Recently I received three meal bars from Greenbelly to review. I received $23 worth of merchandise for some of my time.
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.
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.
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.
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????
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.
Disclosure: Greenbelly provided the bars for my review at no cost to me.