Gear I Hold Dear: The Pocket Burrito

When it comes to trail snacks, there is nothing more satisfying.

Don’t choke on your granola bar. This is serious.

I know the internet is filled with controversial opinions, and I don’t mean to add to the noise, but when it comes to gear that is literally held, there is nothing dearer than a burrito. Simply extricate it from your pocket (or the top lid or stuff-it pouch of your backpack, if you prefer), and it is sure to improve any activity from hiking to camping to skiing.

I first came across the Pocket Burrito on a backpacking trip through Tübatulabal, Mono and Newe lands in the Eastern Sierra in California six years ago. After a 5-mile climb that felt like approximately 55 miles, my group paused to top off water from a nearby stream. I took the opportunity to ditch my pack, laze on a cool granite slab and lament that none of my hipbelt snacks (a close relative of the pocket snack) seemed appetizing at the time.

It was too hot for melty chocolate, sweaty meat or floppy cheese. I’ve never been into gels. There was neither time nor motivation for firing up my stove for something more filling. And so I unenthusiastically unearthed a bar from my pack and began chewing (and chewing) (and chewing some more).

While I was chewing, I spied out of the corner of my eye something shiny glinting in the sun. I turned to see one member of my hiking party delicately unwrapping a Nalgene-size burrito. After three bites of guacy goodness—wherein he probably ingested the nutritional equivalent of one protein bar—he gently folded the foil back over the top and tucked his burrito back inside his cargo pocket. (I’ve since heard it that cargo pockets were conceived with burrito storage in mind.)

A hiker enjoys a trailside burrito.
A happy hiker enjoys a trailside Pocket Burrito.

Now this anecdote isn’t intended to bash other pocket snacks. I have a drawer in my house containing any number of bars, gummies and pouches, and it is far easier and more convenient to grab prefab nosh than to prepare a burrito or pit-stop at a restaurant on the way to the trailhead. But since discovering the Pocket Burrito, I’ve never once regretted packing one for an adventure.

That’s the main draw of the Pocket Burrito, simple as it sounds: that for a slight upfront investment, you can eat a burrito outside, on a chairlift, beside a campfire or atop a hunk of granite while you watch the sunshine splinter through a diadem of chalky spires. Go breakfast-themed or go lunch-themed. Make it meaty, veggie, vegan or gluten-free—merely stuff your favorite foods inside something resembling a tortilla and park it in your pocket. A burrito is always appetizing.

But beyond its superior taste, the Pocket Burrito holds other advantages over alternative snacks. For starters, no matter your favorite flavor profile, a Pocket Burrito almost always delivers mega nutritional value. Many meal-size burritos exceed 1,000 total calories and 100 grams of carbohydrates—a boon to hungry hikers and skiers who blow through energy reserves faster than they can replenish them.

“But a meal-size burrito won’t fit in my pocket!” you likely protest. And to that I would say, stuff it in like you would an 800-fill down sleeping bag. That’s one of the greatest benefits of a Pocket Burrito: a good smushing can actually improve it by further melding its disparate flavors.

And as the whole package is neatly contained inside a tortilla which nestles inside an enclosed foil or beeswax sanctuary, there is no fear of a mess. I’ve spent many a sticky minute wiping chocolate, peanut butter, crumbs and even tomato sauce (from pocket pizza, which pales in comparison to a Pocket Burrito) from my cargo pockets, but I’ve never had to take care of the detritus of a burrito.

pocket burrito
Hush, little baby.

This is even more impressive when you consider the in-out-in-out nature of the Pocket Burrito, which of course is another of its felicities. Like a bar, it requires very little hand-eye coordination to get from your pocket to your mouth, making it ideal for on-the-go snacking. Feeling waifish but unwilling to ask the group to take another break? Enjoy a quick bite. Creeping up on dinnertime but you still haven’t reached camp? A nibble of Pocket Burrito will tide you over. You barely even need to break stride.

Neither is dexterity necessary when it comes to burritos. Just peel back the foil and smash it into your face—a prehensile practice that’s easily handled while wearing gloves, should you be enjoying a Pocket Burrito in winter or on a chairlift.

In my experience, one Pocket Burrito can provide three days’ worth of munching when stored appropriately (say, in the snow or in a watertight stuff sack anchored at the bottom of a creek). Just make sure your burrito doesn’t contain anything that’d spur on early-onset sogginess, and you, too, could enjoy a burrito on day three of a multiday ski-mountaineering trip when your partners are relegated to pocket peanut butter. (It might sound tasty, but it gets old.)

And now that I’ve typed some 800 words about burritos—brace yourself for the follow-up article—I think I will excuse myself for a snack.

All photography by Andrew Bydlon, who is also a proponent of the Pocket Burrito.

For more odes about our favorite stuff, check our Gear I Hold Dear series.