Hills

healthy foods for hiking

What to eat or not to eat, that is the question!

Written by Gillian Duggan

Have your legs ever felt wobbly whilst climbing a mountain?
Ever had a day when you couldn’t keep up with the group?
Wondered why you are so cold despite wearing everything in your rucksack?

These are normally simple food/refueling/energy issues so your food preparation for a hike in Ireland should be taken as seriously as your health and safety and route planning.

This much I know About Food for Walking:

  • A hike is like a match – the meals and water taken onboard in the day’s prior means the body has all the fuel and water reserves required for the exertion.
  • If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  • Sips work better than gulps.
  • Complex carbohydrates & lean protein are your friend.
  • A sugary snack will save the day – momentarily.
  • Always aim to drink water and eat a meal within an hour of completing a hike.
  • Everyone has different metabolisms & health issues so everyone has different refuelling requirements.
  • If you think about it, you shouldn’t be starving during a 4-hour hike although I believe those picnic lunches are the tastiest ever. Hangry is not a good look!

Check out HilltopTreks – Guided walks  in IrelandHiking Holidays and Tours in Ireland

Food for Walking – Before your Irish hike

Eating specific foods in the days before your Irish hike can make all the difference to an enjoyable day. Try to increase your complex carbohydrate intake to improve your glycogen levels which in turn will aid your endurance. Once they deplete, fatigue sets in.

Fast food, processed food and alcohol are not recommended.

Complex carbs are things like wholewheat pasta, brown rice, baked potatoes (provided you eat the skin) along with lean protein and veg of your choice is the ideal.  Low sugar baked beans are handy too.

And the other key ingredient is water. Try to drink your 2 litres a day in the run up to a hike.

healthy breakfast walking in Ireland

Food for Walking – Your pre-Hike breakfast.

A good breakfast before your hike is just common sense and oatmeal porridge is perfect because it takes longer to breakdown than refined carbs, slowly releasing its energy as you hike.

If like me, you can’t abide porridge (it’s a childhood thing!) try Oat bran Muffins*– I make a batch, freeze them and have two for breakfast.

Steer clear of the Irish breakfast if you want to climb a mountain – it is hard to digest making your body work harder.

Other suggestions: Poached eggs and wholemeal bread or yogurt with granola and fruit.

Food for Walking in Ireland – Snacks for a hike.

healthy foods for hiking

Nuts and Chocolates mix, – delicious

We are not hiking Everest nor are we experiencing 30C heat (usually!) That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared. Always have enough water and food in case of emergency delays such as an injury, accident or getting lost.

We all love our mountain side picnics and pack a roll or sandwich. Think food safety on hot summer days when your chicken or egg sandwich is going to be out of the fridge for 2 or 3 hours before you eat it. Maybe choose a different filling or have a small cooler bag for your food.

Snacks that are easy to pack and give you constant, slow burning, energy all day are winners. Be careful though because if they are too high in sugar, you’ll find yourself halfway up a mountain with no energy after a sugar crash.

You can’t go wrong with a good quality trail mix i.e. nuts, seeds, dark chocolate with cranberries or raisins. Granola bars, flapjacks along with fruits like oranges and apples (bring home your peels and cores) are good and squashed bananas can make a mess of your expensive rucksack and gear so I avoid them.

Diamond hill,Connemara

A mars bar is like jet fuel – a short, sharp burst of energy which quickly fades but I always have one in with my emergency rations.

A flask with a hot drink is great on cold winter days. Coffee and tea are diuretics so not ideal to drink in quantity when you are on the side of Lugnaquilla without a tree for miles! Soup is easy to digest and a slow-release food.

Bear in mind, a full flask and a litre of water are very heavy to carry. For me, a half full flask and 500ml of water works but we all find our happy medium eventually.

As a hiking guide, my water is the most common request I receive from guest hikers.

food for walking and hiking

 Oatbran Muffins –  Makes 12


  • 50g dark brown sugar
  • 250g OATBRAN(not Oatmeal)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons Sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Handful of dried fruit and chopped nuts
  • 290ml Milk


  1. Preheat oven to 200 C/Gas 7. Line or grease 12 muffin cups.
  2. Blend the dry ingredients together -add the oil, milk and eggs. Beat to a smooth batter.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups/tray.
  4. Bake at 200c/180 Fan/ Gas 6 for 15 minutes or until golden brown

Flapjacks – Handy to carry and share

With mixed nuts & dried fruit

handy food for the outdoors


  • 250 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 250 g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 100 g mixed nuts, such as hazelnuts and pistachios
  • 150 g mixed dried fruit, such as cranberries, apricots and figs
  • 350 g rolled porridge oats


  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Grease and line a rectangular cake tin (roughly 20cm x 30cm).
  2. Place the butter, sugar, honey and salt in a medium pan over a low heat, then allow the butter to melt, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, roughly chop the nuts and any larger dried fruit, then stir them into the pan along with the oats.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, smoothing it out into an even layer. Place in the hot oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Leave to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve.