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The Great Gorp Contest

From "good old raisins and peanuts" to trail mixes spiced with hot peppers, Michigan cherries, beer nuts, and dried carrots, the ultimate backwoods snack comes your way, courtesy of Backpacker readers.

Fact: Everything tastes better in the outdoors. But when you combine food that’s crunchy and salty (like nuts) with stuff that’s sweet and chewy (like dried fruit and candy), something magical happens. You’ve created gorp, the perfect power-packed snack for generations of backpackers.

Need proof that there’s magic in trail mix? Listen to James “Bernie” Bernholz, a reader from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, who still salivates as he recalls a shining moment with gorp:

“After a 6-hour ascent of Gulkana Glacier, Alaska, my five ravenous partners and I combined and shared the treasures of our dwindling snack bags. I don’t remember the exact ingredients, but they ranged from dried pineapple to a roll of Lifesavers to lint from our wool shirts and even some shavings from a military C-ration bar. On a ledge of million-year-old ice under a slate-gray sky, the perfect gorp was created, consumed, and not to this day duplicated.”

Fortunately, some of you remember (and even write down) the formulas of your most successful concoctions. We know, because when we asked for a peek at your homespun trail mixes in 2000, more than 40 readers forked over favorite recipes.

Then it was our turn to conduct round after round of rigorous taste testing. Throughout fall and winter, we mixed up gourmet blends, fruity health mixes, sweet-tooth specials, and a few bizarre antigorps. A panel of hungry editors sampled the recipes, sampled them again, and then voted for their favorites. Between bites, we came to a few conclusions:

First, to each his or her own. While most hikers think of gorp as a blend of fruit and nuts eaten by the handful (with the requisite crumbs sprinkled on your fleece jacket), readers told us to think outside the zipper-lock bag. Gorp, they said, can be a sweet and crunchy ball, a smooth bar, or a simple grab bag of chocolate goodies.

Second, we couldn’t name one overall winner, because, even among our small group of editors, tastes differ incredibly. Still, a few recipes stood out among the mounds of M&M’s and hordes of raisins. You’ll find those recipes for trail magic below. Bon appétit!

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