You’re 20 miles deep on your next backpacking trip, hiking a ridge line well above tree-line and your stomach rumbles. You might not realize how hungry you really are. While the physical activity involved in hiking and backpacking is a causation for high calorie use, increased stress from the environment like temperature, altitude, and humidity fluctuations take a toll on your body as well.
It’s no surprise that well into the back-country, you should be increasing your Calorie intake. While climbers of Everest are known to consume between 12,000 to 15,000 Calories to reach the peak, your average day hiker in low level terrain can plan to stick to a typical 2,000 Calories a day.
However, when broaching adverse or high altitude travels, over a multi-day backpacking trip, plan on doubling up to at least 4,500 calories daily.
Maybe your planning 30 days on the Appalachian trail, or shopping for this weekend’s romp in your neighborhood National Forest, meal-prep should be a hefty part of your planning process. There’s plenty to consider from weight of your pack, to finding just the essentials for daily meal prep and consumption.
But don’t let your mind wander, a high Calorie intake should be at the top of your priorities. Keep reading to learn how to stay fit and ready on your next backpacking trip.
5 High Calorie Bars For Your Next Backpacking Trip
Foods that should definitely make your pack include dry goods like rice, dehydrated beans, or just-add-water pancake mix, Krusteaze is my favorite. Peanut butter on a bagel is a classic trail-treat that goes a long way for your protein intake. If you’re looking to step it up a notch, consider a couple of rolls of summer sausage.
Every hiker has his trail-hack, and everybody loves a bit of backcountry luxury. While you could theoretically militarize your tastebuds into shoveling down endless bowls of plain rice, pasta or GORP (good o’l raisins and peanuts), What’s the point? Backpackers today have options for a higher level of taste and sophistication than by-gone eras of “roughing it”.
If you’re looking to stay lightweight, high calorie, and healthy, we recommend packing your fair share of calorie rich bars made for the trail. Keep reading for our list of the best bars for backpacking.
1. Kate’s Real Food Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate
This bar is designed for meal replacement bar that and we genuinely couldn’t imagine a better energy bar. Light-weight, organic, and rich in Calories, this bar by Kate’s Real Food counts at 260 Calories yet you won’t be reaching for a glass of milk after the first, or last, bite.
Surprisingly crunchy, this bar is free of suspicious goo which is likely to stay lodged in your bicuspids for a few days. Unlike other bars on the market, you’ll avoid the unfriendly aftertaste. One of the only backpacking bars that can boast 100% organic ingredients, Kate’s Real Food Bars are all amazing. We also recommend the Mango Coconut Tiki Bar and Peanut Butter Hemp and Flax Stash Bar.
2. Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Bars
While your typical Nature Valley granola bar is a bit chalky for my taste, the Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Nut Bars are a bit of a hidden gem. The slight smattering of peanut butter, or chocolate dip,around the base of the bar melts delightfully in a pocket making it ideal for licking off your fingers after a brief water break.
With slightly fewer Calories than some of the other bars on this list, we’re judging this one purely off of taste and it doesn’t get much better.
3. Honey Stinger Waffle
Powerbars came onto the scene early in the Calorie replenishment game. As a result, the term energy bar still seems to bring to mind the shimmering solid colors of the chocolate gunk that came to be expected in the shining silver package.
The Honey Stinger Waffle brings new meaning to the idea of an energy bar. This near perfect homage to the traditional Dutch Stroopwafel. They have a tendency to melt a bit and get messy on the trail and typically crumble after a few days tossed around in your pack.
Expert tip: If you’re expecting near freezing temperatures, let the Honey Stinger rest over your coffee mug for a few moments before taking a bite, unless you’re looking to chip a tooth.
4. Taos Bakes
The texture of the Taos Bakes is reminiscent of a morning slice of coffee cake. Moist, yet not too dense, this bar’s taste is literally out of this world. There are an abundance of flavors to choose from but we recommend the Almond Agave & Cinamon flavor, Toasted Coconut & Vanilla Bean, and Caramel Pecan & Cranberry.
Each just as delicious as the last, all three harness the intense and wildly original flavors encompasses what you’ll discover on your next journey through New Mexico. Each bar is made from fresh, local, and organic ingredients and when pressed together, for a total of 264 calories, Taos Mountain Energy Bar is likely to keep you full and well satisfied.
5. Cliffbar – Caramel Toffee with Sea Salt
This modern twist on the classic cliffbar keeps up the moist and chewy texture you’re grown to know and love over years spent outside. Caramel Toffee with Sea Salt is quite the trendy flavor yet this smooth and salty after taste goes great with a fresh nalgene of cool spring or creek water, and your pack won’t mind loading this lightweight snack for a ride.
Obviously the brand name of outdoor energy bars both big and small, Cliffbar Caramel Toffee and Sea Salt offers a delicious twist to what you might imagine old and tired.
Pro Tip: No time to buy bars or looking to save a few bucks? One of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting enough calories is to simply bring along some butter or even peanut butter. It can be a bit tricky to pack, but it’s a cheap way to get a lot of extra calories without buying high calorie bars.
But what is a calorie anyway and why do I care?
Scientifically speaking, a calorie – lower case – is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by a factor of 1 degree Celsius. A Calorie – note the upper case – is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one Kilogram of water.
After undergoing multiple scrutinies including incineration, a series of temperature readings, food is given a calorie count. Depending on the type of food, your body may process these calories differently. While you may be counting Calories at home, you’ll want to shoot for a good increase in your Calorie intake.
The bottom line is, in the backcountry following a full-day on the trail, everybody craves a meal to not only hit the spot but replenish lost calories. Plan on packing foods rich in fat – of all things – complete proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Foods high in fat have the highest energy density per calorie and are likely to keep you sleeping warm at night.
That being said, carbohydrates and foods high in fiber are great for feeling full and digging cat holes – if you catch my drift.
Nuts, dried fruit, and other lightweight snacks are great for refueling sore muscles after breaking in your new pair of boots. But there’s a reason NOLS (the National Outdoor Leadership School) is often called the “No Official Lunch School.”
Consider skipping your noon-time lunch break, which inevitably involves a garage sale of gear, and forget about cooking or dishes. To save time and keep up efficiency, make constant snacking a regular part of your every day out on the trail.
Expert tip: Consider packing Tupperware with a screw-top or re-useable plastic bag for easy access to left-overs without dumping your pack.
Which High Calorie Bar Will You Pack?
So you’re miles into your next backpacking adventure, overlooking a crystal clear mountain lake and contemplating taking a swim. Which bar will you be munching on as you make a move for your swim suit? Changing socks after a mild river crossing?
Pick your poison for re-fueling your body for the next few miles. Whether you’re stripping a layer, or adding one on top, there’s no reason not to bust out on of these high calorie snacks.
Old timer’s might recall your only options being a snickers or a cliff bar. But as Bob said so many years ago, “the time’s they are a’changin!” Today’s backcountry bars are sure to pack you full of Calories while satiating your taste for sophistication at the same time. All in all, you can expect to find a wide variety of choices when it comes to replenishing calories on the trail.
Don’t forget to try a few taste tests, there may still be bars that we have yet to discover. If you try one of our bars listed above be sure to comment below and tell us your thoughts! See you out on the trail!
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