The right food makes any hike or climb in the mountains a bit more manageable. That’s especially important on the 14,000 foot peaks found across the western United States. The best snacks to take on a 14er are easy to pack, non-perishable, and packed with energy and essential nutrients, to sustain you on your adventures. It is also important to bring extra calories in case you get injured or lost in the backcountry. Here is a guide to the seventeen best snacks to take on a 14er, starting with a quick guide to mountain nutrition.
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Nutrition for Ascending the Fourteeners
A healthy diet provides a mix of the various types of nutrients and energy needed to make it to the summit. Here are the three main categories key for considering the best snacks to take on a 14er. While others exist, they are the most important.
These are the most power-packed type of food, with the quickest releasing energy to sustain you while hiking and scrambling. Especially on the ascent, most of your food should consist of carbs to power you up on the mountain.
While less important for immediate energy, protein helps your muscles repair damage and also provides a smaller boost of power. They are better for your descent and hike back to the trailhead than for the climb itself.
Not all fat is unhealthy. While you should leave french fries and potato chips back home, cheese, nuts, avocado, and other snacks contain healthy fat that will help provide power and essential nutrients. They’re a great treat on the summit to celebrate a successful climb and prepare for your descent.
The 17 Best Snacks to Take On a 14er
With the above nutritional information in mind, I picked seventeen of the best snacks to take on a 14er. Here they are in no particular order. You can purchase many of these snacks from REI (my favorite outdoor retailer). Click here to browse their full selection of snacks and food.
1. Traditional Trail Mix
Trail mix is a traditional, tried-and-true food option for the backcountry, and easily one of the best snacks to take on a 14er. A mix of nuts, chocolate, and dried fried provides a mix of all three major nutrition groups, but don’t rely on it too much for carbs, as it doesn’t contain much beyond sugar from chocolate.
2. Cliff Bars
Cliff bars pack a lot of carbs and sugar into a small bar, easy to eat when you’re engaged in a high altitude scramble or summit ascent. A few of these stashed away also make a great emergency supply that doesn’t add much weight. There are many flavors to choose from as well!
3. Tortilla, Cheese & Summer Sausage
This easy recipe is especially fun for group outings when you need to feed a number of people. Just slice up a block of cheese and a large roll of summer sausage, and use them to make wraps using tortillas. They’ve got carbs, protein and fat, making them a great option for a full meal sometime along your hike or climb.
4. Dried Fruit (Apricots especially!)
Dried fruit is a sweet way to snack on carbs along your climb without all the water weight that comes with fresh fruit. They’re also healthier than sugary snacks like candy bars and chocolate, with less of a crash and more fiber. Some options include bananas, pineapples, apples, mangos, and my personal favorite, apricots!
5. Oat Bars (Nature Valley)
A small oat bar is messier to eat than a cliff bar but has more carbs and less sugar, and some people simply prefer them. Bringing a mix of both helps change up your diet to keep you eating and restoring your energy throughout your trip.
6. Beef Jerky and Meat Sticks
Beef jerky isn’t much of a carb source, but it packs lots of protein in a small, dehydrated package. With a variety of flavors and shapes to choose from, it’s one of those snacks I find easy to store in extra unused backpackets pockets. It’s always fun to rediscover on the summit!
Whether camping along the trail or getting an early start at the trailhead, oatmeal makes a great breakfast on a fourteener adventure. They’re the best snacks to take on a 14er for breakfast, especially with some dried fruit.
Applesauce packets are easy to store, easy to eat from, and packs tons of sweet and refreshing carbs to energize your climb. They’re a new addition to my pack but I really enjoy them and recommend giving them a try!
9. Peanut Butter Sandwhich
This classic lunch is carb and protein-rich, making it another good option for a lunch along your climb. In my experience using whole wheat bread will be better for you later on your climb, along with a lite peanut butter with less oil than normal.
10. Hard Cheeses (Cheddar or Gouda)
Good cheese goes a long way on the mountain, so long as it’s the right type. You want a hard cheese that can handle a day in your backpack without melting all over the place. I recommend smoked cheddar or gouda, two of my favorite options.
11. Salted Nuts (Almonds, Cashews or Walnuts)
Nuts are a great option for a protein-rich snack. There are a lot of options to choose from: Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios are just a few. Buy a large bag and then pack a small zip lock bag to bring with you each time for the most cost savings.
12. KIND Bars
KIND bars come in a number of fun flavors involving fruit, chocolate, peanut butter, coconut, and others. They’re known for being a good energy source without lots of added sugar and preservatives, but I just really enjoy the fun flavor combinations.
13. Backpacking Meals
If you are camping overnight on your climb a backpacking meal is an easy way to enjoy a hot dinner on the mountain. With dozens of flavors, these dehydrated packets just require boiling water and some time to be ready to eat. I personally recommend the fettuccine alfredo and the beef stroganoff. Their breakfast of biscuits and gravy is out of this world too!
14. Candy (Don't go crazy!)
A snickers bar or bag of gummy worms can provide a quick boost of sugar, ideal when you need it. Just don’t overdo it, as too much sugar in your stomach can cause nausea and dehydrate you as well. Stick to a small amount.
15. Pretzels and Crackers
Many people don’t think of pretzels as trail snacks, but they are one of the best snacks to take on a 14er. They also usually have salt which can help replace your electrolytes – read more about that below. Just be careful when packing them so they don’t get ground into dust in your backpack.
16. Dehydrated Ice Cream
Sold as a novelty in many gift shops, dehydrated ice cream is a fun treat to enjoy on a 14er as a summit celebration. They weigh almost nothing but pack a good bit of sugar to start your descent down the mountain.
17. Tuna Packs
Bring a small ready-to-eat tuna packet for a simple trail entree, and add your own condiments or cheese to make it more interesting. They come with nearly a dozen flavor options too so you can change it up!
Water and Electrolytes on the Fourteeners
It’s not just a matter of packing the best snacks to take on a 14er. You also need 2-3 liters of water per person to stay properly hydrated. As you sweat during the climb you will also lose electrolytes, which can cause problems as well. Help combat this by bringing along a sports drink or sports powder to add to your water. This will help replenish your electrolytes while keeping you hydrated as well.
The Best Snacks to Take On a 14er: Now You Know!
What you eat on a 14er is ultimately less important than whether you eat at all. Find what you like while hiking, scrambling, and climbing, and start with that. Foods that are energy-dense and easy to pack are ideal for the fourteeners where things perish quickly. Did we miss one of the best snacks to take on a 14er? Fix our mistake and leave a comment below with your suggestion and it might make it into the next updated version of the article. Safe travels on the trail!
Best Snacks to Take On a 14er: More Resources
Are you still looking for more information about the best snacks to take on a 14er? There are a lot of other great resources available online. Here are a few articles to get started with. Have an article to suggest we add? Add a comment below with your recommendation. Good luck with your research!