Importance of hydration when hiking
For day-long hikes, water is mission critical. Just 5% dehydration can result in up to a 30% reduction in performance. Depleted fluid levels make your heart work harder to pump blood around your body, you tire more easily and become more prone to muscle cramps. Even worse, getting caught in the wilderness without enough water can be serious, even life-threatening.
The NHS recommends drinking 1.2 litres of water daily and building good hydration habits into your every day in the lead up to your hike can help. Your own unique fluid replacement needs – during and post-hike – depend on duration, intensity, temperature and sweat rate.
Though for a rough guide: you need to consume one-and-a-half litres of fluid for every kilogram of bodyweight you lose on the move. Using your scales to weigh yourself pre and post hike can help you create a benchmark.
Beyond that drink often, listen to your thirst and check the colour of your urine (the lighter the better). And remember consuming electrolytes can help support the body’s fluid uptake, balance and aid recovery too. They also liven up your water with refreshing flavours.
How to create your hiking nutrition and food plan
When you’re planning what food to take hiking, you need to workout how long you think you’ll be moving for, how fast you intend to move and how hard you’ll be working.
There’s a huge difference between wandering around the flats of the Norfolk Broads for a day and the same time spent topping out Ben Nevis. Factor in extra calories for tougher terrain and always pack a little more than you think you’ll need.
Here’s a rough guide to how that breaks down over the course of a day.
The best hiking breakfast will provide a good balance of l0w-GI carbs, fats and protein. Oats with fruit, nut butters, honey and maple syrup are perfect.
Quick and easy to make at home, you can also find instant oats that just require hot water and don’t take up too much space. Or you can even make your own overnight oats to take with you. If you’ve packed nuts and fruit, you’ve also got ready made toppings.
If you’re planning to stop on a rock with a stunning vista for a leisurely picnic lunch where you’ll have more time to digest, you can afford to pack something a little more substantial.
Filled pittas, bagels and sandwiches are good for topping up carb stores while hard cheeses and cured meats make strong energy dense sources of fats and proteins.
If you’re planning to power through and snaffle your midday munch on the move, reaching for an energy bar might be your best bet. You could also consider a pre-bottled meal-replacement shake.
The hardest meal to self cater, your post-hike campsite dinner should deliver enough carbs to restock your tanks for the next day’s adventures while also providing a much-needed hit of protein for recovery.
Dehydrated meals are the most convenient and you can get away without packing a heavy stove. But dried foods such as pasta, noodles, whole grains and beans are light to carry, quick and easy to cook, while pack-friendly veggies like carrots, onions and garlic are good for adding flavour.
The easiest and most fun part of your hiking food, grazing smaller snacks hourly will help you stay evenly fuelled and Veloforte’s bars and energy chews are perfect pocket-friendly treats to nibble on regularly.
How many calories you need per hour will depend on your physique and the terrain, but there are handy calculators to help you estimate how much you need to load into your rucksack.
Hiking food tips and mistakes to avoid
Follow these simple hiking food guidelines and you’ll be well fuelled for whatever awaits on the trails.
Don’t be a melt
Tempting as they might be, some foods simply don’t fare well on the trail. For example, if it’s going to be hot, don’t take chocolate or anything else melty for that matter. Even the hardiest coated chocs can suffer.
Choose robust snacks too. Rice cakes can obliterate to dust with the movement of your pack. Fruits get bruised and anything with oils or juice that’s not airtight is guaranteed to leak or burst over your neatly-packed essentials.
Pick and mix
Whether you’re strapping on your hiking boots for a full-day trek or a week of wandering, it pays to choose foods that offer a variety of flavours, textures, sweet and savoury with each item adding something to your overall micro and macro nutritional mix.
Plus, having a tasting menu approach will ensure you don’t grow tired of eating the same old snacks.
Vacuum seal to save weight
If you’re heading on a multi-day adventure and you need to save space, decanting your foods from their bulkier original packaging can help.
If you’re really serious, you can even vacuum seal foods using one of the fancy machines cooks use on Masterchef to waterbath their salmon fillets. It not only saves space and makes portioning easy but it also helps to keep foods fresh.