Gear Review: Greenbelly Meals-2-Go

Recently I received three meal bars from Greenbelly to review. I received $23 worth of merchandise for some of my time.

The last review I wrote about a product given to me was seven months ago. And before that? Well over a year ago.

My relatively infrequent reviews compared to other backpackers are (typically) about products I bought myself, use, and recommend.

So why did I do a gear review, spend time, and write about it for $23 worth of product?

Because I admit to my curiosity is piqued.

Would these self-declared The Best Backpacking Meal” bars in “a 650-calorie fuel in a ready-to-eat package.” work well for me? Could I actually last a whole day eating bars?

I am not an athlete in the outdoors. My trip goals are not to CRUSH miles on an #EPIC adventure. Though I am capable of hiking 25+ miles a day or the hourly equivalent over rough terrain, the length is secondary to my trip goal and serves my primary purpose: I love to walk and be outside.

I received the bars. I ate them on a recent 60-mile jaunt. And I have my view of these said bars.

I enjoy cold food meals when backpacking esp. for hot and sticky weather as seen in the southern Appalachians. So the idea of eating bars did not prompt any cause for concern.

But as Joan and I drove back, my views of these bars engendered a discussion on goals for the outdoors, food, nutrition, and value for the money.

As I mentioned, my views on backpacking food have changed since my earlier thru-hiking days. I want real food. Hard cheese, cured meat, nuts, dried fried, wraps, and chocolate are often my staples.

Oh, I’ll still do bars of sorts. Sometimes some quick food on the go is undeniably handy. And my salty chips on hot days is still my hiking junk food of choice.

The staples I listed above for my backpacking last a long time in a maildrop, are tasty and provide a lot of nutrition. And the cost of calories to the dollar to weight ratio is very affordable.

And when I do purchase bars, be it Snickers or Cliff Bars, I buy them in bulk.

A Cliff Bar ends up being $1 each…or less than half the price total at $3 for three bars and the equivalent in calories (a little more, actually), with more protein, carbs, almost as much sodium and fat, etc.  Both bars also have the organic ingredients that certain demographics love.

Nutrition info from the Greenbelly site.

But more than the dollar efficiency, I want to enjoy food while backpacking. Even when I am packing cold food, I still make sure to eat well. Perhaps it is the culture I grew up in, or maybe my mindset, but to hike for maximum efficiency as the primary goal is not in me.

I want to enjoy some chocolate while overlooking a remote Utah canyon. I enjoy the salty chips while on a bald in the Southeast Appalachians on a hot and muggy day. And hard salami, cheese, and nuts are not only food I grew up with during my childhood, but it is also good food that powered some possible ancestors who walked many miles per day carrying far heavier gear than what I use.

I look at the reviews for Greenbelly Bars, and I see one overwhelming word: “efficiency.Some very well respected outdoor athletes use these bars and speak highly of them.

But I grew up eating 4+ hours meals on a Sunday. And I sleep under the stars not because it is quicker but instead because I enjoy being enveloped in the natural world more.

I can do so-called big mile days; I can break camp and be on the trail in under half-an-hour. And I can walk sunrise to sunset. In fact, I prefer it.

But efficiency is not a word in my vocabulary on why I am drawn to backpack, camp, hike, or ski.

I realize this post did not talk about the meal bars themselves much. I just find it amusing now that when a grocery store contains a variety of food, including similar bars, many outdoors enthusiasts gravitate towards bars marketed as efficiency exemplified.

But Paul, enough of the waxing poetic, what about the bars themselves????

Fair enough.

The bars are more than 100 calories per ounce, so they are indeed efficient. And I suppose they contain all the goodies needed to be nutritious. But, and I ate two different flavors, I could not tell the difference in taste. I thought they were bland and unsatisfying. Joan made the observation that it looked like I was forcing myself to eat the bars. And Joan made this observation after a 25+ mile day with much elevation gain! It is telling I never did finish that third bar and is now regulated to my daypack as quick food to take when I am out of other food.

I should also add that just under 2000 calories and three bars total and would not be enough to power a typical backpacker over a full day of backpacking.

More importantly, why eat these type or similar bars when real food, nutritious food, and yummy food is so readily available? And at less cost? If you are mailing bars for resupply, why not mail yourself hard cheese, salami, nuts, and dried fruit? Oh, and good chocolate, too. Of course. And buy the less expensive bars in bulk for when you do need the quick and efficient energy needs. And I’ll chomp on Fritos (vegan AND gluten-free! :D) for my salt cravings.

If you are hiking on an FKT attempt or pushing yourself to the ends of endurance, perhaps effficiecy is paramount. Buy a bunch of bars, have them mailed to yourself, and off you go. And Greenbelly meal bars should work for you.

But the vast majority of us are not hiking for efficiency as the main criteria.

I’m certainly not.

Hand over the cheese. I’ll cut some salami. And the first day out of town, I may even take an avocado.

I’ll pass on $23 worth of bars.

At the end of my scramble over Lockhart Basin in Utah. I did not consume any meal bars.

Disclosure: Greenbelly provided the bars for my review at no cost to me.

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5 years ago

I had been interested in trying for a long time, but the price always turned me off. I found them at the Caratunk House where Paul was selling them for slightly more than his wholesale cost, which was reasonable. I bought his last one.

One word: Meh.

Very dry and unsatisfying. I’ll stick with a jar of peanut butter, tortillas, cheese, jerky, peanut m&ms, and more flavorful bars like Luna or Lara.

Doug K
5 years ago

“But I grew up eating 4+ hours meals on a Sunday.” my Greek inlaws used to make Sunday lunch for the extended family and friends, we would eat for a couple of hours, the older folk would take naps, then wake up and start eating again.. basically lunch would go from about 1 to late at night.. I miss my mother-in-law 😉 also, Soylent powder. Highly efficient perhaps but it withers the soul.. we packed a summer sausage on last weekend’s canoe trip, cut it into slices and offered it around to people eating bars for lunch, oddly enough it… Read more »

5 years ago

In general I don’t hike for efficiency though my food tends to be geared toward efficient energy. But, there is nothing magic about these or any other bar compared with standard candy bars. And if the choice is between something that tastes like sawdust and something yummy like a Reese Outragous bar, it is an easy choice. Finally, food left in the food bag at the end of a leg is not efficient at all. It only helps to whittle down the choices on the next trip.

5 years ago

Interesting review. The thing that has always prevented me from giving greenbelly bars a try is the appalling sugar content. 21g is almost as much as a Snicker bar! Even in the realm of fancy pants highly processed bars and snacks that’s a ton. My favorite Kind bars only have 6g. A Justin’s chocolate hazelnut butter packet (basically portable nutella- very indulgent and delicious) has only 7g. Why eat something that tastes merely “edible” when it’s not even good for you?

Mike B
Mike B
5 years ago

I’m a big fan of cheap and energy packed with enough protein to keep me going and enugh taste to keep me eating. Sounds like these bars strike-out on my criteria. I’ll stick with Lara bars, protein shakes, mixed nuts, peanut M and Ms and/or Snickers, Lara bars, dehydrated Idahoan mashed potatoes, cheese, salami, peanut butter, tortillas, and if I’m feeling like splurgung, dehydrated refried beans and fritos. All of these are cheaper and provide me with the proper mix of carbs and protein when mixed accordingly.

5 years ago

Food has so many personal preferences. I could take a pill daily just to keep me functioning, no real desire for tasty treats or something that resemble home style meals on the trail. But that’s me. The Greenbelly bars even though expensive take the mess, weight of carrying cooking equipment and dishes out of your pack. Very convenient, but as I said, that me.

5 years ago
Reply to  Paul Mags

I’ve had Cliff Bar, dehydrated packs, and most other bar. These are a little different and yes, expensive but I’m giving them a try 🙂