Trail Food - Energy That Lasts


If you're like us, from Wednesday onward you're planning your weekend escape. Our thinking often goes like this - Who's up for it? How long have we got? What kit do we need? How much cash do we have left? How will we fuel it?

Often overlooked the 5th question has been the route of several adventures gone bad. So to make sure we're better prepared in future we've recruited the help of performance nutritionist Rebecca Dent. We thought we'd walk before we run and ask Rebecca to tackle how we fuel for a day walking in the hills.

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For all day energy it’s best to pack whole foods and ditch the sugary snacks. When out hiking the hills your body will generally use a mix of fat and carbs for energy. Adding some protein will not only add flavour, it’ll also help slow how quickly the food is digested, prolonging energy levels, whilst kick starting the recovery process at the end of the hike.

Ditch the sports drinks, bars and gels. They're simply not needed for a hike in the hills. Although tempting Solely relying on sugar-laden drinks, bars, gels and sweets can reek havoc with your stomach and likely lead to spending the day chasing energy crashes.

How many calories?

Old School = The exact amount of calories per hour depends on your size, gender, fitness, the terrain, the load you are carrying, distance and so on. It’s not an exact science but using MET minutes (1) can provide a guideline. A 75kg person for one hour hiking cross country will burn 450kcals per hour, for the same person hiking hills it’s 550kcals/hour

New Tech = If you track your energy expenditure using wearable technology (Garmin, Sunnto, Tom-Tom, Fitbit)  this can be used as ‘rough’ guide to calculating energy requirements for the day, if repeating similar hikes. Research and experience shows that energy equations and technology can both over or underestimate on ‘calories burnt’ (2). So take heed of this and your gadget’s limitations (3).


Sample food ideas

Wholegrain sandwiches with tuna/egg/cheese/chicken, Peanut butter and banana sandwich, small cheese portions, sweet or savoury oat cakes, home made trail mix (salted cashews/almonds, dark chocolate, apricots and prunes), boiled eggs, oat cakes + cheese/peanut butter, peanut butter sachets, oat, seed and protein based snack bars;

From around 60-90mins into your walk, to keep energy supplies steady, drip feed taking small mouthfuls of food every 30mins (e.g. 1/4 sandwich, 1 handful of trail mix, 1/2 cereal bar).

Being prepared and planning your nutrition and hydration to take on the hill, is the best idea to make sure you have enough food and will also save you money, especially if you frequently go hiking.

It’s always worth packing some jelly sweets, gums or a chocolate bar for those ‘just in case of an emergency moments’, you get lost, weather comes in, an injury occurs or you are out for longer than expected. At these times you'll thank me for a quick energy hit or a sweet treat for that psychological boost!

Calorie Deficit

If you are going for a social day on the hills you don't need to worry about meeting your exact requirements. Burning more calories ahead of the evening feast is the reward for many! Aim to eat approximately 150-200 calories per hour (e.g. large handful of trail mix, 1 cereal bar, 1/2 sandwich, 2 oat cakes + mini cheese portion).

To choose your hiking foods aim for about 50:50 carbs:fat ratio (4,5) ,

Now you’ve decided where you are going hiking and approximately how many calories you will need for the day, it’s time to plan your hiking menu!

#Fat rich energy foods

Nuts (cashews, macadamias, brazils, almonds), seeds, avocado, dark chocolate (75% cocoa or more), nut butters, nut butter sachets (e.g. Meridian, Pip&Nut), chorizo, mini cheese portions.

#Carb rich energy foods

Whole grain bread (rye, granary, pumpernickel), oat based cereal bars, fruit bars, oat cakes,  dried fruit (prunes, apricots, dates, figs).

#Protein rich foods

Boiled eggs, jerky (salmon, chicken or beef), cheese, mini cheese portions, chorizo, Fori bars, nuts and seeds, tinned fish.



1)   Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Aug;43(8):1575-81. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821ece12. 2011 Compendium of Physical Activities: a second update of codes and MET values. Ainsworth BE1, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, Meckes N, Bassett DR Jr, Tudor-Locke C, Greer JL, Vezina J, Whitt-Glover MC, Leon AS.

2) Accuracy of wearable devices for estimating total daily energy expenditure.,

3) Wearable technology for athletes information overload and pseudoscience?

4) Regulation of endogenous fat and carbohydrate metabolism in relation to exercise intensity and duration.,

5) The effects of increasing exercise intensity on muscle fuel utilisation in humans.




We're always looking for new places to explore. So we thought we'd ask expedition expert, Rebecca Coles for her hidden gems, in the hope that she would lead us to some uncharted territories. Unfortunately, Rebecca wasn't as obliging as we'd hoped!

The first thing I’m going to tell you is that I’m NOT going to tell you about my hidden gems. If I were to tell you, to publish them here, allow search engines to pick them up, they may quickly no longer be hidden gems, and that defeats the point. Sorry to disappoint you.


Instead, I’m going to tell you something much better; how to find your very own hidden gems, that you can keep just for you, your own secret to revisit any time you wish. Here are my tips on how to discover your own hidden gems.


To begin you’ll need to think creatively, harness your inner inquisitiveness and be prepared to be unsuccessful. For every hidden gem you find they’ll be ten failed missions, but I guarantee that those failures will have been fun nonetheless, and you’ll be recounting stories of how you got the bramble scratches on your legs and went up to your waist in bog.


If you’re a visual person and love maps, like myself, try getting hold of a map of your local area and looking for intriguing places. It may be a strange place name, a lake that you didn’t know existed or hidden cove that catches your eye. The next step is to go on a mission to find it.

Get a map out

People are drawn to the highest, biggest, longest. Everyone knows the highest mountains in Scotland, England and Wales but do you know the second and third highest? What I can tell you is they have a tenth the amount of people on them and are magnificent in their own right. But don’t listen to me go and discover them for yourself.

What about long distance paths? How about making up your own long-distance walk? Or linking peaks by train, or bike, or packraft? It’s often by approaching something in a different way, both physically and metaphorically, that we discover hidden gems along the way.


Finally, remember to keep your wits about you when trying to find hidden gems. Sometimes it’s not what’s there that is the hidden gem but a feeling we get, someone we meet or a shaft of light through a glade that creates a special moment. Remember these, keep them close, as they can’t be recreated, instead they become a precarious memory. Keeping all your senses alert will give you best the chance to experience these moments, which could be the smell of the Autumn leaves, the sight of an otter print in the mud of the river bank, the sound of the first cuckoo of the year, the apple fresh taste of wood sorrel leaves, or the feeling of cool, wet sand on the soles of your feet.

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To find hidden gems, you must explore, get outside and experience. A hidden gem could be right on your doorstep, waiting to be discovered.