Number Ten - tuna and crackers. Make sure you get one of the smaller cans of tuna that has a pull top to open, that way you won't need a can opener. If the thought of dry tuna makes you shudder, than you can bring a mayonnaise packet acquired at a local fast food restaurant to make it more palatable. To make things even more tasty consider smearing your tuna salad on a bagel (pre sliced) or into some pita bread. Nutritional pluses, tuna is almost pure protein while being balanced with carbohydrates from the crackers or bread.
Number Nine - hard cheese and crackers. Hard cheeses are robust enough to survive on the trail and can take a moderate amount of heat. Sharp cheddar stood out as a favorite among the editors, getting high marks for our durability requirements. Seasoned or whole-wheat crackers add flavor to the somewhat bland experience. Nutritional pluses include plenty of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Number Eight - peanut butter. If you bring peanut butter you will have a lot of options. We recommend repacking it into a squeeze tube; you can find them practically anywhere, even the camping supply section of most Wal-Marts. Not only can you just suck it out of the tube, you can lather peanut butter on crackers or a bagel. One of our favorites is smothering a bagel with peanut butter and sprinkling plump raisins on top. Nutritional pluses, plenty of protein, a good amount of fat balanced with the carbohydrates from the crackers or bread.
Number Seven - candy bars. If you are hiking in a moderate climate, candy bars can survive well on the trail. We don't recommend them in hotter conditions, thus the reason candy bars only made it to number seven on our list. Milky Way, Snickers, Pay Day, and Whatchamacallit scored high with our editors, one said he would, "kill on command for a Whatchamacallit" and yet another editor said she'd do the same for a Snickers, "in a heart beat!"
Pluses include lots of simple carbohydrates for a quick energy fix and great flavor that almost everyone loves, and of course almost no trash to pack out.
Number Six - fresh fruit. Nothing satisfies like a good apple, orange or pear. We recommend carrying fruit that can take rolling around in your backpack, you might find peaches, bananas, and plums less than desirable when you sit down to eat. The two reasons they didn't score higher with our editors was weight, trash that needs to be packed out, and caloric bang per ounce. However they get very high marks for a natural carbohydrate fix, and almost everyone has a favorite fruit they will eat. Every editor agreed that sitting on a scenic bluff eating cheese and crackers with apple slices was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Number Five - beef jerky. When we talk about beef jerky we don't mean going to the local convenience store and getting a SlimJim. Not that we have anything against GoodMark Foods, but you haven't had beef jerky until you have had REAL beef jerky. Our editor in South Dakota got us hooked jerky from My Favorite Jerky LLC, out of Red Oak, Iowa. It has an intense beef flavor, is very tender and was voted the best tasting jerky in 1999 and we have to agree. Beef jerky is almost bullet proof, extremely lightweight, and offers a very good balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. If you have the time and a food dehydrator, consider making it yourself.
Number Four - dried fruit. Dried fruits scored higher than fresh fruit because they are more durable, there is a lot less trash to pack out, and they pack more caloric bang per ounce. Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, and dried apples were favorites. Some editors favored prunes, while others took points off for what they can do to your system. One editor pointed out that some of the dried fruit bite products in the supermarket are extremely tasty, taking an assortment of dried fruits and cutting them finely. Dried fruits are packed with carbohydrates and offer a quick energy fix. They are also flexible enough to be used with peanut butter or cheese.
Number Three - granola. Granola has gone full circle when it comes to popularity. Once a fringe food associated with the hippy movement, granola was viewed as an elixir of long life during the seventies and early eighties until the dirty secret that granola is packed with fat came out. With the low fat movement of the late eighties and early nineties, granola once again took a back seat and disappeared from store shelves. Almost bullet proof, granola has grown up and comes in a variety of flavors ranging from honey, and nut to more exotic combinations like blueberry or cherry. Loaded with fat and carbohydrates, granola is an excellent food source out on the trail.
Number Two - energy bars. Whether your favorites are Power Bars, Clif Bars, Luna, 30-30-40, Myoplex or others, sports nutrition energy bars are an excellent food source out on the trail. Having the shelf life of plutonium, balanced nutrition, lightweight, almost no trash, and tasting great (well, when you find a brand you like) they are almost the perfect food. The only thing that kept energy bars from moving to the number one spot was price, with the average bar costing close to $1.25 to a $2.50. If you hike a lot we recommend buying them in bulk from a warehouse store like Sams, BJ's, or Costco. If you are lucky enough to live on the west coast, Trader Joes has great prices on a wide variety of bars.
Number One - gorp. All of our editors agreed that gorp was the best food on the trail. Also known as trail mix, the entire staff also agreed that the best way to get gorp was make it yourself with your favorite foods. A combination of any of your favorites including M&M's, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, Cheerios, Chex cereal, raisins, peanuts, cashews, and dried coconut were among the suggestions we received. Low cost considering you probably have most of the ingredients sitting on the shelf at home, no trash to speak of, tasty if you make it from your favorites, and bullet proof, gorp is the perfect food when you're out on the trail.