When it comes to cooking on trail, I’m one of the laziest hikers out there. I became infamous in my tramily for seeking out 1-lb bags of sugar cookie mix that I’d simply mix with water and chow down on in the backcountry — and my sugar addiction left me wondering what was supposed to be so challenging about eating a half-gallon of ice cream.
I was stoked for several reasons when I saw organic maple syrup was the common thread between the 3 flavor options made by Embark Maple, but most serendipitously because I was about to tackle Vermont’s Long Trail and knew these energy packets would be the perfect addition to my stoveless pack.
As I wandered the Burlington Farmers Market with my buddies the day before leaving for my trek, I spotted at least half a dozen vendors who used Vermont maple syrup in their products. We smiled and collected small wooden sample spoons, letting the sweetness wash over our tongues: suffice it to say, my bar was set high.
Embark Maple, on the other hand, comes from the woods of Wisconsin. Their syrup, aged in Bourbon barrels for two years, goes ‘beyond the breakfast table’ and is noted for its culinary and cocktail uses.
As a natural form of fuel, and an alternative to commercial, synthetic-tasting energy gels, maple syrup has been finding its way into the endurance sport scene for a while now. It offers long-lasting, more-sustained energy than other quick-nutrition options, plus the flavor is amazing ... if you love the taste of maple syrup!
Embark pouches combine a few simple, organic ingredients with maple syrup to provide clean, on-the-go fuel.
Let’s Dig In
Price: $21.99 for a Variety Pack (one of each flavor)
Weight: 4.7 oz per pouch
Single serving: 320 calories, 0g protein, 0g fat, 79-81g carb., 250mg sodium
- Salted Maple: Organic maple syrup, sea salt
- Coffee Maple: Organic maple syrup, organic Wonderstate coffee, sea salt, organic green tea extract (caffeine, 72 mg)
- Elderberry Maple: Organic maple syrup, organic elderberry concentrate, sea salt
Things I Liked About Embark Maple
Packet Durability - Between being shipped through the mail as a resupply to being repeatedly shoved in a bear canister and abused on the outside of my pack’s shoulder pocket, I had zero issues with the packets busting or leaking. And, trust me, I don’t go easy on anything in my pack. I also appreciated the resealable lid, and used it often as I sipped on the coffee and syrup packets throughout the morning.
General Effect - “Quick, easy digesting, long-lasting.” That’s what the package says, and that was my experience! I sipped on the coffee flavor some mornings, while I saved the salted maple and elderberry for afternoon climbs. Truthfully, how can you not feel like conquering mountains when you’re chugging straight maple syrup?
Flavor - The category you’ve all been waiting for! As someone who doesn’t eat tomatoes or olives because I’m not a fan of the textures in my mouth, I drank straight from the Embark packets and was pleased with the result. I found the flavors too rich to finish in one sitting, so I often sipped happily for several hours.
I unexpectedly had a chance to compare the Wisconsin-based Embark packets directly against a similar product from Vermont (maple syrup in a single-serving pouch) that I’d received as trail magic. The Vermont-based packet was less hearty than Embark, but both packets were pure, organic maple syrup. While either would have been fantastic on pancakes, I enjoyed consuming the Embark packet more, mostly because of the thicker texture and the packet design. I found that when I finished the Vermont syrup packets, I was left with superbly sticky wrappers. The option to securely reseal the Embark packets is simply too convenient to pass up.
Things to Note
Yuck or Yum? That Depends! The wild world of camp food is highly individualized. At the end of the day, the only food that makes the cut in your pack is the stuff you’ll actually eat. Just like everything else in the backpacking world, you’ll have to give these a whirl and decide for yourself. You know your tastebuds, and if you don’t enjoy drowning your pancakes in syrup, these probably aren’t the energy gels for you.
Salted Maple - Glaze freshly caught salmon, add to oatmeal, craft camp cocktails, or enjoy directly from the packet.
Coffee Maple - Enjoy directly from the packet or combine with warm, whole milk for an Embark Steamer!
Elderberry Maple - Mix ⅓ of a packet with 1 L of water for Embark Elderberry Hydration*, drizzle on ice cream, or craft camp cocktails with Elderberry Maple.
*This was my favorite recipe to try out on trail (and wildly convenient, too). I love plain water as much as the next gal, but Vermont is notorious for beaver pond water sources, so it pays to spruce it up. Besides tasting like elderberry with a delightful maple syrup aftertaste, it also turned my water a beautiful plum purple!
For more recipes, check out Embark’s website.
If you’re looking for a fun, useful gift for the hiker in your life who has everything (including a sweet tooth), you’ve come upon a fantastic option to add to your list. Likewise, if you’re a weekend warrior with a steady source of income, don’t hesitate to fuel up on these delicious, convenient, small-batch maple packets. They’ll absolutely inspire you forward and upward. But if you're a thru-hiker looking to pack resupply boxes on a budget, buying in bulk or seeking out a bargain may better suit your needs.
What suggested Embark Maple recipes sound most tempting to you? Let us know in a comment below.
This product was donated for the purpose of a review.