Sugar Wafers Are the Best Trail Snack You Haven’t Tried Yet

This article originally appeared on Backpacker

The gas station resupply is a dreaded moment for any thru-hiker. For me, it hit at a pivotal time.

I was over three months into my Pacific Crest Trail journey, and had just crossed Interstate 5 and walked into Ammirati’s Market at the Chevron station in Castella, California. I had a big climb and a difficult few days ahead of me, and I knew I needed the proper fuel to get me through.

I strolled the narrow, fluorescent-lit aisles of the small convenience store, searching the shelves for calorie-dense snacks. As I rounded a corner to a section of cookies and candy, I saw my golden ticket.

On the middle shelf sat a bounty of yellow packages: King-size Keebler Sugar Wafers in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Not my preferred brand, but they would do. I grabbed four off the shelf and put them in my bag, knowing the next stretch would be a good one.

Sugar wafers tick all the boxes for a perfect trail snack. They are shockingly calorically dense, at 5 or more calories per gram. Gummy bears, another favorite trail food, contain only 3.3 calories/gram. The reason for this energy density is sugar wafers' high fat content. Any olive oil-drinking, peanut butter-spooning thru-hiker knows that fat is the most effective way to get calories on trail. Vegetable oil is the second ingredient in sugar wafers from my favorite brand, Voortman's, which packs in 7 grams of fat per 30 gram serving.

That 30 gram, 150 calorie serving, by the way? That's three cookies. And not chewy, heavy cookies. Sugar wafers melt in your mouth, the delicate texture providing the perfect vessel for sweet flavors. Layers of cream are sandwiched between paper-thin wafer sheets, creating a light crunch that dissolves into mouth-coating sumptuousness. In the midst of dense trail foods like nuts, jerky, or dried fruit, sugar wafers offer a welcome, airy reprieve.

For such a delicate snack, you might expect sugar wafers to be fragile in transit, crumbling and breaking as they get stuffed in your pack. Miraculously, this is not the case. Sugar wafers' rectangular shape and stackability mean they get packed practically airtight in a durable wrapper. I would stuff my wafers down the side of my food bag, sure they would be crushed, and pull them out the next day, shocked to find them intact. (Even if they do get crushed, you can always dump the crumbs in a plastic bag and eat them with a spoon. It's all going to the same place, right?)

The day after the gas station resupply, I pulled out my first package of sugar wafers. Ahead of me on that warm August morning was a 3,000-foot climb up the side of the Castle Crags. As I rounded my first switchback, I unzipped my fanny pack and slipped a couple cookies out. My stride didn't waver as I stuffed them in my mouth whole, savoring the floral vanilla flavor as the wafers dissolved on my tongue. Climbing up past 5,000 feet elevation, I felt energized as my body worked through the sugar slow-burning fats from the sweet treats. I made it all the way until my lunch break on the energy of the wafers alone.

It’s a huge perk to have a lightweight, calorically dense, durable snack in your pack. But the true magic of the wafers comes in their emotional support, their ability to pick up your mood with one melt-in-your-mouth bite. Knowing that a delicious baked good awaits at the next snack break is the ultimate motivation. Just make sure you don't accidentally get the sugar-free version.

For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.