Something happens to high-calorie trail snacks when you mix them all together. More often than not, the result is far less appetizing than the sum of its flavors.
"Trail mix" is a description given to a broad collection of hiking snack mixtures. They typically include some combination of nuts and dried fruit, plus some form of chocolate. All three are calorie bombs that each deliver 100 calories per ounce or more of energy. Collectively, the mixture provides fast-fueling sugars and other simple carbs for quick energy, plus longer burning fat and protein to keep you going all day.
Yuck. One bad ingredient can ruin the mix.
Here's the thing, though: In my experience, having one bad ingredient in the mix—meaning one ingredient that you don't really like—soils the entire bag. And just about every bag of pre-made, store-bought trail mix contains something that rubs my tongue the wrong way.
Here are the culprits, ranked loosely according to how badly they ruin trail mix for me.
Banana chips: Why are fresh bananas so good, and banana chips so disgusting? I don't know, but for me the presence of this evil ingredient permanently contaminates any trail mix.
Dried coconut: Another overpowering flavor presence and trail mix killer.
Dried pineapple, papaya, and kiwi: The texture and sweet, icky taste of these three contrast harshly with salty trail mix ingredients.
Carob: Simply gross.
Raisins: These wrinkly little fellows are OK by themselves, but are far from my favorite food, especially when they're hanging out in trail mix.
M&M's: Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of trail chocolate, and often eat a candy bar or two (Snickers, anyone?) on long hikes. It's just that I find the hard, crunchy shells of M&M's to be a jarring and unpleasant texture contrast in trail mix.
Peanuts and cashews: I can live with these—my two least favorite nuts—if I have to. Barely.
Now don't get me wrong. There are a few trail mixes I do like (my personal go-to is Costco's Wholesome Fruit & Nuts.) It's just that nearly every store-bought version of anything labeled "trail mix" fails in one or more of the above categories.
I'm a big proponent of carrying and regularly noshing on nutritious, high-calorie trail snacks. The key is to make sure you find them delicious to eat. If you don't share my myriad issues with various trail mix ingredients, more power to you. But usually the best bet is to simply make your own trail mix to ensure that you like everything in it.