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Hikers can universally agree: One of the best things about hitting the trail is the snacks. Talking about food gets us through hard miles, and chowing down at an alpine lake or windy summit is an experience seldom rivaled. And for those of us lucky enough to backpack in foreign countries, sampling the local cuisine only enhances the experience. We surveyed hikers around the world to learn more about their favorite ways to fuel. Here’s what they said.
Erdnussflips, or peanut flips, are a crunchy snack that combines the best of two American hiker favorites: peanut butter and Cheetos. “It’s puffed corn flour sprayed with a peanut spice sauce,” says Instagram user @oreo_on_the_road. “They not only fill you up and taste like peanuts—they are lightweight and still taste great when they are crushed in backpacker Pad Thais, wraps, or just like that. You can also measure things on a map. Only four more flips till camp.”
Onigiri, or rice balls, are a popular snack that can be found in convenience stores around the country. “Pre-packaged and ready to eat, these are the go-to snacks for Japanese hikers,” says hiker and guidebook author Wes Lang. “Popular flavors include sake (salmon), konbu (kelp), ume (pickled Japanese plum), and yaki onigiri (grilled rice ball). Pro tip: In the winter, bring a thermos of hot water, a spoon and a small cup. Pour hot water over your rice ball to create a warm rice gruel.”
“My favorite snack for long hiking trips is probably dried capelin,” says guide Thorlak Nielson. According to Nielson, the small fish contains all the vitamins and nutrients a human needs. “Dried reindeer meat is also high on my list,” he says.
In a country with such a rich food culture, it’s hard to pick just one favorite. Jorge Kozulj, owner, founder, and head guide at Andescross, has a few: “Empanadas and alfajores, local bariloche chocolate and La Vaquita (a dulce de leche caramel candy).” Sign us up.
“Biltong and dried fruit of course!” says Terry Pritz, administrator for the Johannesburg Hiking Club. Biltong, a dried, cured meat, has similarities to jerky, but is marinated and air dried, leaving it with a softer texture and deeper flavor.
Aussie hiker Belinda Coker swears by Vegemite and crackers to fuel her up the trail. “The Vegemite is salty and full of vitamin B,” says Belinda Coker. While Americans might find the spread, made of leftover brewers’ yeast extract, an acquired taste, locals can’t get enough.
Kaaek bil zait, a Middle Eastern flatbread, is traditionally made in a wooden mold and contains olive oil, seeds, and spices like fennel, anise, and mahlab. Hiker Claire Dumont discovered it while hiking the 400-mile Jordan Trail. “There are so many small bakeries along the Jordan Trail. Every time I passed through a town in the northern part of the country, I would ask about the bread,” she says. “The olive oil and seeds are great sources of calories and nutrients while hiking. A warm flat bread with some tea was also such a treat during a hiking day.”
One thing is true across the globe: Hikers love candy. Jelly Babies—like a softer, juicier version of gummy bears—can be found in supermarkets across the United Kingdom. “They’re the BEST instant energy for powering up a big hill,” says Scottish hiker Phiona Stanley.
Tostado, likened to corn nuts, are “dried maíz that get fried with onions, garlic and chicharrón (pork fat… sort of). And lots of salt,” says photographer Lane Forrer. “It keeps forever and is loaded with calories. It’s the preferred snack of the chagras, or Ecuadorian cowboys, and you can buy it anywhere from supermarkets to country stores to traditional markets.”
Another sweeter favorite? Caca de perro. Yes—this directly translates to dog poop, but don’t let that scare you. According to Forrer, this treat made of maize and molasses is “delicious, sweet, and crunchy.” Plus, “just a great name.”