Plan for the Perfect Day Hike Picnic

To picnic while day hiking—or biking or even paddling—takes a bit more finesse to get beyond the basics of trail snacks and hand sanitizer.

Here are a few tips on how to dress up the next day hike picnic.


Nothing against a squashed PB&J, but we’ll favor the Italian charcuterie solution (or the Swedish smorgasbord, if you prefer) over one-and-done sandwiches. Bonus? Food that’s pickled or preserved will even endure the heat. Go for cured meats like spicy chorizo or speck, and pair that with small hunks of hard cheese like manchego. Then add in whatever else you might like. Olives, gherkins, peppadews, pickled mushrooms—basically whatever strikes your fancy at the food bar at your nearest gourmet store. You can level up with a taurine or pate, but we’d dodge those on hot days. Snack-friendly fruit like grapes or slices of apples or pears also work well. Then get some stone-wheat crackers or a crusty baguette cut in two.


A bit of crisp white wine like a Spanish albarino or a pinot noir from the Willamette Valley should compliment the food nicely—and will drink light enough to not make you feel heavy. The welcome influx of new vacuum-sealed bottles make it easy to chill whatever cold drink you want at home, then pour it and pack it, where it’ll be cold hours later. And if you are up for carrying the weight, there are loads of great trail friendly glasses and mugs on the market, from glass vessels layered with silicone to prevent breakage on the rocks to insulated pint glasses. One sly trick? Sneak a cold beer into your companion’s pack when they’re not looking and “surprise” them when you reach your picnic spot.

Remember whatever you pack in, you have to pack out – even those biodegradable orange peels.

In general, it’s recommended you avoid carbonated beverages while hiking to avoid bloating (it makes the hike back down a lot more difficult!). But if you really want to elevate the experience consider a small flask of an after-dinner drink like amaro, which aren’t high in alcohol content and deliver a punch of bitter deliciousness that also helps settle your bloated belly. But naturally alcohol isn’t required and there are plenty of refreshing alternatives to cool down after a long trek.


Leave your plastic backpacking spork at home—it’s only a day outing, so take on the burden of a bit more weight than normal. Bring real silverware, in other word, even if it’s just a knife for the dried meats and cheeses. Then spring for a small olivewood cutting board. The wood grain is gorgeous, and you can typically find one that’s the right size to fit in pack and handle the artful display of your meal. Cloth napkins up the wow factor, and if you anticipate sitting on the ground (as opposed to a rock) toss in a small blanket. And don’t forget a bag for packing out all of your trash!