Best Trail Mix Recipe Snack Alternatives for Backpacking and Hiking

Are you getting tired of traditional trail mix recipes for your backpacking or hiking trips? Why not mix it up by also including an alternative custom trail mix recipe for a healthy, high-energy snack?

Who says the only valid trail mix snack recipe is the traditional combination of nuts and raisins? That’s ridiculous. The best snack for YOU on the trail is a snack that YOU make for yourself from ingredients that YOU like.

The best trail mix recipes are those that provide you with lots of calories and steady energy, are easy to eat as you are hiking, and also contain some of your favorite flavors.

You may have heard people refer to “GORP” – it simply means “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” – but if you don’t like raisins or peanuts, you certainly don’t want to include them in your recipes.

In addition, if you are considering recipes to prepare a batch of trail mix to share with several people, you need to find out if anyone doesn’t like certain ingredients and especially if anyone is allergic to peanuts or other items that are common in hiking snack recipes.

While raisins and peanuts are a good foundation for trail snack recipes, you need to add many more ingredients to make it interesting. In fact, you’ll probably want to consider developing two or more trail mix recipes if you are planning food for a trek or hiking trip lasting more than 2 days, just so you have some variety.

Traditional trail mix recipe

Here is one of our favorite basic homemade trail mix snack recipes:

  • 2 cups of salted peanuts
  • 1 cup of whole pecans
  • 1 cup of sunflower kernels
  • 1 cup of dark raisins
  • 1 cup of light raisins

Why those ingredients?

Let’s analyze the above recipe to see what’s important about the combination of ingredients.

  • The peanuts are salted because your body will lose salt through perspiration while hiking and you need to replace it.
  • The whole pecans add lots of nutrition, but are not salty like the peanuts, so they balance out the flavors. Also, the pecans should be whole and not chopped, because as you are walking, you need to be able to easily grab some of the mixture from its ziplock bag without dropping it on the hiking trail. Stay away from finely chopped nuts.
  • The sunflower kernels (without shells) add an even different flavor and texture and pack a big punch in energy generation.
  • To round out the flavor with some sweetness, add 1 cup each of dark raisins and light raisins. These each add their own distinctive flavors and textures and provide natural sugars and a concentration of fruity flavors.

Trail mix alternative – Dried fruits

The big advantage of using various combinations of dried fruit as a trail mix snack is that you can customize your own recipe very easily. Dried fruits like apricots, dried apples, dried papaya chunks and others are easy to buy at any grocery store, so you can choose just the items that you really like.

Here’s a great starter recipe for a dried fruit trail mix snack: Combine equal parts of

  • Dried Apricots
  • Dried Apple Slices
  • Dried Papaya Chunks or Cubes
  • Dried Mango Chunks or Cubes

If you enjoy crunchy snacks then just add Dried Banana Chips to balance out the sweetness and softness of the fruity recipe.

The exact proportions of each ingredient are not as important as the flavors and textures that you enjoy, so feel free to swap other ingredients in and out of the basic dried fruit mix recipe above. For example:

  • Raisins
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Dates

If your dried fruit homemade trail mix seems too sweet, then of course you can add in some nuts like almonds or pecans to make a hybrid recipe alternative that moves back in the direction of the usual GORP and other traditional snacks.

Beef Jerky in a Trail Mix Recipe

Beef jerky might not seem like it belongs in a trail mix recipe, but it is a very valuable ingredient to include as a trail snack on every backpacking and hiking trip.

Usually, you’ll just take the jerky in its own plastic bag (measure large bags of jerky out into smaller plastic zipper bags for convenience), but if you’re adventurous and like to experiment with unusual taste combinations, why not try snacking on it along with a dried fruit or traditional trail mix?

Beef jerky as a backpacking meal

Jerky as some nice advantages:

  • Non-perishable for short trips (keep sealed in bags, however)
  • Good source of salt to replace what you’re sweating out
  • Gives your body concentrated bursts of energy without having to eat lots of bulk
  • Very savory to balance out your sweet snacks

However, as always, remember to follow the rules of hiking hydration and drink lots of water, especially when using a salty snack recipe.

What about pretzels and cereals?

Is it a good idea to include pretzels and cereals like Chex or Cheerios in your recipes? Trail mix should be concentrated with lots of calories and energy-producing foods, so don’t go too heavy in the direction of cereals or bread items.

With that said, you could put salty pretzels to good use if you aren’t including salty nuts, and a light mixture of crunchy cereal like Chex can add some interesting textures and extra flavors. Just don’t try to create trail mix recipes completely out of those ingredients because they just won’t provide the energy kick you’ll need on an extended backpacking or hiking trek.

Have it Your Way on the Trail!

The most important aspect of choosing your snacks for the trail, beyond the nutritional and energy Content, is to use a recipe that you actually like!

Sure, you’ll also want to choose ingredients that aren’t messy (should you really add chocolate chips for that summertime hike?), but the bottom line is deciding on a combination that you will enjoy.