Trail nutrition is often a conversation around the SROM base. Because food is not only a critical part of our courses, but there’s so many things that need to be stratigically planned out before a course even steps foot on the trail in regards to food!
But one thing that is a staple for every course we have is GORP. Known historically as “Good Ole’ Raisins & Peanuts,” this snack mix has survived the test of time and countless expeditions as being an essential part of a person’s success in the wilderness.
What’s so special about raisins and peanuts or GORP you might ask? Doesn’t seem so essential for backcountry nutrition. Trail mix or GORP has become an essential nutritional need in the backcountry because it fulfills many of the basic nutritional needs in one bag that are hard to come by in deep wilderness.
(Image courtesy of the NOLS Cookery book pg 14)
The Nutritional Basics
Nutrition in the backcountry is a hard beast to tame. But with the right tools and tricks, you will be able to accomplish great things in your meals to equip and fuel your body for your outdoor activities.
Most people are familiar with the Food Pyramid. But for backcountry, you need to follow a different model. NOLS has come up with the Backcountry Nutrition Pinnacle. It’s also in the shape of a pyramid, but the line items are different.
It starts at the base with exercise and water, then grains & starchy vegetables, and so on as you can see in the photo above (pg 14 NOLS Cookery book).
The point of the pinnacle, is that there are nutritional needs that have to be met in other ways to optimize your body’s output for exertion with appropriate fuel available. And this is why GORP is the Ultimate Trail Food available!
What’s in GORP?
There are many varieties of what can go into GORP to make it the best trail food for nutrition. But the essentials are a variety of nuts and fruits. But if you are looking to create your own ultimate trail food, here are the basic categories you need to add to your mix.
1. Nuts & Legumes (i.e. Beans)
No, we are not saying to put dried black beans into your GORP. But Peanuts are actually a legume and not a nut. Legumes are incredibly high in proteins and peanuts have healthy oils and fats that your body needs.
In addition to peanuts, any other kinds of nuts that you and your group can eat, are always a good thing to add. Such as almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and even coconut flakes. These items are high in proteins and healthy fats that your body needs for higher energy output and for muscle recovery and repair, wound healing, and overall healthy cells. (NOLS Cookery pg 17)
2. Raisins & Dried Fruit
Not everyone is on fire for raisins. I can recall being the kid who would throw the little raisin box across the room because I really, really didn’t like raisins. I can’t say my tastes have improved much, but there are other options if you’re like me and would rather eat any other dried fruit….
Like golden raisins (huge improvement!), dried apricots, apples, banana chips (starch & sugar), and other kinds of dried fruit.
The benefit of dried fruits in your mix is that they provide an incredible amount of vitamins and minerals that are otherwise hard to get while in the backcountry. They also provide a great deal of natural occurring sugars like fructose that is quick and easy energy for those “type 2” kind of fun days when need some energy quick to keep you going.
3. Other Goodies
While back in the day GORP really just was nuts and fruit, these days trail mixes typically have a bit more to them that add to the overall nutritional value and to the taste of them. Here are some additional options that you can add to yours:
- M&Ms: Adds some milk chocolate which nutritionally adds some quick sugar, dairy, and caffeine to the mix. And that candy shell helps a ton with the melting factor!
- White Chocolate Chips: Adds some dairy and sugar for quick energy with a slower release time.
- Cereals: Adding cheerios or other kinds of cereals adds some grains to your GORP. This adds complex carbohydrates to the overall nutrition and helpful for longer and more intense days.
- Pretzels or Veggie Straws: Again, these items add carbohydrates and even some more salt to your mix. The salt helps with staying on the up and up on electrolytes especially in a desert environment where you’re sweating more than you think.
These are just a few additional things that help with increasing the nutritional value of your GORP. But, ultimately you can be as creative or as simple as you want. Depending on your physical and dietary needs, GORP is the one food you will always want on your next hike whether it’s for 2 hrs or 240 hrs!
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Laura has been full time with SROM since February of 2017. In addition to writing, she and her dog Lily enjoy going on adventures and pushing the limits of “the norm” in their daily rhythms. Most recently that includes the building of their own off-grid Tiny House on wheels this year.
To learn more about about Laura, click here.