Trail Chef: 4 Hearty Sandwiches

For your next backcountry lunch, don't just munch on an energy bar. Try one of these tasty options.

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So you’re heading out on a hike. Maybe the wildflowers are in bloom at Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park, or you want to ogle the awesome view of Mt. Lafayette while standing on Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire. Whatever the destination, you know a couple things for sure: There are many miles to be covered, which means an early start, no lollygagging, and no two-hour lunch (my grandmother applies these same rules when shopping for the holidays).

Lunch can actually be a tricky meal in the backcountry: It has to be something quick and convenient, but also be packable, able to withstand miles on the trail, delicious, and no utensils required. Sure, trail mix, granola bars, sausage, and cheese are great, but this time you want something you can sink your teeth into. You want a sandwich. Here are four of my favorites:

Cinnamon-Raisin PB Sandwich

(makes 3 to 4 sandwiches)

½ cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons raisins


At home

In a bowl, mix together peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon. Spread peanut butter mixture over a slice of bread. Sprinkle approximately 1 tablespoon of raisins evenly over peanut butter mixture and place another slice of bread on top to complete the sandwich. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Variations: Try different dried fruit and nut butters, like cranberries with cashew butter or bananas with almond butter, or even sunflower seed butter.

Avocado & Ham Sandwich

(makes 2 to 3 sandwiches)

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Pinch of black pepper

Sliced ham

1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced


At home

Mix together butter, Dijon, and black pepper. Spread on both slices of bread and layer with ham and avocado.

Note: Drier and denser breads are generally better for sandwiches. Try a crusty baguette, ciabatta bread, a tortilla, or pita. If you slather fillings that have high moisture content onto soft, fluffy bread, you will have a soggy lunch.


(makes 3 to 4 sandwiches)

2 yellow squash

4 ounces hummus

Red cabbage, shredded (about ½ head)

2 avocados, peeled and thinly sliced

2 ounces alfalfa sprouts


At home

Thinly slice yellow squash. Spread slices onto a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Set squash aside for about 15 minutes. Spread hummus on bread. Pat squash slices dry and place them on top of hummus. After squash, layer on red cabbage, avocado, and alfalfa sprouts. This sandwich is also good in a pita or wrap.

For some it is hard to imagine a sandwich being complete without lettuce and tomato. But keep in mind that those items have high water content (hence sog factor). Instead consider vegetables like fennel, spinach, or shredded cabbage. If you want toppings like tomato, pickles, or cucumber, pack them separately.

Turkey & Swiss

(makes 1 sandwich)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Turkey, thinly sliced

Baby spinach, washed (optional)

2 slices Swiss cheese

1 teaspoon cream cheese


At home

Spread Dijon mustard on one slice of bread and top with turkey. Pat baby spinach dry and place on top of turkey along with slices of Swiss cheese. Spread cream cheese on the other slice of bread and close sandwich. For a tasty alternative to Dijon mustard and cream cheese, try pesto sauce.

You can make any of these sandwiches the night before. Wrap them up deli-style in parchment paper or a plastic sandwich bag and place in fridge. When you are packing your backpack for the day, put the sandwiches inside your pack (not in an outside pocket) to help keep them cool. 

Happy picnicking!

—Laura Binks