Trail mix is that wonderfully nutritious combination of foods designed to give you the energy needed to conquer the trail. However, you will quickly find that there are good things – and bad things – in store-bought products.
We have found it is best to make your own trail mix at home, or to purchase a good quality product that only includes natural ingredients (more information below). In this post we look at the best trail mix ingredients and their benefits, while recommending some delicious recipes for you to try for yourself.
So, what can you put in a trail mix? Trail mix is made up of a combination of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. You can also put sweeter things such as chocolate and shredded coconut in the mix to make it more delicious. Common nut choices for trail mixes are peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews and walnuts, while sunflower and pumpkin are the main choice of seeds. The dried fruits normally used are raisins, although in some mixes you can find dates, cranberries and bananas.
The market is saturated with unhealthy versions of trail mix, so all the recipes we feature and all the products we recommend are healthy options, with no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Easy homemade trail mix recipe
Almonds are incredibly good for us, which is why they are the main ingredient in this easy homemade recipe. They are rich in magnesium, among many other things, which helps to prevent muscles from cramping. This is particularly useful for those long days on the trail when your muscles are tired and fatigued.
Combine that with some protein-packed pumpkin seeds that will assist with muscle recovery and growth, and what you have is a powerful mix that your body will be craving.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Pinch of sea salt
Mix all the ingredients together in your desired ratios. Note: Regulate your intake of raisins as they contain a massive amount of fiber and can have you dashing for the toilet if you consume too many!
Gourmet trail mix recipe
This gourmet recipe can do a little bit of damage to your food budget, but if you want luxury when out on the trail, then look no further. This gourmet trail mix recipe is as delicious as it is expensive.
At roughly $25 per pound, macadamias are the most expensive nuts on earth. If you grow them or can afford to buy them, they can be a delicious addition to your trail mix. Add some organic dark chocolate to enhance both flavor and texture variation. It also contains powerful antioxidant compounds known as epicatechins that work in the body to improve blood flow.
- Pine nuts
- Organic 70% dark chocolate
- Organic dried goji berries
- Organic dates
- Organic dried coconut flakes
- Pinch of sea salt
Mix all the ingredients together in your desired ratios!
Cheap trail mix recipe
If you are looking for a cheaper version of a trail mix that still offers a good nutrient density, then you should be looking to replace the more expensive nuts with peanuts. Peanuts are fairly easy to grow and require far less water than the other tree-grown nuts, so it makes sense to switch to this high-energy food source.
Almonds make another appearance because they are just so good for us and can be found at reasonable prices, while the relatively high levels of calories in the raisins and apricots will provide you with the instant energy required when hitting those trails.
- Dried apricot
Mix all the ingredients together in your desired ratios!
Also read: No-Cook Camping Meals: 21 Tasty Ideas
Trail mix ingredients list
Use this list to mix/match and come up with your own recipe…
- Goji Berries
- Golden Berries
- Dark Chocolate
- Coconut (technically a fruit, nut and seed)
- Cacao Nibs
Pre-packaged trail mix
There are literally thousands of different companies out there selling different versions of trail mix, some with an ingredient lists longer than your arm. With so much rubbish on the market, it can be difficult to know what is good and what is bad. So, as trail mix lovers ourselves, we have picked three delicious products that are all made from natural ingredients.
shar – Original Trail Mix
There is a lot to like about this trail mix from shar which is available from REI. It is organic, vegan, paleo and free of GMOs, preservatives, additives and gluten. It is made up of almonds, blueberries, cashews, tart Montmorency cherries, cranberries, dark chocolate chips, pecans, pistachios and coconut flakes.
The best thing about this is that all of those ingredients are natural and organic. The nuts and dried fruit in this mix are calorie-dense, and so it packs a lot of energy into small handfuls.
There are other things to like about this product. It is made in the USA and comes in recycled paper tube packaging that is itself reusable. It is biodegradable and compostable, and they were even thoughtful enough to produce the labels using plant-based inks, paint and adhesives.
shar also donate 20% of their net profits to The Conservation Alliance.
More info: sharsnacks.com
Gourmet Nut – Power Up Trail Mix
The Power Up comes in four mouth watering varieties; the High Energy, Mega Omega, Protein Packed and Goji Power trail mixes. And they are yummy. The High Energy version contains dried cranberries, pineapple, banana, coconut and papaya, which gives it a sweeter, more tropical flavor. You will also find walnuts and cashew nuts, making it a serious snack for the trail.
The Mega Omega mix contains dried mango, which pairs beautifully with the addition of pepitas, while the cranberries provide balance for the walnuts and almonds. The Protein Packed version comes stacked with extra pumpkin seeds, peanuts and cashews which does exactly what it was supposed to; it provides extra protein.
This is essential for muscle recovery and your legs may end up thanking you for taking this as your snack of choice.
Rounding out the range is the Goji Power blend. Predictably packed with gojis, this superfood contains two amino acids (L-arginine and L-glutamine).
More info: gourmetnut.com
Orchard Valley Harvest – Omega-3 Mix
This trail mix is simplicity at its finest. Featuring just four key ingredients – walnuts, cranberries, pistachios and almonds – this delicious blend ticks all the right boxes. The choice of walnut for the main ingredient is a bold call. It is drenched in omega 3 fatty acids.
Pistachios are also loaded with their share of nutrients. They are high in the antioxidants, helping you to recover faster after being out on the trail all day. Get both these nuts with this delicious blend that is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the cranberries.
Orchard Valley Harvest products are Non-GMO Project Certified and their trail mixes do not contain any artificial ingredients, flavors, colors or preservatives.
More info: orchardvalleyharvest.com
Why does trail mix have M&Ms?
Some inferior quality trail mixes come with M&Ms and other inferior chocolates that contain a lot of sweeteners and nasty artificial stuff. They have been manufactured to make them more accessible to a wider range of people, because people tend to like what is bad for them. These trail mixes have been marketed as providing instant energy due to the high sugar content.
In reality, eating these blends involves more sugar-spiking of the blood, which leads to larger sugar crashes and an inefficient release of energy. As a general rule, only eat trail mixes that look natural. If you see any artificial colors, then steer well clear. Chocolate in a trail mix is fine, as long as it is good quality and has been responsibly sourced.
Try to look for dark chocolate that is made with at least 70% cocoa or cacao.
Why is it called trail mix?
It is simply called trail mix because it is an ideal thing to be eaten while out hiking on the trails. Trail mixes are full of nuts and seeds and are therefore nutrient dense. By removing the water from the fruit, they are actually increasing the nutrient density in that as well, which results in a highly efficient food source for adventurers.
The density means that trail mix packs down small and can take the shape of its surroundings without getting damaged. It basically goes hand in hand with the hiking experience, and hence its name. It is known as “Scroggin” in Australia and New Zealand, while another slang name you may know it by is “Gorp” – or, Good Old Raisins and Peanuts.
The modern day father of trail mix appears to be Horace Kephart, who recommended a combination of raisins, nuts and chocolate in a camping guide that he wrote. There is evidence that trail mix was consumed as long ago as the 17th century in Europe, although the first person to mix it up is unknown.
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As a travel writer and photographer, Gordon spent the better part of 2018 visiting 13 different countries as far apart as Chile, Morocco and Vietnam. He is in New Zealand in 2019, writing a third travel book, while exploring pretty much anything that forms a bump on the Earth’s surface.