How to Stay Energized While Hiking

As Summer quickly shifts to Fall, I have been on a hurried journey to hike as much as possible before dull skies settle in. Earlier this month, for example, I ventured on a 3-day backpacking trip, soon followed by a day hike through the Enchantments; 40 miles and 10k feet in elevation gain clocked in over just a few days- and I still have the blisters to prove it.

Yes, it was a physically intense week, but I did it and lived to tell the tale! So, how do I remain energized through these long treks in between long, full-time work weeks? I compiled a list of methods to this madness, outside of grabbing a coffee on the way to the trailhead for good measure.

Proactive hydration
One of the most crucial elements to staying energized is to remain hydrated. Proactive hydration before heading off on your journey, instead of shriveling your water bladder while never truly feeling quenched, is far more effective. calls this preloading- once you begin sweating you’re generally going to be fighting a losing battle against fluid and electrolyte loss, so starting your hike already properly hydrated can be beneficial. Proper hydration ensures a larger reservoir of fluid to draw from over time than if you’re dehydrated. A few days before a lengthy hike, I up my water intake to over 100 oz a day and include about 16 oz of 100% coconut water. This natural boost is packed with vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and sodium, which act as electrolytes and help balance the water levels in our bodies. The day before a long hike, I also drink a Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier packet, a GMO electrolyte drink mix that delivers the same hydration as drinking 2-3 bottles of water & contains 3x the electrolytes of traditional sports drinks. I swear by these packets because of the ease I feel the following day and I always throw a couple of them in my bag for a mid-hike hydration session, thanking myself later, hours into a trail.

Energy gel cubes
An energy gel that can be thought of like a sports drink, only a smaller and far more dense popular choice for endurance-athletes looking for a lightweight boost. A couple of my favorites brands have been PowerBar Performance Energy Blasts and CLIF Caffeinated Energy Chew Blocks, for their energy-packed benefits in a compact form. Easily shareable, these gel gummies can be passed around to fellow hikers and saved for your next trip as well. Do note that all energy gel and gummy products do require a water chaser to dilute the carbohydrates they provide and to assist your system in absorbing the energizing components, so bring a compact water filter, such as a Lifestraw, to keep things light. If you are looking for a more organic alternative, try dried apricots! Just a handful of this potassium-rich natural candy holds about 130 calories, 33 carbs, and 2 grams of protein.

Snacks serve as a natural form of caloric energy while hiking, and can also serve as a form of protein to regulate the caffeine buzz to provide a clear-headed, balanced experience. I look for snacks that contain B6, like bananas, mangos, and carrots to provide natural energy that lasts. Livestrong suggests that fruit high in vitamin C can help restore minerals lost because of caffeine consumption, and glucose found in fresh fruit is your brain’s preferred fuel source to boost concentration and mental ability. Because of this, I try to pack an orange for a vibrant, refreshing snack break that regulates my energy levels and keeps me going strong. To get some inspiration, read my post on the Best Backpacking Snacks That Are Not Trail Mix.

5-hour energy
When you are on the move on a day hike, pulling out your jetboil and fresh coffee grounds to conduct a slow-motion pour-over is a lot less convenient than what we tend to see in mountain-backdropped photos online. When I need a lightweight, portable way to get an energy boost within seconds, I will shoot a bottle of 5 Hour Energy, containing B- vitamins, amino acids, and essential nutrients. (Use code FALL20 for 20% off!) I used to veer away from energy shots in my daily life as I was fearful that they would make me feel shaky and high strung, but when my body is depleted by expending so much energy, these have been a lifesaver to feel alert and ready to continue onward and upward once again. 

A long-term attitude
For me, the ultimate factor in staying energized is knowing that the mind is a powerful tool and that we tend to limit ourselves by not trusting it. Our bodies are capable of much more than we realize, and strengthening your mind and body connection through meditation, exercise, yoga, prayer, or whatever works for you is just as important as training your physical body to take on a long-term trek. Whenever I find myself starting to count down the miles, envisioning the end, and arguing back-and-forth in my head on whether or not I can do it, I always pull myself back to the present moment. I remind myself that one foot in front of the other is the only way to complete anything that seems impossible. If I’m with another person, I try to strike up a conversation that can help distract my wandering mind and if I’m by myself, I might pop in some headphones and listen to a podcast that helps me get back into my flow state. Hiking on trails is a beautiful and tangled mixture of early morning alarms, headlamps, sore feet, thinking that you can’t do it, and in the end, proving to yourself that you can.

One foot in front of the other, 
Madison Ford

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