Happy Trails [Mix] To You

Like Pooh Bear, but with a lunchbox. With school getting back in session over the past few weeks, we’ve been thinking about snacks. [Okay, real talk here, we’re always thinking about snacks. We’re like Winnie-the-Pooh, forever dreaming about the next snacking opportunity.]

But this time of year in particular, when our thoughts turn to school-related snacks. Fits-in-a-lunchbox snacks. After-school snacks. Late-night snacks. Won’t spoil in your backpack or locker over the weekend snacks. Moderately healthy-but-has-redeeming-nutritional-value snacks. What fills that bill? Trail mix.

We all know trail mix – it’s a combination of granola, dried fruit, nuts, and sometimes M&Ms or other small candies. Trail mix gets its name from being a great snack for hiking (on the trail); the dried ingredients are lightweight and easy to toss in a backpack, lunchbox, or pocket; it also needs no preparation or refrigeration. It’s yummy, and it’s just what you need on a hike: the granola and fruit (and M&Ms) give you a carb-happy boost, and the nuts add protein, healthy fats and sustained energy for the long walk home.

The world according to GORP. It’s been around for decades (it shows up as early as a 1910 camping book), but the popularity of trail mix became more widespread in the 1970s.  Back then, trail mix seemed interchangeable with the word gorp, a term for trail mix supposedly an acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts” or perhaps it was an acronym for common trail mix ingredients “granola, oats, raisins, peanuts.”

You can buy many varieties of ready-made trail mix, but you can easily make your own perfect blend of favorite ingredients, without the ingredients you’d end up picking out of a store bought mix anyway. In my case, I would leave out the dried banana chips and papaya pieces, and add extra chocolate and some other kind of dried fruit. Your mileage may vary.

Common trail mix ingredients may include:

Nuts, such as almonds or cashews
Legumes, such as peanuts or wasabi peas.
Dried fruits such as cranberries, raisins, apricots, apples, pineapple, banana chips or candied orange peel
Sweetened clusters of mixed whole grains (aka Granola)
Pepitas, or sunflower or other dried or roasted seeds
Coarsely shredded dried coconut
Crystalized Ginger, diced or sliced
Chocolate: chocolate chips, chunks, and M&M’s (non-candy-coated chocolates may melt in your pocket, and in your hand)

Isn’t that just snack mix?  Some folks use the terms trail mix and snack mix interchangeably, and that’s just fine if that’s what you do.  We’re not nit-picky about it. We just make a very general distinction between the two.

We loosely define trail mix as a blend of simple ingredients pretty close to their natural state tossed together, that probably doesn’t need to be heated or baked.

Snack mix, by our way of thinking, is a broader category, which includes trail mix. But lots of snack mixes call for ingredients that are more processed, and it probably needs to be cooked somehow (melting butter or chocolate or peanut butter, toasting the mix in the oven, etc).

But the bottom line is: it doesn’t matter what you call it. Just put together some of your favorite bite-sized crunchy-sweet-salty-spicy ingredients, and bring some trail (or snack) mix along with you on your next adventure!

Photo credit: trail mix, ImGz – Own work; CC BY-SA
snack mix, Evan-Amos – public domain