Hiking Food For Keto Diet: A Complete Guide (Plus Recipes)
As spring weeps into summer with looming strides, no doubt many of us want to take advantage of the warm weather to bask in the fresh scent of nature.
Or maybe you’re in the cradle of autumn, eager to explore the amber-hued forests and tread over carpeted trails.
Whatever the climate or ease of the hike, there is one universal truth to hiking preparation: we eat well to climb well.
If you’re following a weight-loss program and at a loss of how to balance diet with exercise, this guide is all you need to know about hiking food for keto diet.
Let’s start with a frequently asked question.
Can You Really Survive On A Hike Without Carbs And Sweets?
It might seem inconceivable to some – hiking without carbs and sweets? Is that possible? The answer is yes.
The Keto diet provides the energy we need for intensive exercise. It is simply a different composition of food groups we’re consuming.
To quickly define what the Keto Diet is: a low-carb, high-fat diet.
The intention is to replace carbs with fat to kick-start ketosis. Instead of metabolizing the usual carbs and sugar, our bodies learn to burn fat for energy.
While many applaud this as a weight-loss method without cutting calories, the health benefits are actually plentiful.
Not only does it lower blood sugar and insulin levels, but it also improves gut health, reduces joint inflammation, balances hormones, reduces cholesterol, and improves brain function.
In fact, our energy levels will be a lot more consistent since we won’t have insulin and blood sugar spikes that come with consuming carbs.
Instead of three large meals, punctuate your hike with regular snacking. Cutting carbs doesn’t mean cutting calories – you’re eating the same amount, just in a different form.
Now let’s jump to some delicious recipes that are high in protein and boost your energy.
Hiking Food for Keto Diet – 14 Tasty Meal Ideas (Plus Recipes)
There are a few things to keep in mind when prepping hiking food for the ketogenic. Whatever you pack should be easy to carry and if the food is cooked prior to the hike, consider the best options to preserve it.
Generally, you want to pack quick snacks throughout the day with slightly heavier options for lunch and dinner.
For instance, you could start with a breakfast coffee shake, snack on cheese and trail mix between meals, enjoy a wrap for lunch and dinner, and wrap up with another protein drink before bed.
Keto ‘Grab and Go’ Snacks
The bulk of your food will be snack foods that are easy to prep in bulk while keeping your energy levels consistent.
Fat bombs are exactly what they sound like – high-fat bites that are durable and portable, a high-density energy source.
Some fat bombs are comprised of purely nut butters with small chunks and packaged in tear-and-eat packets, an alternative to carrying jars of nut butters.
They could also be sugar-free chocolate balls filled with peanut butter and coconut oil. Here’s a simple home recipe requiring:
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup natural peanut butter/almond butter
- ¼ chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence (optional)
- 1/3 unsweetened shredded coconut
Simply put everything except the shredded coconut into a bowl and mix well. Allow it to set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Then take the mix and roll them into bite-sized balls. Coat the fat bomb with the shredded coconut and place on paper-lined tray.
When all the mixture has been used up, refrigerate for 1 hour. Tada, you’re done.
Cheese Sticks / Hard Cheese
Cheeses are by far some of the best keto foods because they’re high in fat-content but low in carbs. Cheddar for example has a ratio of 7:1 grams of protein versus carbs.
Hard cheeses such as Romano, Parmesan and Asiago are best for longer hikes since they keep without refrigeration.
Because they tend to be salty, we recommend alpine cheese like Rembrandt, Beemster, and Dubliner. Freeze-dried cheese snacks are also easy to carry and nibble on.
Nut And Nut Butters
Not only are nuts and nut butters the exact high-fat and low-carb ration necessary in a keto diet, they’re also high in fiber, which promotes both gut health and a sense of fullness.
Do note that not all ‘nuts’ are diet appropriate. The ones you’ll want are almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, macadamia and brazil nuts.
Nut butters are a creamier alternative that are good for long hikes since they’re easy to package and consume.
The butter component also adds calories while diluting carbs. One spoon is quick energy!
Because protein is also a necessary component to ensure lack of muscle loss, include meats and cured meats in your meals.
Chicken and tuna packets are easy snack items that can also be used in larger meals, while beef and salmon jerky, salami or pork rinds will help with the muscle repair process.
Cured meats can last longer and retain their freshness because of the methods used in their preservation.
If you don’t eat meat, check out these vegetarian hiking meals. Note that most of them are not keto-friendly, though.
Keto Trail Mix
We recommend making your own trail mix since traditional pre-packaged ones contain a lot of sugar, but otherwise a huge source of fibers and nutty fats.
A simple recipe includes almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts with shaved coconut and sugar-free chocolate to balance out the savory.
If you want some more sweetness (although shaved coconut would have provided that for you), consider baking the mix with a little bit of maple syrup for some raw sugar oomph.
Chocolate Crunch Bars
Mix up your snacks with these textured crunch bars! While protein bars are a staple in the average hiking diet, the amount of sugar in pre-packaged blends will wreck the keto diet.
What you can do is make your own take on the traditional ‘pick me up’ with a few simple ingredients:
- 1 ½ cups of keto-friendly chocolate chips
- 1 cup almond butter (or any of your choice)
- ½ cup of raw maple syrup
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- 3 cups of nuts and seeds
Melt your chocolate chips, nut butter, maple syrup, and coconut oil into a single blend before adding in your nuts and seeds.
Mix well and pour the crunch mixture into a lined baking dish/tray. Refrigerate or freeze until firm and slice to package.
This crunch bar combines the tastiest elements of the keto diet (high-fats and proteins, no carbs), requires no baking, and is extremely easy to package.
Note that fat-based bars are better than protein-based bars because the latter can be turned into glucose in the liver, negating ketosis.
If you have a dehydrator, consider making your own beef jerky. There’s almost no need to explain this keto-friendly snack: protein-loader, keeps for several days, easily stored in zip-lock bags.
All you need to do is prep your meat by thin-slicing it (cut off the fat if possible) and marinate. Pop it in the dehydrator and set it to 160 degrees; time it for 5 – 6 hours with regular check-ins to see if it’s done.
Let the jerky cool before storing it. For marinade, here’s a good recipe:
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of coconut aminos
You’ll want to let it sit for a few hours or overnight for maximum flavor.
Not a “snack” per say but electrolytes is essential for any keto diet. Make sure you pack electrolyte drinks or other supplements that keep you balanced.
This can be done by simply adding sea salt to meals or consuming more greens and fish. The easiest method is to pack drinks with electrolytes in them. Try to find sugar-free sports drinks or make your own.
Easy And Nutritious Breakfast Meals
You want to start off the day with something not too-heavy but packed with nutrients all the same.
Following with the fiber trend, keto granola is a good breakfast food especially when served with almond milk or coconut milk.
You can customize your own granola mix by mixing raw nuts, coconut oil, protein powder, and natural sweeteners then baking it until brown.
As dried foods, granola is extremely easy to store and keep – we recommend this for longer hiking trips or ultralight backpacking adventures.
Coffee Protein Shake
Breakfast protein shakes are the solution to wanting an energizing breakfast that won’t weigh you down. A simple recipe is to blend:
- 1 scoop of protein powder (around 20 – 30 grams)
- Instant coffee
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or MCT oil
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream powder (or any other fat heavy powder)
- Keto sweeteners for taste
Not only will you get the coffee fix for early morning activity but one that delivers the necessary proteins and fats from oils to keep you going.
The heavy cream powder largely contributes to the 400+ calories you’ll need for any thru-hiking or strenuous trek.
Start off your day with a healthy dose of super foods and fiber - noatmeal will keep you full.
For a balanced ratio of fibers, protein, and fats, follow this recipe:
- 1 scoop protein powder/powdered collagen
- 3 tablespoons of unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons of flax seeds
- 2 tablespoons of almond flour
- 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon of keto sweetener
- 2 tablespoons of MCT oil
- Himalayan sea salt for flavoring
- Additional spices like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
Simply mix up these ingredients in a big bowl and portion them out into individual zip-locks. Add water to it like you would if it was for an oatmeal and here’s your breakfast.
Filling Lunch & Dinner Meals
There are dehydrated camping meals in the supermarkets but finding ones with low-carb content can be a challenge.
Backpackers Pantry and Good to Go have some solid options, but prepping your own meals is a lot more flexible and you can customize to fit your gear.
Low Carb Tortillas
Lunch and dinner wraps are exactly what the keto hiker needs: low-carb tortilla skins stuffed with meats and veggies to repair muscle tissues after a grueling trek.
The best part is that you can make these tortillas at home too. All you’ll need is a good processor, mozzarella cheese, almond flour, and sea salt.
They’re also efficient to make as you can fill them with dehydrated/rehydrated food stuffs. Grilled chicken strips, chicken salad, pre-cooked shrimps or even tuna egg salad would make delicious fillings.
Tuna Egg Salad
But won’t it go bad? We recommend this recipe only if you’re going for a short hike, better yet if you’re hiking in colder seasons.
Still, it is packed with protein, it’s easy to make, and you can store it in plastic containers. All you need to do is make a smooth mayo blend flavored with mustard, parsley and paprika, throw in the tuna, diced celery and onions, then fold in the eggs.
If you don’t like celery, go for a completely creamy texture and add mashed avocado instead – it’s also a high-fat super food so you can’t go wrong.
Stews & Chilis
Any veggie or meat stew you can store as dehydrated meals! There’s plenty you can do with a series of dried foods.
Simply mix and match your veggies and meats and cook. Here are a three ingredient combinations to try out:
- Basic chili = Bell pepper + zucchini + baby spinach, meat and onion mixture, sea salt + chili powder + cumin + paprika + garlic powder, canned tomatoes + bloomed gelatin, butter and cheese. Not only will you get the much-needed fiber, you’ll have a healthy mix of protein and spices that help digestion. The butter and cheese are there to add calories.
- Green chili = Bell pepper, ground turkey and onion marinated in spices, sea salt + cumin + garlic powder, green salsa + bloomed gelatin, butter and cheese.
- Stew = Pre-cooked chicken strips, green beans, onion, sea salt + black pepper, tomatoes + bloomed gelatin, butter or coconut milk.
Packing Tips for Your Meals
It goes without saying that the meals should be easy to pack and carry on a hiking trip. Before packing however, consider the best food prep, management, and storage system for your hike.
Depending on the length of your trip, available stores and facilities, weather and so forth, you’ll want different tiers of equipment.
For most part, day hikes won’t require any cooking equipment (unless you want to go gourmet). You can simply focus on how to pack your food so it is accessible and not prone to spillage.
Here are some useful tips that will help:
- Separate your snacks and larger meals. You’ll want to store some snacks on you, whether in hip belt or jacket pockets for an easy access. Food that requires meal prep should be stored in your backpack.
- Don’t use bulky containers or glassware that can easily break. Screw top plastic containers sealed with cling wrap are best for oily foods, while meats, and condiments that can be spilled. Those are also best kept in zip-locks with double bagging. Light-weight steel containers are great options too.
- Pack light on utensils since most foods would be dried or bite-sized. A spork would be best.
On multi-day hikes, the same principles above apply. Additionally, you’ll want to separate your meals for each day.
- Ration out your food per day and then separate the snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal-sets. Label your containers and zip-locks clearly: Day 1 – snacks (50g), Day 1 – lunch, Day 2 – breakfast, etc. Mark the recipe title on scattered ingredients so you can keep track of what should be used, and the approximate amount of water needed. It’ll help you calculate how much water to carry as well.
- Do the same with any condiments you’re bringing - package condiment packets (one serving each) with the meals they’re going with.
- Vacuum-seal your meals to save space. You can even boil the packages as they are to minimize mess.
- If you’re hiking under hot and humid weather, use cooling bags to prevent food from spoiling quickly. Think carefully about what foods won’t spoil, especially if you’re in a hot climate.
If you’re based at a camping ground, bring all the necessary supplies and equipment. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a store out there.
While your meal options have become more versatile, you may require more tools and utensils. Some camp safety rules to consider:
- What supplies do I have on hand? Do I know how to handle them safely? If you’ve never used a gas camping stove before, practice at home beforehand.
- Make sure to clear the area around your cooking station. Ideally there’s little to no grass, there’s stable dirt ground and you are away from any inflammables.
- Consider water access – does your campsite provide fresh water or will you have to bring an extra supply?
- Bring a Swiss army knife for any unexpected cutting or can opening.
Do be considerate about any potential waste you’ll be leaving behind. Pack using re-usables only.
Wrapping It All Up
There’s no need to break a keto diet to enjoy a good hike, or pass up some time in nature to keep up your diet.
Preparing hiking food for your keto regimen requires more planning and organization but with a little creativity, it’s less fuss than you expect.
Pile up the nuts and proteins, stay hydrated with electrolytes, and you’ll be blasting through the trail with energy to spare.
Founder of this website, Asen is a passionate hiker and writer who is also a gear nerd. He’s been featured on many established hiking websites where he gives hiking advice & tips. When he is not trekking with his family or friends, he is writing articles and product reviews. Asen spends most of his time in Bulgaria but he constantly travels the world in seek of more unforgettable experiences. Read more about Asen here.