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December 2002

Finding Food For The Long Trail

We tortured 51 trail snacks and staples to pick the longest lasting foods for backpacking.


Take: Tortillas, bagels, pita, rye bread

Flour tortillas stayed mold-free longest. Bagels and pita breads held their shape better than sliced bread, but gradually became deformed.

Leave: Freshly baked white and wheat bread

These breads and English muffins broke into pieces; muffins spoiled first. Freshly baked baguettes turned soggy, then hard.


Take: String cheese and Mini Babybel

Individually sealed packages were the clear winners, surviving 8 days without a spot of mold. Processed products tend to last longer than traditional cheeses due to their lack of animal-borne bacteria and microorganisms.

Leave: Shredded cheddar and farmer’s cheese

An 8-ounce package of generic cheddar became a greasy orange disaster after 1 hot day. By midweek, the farmer’s cheese had produced a toxic brown funk.


Take: Pepperoni sticks

Choose an unsliced stick over sliced pepperoni; it remained appealing until the end. Italian sausage and party bites were looking weathered by day 8, but remained mold-free and edible.

Leave: Bologna and salami

Maggots appeared on day 6. The salami, however, was the first to turn, becoming gray by the end of day 1.


Take: M&M’s

Peanut, peanut butter, and baking M&M’s looked as good on day 8 as they did on day 1. Plain M&M’s got a bit sticky. Hershey’s bars held up well despite being broken into chunks, and the bite-size Milky Ways were only slightly mangled (and still delicious) on day 8.

Leave: Chocolate chips

Chocolate morsels melted in the heat, then solidified into a crusty hunk.

Trail mix

Take: Dried fruits, nuts, and pretzels

These tasty old standards survived unscathed. Choose pretzel nuggets over thins-unless you like crumbs.

Leave: Granola and anything yogurt-covered

Granola’s crunch was gone within 48 hours, and the yogurt coating on pretzels and raisins melted on day 2, after an hour of being left out in the heat. Double-bag and seal crispy snacks to keep crunch alive.


Take: Animal crackers

Even after a week of jostling, zebras and giraffes remained recognizable. Mini Oreos leaked far less white frosting than anticipated, making them a great option as well.

Leave: Oatmeal raisin

Large, soft-baked cookies crumbled quickly. Small, dry cookies (like ginger snaps) stayed in one piece longer. Fig Newtons would have survived longer if I’d kept them in the original packaging.


Take: Wheat Thins

These little munchies kept their crunch through day 8 with few broken pieces. Stoned Wheat Thins and Melba crackers also held strong.

Leave: Graham crackers

Forget about trying to make s’mores after 4 days. Fins and tails were all that were left of the Goldfish.

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