The last day of August celebrates one of the unassuming but absolutely staple backpacker snacks. The 31st is (drumroll, please)….National Trail Mix Day, so consider marking the occasion with a hike and a handful!
Here at Mountain House we’re big fans of trail mix, which happens to make the perfect supporting act to our beloved freeze-dried meals. The happy hodgepodge of dried fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate, granola, and what have you serves as the ideal snack (even a lunch) in between delish Mountain House feasts.
Whether you buy it premade or assemble it yourself, trail mix checks off the right marks as hiking fuel, serving up multiple forms of energy—carbohydrates from dried fruit and granola, fats and protein from nuts, fats from chocolate. Carbs are the easily digestible backbone of your energy supply, while calorie-rich fats provide slower-burning fuel, so trail mix covers your bases as a snacky pick-me-up for those relentless switchbacks and long traverses.
Many ascribe the formal “birth” of trail mix to a pair of California surfers who, in 1968, combined peanuts and raisins to fuel their wave-riding. But even if it didn’t go by its modern name, trail mix certainly predates that allegedly watershed moment. In Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums from 1958, for example, among the vittles Japhy Ryder (famously a fictionalized version of poet Gary Snyder) packs for a climb of the Matterhorn in the Sierra Nevada is a bag of mixed peanuts and raisins and another of dried apricots and prunes—“for energy food.”
Going back further, famed outdoorsman Horace Kephart—among the advocates, incidentally, who was instrumental in the eventual establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park—wrote in his 1919 Camping & Woodcraft: A Handbook for Vacation Campers & for Travelers in the Wilderness, “A handful each of shelled nuts and raisins, with a cake of sweet chocolate, will carry a man far on the trail, or when he has lost it.”
And logic would suggest trail mix in one form or another is of much more ancient pedigree, given nuts and dried fruits are age-old sustenance for humankind.
This source credits the coinage of “trail mix” to Nik Amartseff, whose Erewhon Trading Co. started selling the first commercial prepackaged version in 1974. There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the alternate name “gorp” (or “GORP”), commonly said to derive from “good old raisins and peanuts,” even though plenty of other ingredients may be used. (Interestingly, an early definition of “gorp” meant “to eat greedily,” which we suppose is something you can do with trail mix.)
A New Zealander calls trail mix “scroggin,” which is a pretty great word; in Wales, according to Grammarist, the snack is known as “bwyd dewey.”