PCT Food Review Part 5 – Bars, Bars and More Bars!

Bars in the morning, bars in the evening, bars at every mile….

There were days when all we ate were bars until dinner. That’s because it was either raining or we were swarmed by mosquitoes and didn’t want to stop. Bars were an essential food source during our thru hike. And for this reason we made sure we took along what we liked – or so we thought…

Laurie with bars

We ate so many bars we were able to identify what bar the other person was eating by the smell of the bar or the sound of its wrapper! We estimate that Laurie ate about 800 – 1000 bars and Andy consumed about 1000 – 1200 bars in 171 days.

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free bars or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Bars We Loved

2017-01-29-15-20-17 18 Rabbits* – We absolutely love their granola and their granola bars. These bars are made with wholesome ingredients and aren’t too sweet. We always looked forward to (and celebrated) when we reached into our food bags and pulled out an 18 Rabbits bar. The 18 Rabbits bars were hands down Laurie’s favorite bars. Andy loved them too. They do not become rock hard when it’s cold out and maintain their freshness very well. Our favorite flavors are:

Unlike other granola bars out there, 18 Rabbits does a stellar job of making each flavor distinct and unique from their other flavors. We highly encourage you try 18 Rabbits granola bars!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-21-37-pm Rise Bar* makes protein bars that actually taste good! This is because the protein comes from nuts (like almonds) instead of powdered isolates. Some Rise bars are dense but we don’t mind that because they are really good.

We both really like their lineup of flavors, and if we had to pick our favorites Laurie’s would be the Blueberry Coconut because it is moist and has real blueberries (not the artificial blueberry flavor that you find in lesser quality bars).

Andy’s favorite flavor is Snickerdoodle. It’s tasty, filling and made with quality ingredients. What more do you want in a bar? Rise Bar has recently released 2 new flavors – Chocolatey Coconut and Mint Chip, both of which are delicious.

Because these bars are minimally processed, don’t contain fillers or hydrogenated oils and have nuts as their base, the oils tend to separate in warmer weather. We found we needed to place the used wrappers in a ziplock so as to not put food stains on our pants (we were more concerned about the animals they would attract rather than the looks of our clothes).

Overall, Rise Bar makes quality bars that we love and will continue to take on all adventures. Andy recommends trying their variety pack to sample many of their delicious offerings.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-23-00-pm Greens Plus Bars* were a surprising favorite. We were attracted to the idea of getting extra greens in our bars since bars comprised the majority of our daily calories, but neither of us had tried them.

We really liked the Chia Chocolate and Chocolate Energy flavors. The Chia Chocolate bar had more of a “green” taste and was a welcomed change to our palates after hundreds of date and nut based bars. As an added bonus, we continued to enjoy the Chia Chocolate bars long after we ate them as we picked chia seeds out of our teeth 🙂

Our favorite Greens+ bar was, and still is, the Coffee Almond Crisp. If you love coffee flavored bars, you’ll love these bars! Another flavor we enjoyed was the Blueberry Crisp.  Although they have an artificial blueberry smell, they taste really good because they contain real dried blueberries! We recommend contacting the company directly if you work in the healthcare or fitness industries. You may be able to get a pro deal and purchase their line of products at 40% off.

Bars We Both Liked

raw-revo-glo-protein-bars Raw Rev Glo Bars – We both enjoyed these bars very much. They contain lots of fiber and only a handful of quality ingredients. And they manage to do this in a very small package. The bars are on the smaller side (only 1.6 oz each) but no matter.

The Dark Chocolate, Cashew & Mint flavor was surprisingly refreshing, the Caramel, Chocolate & Sea Salt bar was a bit too sweet but still tasty and the Dark Chocolate Espresso Crunch was…crunchy, but not in a very pleasurable way. They tasted good but the whole espresso beans were hard to chew and sometimes hurt our teeth. These bars would be better if they had crushed bits of coffee beans in them rather than whole beans. Other than that, the coffee flavor was quite nice.  We especially enjoyed them because we got them later on in our hike – so they were new and exciting.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-25-20-pm Epic Bars provided a nice change of pace from the sweet bars we ate most of each day. Our favorite flavors were:

Some were too salty (such as the Venison and Pulled Pork), while others had too much added sweetness (Beef Habenero Cherry).

In general, we enjoyed these bars and were glad to have them in our resupply boxes. Epic is a good company that greatly cares about the sourcing and quality of their products. For these reasons we will continue to support them and enjoy their creations. Also, check out their Beef Liver jerky if you like the taste of liver. It’s super good!

kind-healthy-grains-granola-bars-oats-and-hone-jpg Kind Healthy Grains Granola Bars – these Kind bars are sweeter and crunchier than 18 Rabbits granola bars. We liked the crunch and their flavor, but unfortunately they tended to break apart into little pieces which made them hard to eat while walking.

Often times more of the bar ended up on the trail than in our mouths. But Kind Bar has since changed the formula for these bars so this doesn’t happen any longer.

Bars Only One of Us Liked

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-28-34-pm Kit’s Organic Bars – Andy LOVED these bars. Even though they have dates as their base, they taste really, really good – so much better than Larabars! Andy especially enjoyed the following flavors:

Andy refers to Kit’s Organic bars as grown up versions of Clif bars – which are just candy bars. Kit’s Organic bars are part of the Clif Bar family, contain only a handful of quality ingredients and are reasonably priced. Check em out!

2017-01-29-15-29-57 Nii Foods Bars* – Andy enjoyed these bars very much. He liked the tartness of the Cherry Coconut bars, savored the chocolate chips in the Peanut Butter bars, looked forward to the Berry Cashew ones and could easily eat multiple Almond Chocolate Chip bars in one sitting.

Unlike other healthy, minimally processed bars with few ingredients, all the flavors of these bars are quite unique. And they have a good crunch that comes from sunflower seeds and other ingredients, not rice crisps. For a more detailed review of Nii Foods Bars, click here.

kind_strong_thaisweetchili_602652170645 Strong and Kind bars – We ordered about 120 of these Kind bars in Thai Sweet Chili flavor thinking the salt and spices would offer a nice savory twist to our sweet bars, but within the first 100 miles Laurie discovered she strongly disliked them. The sweet glaze and the spices did not agree with her taste buds.

Andy spent the next 6 months eating his bars and many of Laurie’s too, but didn’t get tired of them. In fact, he still eats them from time to time. He has tried many of the flavors in this line – including Hickory Smoked, Honey Mustard, Honey Smoked BBQ and Roasted Jalapeño. He likes them all but prefers the Thai Sweet Chili flavor over all of them.

2017-01-29-18-52-37 Hammer Nutrition Bars* were sweet and moist. Andy liked them because they were different from most of the other bars we had. His favorite flavor was Apple Oatmeal.

It contains complimentary flavors (apples and cinnamon) and simple ingredients. He also enjoyed the Cranberry, Almond Raisin and Chocolate Chip flavors. At first he found the Almond Raisin bars to be bland, but after about a month he began to really like them. Andy will continue to purchase the Apple Oatmeal flavor Hammer Bars but probably not the others.

raw-revolution-bars Raw Revolution Bars – Andy enjoyed some of these bars throughout the hike. Before the trail we both used to eat these bars during our adventures, but we ordered too many and over the course of the hike some of the flavors lost their appeal. The Dark Chocolate Trail Mix bar was Laurie’s favorite because of the mixture of nuts, fruit and chocolate.  Andy was drawn to the chocolate ones and his favorites were as follows:

He also liked the following flavors, but not as much as the ones above.

Raw Revolution makes a bajillion more flavors not listed above. Sadly many of them are coconut based and a lot of the ones we enjoyed pre PCT tasted rancid to Andy when we got them in our resupply boxes. It’s hard to say what caused this – the way Amazon stores them at their facilities, the conditions at the pick up locations where our boxes were stored or perhaps they were rancid to begin with..who knows. What mattered was the flavors we had liked – including Spirulina Dream, Golden Cashew, Coconut Delight and Cranberry Coconut were hard to eat, and after a while we donated them to the hiker boxes.

lara-bars Larabar – Talk about a company that makes a million flavors of bars! This is a good thing and we both used to love many of Larabar’s flavors but in combination with Raw Revolution and Nii Foods bars – the frequency of bars with dates and nuts quickly led Laurie to burn out. Having said that, Blueberry Muffin, Lemon Bar, Key Lime Pie, Cherry Pie and Peanut Butter & Jelly flavors remain as our favorites.

pure-variety12bs Pure Organics – We bought these bars for added variety because we both used to eat them pre-PCT. But on the trail, Andy ended up eating most of them.

He continued to enjoy their Chocolate Brownie and Dark Chocolate Berry bars, but he grew tired of the Cherry Cashew flavor. The appeal of these bars were their simple, unprocessed ingredients, good taste and reasonable prices. They have other flavors too – such as Wild Blueberry, Apple Cinnamon, Cranberry Orange and Banana Coconut. Andy will likely purchase these bars again from time to time.

Bars We Both Disliked

2017-01-29-15-38-40 Quest Nutrition bars* – If you want high protein bars, Quest has you covered. Unfortunately for us though, their range of bars are too sweet and lost their appeal quickly. The sugar alcohol used in these bars didn’t gel with our taste buds.

Although the S’mores flavor actually tastes like s’mores – they were too sweet. And similar to the rest of their bars, they were too dense. We couldn’t eat these bars in the  mornings, they were rock hard. Popular they may be – with over 25 different flavors –  but they aren’t for us.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-41-04-pm Simple Squares* – We used to love these bars before the hike. They are healthy, unprocessed and raw. But on the PCT we grew tired of them very quickly. One of the main reasons was all their flavors tasted the same. In blind taste tests (yes we really did this on the trail) all we tasted was coconut.

The Ginger, Rosemary, Cinna-Clove and Sage flavors are so subtle they all taste like the original Coconut flavor. The only bar that tasted different was the Coffee flavor. But even that lost its appeal after a month. In short, the coconut base in all the bars overpowers the different flavors.

2017-01-29-15-42-13 GoMacro* – We only had 10 of these bars the entire trail and they were ok. We didn’t eat too many of them to grow tired of them 🙂

For Andy though, because the first ingredient is brown rice syrup and they contain puffed brown rice, these bars are a turn off. He won’t be buying them anytime soon and odds are neither will Laurie. There are too many bars out there that we like more.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-43-28-pm Clif Bar – Secretly we both like these bars because they are like candy. They are super sweet and say all the right things on the wrapper to make you think  you’re making a healthy decision. In reality though, for us, this isn’t the case. Andy prefers Clif’s Kit’s Organic line of bars while Laurie LOVES Clif Shot Bloks (Cran-Razz flavor). If she’s going to eat candy it might as well be what she likes!


Going forward, we will continue to try new bars and hopefully add them to our collection of favorites in order to increase variety. Because in the end, variety truly is the key! Without it, burnout comes quickly, making the challenge of thru hiking more difficult.

In case you missed them, you can find the rest of our food reviews below:

PCT Food Review Part 1 – Breakfast

PCT Food Review Part 2 – Mid Morning Snacks and Lunches

PCT Food Review – Part 3 – Snacks

PCT Food Review Part 4 – Dinner

PCT Food Review – Part 3 – Snacks

In this entry we talk snacks! You can find our breakfast review here, and our mid-morning snack and lunch reviews here.

As a reminder, we actively sought out sponsors for our hike to help offset the higher cost of quality foods. Every company below with an * next to their name either gave us free food or a discount. While we remain grateful to these companies, their generosity has not influenced our comments.

Snacks

We ate snacks while walking, during rest breaks or as part of our meals. There was never a bad time to snack. Like with anything we ate over 6 months, we got really tired of some things, while we regularly looked forward to others.

All the nitty gritty is below!

Dang Coconut ChipsDang Coconut Chips* are simply amazing! We absolutely LOVED them. They are crunchy, flavorful and aromatic; and never got old! The Original Flavor (with coconut sugar and salt) is our favorite. Calorie dense, hearty, and sweet, with a drizzle of salt – oh it makes my mouth water writing about it.

Of all the snacks we shared with other hikers (and there were many), this was the clear favorite. Dang coconut chips are unique and really tasty. Calorie dense, tasty and lightweight – a true thru hiker food!

Andy also enjoyed the Salted Cacao flavor. It has a subtle chocolate flavor with a hint of salt. Neither of us liked the Lightly Salted variety. We found it to be rather bland. Having said that, it was a great addition to granola, oatmeal or with freshly picked huckleberries.

Dang onion chipsDang Onion Chips* – Unlike Funyuns that are made with cornmeal and artificial flavors, Dang’s onion chips are minimally processed and made with real onions. We sampled their Sea Salt and Salt and Pepper flavors.

Andy enjoyed the crunch and flavors of both of these savory chips while Laurie felt they were too airy but continued to eat them anyway. Andy would include Dang Onion Chips in his resupply in the future, but Laurie would most likely stick with kettle chips.

go raw cookiesGo Raw cookies* – We had both Carrot Cake and Raisin Crunch cookies throughout our hike. The Carrot Cake has a nice blend of spices without a lot of sugar. And they surprisingly (or not surprisingly) taste like carrot cake! Laurie loved them in the beginning but lost interest toward the end of the hike.

Andy, on the other hand, preferred the Raisin Crunch cookies in the beginning – they are made with buckwheat groats and he grew up eating buckwheat – but enjoyed the Carrot Cake flavor when Laurie got tired of them.

Initially, Laurie found the Raisin Crunch cookies bland but coveted them in Washington and toward the end of our hike. Laurie would eat all the pieces with more raisins and once satisfied no other cookie had more than one raisin in them, she’d hand the bag to Andy 🙂

NuttzoNuttzo* Nut and Seed Butter is an unknown gem. Nuttzo combines 7 nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flax seeds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and chia seeds or peanuts or pumpkin seeds) into 3 types of nut butters – Original (with peanuts), Power Fuel (no peanuts) and Chocolate (with peanuts).

They come in little 2 Go packets and include no additional palm or hydrogenated oils. They take a few moments of kneading to get the oils to mix with the nut butter, but that’s a very small price to pay for such a quality, nutritious and delicious treat. Nuttzo nut butters also have less sugar than most other nut butters yet are equally delicious. Laurie loved the Power Fuel flavor and Andy LOVED the Chocolate flavor – he likes chocolate! A lot.

Gin ginsThe Ginger People Ginger Candy* – Gin Gins Double Strength  was a wonderful hard candy on the trail. They are moderately spicy but not overly sweet.

Laurie loves ginger and Andy has taken a liking to ginger since meeting Laurie so we both enjoyed these candies quite a bit! They will certainly be accompanying us on future adventures.

Banana chips – You can’t go wrong with fried and lightly salted banana chips. We purchased these in bulk and vacuum sealed them into smaller bags. Laurie loved these and even found a gigantic bag in 2 hiker boxes in Washington.

dried fruitDried fruit – Andy’s mom and Laurie dehydrated fruit. These were amazing and the best snack ever! Fruit is a luxury and is too heavy to carry for more than a day on the trail, making dried fruit feel like gold. Apricots, peaches, plums, bananas and persimmons – those are but a few of the types of dried fruit we enjoyed on the trail.

Salt and onion cashews – we got these at our local natural food store. We vacuumed sealed them to maintain freshness and it worked for over 7 months! You cannot go wrong with salted nuts on a hike, unless you eat them everyday. We included these in every third resupply box, which made them a novelty all the way to the end.

trail mixTrail mix – We bought Kirkland trail mix from Costco for Laurie and custom made some for Andy (he doesn’t eat M&Ms). It didn’t take long for Laurie to get sick of trail mix. But this wasn’t the case for Andy. He loves trail mix and still eats it! HYOH right? 😉

If you’re looking to buy quality trail mix, you can do so here on Amazon.

Far West Fungi Shiitake JerkyFar West Fungi Shiitake Jerky – These were gifted to us by Laurie’s good friend. We loved their texture and taste. Definitely the winner of the best surprise treat of the trail. Other hikers really loved them too!

Trader Joes Powerberries, Dark Chocolate Espresso Batons and Plantain Chips – all from Trader Joes. Despite the name, there really isn’t much healthy about the Powerberries – but they taste good, and on the trail that is all that really matters.

TJ's espresso batonAndy’s chocolate fix came in the form of  Dark Chocolate Espresso batons. They cost a dollar, are very sweet and very tasty. Andy doesn’t drink coffee but loves the taste of these batons.

We also enjoyed TJ’s Plantain chips. Fried, salty and crunchy. Laurie loved them. Andy thought they were ok. For him they are a bit chalky. He prefers his chips to have more crunch and less width.

Lastly, Laurie packed herself a ziplock of candy for almost every day. These candies turned out to be invaluable when she was tired, sad or grumpy. She ate them in the am, around 4pm as a pick-me-up, before dinner and as dessert. Truth be told, she should have packed herself even more candy!

Her favorite candies were Sour Patch Kids and Sour Jelly Bellies. They were heavy but worth every once! Over time, she got tired of (but still ate) Swedish Fish and peanut M&Ms.

We are happy to report that she has seen her dentist since returning from the hike and she has no cavities!

That’s all for snacks. In our next post we will cover dinners. Stay tuned!

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Wet Weather Training

We hadn’t hiked in months.

Work and the holidays had consumed our lives.

We were itching to get outside.

To hike again. Rain or shine.

A friend joined us for a 14 mile loop hike in Mt. Diablo State Park.

With rain in the forecast and it being a Friday, no one else was in the Mitchel Canyon Visitor Center parking lot at 10am.

We laced up our shoes and headed for the fire road, hopeful the rain would hold  off.

The fire road twisted and turned up the mountain. The forest was green, fragrant and alive.

As we gained elevation, it started to sprinkle. Then, the skies opened up. It felt as if we were were being pelted by the driving rain.

Gusts of wind up to 40mph made for slow going on the really step sections of road.

After three hours, we reached the Mt. Diablo Summit and sought shelter inside the visitor center.

Once inside, we look off our rain gear and had lunch in the video viewing area.

At 2pm, we left our cozy shelter to re-enter the windy, wet gray world. We took the North Peak Trail and loved wandering down a narrow path lined with manzanita trees and mushrooms.

Though we’ve never been, we imagined this is what hiking in Ireland must be like. For moments the clouds would part and green rolling hillsides popped into view.

Shortly after, we turned into Bald Ridge Trail – another fabulous but steep trail. Soonafer we found ourselves on the muddy and slippery Back Creek Trail. If you want a good workout, take these trails up to Mt. Diablo.

Our last turn was onto Bruce Lee Road. It was stunning!

But then it turned muddy for about a mile. But no matter. We hiked with heavy boots until we reached our car.

Feeling accomplished, we cleaned our shoes with the scrubs provided by the park (thank you state park!!) and headed home.

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Hike stats

Miles: 14
Hours: 7
Elevation gain: 3,479 ft

Trail: Mitchell Canyon Road > Deer Flat Road > Juniper Trail > Summit Trail to Mt. Diablo Visitor Center

Return: Summit Trail > North Peak Trail > Bald Ridge Trail > Back Creek Trail > Bruce Lee Rd > Mitchell Canyon