Hikers eating a meal

Day Hike Lunch Ideas

One thing that can make all the difference during a challenging hike is having either a steady stream of trekking snacks or a succulent lunch break. I’ve been an avid hiker for decades now but never really liked those generic assortments of protein bars most outdoor enthusiasts carry with themselves.

Instead, I prefer having a variety of nutritious, tasty home-cooked meals. Taco bowls, charcuterie boards, personal pizzas, homemade fruit leather, and dried fruits are just some of the day hike lunch ideas included below.

In this article, I’ll show you how to prepare several great lunches for your backcountry adventures. I will include both cooking and no-cooking recipes. I will also go over a couple of amazing trekking snacks – these can be mixed and matched in order to fuel one’s hike. Keep reading!

Best Meals for Your Outdoor Adventures

I’ll start off this article by showing you how to prepare hiking meals that may be a bit more intricate than what you’re used to. Each of these recipes requires some preparation, although only some of them will require you to bring your backpacking stove. However, all of them are undoubtedly worth the effort. Those looking for day hike lunch ideas that are a bit less elaborate should skip to the next part of the article.

Lox (Smoked Salmon + Cream Cheese Bagels)

Lox meal

The very first day-hike lunch idea I’ll be taking a look at is relatively easy to make but looks (and tastes) quite glamorous. Even though both smoked salmon and cream cheese are perishable foods, they won’t go bad inside your backpack during a day hike.

What You’ll Need:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Cream cheese
  • Sliced lemon
  • Chopped onion
  • Capers (optional)
  • Bagel (can be toasted)

How to Prepare:

  • The night before your outdoor adventure, thinly slice some lemon and finely chop some red onions. You can store these in plastic bags or smaller plastic containers if you have some. Those who decide to make this meal with capers should remember to store them together with red onions.
  • Take the smoked salmon out of its package and transfer it to a small container or a plastic bag. In the same manner, take some of your cream cheese from its container and move it to a smaller box of the same type.
  • You can toast the bagels in the morning before your outdoor adventure. Of course, this is completely optional.
  • Once you stop for a quick picnic, take your bagels – whether they’re toasted or not – and spread the cream cheese on them. After that, simply add the red onions and smoked salmon. You can also add some lemon juice or sprinkle on some capers if you want to.

Taco Bowls

Taco bowl

Next up is a no-cook hike lunch that is somewhat unconventional but also very tasty. The night before your outdoor adventure, you’ll be able to combine all the ingredients for this meal in a single container – it’s as simple as it gets.

However, I would recommend keeping the salsa in a separate box – you don’t want your other ingredients to become soggy. And once you take a lunch break, you’ll need only a couple of minutes to add salsa and some lime juice or avocado if you’re feeling experimental.

What You’ll Need:

  • Shredded cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • Taco spice
  • Lime
  • Salsa
  • Lettuce
  • Black beans
  • Sundried tomatoes (optional)
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Rice (optional)

How to Prepare:

  • The night before your hike, rinse the black beans and then mix them with tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, and shredded cheese in a single container. You can also add some lime juice.
  • Before lunch, add the optional ingredients if you want to – sundried tomatoes, chopped avocado, and/or rice.
  • Stir in the taco spice and salsa.

Pasta Salad

Pasta salad

Out of all non-sandwich trekking meals, this one is the easiest to make. It’s something you can quickly and effortlessly prepare the night before your outdoor adventure and enjoy on the trail whenever you want to. What follows is the recipe I use every time I’m making pasta salad for my day hike, but feel free to add other ingredients if you want to.

What You’ll Need:

  • Pasta noodles
  • Pesto
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • Sundried tomatoes (optional)
  • Pine nuts (optional)
  • Feta cheese (optional)
  • Black olives (optional)

How to Prepare:

  • Take a look at the instructions on the pasta noodle box and cook them accordingly.
  • Use a strainer to eliminate the water. To remove the starchiness, give the noodles a good rinse.
  • At this point, you can add some olive oil if you want to, as well as the desired amount of pesto.
  • Add in chopped pine nuts, chopped feta cheese, sliced black olives, as well as some sundried tomatoes. All of these are optional, but I recommend adding them to your pasta salad as they taste great.
  • Pack the salad into a container and take it on your trekking adventure!

Pita Pizzas

Pita pizzas

This particular meal is best prepared once you’ve reached your hiking destination and you have enough free time for a longer lunch break. One very important thing to mention here is that this is a hot meal – you’re going to need a frying pan and a stove (check out our pick for the best backpacking stove). Also, if you’re planning to use gluten-free wraps, keep in mind that folding them isn’t that easy – you’ll have to prepare the pizza open-faced.

What You’ll Need:

  • Wraps
  • Tomato sauce
  • Oil/butter
  • Pepperoni slices
  • Pre-sliced mushrooms
  • Pre-sliced veggies
  • Pre-sliced cheese

How to Prepare:

  • Take your wraps and smother them in tomato sauce.
  • On one half of each wrap, sprinkle half of your shredded cheese. After that, add the other toppings – meat and veggies. The reason why you’ll be placing the toppings on only one half of each wrap is because doing so makes closing them much easier.
  • Take the remaining shredded cheese and sprinkle it over the toppings.
  • Fold each of the wraps. Do it in a way so that the topping-less side covers the one with the toppings. You will probably have to fold each wrap twice, although this depends on your frying pan’s size.
  • Turn on your backpacking stove and put some butter or olive oil on your frying pan.
  • Once the pan is hot enough, cook your folded wraps on it. Make sure to cook each side of every wrap until the cheese is melted and the whole thing looks crispy and brown.

Tuna Melts

Tuna wraps on a platter

Here’s another meal that’s best prepared once you’ve reached your destination (like the mountain summit) and you’re about to take a long break for the lunch. This is because the tuna melts are the best when they’re heated up, although this is optional. To make them hot and crispy, you’ll have to pack a frying pan and a backpacking stove.

What You’ll Need:

  • Bagged or canned tuna
  • Wraps
  • Oil/butter
  • Shredded cheese
  • Pre-sliced black olives
  • Pre-sliced red onion
  • Pre-sliced green peppers
  • Ranch dip (optional)

How to Prepare:

  • Take the wraps and cover each with some shredded cheese.
  • Once you’re done with that, open your bagged or canned tuna and spread it over the shredded cheese. Afterward, sprinkle your pre-sliced veggies over it.
  • The next thing you’ll have to do is fold each of the wraps. You can do this in two ways – like you would fold a burrito or by folding it in half (or quarters).
  • Turn on your backpacking stove. Add some butter or olive oil to your frying pan.
  • Once the frying pan is sufficiently hot, take one of the folded wraps and cook it until you notice melted cheese and the brown color on the wrap itself. Do this with all of your folded wraps.
  • If you want, you can dip each of your bites in a ranch dip. Enjoy!

Hiking Sandwiches

Hikers eating sandwiches

Going back to the basics is never a bad idea. Sometimes, you will simply want to pack a good old-fashioned sandwich instead of the ingredients for cooking, and the following is a list of my favorite types of trekking sandwiches:

  • Tuna salad (canned tuna, chopped onion, chopped celery, and mayonnaise)
  • Bacon, mustard, cheese, tomato, and lettuce
  • Sliced strawberries, banana, and Nutella
  • Cream cheese and cucumber
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Hummus

Dehydrated Pre-Packaged Meals

Hiker using a stove

Not everybody likes going through the fuss of packing their own ingredients in order to have a delicious, warm meal during a backcountry adventure. In such situations, the best course of action is to simply bring a dehydrated, pre-packaged meal.

As you can already guess, these are exceptionally easy to prepare. Once you’ve added the meal to a pot of boiling water, you only have to stir it until it’s done. This does mean, however, that you will have to put a pot and a stove into your backpack. But it doesn’t mean that you will have to carry a lot of water with you. If there is a water source nearby, you can use a backpacking water filter to grab some clean water for cooking.

What You’ll Need:

  • Obviously, the ingredients will depend on the particular pre-packed meal you buy.

How to Prepare:

  • You will find the preparation instructions on the packaging. As I mentioned above, preparing one of these meals is typically very simple – you heat some water, pour the dehydrated meal into it, and then you just stir until it’s done.

Best Snacks for Your Outdoor Adventures

Some outdoor enthusiasts don’t like stopping for big meals – instead, they prefer grabbing a simple snack from their backpack when they’re feeling hungry and eating it on the move. Fortunately, there are numerous trekking snacks that are not only nutritious but also easy to pack. Let’s take a quick look at some of them:

Fruit Leather / Dried Fruit

When it comes to day hike foods, this one is probably my favorite. I absolutely adore dried fruit – namely, kiwi, pineapple, peaches, and mango. But apple slices, craisins, and banana chips are excellent as well. You can easily dehydrate these on your own and then store them in simple plastic bags until going into the great outdoors. Check out our post on dehydrated hiking meals for more information.

Apples

This is probably the most classic day hike lunch idea on the entire list. If you want to save as much space in your backpack as possible, cut your apples into thin slices. Don’t forget that you can also dehydrate this fruit in your oven. Doing so is yet another great way to cut down on space, but keep in mind that dehydrated apples aren’t as nearly as refreshing as the raw ones are. If you need a backpack that can hold all of your snacks and gear, check out our pick for the best backpacking backpack.

Hiker eats an apple

Seeds / Nuts

A mixture of nuts and seeds certainly isn’t among the most innovative trekking meal ideas, but it’s one that does its job pretty well – it is both easy to pack and it’s delicious. Simply take a bag and fill it with a combination of different types of seeds and nuts. Don’t forget that you can always add some dried fruit or chocolate in there as well.

Beef Jerky / Pepperoni / Sliced Salami

Opting for this day hike meal is an excellent way to get some protein during your backcountry escapade. What is more, you’ll never have to worry about these meats not being in the fridge. After all, most smoked and cured meats can spend days out of the refrigerator. Just don’t forget to check the label for buying them.

Tuna and Crackers

A combo of tuna and crackers is yet another of my favorite day hike meals. A great way to cut down on weight here is by purchasing packaged tuna, which doesn’t come in a can but in a wrapper instead. What is more, this also removes the need to bring a can opener. I would recommend going with creamy and flavored tuna – it goes really well with the crackers.

Dates

Out of all edible sweet fruit, this one has one of the highest glycemic indexes. What does that mean? It means that consuming dates during an outdoor adventure is one of the best ways to increase your blood sugar. When you’ve been hiking for a long time in hot weather and you start feeling weak, just grab a couple of dates – not only do they taste great, but they also quickly fill one’s batteries.

Olives

Almost all of the typical trekking snacks are quite high in carbohydrates, much to the dislike of folks who are on a ketogenic diet. In addition to the cheese and meat meals I described above, you can always bring a box of olives as well. A staple nutrient in most keto diets, olives contain high amounts of omega-3 fats.

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