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Better Hiking Nutrition, Simplified

Posted by Ashley Koff RD on April 1st, 2016 under General

We asked Ashley Koff, RD for a peek into her pack. Here's a quick list of her hiking essentials, then read on for more about hiking nutrition.

  • Water - I like to use a glass or stainless steel bottle
  • Snacks - a Qi'a mocha bar, DIY trail mix, fresh fruit (make sure to bring extra - it's great way to make/ keep friends!)
  • Bamboo utensils if we are doing more elaborate eats 
  • A toxin-free tick spray 
  • My phone - for pictures mostly (love that I usually don't get service)
  • Layers - I love how it can go up & down 10 degrees or more & I love to be prepared
  • I don't do music while I hike but I've been known to sing - especially if there's the threat of a snake or bear... I'm told my singing is my best weapon ;) 

One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is to get outside, into nature and get moving. I have lived a lot of my life in cities, so I especially appreciate the magic of finding pockets of nature within those cities (even just streets with trees and views) as well as getting outside of the city to where no mobile devices work. I use these walks (aka “hikes”) to engage my senses in all that the great outdoors has to offer. I don’t remember my first hike, but I do know that hiking the outdoors is therapy for me – and as I discovered, it is actually a practiced therapy in Japan called shirin-yoku.

The best part about hiking? It requires nothing – well, almost nothing. Those of us who read or have seen Wild by Cheryl Strayed know that it’s best to put a little bit of thought and preparation into our hiking adventures, no matter how short, easy, or familiar, to ensure that we have what we need to make the most of our hike. To that end, I wanted to share my tips for Better Hiking Nutrition, Simplified.

Water does not hydrate.

Drinking water is essential to hydration, yes, but it’s the water getting into our cells that will keep us (and them) hydrated, as well as keep us from having to stop to use nature’s facilities as often. To that end, I bring with me foods that are also a good source of potassium. I enjoy coconut water, so I’ll often hike with that, as well as a banana (fresh or dehydrated) and/or an avocado.

Carbs for quick energy, nutrient balance for lasting energy.

I typically hike with trail mix and a bar – and I choose them (or make them) to deliver balanced nutrients to help ensure I have energy to get to the finish line (my car or my door). My trail mix includes dried organic fruit, hemp seeds, coconut flakes and some sort of chocolate (typically cacao nibs because they don’t melt as quickly). Often I add dried organic ginger pieces too - I could say that’s for helping prevent inappropriate inflammation but I seriously just love the taste. They do help if my digestion gets off course while hiking. Recently, I have been taking a Qi’a bar – the mocha flavored – which has some chocolate and some coffee. I like this for a little stimulant boost. I have also been known to bring a Nature’s Path gluten-free waffle with hemp pesto or nut butter spread on and made into finger sandwiches.

Bring best friends – two and four legs.

I love the company of friends and I must admit I like the safety that it brings, too. When I hike with Rerun I make sure to bring extra water and his dog granola (organic, of course!). He also loves broccoli – must be the glucoraphanin for detox benefits – so I typically bring that for us both to share. I love surprising my human friends with my goodies and seeing what they bring too. My friends know me to be a Qualitarian so they know I prefer for us to bring along better quality goodies rather than rely on what we might find en route to a hike.

Accessorize the Qualitarian way.

The rest of my hiking goodies are toxin-free (or as low toxins as possible). For cutlery, I bring my togoware (Bamboo cutlery). Rerun’s flea & tick wipes and my sanitizer wipes use natural ingredients proven to be effective. I cover up to practice sun safety but I also use an EWG-approved sunscreen as a last line of defense against unwanted sun damage.

So there you have it – better hiking nutrition, simplified. Are you ready to head out for a hike? Where do you go? What do you take with you? I would love to see your pictures – please share!


Need more hiking snack ideas? Try this recipe for Chocolate Energy Bites or find Nature's Path on Instagram for inspiration. 

Ashley Koff RD

Ashley Koff is an internationally-renowned registered dietitian who believes better nutrition is simple and is on a mission to help people achieve their personal health goals by providing simple but highly effective tips and strategies. Follow Ashley, a self-described “Qualitarian,” on twitter @ashleykoff or visit her website at www.ashleykoffapproved.com.