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Are Trail Snacks A Dying Art?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
When I came into hiking and backpacking almost everyone made many of their own snack foods. Other than candies there wasn't much to choose from otherwise.

Now when I hit the trail I see primarily store bought energy bars and similar commercial products. To me this represents a downward trend, because the make-it-yourselfer has a broader range of tastes, textures, and nutritional values to work with.

On a short hike, none of this really matters much. But on a multi-day, long-distance hike, you really need that diversity.

Gorp is, of course, the standby. Technically, gorp consists only of raisins and peanuts (indeed, the very name comes from Good Old Raisins and Peanuts). But, of course, not too many people stopped there. In addition to the basics, various fruits, nuts, and candies have been added to the mix, with coconut and M&Ms among the more popular additions.

Dried fruits often are the basis of trail foods. You can find a couple of interesting recipes using dried fruit at Backpacking Food - Friendly Carbohydrates

Less well know are the variations of rice krispy treats---which, themselves, aren't a bad trail food. But if you take the basic recipe and ring changes on it you create an even better tasting snack that may even be better for you.

For instance, when I make these treats I add in a cup of bitter-sweet chocolate morsals and a cup of slivered almonds. And there's no reason to confine yourself to rice krispies. Try using your favorite granola mix instead. Or other favorite cereal.

Something I've noticed recently is that Kellogg's no longer prints the recipe on the outside of the box. It's inside, instead. Makes no sense to me, but I'm not in charge. So, for anyone who needs it, here's the recipe:

3 tbls margarine or butter
1 pkg (10 oz) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 cups rice krispies cereal.

Melt margarine or butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Add the cereal. Stir until well coated. Transfer mixture evenly into a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cut into 2-inch pieces when cool.

Alternative: In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat margarine or butter and marshmallows on high for 2 minutes. Stir to combine. Microwave on high 1 minute more and stir until smooth. Add the cereal and continue from there.

Instead of oiling the pan, I line it with waxed paper, overhanging at least as long as the pan. After transferring the mix, fold the excess paper over the top. This makes it much easier to press and compact the mixture so it fills the pan easily. Once the mixture is cool lift it out of the pan and cut into squares.

So, do you still make your own hiking snacks? And, if so, what are your favorites?
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #2 of 10
I make a rather complicated granola recipe...not hard just alot of stuff in it and kinda a bother to make....and what do we do with it? we put it on yogurt and nibble on it while watching the TV.
But I have to admit it has the store bought preparations beat hands down.
post #3 of 10
Usually a bag of nuts and raisins do the trick for the hike, and a pot of tea and a sandwich at halfway.
There is a place in the lake district called Kendal, (UK) where long ago, somone invented the mintcake. Apparently it had endurance powers and every hiker just had to have a supply (basically peppermint creme in chocolate) Blaah! Its become synonymous with hiking in the UK for years now. They hard sell it in camping shops the way other shops try to sell you credit.

Well thats all i was geared up with when pals suggested one wine soaked night that i might join them for some hill walking the following weekend. OH didnt think i would actually go, so he didnt warn me what to expect. ( he knew for hill walking, read a climb) So I was totally un-prepared for climbing my first AND LAST Munroe. (Buachaille Etive Beag - Rannoch moor, in the middle of Glen Coe and glen Etive ) So I turned up for a hike and found a f&%*ing mountain. It was horrible. Every kind of nasty weather threw its self at us and a bloody marathon runner was pacing the group to boot. Got to the top though ( on my knees, crying like a baby cos it was a ridge, n all you could see either side was clouds)
We arrived in the pub many hours later, where i was without a change of clothes (everyone else had changed) No money for a pint cos i didnt know we'd be there and my ciggies were soaked through. My friend bought me a pint, lit me a smoke and i stood and dripped. Supped my ale and vowed never again
OH has felt guilty ever since for not preparing me... And I've let him
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
Ahhhh. Let us never forget the positive effects of guilt. :lol:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 10
I am not a hiker but I always keep some form of trail mix around the house for nibbling one. As you said, Heirloomer, it's great because it is so easily modified to suit the mood and tastes of the moment.
http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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http://www.onceachef.com/ is my personal blog where I share many recipes, my passion for cooking, and all things food.
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post #6 of 10
I can't locate my source files for this info in my data archive at the moment. I'll keep looking though as it's quite interesting.

What people eat on the trail and what they should eat on the trail are often very different things.

Energy bars taste vile and chew like sludge. But they can be quite nutritionally appropriate when eaten correctly, which they rarely are.

Many of the traditional trail mixes offer mostly calories from fat which is a poor nutritional choice in this situation. Protein only in small doses as well as it requires extra water and energy to process out the nitrogen. You want carbs for on the trail snacks and you want them in small doses about every 20 minutes. You're only looking for a few hundred quick digesting calories per hour, about 200. But you'll usually pick up some others in fat and protein as well.

Remember, this is snacking we're talking about, not meals.

Improper snacking leads to hitting the wall or bonking early. Once that happens you're burning fat. Fat burning needs lots of oxygen and releases energy slowly, so slow down and BREATHE.

When I read Aaron Ralston's book about his experience amputating his own arm while trapped under a boulder some years back, he had an interesting trail food idea. Food is not his focus, unlike us, but he had an interesting idea all the same. He used frozen burritos. Convenient, pre-cooked and there actually are some good ones out there.
post #7 of 10
Never made Granola, but the supermarkets here have started selling it. (Loaded with sugar n grease). I saw the ever-scary Barefoot contessa making it one day on tv. Sounds great for hiking food as far as the oats, nuts and fruit are concerned,oats for slow-release energy and fruit sugar in the dried fruit which doesnt give you the highs and lows of regular sugar. for this purpose, maybe replace sugar with fructose, and cut out the oil. Theres plenty in the nuts.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
>Many of the traditional trail mixes offer mostly calories from fat.....<

I don’t know as that’s really true, Phil. Unless you’re referring to commercial mixes?

A lot depends on the nature of the hike. What people snack on while on a day hike, or even an overnight trip, isn’t always the same as what long-distance hikers eat.

Traditionally, long-distance hiking food was based heavily on carbohydrates. This had both good and bad features. Carbs provide a burst of quick energy that fades rather quickly, whereas fats and proteins are burned slowly, and therefore release energy on a steadier basis.

Carbs got a bad rap because of the crash that follows eating them. Overlooked was the fact that the crash only happens if you ingest a bunch of carbs on a one-time basis. This is true, for instance, if you have a candy bar to fight the 3 o’clock blahs. You get that burst of energy, true. But it fades quickly. By 5 PM you're ready for a nap.

If you munch on them steadily, the crash doesn’t happen. In effect, you have a sustained sugar rush. This is similar to the carbohydrate loading used by runners, but the mechanics are different. What you’re actually doing is working off a series of carb reactions. You have a snack, which provides that quick energy. Before you run down you have another snack, etc.

By the time you’re finished snacking down the trail, and ready for a real meal, you replace the depleted reserves at supper. Or part of them, anyway.

The trade off is that proteins, by and large, are heavy and bulky. So few long-distance hikers bothered with them. This means that your body does, indeed, burn up reserves of fat. For instance, when Colin Fletcher walked the length of the Grand Canyon (the first person to do so), he lost more than 20 pounds in the course of that two-month walk. But he was a lean, mean, fighting machine when he climbed back up to the North Rim.

If you’re a mountain hiker there’s another problem; you lose your taste for fats and oils. That’s why we all used to carry those tropical chocolate bars, but nobody ever ate them. The trick is to make the oils palatable by adding them in the form of nuts, chocolate, even cheese. That’s why gorp was so popular; the nuts provided oils.

Unfortunately, gorp becomes cloying rather quickly. You can eat only so much of it before you lose your taste for it. And it was back to almost pure carbs. This also partially explains why the additives; anything to make the stuff palatable long term.

One of the benefits to the emergence of freeze-dried foods and MREs is that it allowed us to eat a more balanced diet while on the trail. Even so, those dishes were, in general, reserved for breakfast and supper. Most long-distance backpackers did not, in those days, bother making lunch per say. Basically, “lunch” was just a larger helping of the snack type foods.

Some of us did make real lunches. But those tended to be things like rehydrated ramen noodles and the like. This provided the rejuvenating effects of a hot meal. But were still, essentially, carb based.

Given the body's work needs, an ideal daily menu planner would be something like:

Breakfast: Bacon (or ham) and eggs. Buttered tea.
On trail: Various snacks as needed or desired.
Lunch: Something hot, for it's rejuvenating effects.
On trail: Various snacks as needed or desired
Supper: Steak

Obviously, this overlooks the weight and bulk requirements of backpacking. Which is why nobody ever ate like that, despite the fact that we understood how imbalanced our diets were.

To some degree, the fats/proteins needs could be met by jerky, pemican bars, and similar products. But never enough to provide what the body really needed. Anybody who's ever taken a long-distance hike lost weight in the process.

The weird thing is that at the end of the hike you'd think the first thing you'd do is head to a restaurant for a protein-rich meal. But such was not the case. What you desire, for some unfathomable reason, is ice cream.

I used to think that was just me. But I've spoken to hundreds of backpackers, rafters, and other long-range wilderness travellers, and it seems to be an almost universal end-of-the-trail craving.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 10
I make simple Tuna sandwiches with mayo and lettuce when I hike. It's easy to make and you can just pull out the sandwich bag and eat while you're hiking. I've tried the rice krispy treats with melted marshmallows before and I think it's a good way of getting your energy for hiking because of its sweetness :)
post #10 of 10
toasted or raw almonds, coconut flakes preferable to shreads, M&Ms or chocolate of some type, dried cherries or raisins.....

Dried apricots, with & without nuts

Apples....core goes into the woods.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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