Avoid the Bonk with These 3 Fast, Easy, and Eco-Friendly Trail Snacks

Ditch the wrappers, save the money with these easy to make, nutrition-dense snacks.

Near the end of last summer, I talked a friend into riding around one of our local mountains. It was an established route, connecting several known trails, totaling about 23 miles. This was certainly on the longer side of my normal rides, but I felt confident knowing that I had easily completed a 20-mile ride a few weeks before. 

I completed this 20-mile, trail-connecting loop in just over 2 hours. I knew the loop around the mountain would be a bit more challenging, as the elevation gain alone was nearly double. I, therefore, anticipated a 4-hour ride. Boy was I wrong.

A six or seven-mile section of one of the trails was loose and beaten up by horses, making it like riding through a sandbox. Other sections were much more rocky and technical than I imagined. In the end, it was much slower going and much more brutal on my body than I anticipated. I ate the one granola bar I brought halfway through, only drinking water after that. With about 5 miles left, my water was gone. 

Needless to say, I bonked, harder than I ever have. Fortunately, we were able to make it out. After making it home, I spent the late summer evening with the chills, as if I had the flu. I’m not a medical expert, but I think my body may have gone into shock.


As you can imagine, I learned several lessons from that ride. The first was to have a better sense of what I am riding. It was possible for me to ride sections of that trail rather than doing the whole loop. I could have explored each trail segment prior, to see if linking them together was in my wheelhouse. Second, have electrolytes, because water only goes so far. And, lastly, bring more food. I often don’t feel hungry when I ride but my body needs that energy. 

When it comes to the snacks that I do take with me on rides, I’ve noticed a couple of things. Most of the food I’m throwing into my hip pack is individually wrapped. These are most often granola or fig bars. And all of these individually wrapped bars come together in one big package. So it is waste on waste. 

The other thing that I have noticed, as I am sure you probably have as well, is that buying these individually wrapped items can be expensive! Sometimes a trip to the trailhead costs me several dollars in snacks alone. The granola bar is good but clearly, I am paying for the convenience.

In hopes of cutting expenses and waste, I wanted to explore three trail snack ideas that can be made at home. Other than cheap and eco-friendly, my other requirements are that these trail snacks need to be fast and easy to make, and they need to be nutritious to provide the energy we’re all looking for out there. I’m looking for a good mix of fats, carbs, and protein to keep my energy levels high. I also want to be replenishing minerals like potassium, sodium, and calcium to keep my muscles and body going.

Photo: Travis Reill

PB&J Roll Up

This is perhaps the most simple of the 3 trail snacks and you will most likely have everything you need at home. We are all familiar with a PB&J sandwich, but nobody wants to eat a squashed sandwich once they reach the top. Roll it up in a tortilla instead! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tortillas (I prefer Mission’s Sweet Hawaiian tortillas)
  • Peanut butter
  • Your favorite jelly
  • Banana (optional)

It’s pretty simple. Pull out a tortilla and spread an even amount of peanut butter and jelly, mixing the two over the entirety of the tortilla. Next, slice and distribute banana slices over the tortilla. Roll the tortilla tightly then cut your roll-up into 2 or 3 pieces (or more, depending on the tortilla size. The roll-up goes in a reusable sandwich bag, and you are ready to roll.

The tortilla has 3.5g of fat, 4g of protein, and 26g of carbohydrates. It also has 360mg of sodium and 50mg of potassium, important minerals lost through sweat. 

Peanut butter typically has 16g of fat and 8g of protein. It also has 140mg of sodium and a serving makes up 4% of our daily potassium need. My jelly of choice is an organic peach jelly, with 8g of carbs and 5mg of sodium. The banana is where you really see the spike in potassium, helping in electrolyte replenishing. One average banana has 450mg of potassium, 28g of carbs, and 1g of protein. 

Obviously, your nutritional numbers may vary based on the kinds of jelly, peanut butter, and tortillas you use, but it will probably be close to a 400-calorie meal. And this is also an easy one to switch up. Don’t like peanut butter? Try Nutella. No Jelly at home? Substitute honey instead. Get creative and make the roll-ups to your liking.

Photo: Flickr / Stacy Spensley

Homemade Granola bars

Granola bars are usually my go-to snack on a ride. They fit easily in a hip pack and can even be eaten on the go. My major problem with them is waste. I usually bring 2 on a longer ride, so that’s 2 wrappers in the landfill. And they are not super affordable, especially with two kids around.

Making my own seemed daunting, but after seeing this easy recipe, I gave it a shot. The needed ingredients are:

  • 1 cup of dried cherries: 132g of carbs, 40mg of sodium, 4g of protein, 112g of sugars, 40mg of calcium, 400mg of potassium (the original recipe called for dates, but they aren’t really my thing. You could substitute for raisins, too.)
  • ¼ cup of honey: 70g of carbs, 3mg of sodium, 5mg of calcium, and 44mg of potassium
  • ¼ cup of peanut butter: 32g of fat, 12g of carbs, 16g of protein, 11mg of sodium, 28mg of calcium, 419mg of potassium
  • 1 ½ cups of rolled oats: 16g of fat, 40g of protein, 155g of carbs, 126mg of calcium, and 1004mg of potassium.
  • Optional: chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

Throw those cherries into a blender, chopping them up to almost a dough consistency. Toast the oats if you would like or leave them raw as I do. Place the oats and blended cherries into a mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, warm the honey and peanut butter to make it easier to pour. Once the two are thinner in constancy, pour over the oats and cherries. Mix until the all ingredients are consistently integrated. Cover a plate with parchment paper and transfer the mixture, spreading and flattening the mix out on the plate. Cover, and put in the fridge for 20-30 minutes. After your granola has hardened, cut it into 10 even-sized bars. Throw a bar or 2 into a reusable baggie to take along on your next ride.

There are over 2,000 calories in this recipe, but remember, we are dividing this up into 10 equal bars, so we should consider each bar as 1/10 of the nutritional facts. Ingredients like cherries and oats have a lot of potassium, calcium, and sodium, minerals lost in sweat that must be replenished. The need for protein is taken care of mainly by oats and peanut butter, while carbs to keep you going are especially found in cherries, honey, and oats. Obviously, if you choose to add other ingredients, the numbers will change, but you will still be left with energy-packed granola bars.

If you want to simplify it a bit, some stores (like Trader Joes) makes a Nut Butter Bar Mix and you can simply throw in some ingredients to your preferred flavor profile.

Photo: Travis Reill

Squeezable Energy

I found out about squeezable pouches once I became a parent. They are quick and easy, filled with everything from applesauce to sweet potato. But, individual disposable packaging means that they are pretty wasteful. 

Reusable squeeze pouches for the win! They are easy to find online and relatively cheap. Plus, it makes it easy to take many things on a ride with you that you previously wouldn’t have. Sometimes, I just fill one with some peanut butter and head out.

For a little extra nutrition than just peanut butter, here is an easy, squeezable snack for the trail. 

  • 1 cup of roasted cashews
  • 1 banana
  • 2 Tbsp of honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp of cinnamon 
  • Pinch of brown sugar (the original recipe calls for coconut sugar)

Get the oven up to 350° and roast the cashews for about 10 minutes. After the cashews are golden brown, put all the ingredients into a blender and mix on high. Continue to mix and add water as needed until the consistency is perfect—not too thick, not too thin. Spoon the mix into your reusable squeeze pouches and enjoy! To make them last longer, I put the extra pouches in the freezer, pulling one out the night before a ride.

The cashews provide tons of healthy fats, 57g to be exact, and 858mg of potassium for electrolyte replenishing. They also have 24g of protein and 39g of carbohydrates to keep you going. A banana has a lot of potassium at 450mg and 28g of carbs. The honey gives you 35g of carbohydrates, as well as the electrolyte replenishing recipe of sodium, potassium, and calcium. And, like all the other snack ideas, the nutritional facts will change on this one depending on your desired ingredients. 

These three trail snacks were quick and easy to make. I found everything that I need at home and had a blast with my kids making, and eating them. I saved money and, best of all, reduced waste. Feel free to share ideas and recipes in the comments of your favorite trail snack or hacks you’ve found that reduce waste and expenses.