I walked into a supermarket yesterday and picked up a bag of so called ‘Trail Mix’ just to check the contents – it ran heavy to little buttons of white chocolate, with raisins and peanuts scattered through the mix between the pops of color from sugar coated candies.
Seriously, if someone ate this on the trail they would be searching for water superfast after all that sweetness. White chocolate is just pretty much pure sugar and fat, running high to carbs with only 1% of the recommended daily dietary fiber allowance in a 1.2 ounce (35g) serving.
As for the raisins, well, they are fiber rich and contain plenty of vitamins and minerals but they are high in sugar. I’m not saying cut out raisins from the trail mix, just have them in moderation, because for 3.5 ounces (100g) of raisins 2.5 ounces (71g) of that weight is sugar, according to MyFitnessPal.
If the raisins are chocolate or yogurt coated that makes them a definite no-no. As for candy… no comment.
When it comes to trail mixes they are definitely not equal, as despite having the reputation as a healthy snack many are decidedly not so.
Table of Contents
What Should Go into a Trail Mix?
As preppers we need to be aware of what should be included, as we want a balance between high calories, healthy fats, protein and some sugar.
Trail mix is a nutrient dense food, so a little goes a long way – perfect for hiking because you want something lightweight that provides for the energy needs of your body while on the move.
Now, many people buy or make trail mixes and snack on them in front of the TV, or while busy on their computers. The problem is that unless the portion is limited, a person is so busy concentrating they do not notice how much they are eating if they are snacking from a bowl.
A trail mix is usually portioned out for hiking so that each serving is approximately ¼ of a cup, and that is all you need for a snack. The average calories in a trail mix comes in at around 172 – that’s one using raw nuts and seeds, it will be higher for ones with candy in them.
Taking the average needs of 2000 calories per day for women and 2500 for men, this would be broken down as follows(but don’t fret if you consume more – after all, you’re hiking! so you’ll be expending a lot of energy):
As you can see, this allows for two packs of trail mix per day of around 200 calories or so when on the move.
We need some sweetness and maybe some saltiness, but in moderation, because if the trail mix runs high to sugar or salt it will make us more thirsty, and sometimes you only have a set amount of water you have planned on carrying before you can refill.
Of the various trail mixes on the market, they vary from very healthy with the right combinations of everything, to ones that you really don’t want to be putting in your body.
These are the ones loaded with crackers and chocolate, sugar or chocolate coated fruit, highly salted nuts and candy – all under the guise of being ‘healthy’. And don’t be fooled by yogurt coating – while it may contain some yogurt powder, it has plenty of sugar and fats, so it does not count as ‘healthy’.
Even worse are the ones that contain candy in the mix, and I am not talking about dark chocolate, which is acceptable. Otherwise you may as well just buy a packet of candies.
Every ingredient is in a trail mix should be there for a reason as these will boost certain minerals needed by your body, when placed under stress in hiking and/or bugging out situations.
We need ingredients that are high in fiber, can provide adequate carbs and protein as well as fat, and have anti-oxidant properties. This is where nuts, seeds and fruit supply the necessary goodness.
However, nuts do contain tannins and phytic acid which can lead to gas. Beans also contain high amounts of phytic acid, and we all know what beans can do to a person’s digestive gases.
Then because of the high amount of fat in nuts, consuming too many can result in diarrhea. These are digestive issues a person would prefer to avoid on the trail.
Proteins and Fats
All nuts and seeds are not created equal. For example, if you need increased selenium to cope with the extra blood flow when doing strenuous hikes, then Brazil nuts are a good option. If you want improved muscle function then the magnesium content in pumpkin seeds will be helpful.
For those who suffer from aching joints, then walnuts with their omega 3 fatty acid levels will help. Almonds come with a host of benefits – they are said to reduce hunger and have plenty of magnesium, help lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Roasted, dried chickpeas and peas are also sources of protein. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidants, and is high in magnesium, manganese, iron, and copper as well as containing potassium and phosphorus.
This means it is a superfood – but that’s only if the dark chocolate has between 70 to 85% of cocoa solids, and as this study has shown, it can be even more beneficial than acai berries and blueberries, commonly touted as superfoods.
For the carbohydrate content dried fruit will come into its own providing an instant energy boost. Items like mini pretzels will supply carbs and the salt needed if sweating a lot and losing electrolytes.
One has to keep salt intake to a moderate level in order to avoid cramping, so, for example, instead of raw walnuts substitute roasted, lightly salted almonds to ensure you have some salt replacements on the hike.
Dried corn kernels supply carbs, as well as being super tasty when some herbs and spices are applied. Dried apricots make a great addition.
One of the longest living people in the world the Hunza of Northern Pakistan eat much of their food raw as in the high country where they live, fuel is scarce. They also eat a lot of apricots, among other fruit.
Apricots contain antioxidants, such as beta carotene and vitamins A, C, and E. Polyphenol antioxidants contained in the flavonoids in apricots can help people by protecting them from diabetes and heart disease.
It has been shown that the Hunza live to very old ages, are remarkably fit, energetic and free of disease. They also drink only dried apricot juice during their fasting period which lasts for around 2 to 3 months a year.
These are some suggested ingredients for your trail mixes, although there may be more and the ones you choose to mix together is a personal preference.
Nuts come with various coatings and flavorings, like a maple chili cashews, or lemon herb cashews, among others.
|Brazil nuts||Pumpkin seed|
|Dried blueberries||Dried Mulberries|
|Dried Apple rings||Dried Apricot|
|Dried cherries||Sunflower seed|
|Dried Cranberries||Dried goji berries|
|Toasted oat flakes||Roasted corn kernels|
|Roasted chickpeas||Roasted peas|
Seeds to Avoid in a Dry Trail Mix
Now there are certain items which are not recommended for trail mixes – partly because they are so fine they are difficult to eat on the go without spilling, and partly because you risk a coughing fit when those little bits get stuck in your throat.
Here’s the list:
- ❌ Linseed
- ❌ Chia seed
- ❌ Hemp seed
- ❌ Sesame seed
- ❌ Flax seed
- ❌ Desiccated coconut
The above ingredients may be better used in making healthy balls of goodness to eat on the trail together with a binding ingredient like peanut butter or dates. So, instead, leave them out of your dry trail mix – unless of course you really really like them.
Date-based Trail Mix Balls
Dates have traditionally been eaten by desert tribes, and are regarded as the ‘fruit of heaven’ due to their nutritional value. There are a number of recipes for trail mix balls available, involving dates, although the idea is not new.
A traditional dessert from Oman, a country on the horn of Africa, called Madluka, is concocted from a mix of date paste with sesame seeds and ghee – a clarified butter from which the milk solids have been removed.
Medjool dates form the perfect base to hold the seeds and nuts together, as they are large and moist, compared to the somewhat dried out versions of dates you get. I have provided some link to recipes for making on the go energy balls instead of trail mix that use the smaller seeds.
Trail Mix Recipes
Trail Mix Date Energy Balls Recipe
These are filled with the good stuff like almonds, rolled oats, chia seed, cinnamon and sunflower seeds. Feel free to experiment and include the seed sand nuts you like. Get the recipe here.
Gluten-free No-bake Protein Balls
Not everyone may be a fan of dates, so this recipe with chickpeas, oats, flaxseed, cacao powder and nut butter provides a tasty high protein snack. Get the recipe.
Gluten-free no-bake protein balls
Nut butter mixed with protein powder, coconut flour, honey and chocolate chips, makes a high protein ball but there are no seeds added, which may help with children who refuse to eat seeds and prefer a protein ball with a smooth texture – aside from the chocolate chips, although it’s hard to find a child who will spit out chocolate chips! Get the recipe here.
Survival Sullivan Raw Trail Mix
Photo A2 Survival Sullivan Raw Trail Mix
This is a mix with relatively inexpensive ingredients which are not roasted. It provides a good mix between fats, carbs and the anti-oxidant qualities of the ingredients to provide a healthy satisfying mix:
- ½ cup walnuts or pecan nuts
- ½ cup sunflower seed
- ½ cup chopped apricots
- ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- ¼ cup raisins
- ½ cup coconut flakes
Makes 2 ½ cups. Considering each serving should be ¼ cup you, will get 10 servings from this mix.
Spoon the required amount into single Ziploc bags or heat seal so that if one bag breaks on the trail at least you will have only lost one and won’t have 2 ½ cups of trail mix mixed in with the stuff in your BOB.
Survival Sullivan’s Biltong Trail Mix
Yield 2 ½ cups – 10 servings of ¼ cup each
By including dried meat the protein content is raised and provides a salty snack to counteract the sweetness of most trail mixes.
- ½ cup biltong
- ¼ cup chopped apricots
- ½ cup walnuts
- ¼ cup dried raisins
- ¼ cup sunflower seed
- ¼ cup goji berries or cranberries
- ½ cup roasted dried peas or chickpeas
If you don’t have biltong, you can substitute with slices of beef jerky or chopped up pieces of dried salami sticks.
Survival Sullivan’s Tropical Trail Mix (Vegan)
This mix will suit vegans, and it’s also a rather delicious combination of tropical to sub-tropical fruit and nuts without being too sweet.
- ½ cup dried banana chips
- ¼ cup coconut flakes
- ½ cup cashew nuts
- ½ cup brazil nuts
- ¼ cup sunflower seed
This makes 2 cups – 8 portions of ¼ cup each.
Keto-Style Trail Mix
Photo A4 Keto style trail mix
- ½ cup roasted almonds
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ cup roasted cashews
- ½ cup coconut flakes
Yields 2 cups – 8 potions of ¼ cup each.
This mix runs high to fats in line with the keto diet’s advised proportions of a daily intake that range from just 5 to 10 % carbohydrates, 10 to 20 % proteins and a whopping 70% to 80% fats as part of the daily intake.
Allergic to nuts?
In a study it was found that around 1.1% of the American population is allergic to peanuts and other nuts from trees like cashews, almonds and hazelnuts. It is possible to prepare a nutritious trail mix that does not contain nuts as nt allergies can be severe and have fatal results.
We have a recipe below that includes something a little unusual – biltong. This tasty dried meat snack is way better than jerky according to many people, and will replace the protein in the nuts for a balanced trail mix. Biltong is available at South African shops across the US, it can be bought online or you can make your own.
Survival Sullivan’s Nut Free Trail Mix
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup roasted chickpeas
- ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup biltong
Yield 3 cups – 12 portions of ¼ cup each.
The combinations you can make for trail mixes are virtually endless. Experiment a little until you find the trail mixes that feel right for you in terms of nutrition and taste.
It is important to have fun preparing for your outdoor experiences and you may want to learn new skills like making beef jerky, pemmican or biltong, dehydrating fruit and making energy balls, to ensure you have complete control of what goes into your trail mix.
No Fruit Trail Mix
Photo A5 No fruit trail mix
Some people just don’t like dried fruit in their trail mix – so this one is for you – a slightly salty herb mix.
- ½ cup roasted almonds
- ½ cup herb roasted cashews
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1 cup salted pretzels
- ½ cup herb roasted corn kernels
Feel free to add pepitas, and sunflower seed to the mix, should you desire.
Yield: 3 cups = 6 portions of ½ cup each. The pretzels take up quite a bit of space which is why the portion size been upped on this one. If you add the pepitas and sunflower seeds because they are quite small, it will make the mix denser, so the portion size should be reduced to 1/3 cup.
Jeanie’s Granola Crumble, Nut and Pretzel Trail Mix
Yield: 2 ½ cups – makes around 7 servings of just over 1/3 cup each
This one has received praise from family and friends because it combines some sweetness with spiciness, giving you different hits of flavor.
The granola crumble is a commercially available one made from rolled oats with pepitas, apple, cinnamon and ginger, but feel free to substitute a granola you have made yourself – what you do need is the cinnamon, ginger and apple flavors though. They just contrast so well with the salty and spicy hints of the other ingredients.
- ½ cup granola crumbles
- ¼ cup roasted herbed and salted cashews
- ¼ cup walnuts
- ½ cup dried herb roasted and salted corn kernels
- 1 cup pretzels
Jeanie’s Maple Chilli Cashew Trail Mix
I have recently discovered maple chilli roasted cashews and felt I just had to combine them into a trail mix for a recent camping/hiking trip. This one received plenty of praise from adults, when I tested it out as a snack bowl with some pre-dinner drinks.
The chili might be a little spicy for kids though. I decided that to contrast with the spiciness we needed some sweetness, so added raisins, and sultanas among other ingredients.
- 1 cup maple chili roasted cashew nuts
- ½ cup dried banana chips
- ¼ cup pepitas
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup large raisins
- ¼ cup large golden sultanas (also sometime called golden raisins)
Yield: 2 ½ cups = 10 servings of ¼ cup each
You know your own tastes so don’t feel you have to follow a recipe – the ones given here are ideas you can tweak to suit your tastes. I have leaned towards more robust ingredients like biltong, corn kernels, chickpeas, to supplement the nuts, seeds and fruit.
This is because when we hike we often don’t get back in time for lunch – only arriving in the late afternoon, so the trail mix acts as a meal – and as a meal it is usually around ½ cup per person.
How Long Does Trail Mix Last?
A trail mix containing nuts will last for around 6 months and dried fruit will last for between 6 and 12 months.
Mixes containing meat will last about 4 to 6 days in a Ziploc bag – but this depends on humidity levels and temperature – the colder and drier it is, the longer things tend to last. The life of the trail mix can be extended by vacuum packing.
I would suggest combining your dried fruit, nuts and seeds, but leaving out the pretzels and meat products like biltong or salami sticks until just before your trip. That way you have long lasting bags of trail mix, whereas the stuff that is likely to go off, like the meat, can be kept frozen until it is ready to go into the hiking or bug out bag.
The pretzels will tend to go soft over time, which is why they should be added last.
Trail mix recipes can be budget friendly, or you can go for more luxury ones that include the more expensive items like Brazil nuts, biltong or jerky.
The combinations are endless and you can experiment with a few of our mixes – make small quantities first to assess which ones you really like and want to include in your BOB.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.