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Energy Bars

Aaron Zagrodnick

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Aaron Zagrodnick

Go into an outdoor store. Go past the aisles of stoves and water filters. Walk past the racks of down jackets and nylon cargo pants. You’ll see an aisle full of freeze dried food in a pouch. And next to those gourmet selections of chili mac, beef stroganoff, and chicken dumplings are bars. Lots of bars. Colloquially called “energy bars”, this compact form of food is packed with calories but perhaps not always nutrition. They are processed in a factory...

@PaulMags shares this recipe and technique for creating your own energy bars for the trail at home - take a look in Issue 31:

Quick and Easy Energy Bars

Homemade Energy Bars for Hiking.JPG

Issue 31 Page 1

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My question with bars you freeze to set is, how do they hold up to being carried in a pack in hot weather?  Do they turn into a sticky mess that falls apart?

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I've only used them in temperate settings.  I have not used them in hot weather. I imagine it would be like a snickers, Hershey's bar or similar: A gooey mess indeed in hot weather.

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Even though it was rhetorical in intent Paul asked a pertinent question in his article I would like  for others to share solutions,  "why buy these(store bought prepackaged energy bars) when similar can be made easily, quickly and less expensively in your very own kitchen?" Since I like amassing trail food over  the longer term  for several regular annual hikes  and making up resupply boxes  to be  mailed in the  future maybe as much as 2-4 months away one of the reasons why I do buy energy bars is because I can usually easily get 6 months, maybe more,   unrefrigerated shelf life from them. With a shelf life of only a wk or so when not refrigerated this less expensive, easy to make, infinitely tweakable  DIY energy bar approach isn't going to work for longer distance or longer duration hikes given my concerns. My question, other than refrigeration, is how can I significantly increase the shelf life of these types of DIY energy bars? I eat a lot of energy bars on trail and this cost saving nutritionally amendable approach has benefits  but  where I'm seeing a down side is - shelf life.


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  DIY energy bar approach isn't going to work for longer distance or longer duration hikes given my concerns. 


That is assertion is false as many long distance hikers have proven over the years pre-internet (as we know it now).

This book was originally written in 1973 for example and is a classic of drying your own backpacking foods:


I do not think it is coincidence it went out of print in 1997...about the time commercial "energy bars" started becoming popular.

Obviously, a different recipe is called for involving baking. :)

The classic Rodale books from the 1970s on the Appalachian Trail has this remark:

Hikers’ diets tend to err on the side of too much carbohydrate and too little fat and protein….The lightweight freeze-dried backpacking foods are very expensive for the amount of nutrition they furnish. Further, I find them extraordinarily unappetizing…I planned to rely primarily on dehydrated foods that are readily available. For variety they would be supplemented with produce and meats when I found a grocery or restaurant near the trail.

Not much has changed.

My suggestion is to do what people id in the past: Bake your own bars. 

And then to do what people may do now very easily:  Get a vacuum sealer.  (Note the quick bars will last several weeks this way, bake bars several months. In the freezer: several years!)

Overpriced and nutritionally vacant food avoided. Long term storage problems addressed.

Funny. The power or marketing has convinced us we "need" energy bars and similar commercial food for long term storage.

The Egyptians, Romans and 1970s backpackers would be a bit surprised at this assertion.

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I asked a question which was the primary intent and topic of the post  "other than refrigeration, is how can I significantly increase the shelf life of these types of DIY energy bars?"

I asked the question within the confines of making up resupply boxes perhaps months in advance and/or sitting at a resupply location for perhaps a 3-4 wks before eating the DIY energy bars.  If shortened shelf life of the nutrition bars doesn't work so be it but I'm clearly open to  options of  making this approach  work.  Thank you for your suggestions. I see how it can work. Now, I'm seeking to make it work specifically  for my situation which you have obviously done specifically for your situation... quite nicely I might add. :) 

FWIW, expecting to enjoy AND NEED food after already investing in a dehydrator, dehydrating, packaging and mailing costs it absolutely sucks when a resupply box sent to a remote location or stored as a cache has gone bad.   This has happened on a few occasions and I'm seeking to prevent it from happening again. 

What I'm seeking is extending shelf times without adding  another step to what can already be a time consuming process of preparing boxes or caches by having to buy another kitchen gadget, special vacuum sealing bags, and vacuum sealing food  and  since I don't have a separate freezer or freezer space to store for possibly months the typical 3 nutritional bars each day I eat on trail on typically long duration hikes. 

Umm, yes,  that was James Leiztzell quote from 45 yrs ago in the Rodale book regarding his personal taste opinions regarding FEEZE DRIED  FOOD of the day not nutrition bars specifically which is what I thought we were all discussing. FWIW store bought nutritional bar selections are generally not FREZE DRIED and MANY sections include high levels of a wide spectrum of nutrients beyond carbohydrates. Many selections are  definitely NOT nutritionally vacant! That is a personal misperception.  For example, there is a whole category of nutritional bars that are raw or cold pressed or low temp baked and have 150+  cal/oz ratios with high 'good fat' content, phytonutrients, good amounts of protein, etc.  I'd say it's also safe to assume that the tastes, wider variety of options, and methods for nutritionally enhanced food have vastly been improved over the last 45 yrs.   Neither do they have to be costly comparably if we include prep time as part of the cost in DIY options. :mellow:

Where possibly I see some issues is in the way we differently define what  nutritional bars are   for there exists a wide range of possible  definitions. I think it best we all keep are minds open to that. :D

FWIW, I'm seeking alternatives to some of the costly RAW bars  even for myself who  purchases at wholesale or waiting for sales.   

Again, thank you for sharing your contributions. 

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