Best Canned Beer for Hikers: Nourished and Have Fun

Having fun while camping
Written by Dennis Owens

Heading out on a camping trip isn’t always about the wilderness. Sometimes it’s just about having some fun with your friends and exploring a little.

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Sometimes it’s just about sitting around a campfire and talking about the good old days or just playing games. No matter what it’s about, however, you’re going to need something to drink while you’re out there, right?

Camping with friends

And you want something that’s going to be easy to take along. That’s why you want the best canned beer for hikers, to keep your evening a whole lot more fun.

What You Need in the Right Beer

Choosing the right beer for your next trip into the wilderness may seem like a no-brainer. You probably just assume that you’re going to take the same beer that you drink at home or out with your buddies, right? But even though that might be one way to go about it, it’s definitely not the only way you can get the right beer.

And it’s definitely not the way that you’re going to experience something new on your trip. So take a little time to figure out just what kind of beer you’re really looking for.

Stays Cold

For one thing, you need your beer to stay cold when you’re out in the wilderness. You want something that will retain the chill that you put it in before you leave because maybe you don’t really want to lug a huge cooler along with you on that hiking trip. Or maybe, you’re going to want something that will chill off easily in the nearest cold stream.

Either way, aluminum (the main component in nearly all canned beverages) is definitely going to be your friend and keep your beer the perfect temperature.

Easy to Carry

This pertains not only to the amount of beer you take, but also to the size of the cans you take. We’re going to recommend cans because they’re small enough that they fit easily into any pack, but still large enough that you’re going to be able to quench your thirst while you’re out.

Traditional size cans are usually going to be the best option because you can set them in the stream easier or pack around them a whole lot easier. Larger cans tend to make this process more difficult so a 12 oz. or 16 oz. can will probably be your best pick.

Light and Refreshing

Next, you want something that’s going to be refreshing. Sure you need to carry some water along for your hiking trip to keep you hydrated, but when it comes time for that can of beer you still want to make sure you’re getting a crisp flavor that’s not going to weigh you down. A light and refreshing beer is generally going to be your best option. If the one you normally drink doesn’t fit that bill maybe you should give something else a try.

Higher Alcohol per Volume

This is going to be a debatable one and is going to depend on your preference, but for a lot of people it can be beneficial to pack beer that has a little higher alcohol content per volume. The reason? You’re going to need less beer to get that little bit of a buzz that you’re looking for.

And that means you’re going to need less in your pack, therefore saving yourself a bit of room. It’s up to you, of course, but if you pack something a little harder, you may be able to save yourself a little weight (and pack some other things too).

Easy to Find

You definitely don’t want to find yourself falling in love with a beer that’s nearly impossible to find. Sure, some of those types of beer are going to be really great, but if that’s your go-to beer for everything you’re going to have to track it down every time you run out or order it and that’s definitely not going to be easy. Try to find something that you can easily get in your local store.

Even if it’s not at your normal store as long as it’s available nearby it’s going to be better than seeking out something super difficult that could be canceled or discontinued at any moment.

Finding What You’re Looking For

Of course, knowing these few things that you’re looking for in your next beer is only going to be the start of the process. You’re also going to need to know how to go about finding just the right beer that fits all of these qualifications. That’s going to ensure you’re ready to head into the store, pick something up and get out there on that hiking trip without spending hours scouring through everything in sight (before just packing the ones in your fridge after all).

Step One: Plan the Hike

Okay, so this really doesn’t have anything to do with the beer that you’re taking with you, but it is going to be an important consideration because you need that hike all figured out before you can possibly know what you’re going to need to pack.

And you need to know what has to be in that pack before you know how much excess space you’re going to have for your can of beer, right? So take some time to plan out the hike including how long you’ll be gone and just how far you’re hiking.

Planning for a hike

Step Two: Pack the Essentials

So, once again, this doesn’t really have anything to do with your beer, but it’s going to help you figure out just how much space you have left in your pack because you’ll have everything else prepared already.

Even if your hiking trip is just a mile into the woods where your favorite fire pit is, you’re going to need some supplies and forgetting those means you’ll have to hike that mile all the way back (more than once). Getting everything prepared right off the bat is your first step.

Step Three: Hit the Supermarket

Well, it doesn’t have to be the supermarket, but you’re going to want to head out to wherever you normally buy beer or somewhere nearby that has a really good selection of beer. In your area it might be the same place you get your groceries or maybe it’s a tiny convenience store in the middle of nowhere that has the largest beer selection around.

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Wherever you go, you want to make sure they have a lot of different options and plenty of different sizes for packs and cases to go along with those options.

Step Four: Choose a Style

If you’re more adventurous you may be willing to try out several different styles of beer. Maybe you’re open to a light beer or a darker one or an IPA.

Of course, maybe you’re a stickler for a certain type of beer and you want to stick with it. If you’re more adventurous you can skip to the next step (or you could just pick one style at random if you prefer and then move on).

If you’re more set in your ways (at least at this point) then stick with the same style of beer that you’re used to (light, dark, etc.) and then head on.

Different styles of beer

Step Five: What are You Looking For?

Are you really looking for something that has a lot of fruit flavors or something more light and crisp? A lager is going to give you more of the crispness while a pale ale is where you’re going to find more of the fruit (or other) flavors. For hiking, fruity flavors can be good because of the added flavor you’re going to get.

On the other hand, a crisp lager can be a great way to cut the edge off that burning thirst from a morning of hard work.

A dark ale is generally not going to be your choice because they tend to be heavy and feature more dark fruit tastes or even coffees. Still, they’re not going to have as much flavor of hops as a pale ale will.

Step Six: Choose Your Alcohol Content

The amount of alcohol in your beer is going to be up to you as well. You can check out the different flavors to start you out, but that’s not going to tell you just how much alcohol is in there alongside those flavors.

You may be able to find something with a high alcohol content and a lot of fruity flavor or something with low alcohol content and more of a crisp flavor.

Typically, you’re not going to get a fresh, crisp flavor on something with an extremely high alcohol content (at least not in beer) but you’ll be able to get a decent balance. It’s about what you really want to taste and how you really want to get that buzz for your hiking trip. You may find the perfect mix some other way.

Alcohol content

Step Seven: Try it Out

If you can, go somewhere that has samples of beer available. If you can try out a couple different types and different styles it’s definitely going to make things easier on you when you’re trying to pick out the ideal one for your next hiking trip.

If you’re just going in blind you might find yourself needing more than one beer to take along with you just in case you don’t like the first one.

If you at least have a chance to try it out first you won’t have to worry about that and if you can try it out at the shop or somewhere else you aren’t going to have to purchase it yourself (and spend that money) on something you may not even like.

One of the best things you can do is have a little bit of a party before you head out for your hiking trip. Have every one of your friends bring a different type of beer and try them out to see what everyone likes. Or maybe you can head somewhere for a beer tasting (it’s just like a wine tasting) to check out what’s really available for you and the rest of the group.

Beer glass

Step Eight: Choose Wisely

Once you’ve had a chance to look at the different styles of beer and the different levels of alcohol content, and definitely once you’ve been able to try some out, you’re going to be ready to pick something up for yourself.

Of course, you have to pick out the specific beer that you’re going to get before you can figure out a few more of the important aspects that go along with it. Just knowing the brand and the flavor isn’t going to be the whole process, after all. It’s only the beginning.

Can of beer

Step Nine: Pick a Material

Most beer is going to come in a variety of different styles and sizes of containers. They come in glass bottles, aluminum bottles, aluminum cans and who knows what else, right?

So which size and shape do you really want to take with you? We already touched on it once, but it definitely bears repeating, since you don’t want to have the wrong thing when you head out.

The key is to go with an aluminum style container because that’s going to protect your beer while you’re out hiking. If you take something glass and you happen to fall or even bump into something too hard all the sudden your beer is gone and all of your stuff (including your pack) is going to be a soggy mess.

That’s definitely going to hurt in a few different ways, right? Who wants to get all the way to the campfire and have no beer to drink when everyone else is passing around a cold one? Aluminum keeps your beer much safer on the trail.

Beer store

Aluminum is also going to keep your beer a whole lot colder. It can absorb a lot more of the chill from your fridge or freezer before you go than that glass will and it’s going to absorb more if you stick it in the river or stream (as a lot of people do when on camping or hiking trips).

Even more, it’s going to hold that chill for a lot longer so you’ll be able to really enjoy that beer (rather than having something lukewarm halfway through your drink). And finally, the size is going to be an important factor as you go.

Step Ten: Choose a Size

You can get 40 ounce bottles of some beers and some come in 20 ounce, 16 ounce, 12 ounce and anything in between. But a traditional 12-16 ounce can is probably going to be your best option because it’s going to be easy to carry and easy to drink.

Larger sizes of beer are going to be hard to drink directly out of the container and if you have to carry along glasses or anything else you’re taking up more space and it becomes more difficult to drink while you’re on the trail. Something small is going to be a whole lot simpler both for drinking, and for carrying.

different beer cans

A 12-16 ounce can of beer is going to be simple to stuff into your sack as you’re packing and it’s going to fit around most of the other things that you need.

When you’re ready to pull it out you just have to pop it open and you can hold it in your hand, set it on a folding table (if you brought one) or set it in a cupholder on your chair.

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It makes things a whole lot simpler without you having to worry about tipping it over or knocking into it while you’re trying to move around or do anything else at the same time.

The End of the Line

When you get to the end of the trail the last thing you want is to go through even more hassle trying to pour yourself a glass of beer or trying to dig a large container out of the bottom of your pack. Instead, just pull out a small can and you’ll be ready to start enjoying it with all your friends.

Whether you’re planning to just have one or two with a meal before heading out on your way or to turn it into a big party, it’s going to be a great time if you know what you’re getting.

Picnic cooler box with beer bottles

The most important thing is making sure that when you get to the end of the line and the end of the trail (at least for the day) you have something great to drink that you’ll be telling everyone else about (though probably not sharing since it’s so good).

Your hiking trips are never going to be the same again when you start taking a couple cans of beer along with you. Of course, we want to know what you think, so tell us, what’s your favorite beer to take hiking? Do you have other tips on how to choose the right one?


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.