Gear Guy

Is pre-packaged trail food a waste of money?

Not really a gear question, but can you tell me about all the pre-packaged trail food on the market? What have you tried? What's the best? Also, do you know of any Web sites with a good selection of trail recipes, especially vegetarian? Melissa Greenwood, Delaware

I’ve pretty much abandoned the “gorp” and trail mixes we used to eat years ago. These days, I tend to go in two directions. One focuses on pure taste, in which case I nosh on a Snickers bar or peanut butter cookies. When I really need genuine trail food, though, I pull out an energy bar. I like Clif bars, as they’re the most cookie-like of most of the bars out there. About $1 a pop, they’ll keep you going for a long time. Balance bars are also popular. So too are some of the breakfast bars available¬ónot the frosting-covered toaster bars, but the cereal and fruit ones. Carb-wise, these really are pretty good.

Personally, I think the pre-packed trail mixes are a waste of money. They’re wildly expensive for what you get. You can go to any decent food co-op or even a good, big grocery store and get all the stuff you need in the bulk containers¬ónuts, seeds, dried fruit, small candies, you name it. Forget the Web, try this recipe from Chez Gear Guy, for instance:

In a bowl combine one quarter cup of any eight of the following items:

Unsalted nuts, peanuts, cashews, or almonds
Sunflower seeds
Dried cranberries
Dried cherries
Dried apricots
Mini chocolate chips or coated candies
Mini pretzels
Plain or multi-grain Cheerios
Whole-wheat Chex cereal

Store in an airtight container, pack your bag, and you’re ready to hit the trail!