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What are the criteria that I should worry about when buying energy bars ?
What are the ingredients to avoid and those to look for ?

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Bars often contain mostly nuts, dried fruits, sugar. You can also eat those directly. –  gerrit Nov 9 '12 at 22:02
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If you question is only for hiking I think you should add that to your question (I know you have it tagged). I say this because different activities have different needs. The amount of protein, the weight, and quality of taste will depend for me on the activity. I will take a better tasting heavier bar hiking where backpacking I want light and tons of protein, regardless of the taste. –  Justin C Nov 12 '12 at 20:19
    
@JustinC : Could you elaborate your comment as an answer. I think you are bringing an interesting point. –  Amine Nov 13 '12 at 0:39
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@Amine - the point I was making is a solid answer that fits the guidelines of this site is difficult without that additional information. If you want to know which is best for each situation you could make multiple questions. If you just want a list of things to consider in an energy bar that doesn't exactly fit the purpose of this site. Great question, just trying to get more information so answers can be more directed. –  Justin C Nov 14 '12 at 5:37
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Why bars in particular? I don't see any big advantage to them other than convenience. They're expensive, they don't taste like real food, and as gerrit pointed out, they don't do anything for you nutritionally that real food couldn't. –  Ben Crowell Nov 17 '13 at 1:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Here are a few things I look for:

  • Bars that don't melt when they're warm. Anything with chocolate will become gooey in the summer
  • Bars that don't freeze easily when its cold. I've found that Powerbars just become little frozen bricks anytime its below freezing.
  • I like bars with all natural ingredients. Not for abstract health reasons, but just that bars made of real fruits and nuts taste better
  • You probably want to make sure the bars have a decent amount of protein, if they become a major food source when you're doing all-day activities. 10g of protein a bar is a good number.
  • Variety. If you're going to be eating lots of bars because they're easy to carry on a long trip, make sure to get different flavors and brands. I bought a case of one flavor of bar once, and after the 10th in a single long day of strenuous hiking, I was very sick of them.

I'm not aware of one single bar that matches all of these requirements. Cliff Bars don't freeze or melt easily, but they are mostly made of highly processed food goop. Fruit-and-nut bars are highly palatable, but don't have all that much protein.

Its not a bar, but jerky is easy to carry and store, and can also be a good option for protein sometimes.

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This is the best list. I'd like to add that bars usually fall into two camps: those that offer about 1/3 of all nutrients for the day (e.g. meal replacement) and those that offer specific nutritional features (e.g. protein bar). There's often an overlap of the two, but they are distinct groups. –  furtive Oct 28 '13 at 23:02

Honestly, I think taste is most important. There have been times before where eating hardly anything but energy bars for a few days makes starving to death seem appealing.

Jerky is pretty good, as DavidR mentioned, just don't ever bring that unless you have access to virtually unlimited water. Jerky is loaded with salt and your kidneys will be in turbo-mode when eating it.

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good point on hydration. I don't do muck backpacking these days, if I'm outside I'm usually sport climbing, and having plenty of water is usually pretty easy. I remember that I worried about sodium a lot more when I was backpacking. –  DavidR Nov 11 '12 at 19:07

Jerky is awesome, or Tonkabites, which is buffalo meat and cranberries. Some jerky brands have lower sodium and no nitrates. I also like those Babybell little gouda cheese things, high calorie and really satisfying. Or any cheese for that matter. Dense calories. Also nuts.com has sprouted nuts that are then dehydrated and spiced, so they taste good and are really easy to digest (unlike normal trailmixes that wreak havoc on my digestive system). Any of the above are good if you want to get away from sweets or high-carb food or are vegetarian.

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I don´t know if I misunderstood something, but I think Jerky or buffalo meat is less suited for vegetarians... –  Paul Paulsen Jun 16 at 21:18

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