Everyone has a go-to backpacking snack. We just don’t want to bite into something that doesn’t taste good or sustain us when we’re huffing it up switchbacks or throwing a fishing line in a high-mountain lake.
But sometimes we also get tired of the same old, same old. Fortunately, a racket of new snack bars are debuting with creative—sometimes weird—ingredients. To help you break out of your box-of-bars, we put 12 new backpacking snacks from startups to the test.
And, even if you're not a backpacker, take note. These tasty and often healthy treats also work great for skiing, climbing, running, biking and every other outdoor activity you love.
If you want even more ideas for what to munch on while adventuring, also check out these other articles, featuring entirely different outdoor food startups.
- 10 small food brands fueling outdoor play (A guest post we wrote for Gear Junkie)
- 5 companies making good food for backpacking and hiking
- Q&A with energy food startups Bearded Brothers, Munk Pack and Pat's Backcountry Beverages
The best kind of life is a picky one. This is the daily mantra that fueled Picky Bars’ three creators to launch a gluten-free snack food company. Based in Oregon, the trio of professional athletes—4-time Wildflower Triathlon Champion Jesse Thomas, 2-time USA 5k Champion & 5-time NCAA Champion Lauren Fleshman, and sub 2:30 PR marathoner (with celiac disease) Steph Bruce—put their pickiness together to invent a bar blended with real ingredients. They focused on creating a nutritionally balanced bar for hardcore training. Lauren broke 10 food mixers to get the end results: 7 tasty 200-calorie flavors with 4:1 carb-to-protein ratios.
We love that the Picky Bar is great for snacks or athletics. Our favorites: Blueberry Boomdizzle and Peanut Butter Booyah. Not too blueberry-ish and not too peanut-buttery. And, they offer monthly delivery.
Health Warrior Chia Bars
On a mission to help make plant-based fuel more convenient for the Western diet, Health Warrior Chia Bars commits to no-till farming methods and packs their bars full of energy-toting, nutritious chia seeds. Per 100 grams, chia has nearly 15 times more omega-3 per than raw Chinook Alaskan salmon, more protein than an egg, and close to five times more calcium than reduced fat milk, according to the USDA Database. Also, these on-the-go snacks include less sugar than most bars on the market: 5 grams or less in the small 100-calorie bars and 11 grams or fewer in the 200-calorie choices. Don’t miss the Peanut Butter Cacao and Dark Chocolate Cherry or, for a fruitier option, the Mango. Note: you may need floss or a toothpick for any gum-catching seeds.
Munch on crickets? In the Chapul bar, it’s bottoms up. The critters—which are a traditional menu item in parts of Italy, Northeast Thailand, Mexico, Middle East, and Central Australia—are a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids (like meat). Plus, crickets boast 15 percent more iron than leafy spinach and contain as much B12 as salmon. Also, the insect only requires 8 percent of the feed and water that cows need to create the same amount of protein (!) while producing only 1 percent of the greenhouse gases that cows (ahem) let out. So, how do they taste? Actually, the coconut, ginger and lime combo in the Thai Bar flavor is a treat.
Dreaming of grilled filet? For choice carnivores, trail snacks can leave a feeling of deprivation. Now, that wistful salivating is no more. Wild Zora—a meat and veggie bar—introduces a thicker, softer, moister and more nutritional version of beef jerky. There are no nitrates, MSG or added sugars. Humanely raised, the meats are sans antibiotics or hormones, including grass-fed beef, free-range turkey or 100-percent natural lamb. Each bar is allergen friendly (no nuts, soy or gluten) and includes one serving of certified-organic veggies. And that bit of sweetness? It comes from apricots. These bars deliciously took us by surprise. Parmesan Tomato Basil Beef & Veggie made the top of our list.
Moist, peppery and marinated, Perky Jerky tastes better than the staple we all grew up with. Both the turkey and beef are soft to the bite and fresh to the taste. Plus, there are no preservatives, nitrites or added MSG. High in protein, Perky Jerky is great for a daytime workout or as an extra trail snack. Comparatively, they aren’t the densest calorie choice for arduous trail days, like backcountry skiing or climbing a 14er. One ounce of the original turkey jerky, for example, has 80 calories. But it still might be worth bringing along because of how good it tastes.
Moringa is one of the world’s most nutritious plants—more so than kale and with as many amino acids as meat, according to Kuli Kuli founder Lisa Curtis. Curtis was introduced to the plant while serving in the Peace Corps and now partners with women-owned farming cooperatives in West Africa to grow the superfood. She is debuting the mega-plant to the U.S. market in the form of nutrition bars and powder, with the proceeds helping to support African women and plant more moringa trees. Each easy-to-grab single-serve powder packets are equivalent to one full serving of vegetables. The bars are made with six ingredients or less—for example, the sweet-and-moist-yet-leafy tasting Crunchy Almond contains only almonds, dates, agave and moringa—and serve close to one-quarter of your daily value of calcium and Vitamin A.
Neurological, digestive, cardiovascular—these are the three bodily systems that are nutritionally targeted by Go Macro's 2015 Thrive bars. The unique flavor-slamming ingredients include three blends: Ginger Lemon, Curry Apricot and Blueberry Lavender.
A mother-daughter duo launched the Wisconsin-based business on their organic family farm in the Mississippi river valley and all of the bars are certified non-GMO, USDA Organic, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free and kosher. That’s a big checklist. Plus, in addition to the new Thrive bars, there are more traditional flavors to choose from, available in 2-ounce bars or 0.9-ounce minis. A few highlights include the banana and almond butter; cashew butter; and sesame butter and dates.
Two bunnies fell in love and out popped a bag of granola. Well, sort of. 18 Rabbits founder Alison Bailey launched the granola and granola-bar company in fond memory of her mom’s baking—and an unplanned date that the family bunny, Blackjack, had with a wild, four-legged fellow one day. Before they knew it, the back yard was dancing with 18 baby rabbits, plus the smell of baking granola. Each soy-and wheat-free granola blend is used as a base ingredient for the bars.
The Junior bars are all smaller proportions and nut-free, plus the Junior granola is made less-heavy with a toss of brown rice crispies. For us, the kiddos’ Jr. Chocolate Banana granola cereal tasted too much like cocoa-powder and the mango strawberry Jr. Granola Bar was too similar to a fruit leather strip—the kids will probably enjoy those more than the parents. Our favorite snack was the nut-free Felicitas Granola: organic dried cherries, chia seeds and vanilla-y whole grain oats mixed with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
Count to five then take a bite. That’s the number of central ingredients in each organic Simple Squares bar—including cashews, almonds, honey, unsweetened coconut and vanilla—plus sea salt and a sprinkling of savory herbs. The end result is 8 bars with one-of-a-kind labels like Sage, Chili Pep, Cinna-Clove and Rosemary. Simply put, each nibble is surprising and yummy.
There’s nothing like taking a bite of salted chocolate after tough miles on the trail. Certified Fair Trade, Salazon Chocolate sources its organic cacao beans from the Dominican Republic and is also Rainforest Alliance certified. Most recently, the company launched the Trail Series featuring three dark sea-salted chocolate bars mixed with caramel, coffee or almonds, with proceeds going to support the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. Other than enjoying artisan chocolate, we love the map detail etched on the top of the bar.
Has your chocolate, caramel, or peanut butter snack bar ever turned into a goopy mess inside of its wrapper? Racefood doesn’t do that and it happily reminds us of grandma’s holiday nougat. Dairy and gluten free, these little 70 and 100 calories energy bars have simple central ingredients—sugar, nuts, honey and egg whites—in two tasty flavors: coconut, cacao & cashew; and cranberry & almond. Nougat isn’t an annual treat anymore.
Disclaimer: No fuss. No fire. Highly addictive. This hardy chocolate-covered graham cracker and marshmallow sandwich—The Original Surf Wyoming Reverse S’more—is perfect for venturing into the wild. The dessert bar is handmade in small batches with scratch ingredients. Surf Wyoming, which primarily focuses on apparel, teamed up with COCO, a Sheridan, Wyoming-based chocolate company, to create the s’mores in a wrapper. Giddy up. Bring the campfire memories wherever you roam.