Every August 31st is National Trail Mix Day in the USA, but…

in New Zealand its called scroggin (Sultanas, Chocolate, Raisins and Other Goody-Goodies Including Nuts) and though city folk call it trail mix, us backcountry hikers know it as gorp.

“Gorp?,” you ask and I say yes! In doing a bit of research for this post, I came across a new word, backronym. Some, it seems, think gorp is an acronym like scroggin which is, good old raisins and peanuts. 

That’s at least how my mom made it and like most kids, we ate it in this order: peanuts first, anything but the raisins and then when finally desperate, we ate those too.  Finally, mom got the idea of adding M&Ms, now there was a treat to pick out first. By the end, at our house, my guess is that every raisin had been tossed back into the bowl at least once and were actually good for nothing.


It wasn’t really until I lived in Germany for two years I began to eat the raisins in Studentenfutter (“student feed”), but the quality and variety of nuts and dried fruit made it an excellent tasting snack. So back in the USA, I started making my own, with raisins and all.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites a 1913 reference to the verb “gorp,” meaning “to eat greedily.” So I guess when I was making this 35 years ago for Scouts at Beaver High Adventure Base, I should have said, “Ok guys, you can gorp this trail mix down in one lunch or make it last the week, it’s your choice.”

Ours was a hearty mix of granola, mixed nuts, hard candy, and chocolate candies. It was designed to do one thing: stave off hunger on the trail. At 9000 feet, most of our backcountry hikers could not last between meals, so gorp was a quick solution and the “snickers” solution was just a mess on the trail.

According to The National Day Calendar: “Trail mix is an ideal hike snack food because it is very lightweight, easy to store, nutritious and provides a quick energy boost from the carbohydrates in the dried fruits or granola as well as sustained energy from the fats in the nuts.” 

Backpacker Magazine states this: “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.”


The combination of nuts, raisins, and chocolate as a trail snack dates at least back to the 1910s, when outdoorsman Horace Kephart recommended it in his popular camping guide, The Book of Camping and Woodcraft, p. 196, so it has likely been a part of Scouting for a long time.

However, of all the sources, I found, this one from Boy’s Life magazine is my favorite for mixing and matching:

“Almost anything can go into a trail mix, but many people try to find a good balance between sweet and salty items. Here are 35 tasty trail mix ingredients that you might want to try.
“Some experts say that 50 percent of your trail mix should be made up of these ingredients, but be aware of allergies.
• Peanuts
• Cashews
• Pecans
• Almonds
• Sunflower seeds
• Pumpkin seeds
• Walnuts
• Pistachios
“Dried fruits don’t spoil as fast as fresh fruit and won’t moisten the other ingredients.
• Raisins
• Banana chips
• Dried cranberries
• Dried apricots
• Dried apples
• Candied orange peel
• Dried blueberries
“Be careful in warmer climates, because chocolate can melt and make a big mess.
• Chocolate chips
• White chocolate chips
• M&Ms
• Reese’s Pieces
• Sweetened coconut
• Peanut butter chips
“Everyone loves the satisfying crunch and texture of these ingredients.
• Granola
• Chex cereals
• Popcorn
• Pretzels
• Sweetened cereal, like Fruit Loops
• Cheetos
• Wasabi peas
“Lightly sprinkle your trail mix with one or more of these spices for extra flavor. But be careful, a little goes a long way.
• Salt
• Cinnamon
• Cayenne pepper
• Garlic powder
• Onion powder
• Curry powder
• Chili powder”

Today, to celebrate this odd National Day, you can, of course, buy trail mix, but making it as a family activity and eating it would be so much more fun. Just mix dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, cereal and whatever else is opened in the cupboard or anything from the list above. Be sure when you do you share your recipe in the comments below.

What’s your best mix? Use #NationalTrailMixDay to post on social media.

Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.

One comment

  1. Avatar
    Ann Shumway says:

    Some of the best gorp I’ve ever had has been made when each Cub Scout brings a cup of something and we throw it all together, mix it up and then head out on a hike. You never know what ingredients will show up. It’s always a surprise and almost always yummy!

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