While I feel like I’ve covered a pretty wide berth of hiking topics throughout my years on Youtube and now with this website, there is still a category in which I’ve been egregiously lacking. A category that is extremely important to enjoying hiking and backpacking, yet one that is often overlooked for the shiny gear write-ups. This topic, which is undoubtedly the number one topic discussed among thru-hikers, is FOOD! More specifically: trail food. Yeah, it’s really that simple.

To correct the error of my ways, I’m introducing a new series on the website. It’s going to be a frequent (weekly or monthly depending on popularity) post featuring the greatest (In my opinion) hiking foods available. My hope is that I can inspire you to stray from the traditional oatmeal and trail mix choices and find your way into a tasty new world of calorie-filled joy.

So… with that out of the way, let’s jump into this weeks food of choice. It’s by far my favorite food to eat on trail, though not something I always take with me. I am talking this week about: Nutella.

Nutella is a chocolatey, hazelnut flavored spread similar in consistency to peanut butter (creamy PB that is). It’s a sweet spread that goes good on just about anything you can find in your pack (Ritz crackers, tortillas, a spoon, your finger, dehydrated fruit, granola bars, trail mix, etc.). Because it comes in a 13 ounce plastic jar similar to peanut butter, I tend to think of it as a peanut butter substitute (It’s not really a perfect substitute due to lower protein levels though). In other words, I’m not going to carry a jar of peanut butter and a jar of Nutella, it’s going to be one or the other. Optimally, since PB and Nutella go amazingly well together on a tortilla, I’d carry a jar half full with peanut butter and half full with Nutella. Unfortunately, this isn’t really possible when thru-hiking (But for weekend trips… just give this a try).

Nutella is one of the very few foods that I never tired of on my thru-hikes. In my eyes it’s like having ice cream available to you at all times on trail. It’s a smooth, sweet treat that you can just eat straight out of the jar. It’s a great accessory food too. Not quite full from your tuna salad lunch? Add a couple spoonfuls of Nutella for dessert. Worried that your granola bar doesn’t quite have enough calories to fuel you up this mountain? Dip it in Nutella for a boost. I can always rely on my energy levels staying high after eating Nutella, it’s got a great balance of energy from carbs and fat so that you’ll be sustained in both the short and long term periods of your hike.

Click here to order some!

Let’s break the nutrition down a little further. In 2 tablespoons, Nutella contains 200 calories. 110 of these calories are from fat, leaving the other 90 calories from carbohydrates. This is a great balance of short and long term energy for hiking. By comparison, energy dense olive oil tends to have around 240 calories per 2 tablespoons, all of which are from fat. This means that Nutella is almost as energy dense as olive oil, yet much better balanced in terms of calories from carbs/fats.  On a less exciting note, Nutella only contains 2 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons, much less than the 6-10 grams of protein you’ll likely find in your 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. When I choose to pack Nutella over PB, I tend to bolster my protein intake with other foods, maybe even just a couple bags of peanuts.

So while Nutella may not be an ideal substitute for peanut butter, it is a great way to shake up your hum-drum backpacking snack/meal cycle. Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll be wondering why you hadn’t thought of it before.

Like the new series? Let me know in the comments below so I can keep it coming! Have any backcountry recipes that use Nutella in them? Let’s hear about them!

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