CAMPING & HIKING

Homemade Trail Mix: How to Make the Best One For Your Trips

Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

As you pack up for your day hike, backpacking trip, or even a car trip, you need to make sure that you have packed plenty of snacks. If you have ever taken a glance through a hiking stores snack section then you are going to see some high ticket items, that may not always suit your tastes.

In this article, we are going to teach you how to make your own homemade trail mix that not only suits your taste buds but will also keep you fueled for whatever adventure awaits. Read below to figure out what is best for your diet, and what treats to avoid.

What exactly is trail mix?

This tasty snack, sometimes referred to as Gorp (granola, oats, raisins, peanuts or good old raisins and peanuts) is a classic go to for a hiker and camper. It carries essential nutrients, is light, and can be doctored up in a million different ways to suit your taste buds.

gorp in a bowl

It is a combination of dry ingredients stored in a cool and dry location that can be munched as you go. What makes it so great is that it is a calorie punch, with lots of energy dense foods, so it’s perfect for the person on the move.

Having plenty of calories is important for a hiker or backpacker, especially as you approach high altitude hikes, or are exerting a lot of energy. Below we are going to list some common ingredients, and the nutrients you get from them, but homemade trail mix isn’t just about nutrients, it’s about taste.

Trail mix bought in high-end camping stores advertise fast caloric energy and are mixed with an endless amount of combinations. However, if you aren’t careful, you could find yourself snacking on unhealthy trail mixes, loaded only with sugars, and not protein or fiber.

sugar loaded gorp

This could ultimately slow you down on a long distance hike. When you make a homemade version, not only are you cutting down costs and suiting your taste buds, but you are also, hopefully, loading it with non-sugary nibbles to balance out your hiking diet.

Nutrients

There are a couple of common ingredients in trail mixes, that we are going to outline with the health benefits below. Remember, when you are mixing your own you want to balance out these ingredients to creates something tasty but also provides you with enough fuel for your adventure.

Nuts

These tasty morsels are a part of a vast majority of trail mixes across the board because they provided you with essential protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They can also be a dangerous part of trail mix, a lot of premade mix will have salty or even sweetened nuts mixed in, creating an unhealthy snack.

different kinds of nuts

When you go to make your own look for unsalted and unsweetened, but they can be either raw or roasted. Some of our favorites are almonds and peanuts, but if you are looking for higher calorie nuts, macadamia and hazelnuts are excellent substitutes.

Seeds

Not just for the birds, this part of mixes can be an excellent way to sub out nuts, especially for those with allergies, or simply to add a little variety. Seeds have a lot of the same benefits as nuts, they are loaded with unsaturated fats, proteins, zinc, and iron.

As before, try and stay away from pre-salted or sweetened seeds, as they will only slow you down in the long run. We love pumpkin, hemp, and sunflower seeds when hitting the trail, for an extra boost and a little taste variety.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is a delicious way to boost up your blood sugar, and give you a little spring in your step. The snack is loaded with natural sugars, so check the package to see how much is added. You are looking for the fruit with the least amount of added sugar or preservatives.

different kinds of dried fruit

That being said, in moderation, dried fruit can really turn a bad hike around, and give you the extra energy you need to tackle another switchback. Look for fruits that are naturally sweetened, or sweetened with cane sugar to avoid nasty preservatives. Some of our favorite dried fruits are dried apples, cherries, figs and mango!

Grains

Barring any allergies, grains are an excellent complex carbohydrate that keeps you full of both energy and fiber. Having a grain in your mix will keep your belly full into you have a full stop for a meal. Grains, like the other ingredients, can come highly processed and will be chalk full of sodium and sugar if you are not careful.

Lots of sodium will just end up slowing you down and make you drowsy at the end of your hike. We suggest looking for pretzels, toasted oats, whole grain cereal or granola to add to your mix. Looking for a crunch? Try air-popped popcorn in your blend!

Sweets

If you are making your trail mix and are still missing that extra sweetness it is okay to add in some sweets. Like all ingredients remember to keep them in moderation, or you will have a sugar crash at the beginning of your adventure. We suggest cacao nibs, chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips.

chocolate chips in a bowl

Flavorful Extras

If you are still looking for a little something to kick up your mix, try adding in some savory extras. You can always season your mix with spices like ground ginger, cayenne pepper, or cinnamon, whatever suits your tastes.

You can also add an extra crunch and kick with wasabi peas. If we are really looking for a new flavor we also add coffee beans, sesame sticks and coconut flakes to our final mixtures.

As you may have noticed, we mentioned quite a few times the importance of not purchasing ingredients with added sugar or salt. While you make your mix you can choose to add in more sweet and savory snacks as you go along, but they can quickly get out of proportion.

cinnamon sticks on a table

The idea of trail mix is to provide you a healthy burst of energy, so try and avoid preservatives. Now that you know the main ingredients and how they add together to make the ultimate snack, we are going to provide a few recipes for your very own homemade trail mix.

*Snacking Tip: Sometimes you just need chocolate. If you want to put some tasty chocolate chips or chunks in your mix, go for it, just try and pick the darker varieties, as they will give you an extra boost as well as soothe your sweet tooth.

Power Mix

This special mix is going to give you a sweet flavor while also using natural ingredients to give you some extra energy. High in antioxidants, this mix features some super foods to keep you on the go. Simply mix together:

  1. Goji Berries
  2. Pistachios
  3. Dried cranberries
  4. Hemp seeds
  5. Dark Chocolate Chunks

goji berries and chocolate

While the proportions are up to you, focus on a balanced blend, and go easy on the chocolate chunks for ultimate energy and a full feeling.

Monkeys Mix

This mix is excellent for both energy and a little one with a bit of a sweet tooth. These ingredients combine to make an excellent post breakfast munch!

  1. Banana chips
  2. Peanuts
  3. Almonds
  4. Dark chocolate chips
  5. Raisins
  6. Sea salt to season
  7. Coconut flakes

When seasoning this particular snack, make sure to go light on the salt, or not include it if your nuts are already salted.

Coffee Addict Crunch

Perfect for someone who loves their morning roast, and needs a little bit of a caffeine and sugar kick to make it up the mountain, simply combine:

  1. Hazelnuts
  2. Almonds
  3. Chocolate-covered coffee beans
  4. Peanut butter chips
  5. Dark chocolate chips

No matter what you choose to go with, start simply by combining your favorite ingredients, keeping in mind that you are pleasing both your taste buds and your body.

Too much sugar and you could crash too early into your hike, too much savory and you could feel bloated and lethargic afterward. Just keep your trail mix simple and enjoy your snack as you hike or backpack your way around the great outdoors.

Storage System

Now that you have created your own personal blend, you may be wondering what you are meant to put it in. the simple answer is an air tight storage container, this can be Tupperware or sealable sandwich bags.

camping food in ziplock bags

Regardless of how you store it, make sure your snacks stay in a cool and dry place, or your ingredients will go off. If you have lots of crunchy items in your mix, opt for a harder plastic, so you can enjoy all the bits in your mix!

Counting Calories

As we mentioned before, trail mix is really best suited for those on the go, and specifically for hikers and backpackers. All the ingredients are loaded with important nutrients, but also with loads of calories. For the average hiker it is recommended to snack on the hour, and to drink water every thirty minutes.

As you tackle strenuous hikes, your body is sweating out lots of stored energies. Hiking and backpacking are not the ideal time to be thinking about your diet, but rather a time to keep strength and energy up.  If you run low on either energy or water while you are hiking you are prone to fatigue and even severe headaches, especially if you are going to higher altitude.

Meal planning can be stressful enough, even when you aren’t thinking about snacks quite yet. The average backpacker is looking to consume between 2,500 to 4,500 calories per person, per day.

eating trail mix while hiking

While this is dependent on your size and the type of trip you are going on, you don’t want to skimp on food. All these calories simply can’t be consumed in single meals, so packing snacks are not only smart, it’s necessary.

Supplement Snacks

As you are packing nutritious snacks for your hiking or backpacking experience, you want to keep in mind other important components of a well-balanced diet. Making sure you have enough meals is important, but so is having enough snacks to keep you full and motivated for the next big hill. Below is a breakdown of some of our favorite supplementary snacks to bring along with you on your excursion.

Fruit

You may already have dried fruit in your mix, but you are going to want to bring some raw fruit along for the journey as well. Fruits offer natural sugars that help keep spirits and energy high on your trip.

Varieties of bananas, apples, and oranges are backpacker’s favorites, as they are easy to carry, can be found in most seasons, and are quick eats. If you plan on being on the trail for a while, try and avoid cut fruits, as they will go off quickly, and most backcountry permits do not want you to leave anything behind, including your snack.

various fruit

Jerky

If you aren’t restricted to a plant-based diet, give beef jerky a chance. The dried thin strips of beef are not only easy to pack, they are a nonperishable form of protein. They are a fast way to refuel and give you a boost of instant energy. They can also be used in soups or other quick dishes to boost up your iron levels and help you feel balanced and full.

Energy Bars

At first glance, energy bars seem to have everything that your mix has in it, just in bar form. These bars offer two things, a balance of nutrition,  and a long shelf life. Energy bars, depending on the brand, are concocted to give you a punch of enthusiasm to keep you on the trail by using high calorie based ingredients.

trail granola bars

While they may not all be made equally, an energy bar is a perfect thing to slip into a backpack pocket, just in case you need an additional snack as you trek up the mountain. Try and choose bars that are organically made, to avoid sugar crashes or sodium bloating.

Fueled for an Adventure

Homemade trail mixes are an excellent way to snack on healthy, affordable, and tasty calories as you embark on your next big hiking or backpacking adventure. Just remember to try and balance your mixes to incorporate different types of sugars, proteins, and fats.

As you go along on your trip try to snack consistently to avoid fatigue or headaches and drink plenty of water. Do you have a favorite trail mix that you make before a big day out? Or even a favorite surprise ingredient that kicks up your mix? Let us know in the comment section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
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.

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