Simple snacks to prepare ahead of your next trip into the outdoors
Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Bryan Donoghue
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Over the course of many trips into the outdoors, I’ve learned the importance of staying fueled with proper nutrition when out on the trails. However, normal store-bought energy bars and trail mix can become boring and unappetizing after a few hikes. With that in mind, here are some recipes that can be easily prepped in advance of a hike, that offer delicious alternatives to the same old snacks.
Ever since I was younger, I would go through phases where I would love a specific food and eat it endlessly for a given amount of time. Then there would be a random day where I decided I’m over that food, and would no longer have any desire to eat it. With these energy balls, I am able to customize them according to my current flavor-of-the-month and keep things fun. The easy preparation of these are another thing that makes this one of my favorite trail recipes. All you have to do is combine your ingredients in a bowl, ball them up, and then lay them out to solidify in the fridge for a small amount of time before packing them into a bag for the trail.
You may be wondering why I call these energy balls. James Fisher, Certified Personal Trainer and Performance Enhancement Specialist has mentioned that carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source when hiking or backpacking. The name can be whatever your heart desires, but the carbohydrates and protein from these ingredients should be enough to keep you going for miles on end.
Nut Butter (Peanut, Almond, Cashew, etc)
Any other small add-ins
As mentioned above, this recipe is very easy to tailor to your likes, so there aren’t any exact instructions. I usually will start off with a spoonful of Peanut Butter, then add about ½ cup of oats. From here I begin to combine those two together since I like to have a firmer ball. By eyeballing the ratio here I will add about a tablespoon of honey and slowly add more oats as well while still combining my ingredients. I find it helpful to slowly add things as needed so that I can make enough to satisfy any upcoming snack needs.
Once I reach a consistency that I enjoy, I’ll add in small treats I find tasty. Some great examples I’ve used are mini chocolate chips, chia seeds, mini-M&Ms, or even coconut shreds. Roll the dough into small balls in the palm of your hand. Again, this is customizable if you prefer smaller or larger portions. Once all the dough has been rolled into balls, lay them out onto a plate or sheet pan. Place this into the fridge for at least 20 minutes and then pack it up into a small Tupperware or reusable bag for easy access!
Some Pro Tips:
The amount of oats used will vary based on the nut butter that is used. If the nut butter you’re using is high in oil, there will need to be more oats to absorb the oil so the balls can be properly formed. If you run into your dough being too oily to hold a shape, try laying it out in a thin layer and refrigerate. Once it has cooled and solidified, try cutting it into small squares.
If you find a great ratio that uses honey with a measuring cup, spray the measuring cup with pan oil before measuring your honey. Trust me, this makes cleanup a lot easier, and also helps to reduce wasted honey that sticks to the measuring cup.
Try a quick Google or Pinterest search for “energy balls” or “protein balls” for some add-in inspiration - the possibilities are endless!
This one is quite self-explanatory. I love fruit as a low-cost option to obtain vital natural sugars. I find dried fruit to be a great go-to during the winter when I’m avoiding turning on the heat in my house - by using the oven low-and-slow for hours to dehydrate, it solves my needs for both food and warmth! The dehydration process can also be performed using an air fryer if you have the proper equipment. Martha Stewart has a great at-home recipe to dehydrate fruit quickly and easily.
Fruit of choice
Preheat oven to 225 degrees
Lay down parchment paper on a baking sheet
Arrange thinly cut fruit on baking sheet, a few inches apart
(Optional) Sprinkle sugar on top of fruit if desired to make it sweeter
Place pan in the oven and allow the fruit to begin dehydration
Allow fruit to dehydrate from 1.5-4 hours based on fruit used (check occasionally)
Once the fruit has reached your preferred level of dehydration, remove it from the oven and leave to cool
Some Pro Tips:
Only add sugar to fruits that are typically very tart or sour-tasting. This will offset the tartness and make it a bit more pleasant once dried.
You’ll be able to tell your fruit is almost done dehydrating if the edges are dry and shriveled, but the centers still look tender and juicy.
If your fruit leaks liquid during the dehydration process, baste the fruit with the liquid hourly. Leakage will depend on the water content that is in your fruit of preference, but this will help keep the fruit’s flavor and tenderness intact.
Experiment with it! This is a fun food science situation where you can see how your favorite fruits taste dehydrated. I once saw dried chile pineapple at Trader Joe’s and tried making it myself by sprinkling some spicy seasoning on the pineapple after I pulled it from the oven - it was delightful!
DIY Trail mix
Have you ever bought a bag of trail mix from the store and found yourself searching through the bag for your favorite pieces? I know I used to hunt for all the M&M’s or raisins because I never thought there was enough sweetness. A DIY Trail mix is something that you can tailor to your own preferences, and is a great way to get rid of small amounts of food in the pantry that you are otherwise unsure what to do with.
With trail mix there obviously isn’t much of a recipe - just throw your favorite morsels together in a bag and toss it into your backpack before heading out! This is also a great way to manage dietary restrictions such as nut allergies - it can sometimes be tough to find a store-bought mix suited to your specific needs!
While looking for some inspiration on combination ideas, I found a guide that transformed the way I created my mixes. While this section is very flexible with ingredients and instructions, I thought I’d share this chart from UPMC for you to reference should you decide to give this a chance!
Some Pro Tips:
Try to combine flavors - a good balance of salty and sweet will ensure your mix will be tasty enough that you’ll stay fueled during your trek!
Try chopping up some dehydrated fruit from the previous recipe and adding it to your mix!
You may want to avoid chocolate or other pieces that could melt if you’re planning on hiking in hot weather. If your sweet tooth won’t permit that, the hard candy shell of M&M’s makes them much more resistant to meltage than chocolate chips.
Check your local grocery store to see if they have a bulk section. This is an extremely cost-effective way to gather ingredients for your mix!
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND - Photo Credit: Sharon Berardino Verity
Do you have a hiking snack recipe that we should add to this list? Do you have other camping or hiking recipes you'd like to share with our community? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in a future article!
Jamie Rees is a Las Vegas native currently pursuing a Journalism degree at UNLV. Jamie is a former intern with Pathloom, and we want to thank her for all of her amazing contributions to the Pathloom blog over the past few months!
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