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

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

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—not 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—nuts, 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!