I used to think that to be healthy, I had to be a runner. I’m not sure what made running races seem like the end-all, be-all of healthfulness, but I thought I’d never be truly fit until I was an avid runner. So, I started running. And guess what? I hated it.
And because I hated it, I thought there must be something wrong with me. All these healthy people run all the time, and they seem to at least somewhat enjoy it—why can’t I? It took me years to learn that it was okay if running wasn’t for me. It didn’t make me inferior. It didn’t make me less healthy. It just meant I didn’t like running. Nothing more, nothing less.
Once I accepted that running wasn’t my bag, it freed me up to start exploring what was my thing. It was actually really empowering to admit I wasn’t a runner! I started getting my fitness in in ways that made me happy—yoga, long walks, and, of course, lots of shoveling compost in the garden. Stopping forcing myself to run also released time in my fitness schedule for me to do something I always enjoyed, but never really pursued whole-heartedly before—hiking.
I love getting out into nature. I love feeling like I’m all alone in a great big forest (well, alone with my husband and daughter). I love discovering little rivers and ponds that are hidden behind groves of 200 year old trees. I love hearing the birds and bugs and deers and squirrels. I love the way the air smells in the woods. I love the pace of it. I love that it’s expected, even encouraged, to go slow, stop and smell the wildflowers. I always come back from a day hike feeling refreshed, strong, and renewed (which is not how I ever felt after a run).
I’m very lucky to live in prime hiking country. I mean, obviously, we don’t have the Rocky Mountains here or anything, but Southern Indiana is an incredibly beautiful area of the country to explore on foot. If you manage to get out the door before the heat and humidity get too oppressive (Midwestern summers, phew), we have beautiful rolling hills, wonderful wildlife, and some really flipping amazing trails. I love that we can hike all four seasons here, and each season is a totally different experience.
If you’re just starting out hiking, it honestly couldn’t be easier to jump in. Find a trail at a local park. Put on some shoes. And just….walk! If you end up loving it, you might want to try longer distances on more rugged, remote trails, and then it’s time to start planning some more.
Today, I’m partnering up with my friends at Orchard Valley Harvest to bring you a quick rundown of the things I like to keep in my daypack. Orchard Valley Harvest makes an awesome selection of grab-and-go snack packs of nuts and trails mixes—perfect for stashing in your day pack. Onto the goodies!
One of the things I had to get used with longer-distance hiking (just like I had to get used to with longer-distance running) is properly fueling myself. I think the amount of energy burned during hiking can be deceiving—you’re so distracted by the pretty scenery that you don’t realize how much energy you’re expending.
To keep your energy up so you can make it back to the car (ha!), it’s important to take snacks if you plan on doing even a short day hike. I’m a big believer in being prepared, and you never know when a one hour hike is going to turn into a four hour hike because you took a wrong turn at a missing trail marker. And luckily, there are tons of great hiking snacks that don’t take up a lot of space, keep you fueled, and taste great! Here are some of my favorites.
They don’t call it trail mix for nothin’. Trail mix is the perfect combo of healthy fats and protein. Make sure to grab a trail mix that has dried fruit in it like either this Cranberry Almond Cashew Trail Mix or this Chocolate Raisin Nut Trail Mix from Orchard Valley Harvest.
The dried fruit gives you a quick boost of energy from the fruit-based sugars—which you might just need to get up that last giant hill! I love that these trail mixes from Orchard Valley Harvest come in mini snack packs. It is so easy to just toss a couple of these into my pack before we drive to the trailhead.
Orchard Valley Harvest is all about creating products that use the best ingredients—the nuts and fruits are harvested at their peak and are free of artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, or preservatives. The entire (huge!) line of Orchard Valley Harvest products are non-GMO project verified. You can nab Orchard Valley Harvest snacks in the produce section at your local Walmart.
Jerky is one of my favorite all-around, protein-packed snacks. You can get beef, chicken, turkey, or even vegan jerky—and it’s all shelf-stable, requires no refrigeration, and tastes great on the trail. My one caveat would be that jerky tends to be pretty salty, so I wouldn’t recommend packing it on days when it’s roasting hot outside and you need to conserve your water and stay super hydrated.
Nuts are an easy grab-and-go option for the trail (especially if you pick up these packets from Orchard Valley Harvest). They are packed with healthy fats and protein to help you recover after an especially strenuous day hike. If you want an extra awesome snack, try chocolate or yogurt covered nuts—the sugar is great for a quick energy boost—and let’s be honest, tastes amazing.
Fruit is one of my favorite trail snacks. It’s inherently portable—no packing necessary. It’s packed with water, so it helps you stay hydrated. It’s got all natural sugars that help give you a quick energy boost. It’s easy to eat on the trail. Fruit, for the win!
This might sound like a weird suggestion, but a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is one of my favorite trail snacks! Whenever we hike a trail that has a big summit, we almost always pack PB&Js to enjoy at the top. It’s a great mix of carbs, protein, fat, and sugar to help fuel us for the trip down the other side. And it’s just darn tasty! When’s the last time you had a PB&J?
First aid supplies and survival book
You might think your cell phone will work everywhere, but trust me, I’ve lost service even in the middle of a trail in Central Park before—you can’t always guarantee you’ll be able to get to help quickly. I like to pack a small amount of first aid supplies in my pack, plus a survival book (this is the one we have—it’s nice and compact) that has first aid information (again, you can’t rely on Google in the woods!).
Would I be able to perform surgery? Nope. But I’d be able to help many of the common trail injuries (scrapes, scratches, bites, twisted ankles, etc.) well enough to at least get to civilization. Worth noting: I’ve hiked hundred of miles in my life, and I’ve never had to use more than a bandage from my first aid kit—but it never hurts to be prepared.
Sunscreen and bug spray
Yes, you need to put sunscreen on, even if you’re hiking in the woods—trust me—been there, done that, skipped the sunscreen, had a nasty sunburn. I like using a spray sunscreen because it just makes it so much easier to apply on the trail.
While you’re at it, throw in some bug spray into your bag. For everyday use, I like using natural bug spray made with essential oils, but on the trail, I almost always pack the “real” stuff. In our area, in the deep woods in the summer, even if you’re covered head-to-toe in clothing, you’ll have serious mosquito and tick issues if you don’t use DEET. It’s not my favorite thing, but it’s better than getting eaten alive.
Speaking of head-to-toe clothing, during bad tick time, I do make sure to wear full-pants tucked into my socks—it’s not the most attractive look in the world, but it works! I also recommend packing a tick key if you live in tick country.
Um, duh. My rule of thumb is to always bring twice as much water as I think I’ll drink—plus I leave a full water bottle with ice in the car for when I make it back. Don’t skimp on the water. Can you tell this water bottle has a few hundred miles of hiking trails on it?
I have a bladder in my daypack (I have this one, FYI, and I LOVE it) that holds 100 ounces of water. I usually fill that up, plus bring along a 40 ounce water bottle. On a hot day, I can plow through all that water in no time. You can also pack a small personal filtration system—we don’t, because there isn’t often running water the majority of the year around here, but it’d be a great option if you do a lot of hiking around bodies of water.
Baby or Face Wipes
We use cloth wipes for diapering, but on the trail, I’m all about disposable baby or face wipes. Clean off hands before snacking. Wipe down a sweaty face. Clean off a scrape before putting on a bandage.
I like to pick up the travel-size packs of the baby or face wipes from the travel toiletries section of the store. Just make sure to carry out your trash! I normally pack a small wet bag to carry trash out in.
Printed/dowloaded map and compass
I love the AllTrails app—if you upgrade to the premium version (totally worth it if you hike often), you can download the maps and use them even when you don’t have service. Even with that app, I often also bring a printed version of a map and a little compass. Around here, the trails are all marked really well, and I’ve yet to get lost—but you never know.
If you choose to use the GPS on your phone (did you know that many carriers and phones can still use GPS even when you don’t have service?), be warned that it does zap your battery fast. I usually also pack a fully-charged lipstick charger to give myself an extra few hours of GPS time.
These suckers do everything, and it seems like my husband gets at least one each Christmas from someone. We keep one in each of our daypacks, in the car, in the junk drawer—they are so useful!
Poncho, trash bag, or tarp
I always have an emergency poncho in my bag—not only is it great if it starts to sprinkling, but it also works as emergency shelter. A big trash bag or a small tarp works, too—and neither take up much space.
Depending on the terrain you’re hiking, you might be able to get away without trekking poles, but it’s very hilly here, so we always use them.
This is another one of those “you might never need it” kinda things, but even though you plan on only being out on the trail in the daylight—things happen. And if you’re anything like our house, you somehow manage to collect flashlights (I swear we have 10 of them), so dedicating a small one to your daypack is no biggie.
Where we live, weather can change quickly, so it’s important for us to pack a variety of clothes. I mean, obviously, the chances of it starting to snow when it’s 95° outside is slim, but I still like to have a little bit of variety.
For warmer weather (60°+), I make sure to pack a light rain jacket and a sun hat. For cooler weather, I usually wear the layers appropriate for the current temps, and then pack an extra rain jacket, gloves, hat, and fleece.
Extra survival supplies
Depending on how comfortable you feel on the trail and how close you are to civilization, you might want to pack some extra survival supplies. Some good things to consider: a firestarter or matches, a signal mirror, a whistle, parachute cord (we like the ones made into bracelets).
Of course, this list varies based on your family (we pack different things if the toddler or the dog are with us!), your location, and your needs. What do you like to make sure to have in your hiking pack? Tell me in the comments.
To help you get outside for the summer, my friends at Orchard Valley Harvest are giving away an AWESOME (I so wish I could win!) prize pack that is worth over $400! One lucky winner will get:
- Assortment of Orchard Valley Harvest snacks
- Evrgrn portable bamboo picnic table
- Vera Bradley backpack
- Vera Bradley throw blanket
- Glass CamelBak water bottle
- Altec Lansing Portable Bluetooth speaker
- $50 Wal-Mart gift card
To get entered, all you have to do is share a photo of you enjoying the outdoors on the social media channel of your choice and tag it #OVHsnacks and then enter it in the giveaway widget below. Good luck!
I hope I’ve given you some ideas of what to take along with you on the trail, and I hope you’ll hit the trails this summer! Happy hiking!