Monday, November 7, 2011

Great snack ideas for your hike with kids

Trail mix also is known as "gorp" among hikers.
When day hiking with kids, bring a variety of small snacks for rest stops. You don’t want kids filling up on snacks, but you do need them to maintain their energy levels if they’re walking or to ensure they don’t turn fussy if riding in a baby carrier. Go for complex carbohydrates and proteins for maintaining energy. Good options include dried fruits, jerky, nuts, peanut butter, prepared energy bars, candy bars with a high protein content (nuts, peanut butter), crackers, raisins and trail mix (called “gorp”).

A number of trail mix recipes are available online; you and your children may want to try them out at home to see which ones you collectively like most.

Salty treats rehydrate better than sweet treats do. Chocolate and other sweets are fine if they’re not exclusively served, but remember they also tend to lead to thirst and to make sticky messes. Whichever snacks you choose, don’t experiment with food on the trail. Bring what you know kids will like.

Give the first snack within a half-hour of leaving the trailhead or you risk children becoming tired and whiny from low energy levels. If kids start asking for them every few steps even after having something to eat at the last rest stop, consider timing snacks to reaching a seeable land-mark, such as, “We’ll get out the trail mix when we reach that bend up ahead.”

How much food should you bring? Enough so each child can have a couple of snacks over a couple of miles is a good rule of thumb, but the older the child and the more difficult the terrain, the more food you’ll likely need. Each child is different, of course, and may require more or less as the eating habits and metabolism dictate.

Many hikers use food to create a fond memory of hiking. Says Jackie S., of Brevard, N.C., “Bring a special snack to enjoy upon reaching your destination. When my two daughters and I hit the summit or take a break at the waterfall we’ve just walked an hour or more to see, we break out a package of freeze-dried blueberry cheesecake. After a long hike, it’s like eating in a gourmet restaurant.”

Read more about day hiking with children in the guidebook Hikes with Tykes.