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Bacon, Jerky, and Meat: Big Food Trends at Outdoor Retailer 2015

This is Part 1 of the Food and Nutrition trend articles from Outdoor Retailer 2015. It is Part 2 in the Outdoor Retailer 2015 Summer series.

Paleo Bars and Jerky

It seemed like there was a new meat product around every corner of the Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 trade show. With what seems like half the young population in Colorado going Paleo (the other half is the increasingly less trendy but much better for the environment vegan), the market–as exemplified by the health and energy foods that show up at OR– has stepped up to offer fresh, fun flavors.

What this means for hikers is that we don’t have to be stuck with Slim Jims and Walmart Jerky for our backpacking trips anymore and that the market is expanding far away from the fruit-and-nut bar we’ve all eaten a million times. It also means there are more savory bars on the market (check out my series on savory bars). A bunch of these meat bars can also be used as dinner alternatives for the stoveless or dinner supplements for the stoved.

Wild Zora bars combine organic veggies and natural meats to create a paleo bar. Each package is 1 oz, 120 calories.
Wild Zora bars combine organic veggies and natural meats to create a paleo bar. Each package is 1 oz, 120 calories.

Wild Zora:

The first meat and veggie bar on the market, Wild Zora uses grass-fed beef, local lamb, and free-range turkey to create moist creatively flavored bars. The bars have no nuts, gluten, soy, grains, MSG, chemical additives, or sugar or sweetners and run under the motto that “fruits and nuts do not make a complete meal” (those two ingredients, of course, being the contents of most of the bars at the Show). Wild Zora bars are 1/3 organic veggies, making one bar a full serving of veggies. This can be useful to hikers to help up our veggie intake. Zora Bars come in Chili Cayenne Apricot Beef, Parmesan Tomato Basil, BBQ Hickory Tomato, Turkey Masala Spinach, and Lamb Rosemary Spinach. My favorites were the lamb (which was among the moistest bars on the market) and the Parmesan Tomato (a really unique flavor for a meat bar.

Fusion jerky mixes tender Asian-style jerky with funky Western flavors.
Fusion jerky mixes tender Asian-style jerky with funky Western flavors.

Fusion Jerky:

A mix between Asian-style jerky tenderness and America-style jerky flavors, Fusion Jerky offers meat-eaters funky flavors and new animals to jerky. Fusion Jerky is the first jerky line to offer chicken jerky. They also offer some intriguing flavors including Garlic Jalapeno Pork Jerky, Rosemary Citrus Turkey Jerky, and Basil Citrus Beef Jerky. The only jerky company to be owned by a woman of color (she’s Asian and came up with the idea while hiking Kilimanjaro, so of course I have a soft spot for her), the company uses only US animals and is MSG and nitrate free. Her family has been in the jerky business for 50 years and makes their jerky in Nebraska.

Brick bars mix grass fed meat and nuts to make a milk/gluten/soy/grain free bar. 130 calories and 11 g of protein in 1.5 oz.
Brick bars mix grass fed meat and nuts to make a milk/gluten/soy/grain free bar. 130 calories and 11 g of protein in 1.5 oz.

Bricks Bars:

A new Paleo bar out of Brooklyn, Bricks Bars combines grassfed, antibiotic-free meats, veggies, fruits, and seeds to create a moist and richly flavored bar. Flavors come in Grassfed beef/uncured bacon/cranberry/sunflower seed AND Turkey/sweet potato/cranberry/pumpkin seed. These brand new bars blew my mind in the taste test and I look forward to seeing the company progress as they develop new flavors and grow.

Duke’s Small Batch Smoked Meats:

This Boulder Colorado-based jerky company has their own smoke house and crafts everything in batches of 500 pounds or less. Duke’s prides itself on less sugar, only hardwood smoked (not liquid smoked), and only US raised meat. There are three varieties 1) slow smoked thin cut jerky 2) extra thick and tender strips 3) and slow dried old world style sausages (kind of like a high class version of the Slim Jim). They features fun flavors like Bourbon Beef Steak Strips (made with actual Jim Beam), Chile N Lime Beef Strips, and Stubb’s BBQ braised pork strips

Epic bars are coming out with new flavors and new meat products
Epic bars are coming out with new flavors and new meat products

Epic Bars:

I’ve written about the Epic meat bars before on this blog, so was excited to see that they are rolling our 3 new flavors: the uncured bacon bar, the Chicken sesame BBQ bar, the Pulled Pork Pineapple Bar, the Beef Apple Uncured Bacon Bar, the Chicken Sriracha bar and (get ready for it) the Liver beef and sea salt bar. The company is also rolling out a new line called Hunt and Harvest Mix which includes jerky, berries, fruits, nuts, cacao nibs, and coconut chips to create a sweet and savory trail mix. This is the trail mix meant to appeal to the Hunter and Gatherer Paleo types. Epic also has come out with Bites—mini bars essentially—that are a portion-control re-sealable snack (whatever that means). These come in new flavors: bison/bacon/raisin/chia, beef/cranberry/sriracha, bacon, and chicken/currant/sesame.

The next section of the Outdoor Retailer Food and Nutrition Write-up will focus on intriguing options for the stoveless, new caffeine delivery systems, how to eat crickets on the trail, and how to drink less water. That and more…next time!

New Trends in Backpacking Food: Outdoor Retailer Sneak Peeks at What To Eat


Part 4 in the series on Outdoor Rertailer 2015. 

Being more of a foodie than a gearhead, I was especially stoked to sample, nibble, and gorge on all of the new foods announced at the Outdoor Retailer Show this year. Here’s a sneak peak at what to eat, from the intriguing, scrumptious, to just plain disgusting.

Most Innovative: Clif Energy Food

Clifbar unveiled their new energy food packets at Outdoor Retailer
Clifbar unveiled their new energy food packets at Outdoor Retailer

Part real food gel, part adult baby food, these pouches taste way more “real” than the competitors’ energy goop. These totally organic, gluten-free packets come in re-sealable pouches and have a shelf life of 12 months.

One major selling point on these bad boys is that they’re easier to digest than real food, but tastier and mor

e wholesome than gels. Props to Clifbar for the innovative idea. Because of the limited calorie density, I can’t see this taking off in the long distance hiking community as more than an occasional treatbar. As much as I love the Clif Energy Foods, I worry it won’t stick around for long, so start hording these before they end up on the cutting block!

The sweet flavors (90g): Banana Mango Coconut (100 calories) and Banana Beet Ginger (110 calories).

The savory flavors (120g): Sweet Potato and Sea Salt (200 calories) and the Pizza Margherita flavor (120 g—my favorite).

New Dehydrated Food: Good to Go


Founded by Iron Chef winner Jennifer Scism (and long time owner NY Times 4 star rated restaurant Annissa in NYC), Good to Go is a new pre-packaged backpacking dinner that first appeared at Summer OR. The flavor is pretty much advertised—restaurant quality.

The only downside is that Good to Go is dehydrated instead of freeze-dried, so Soakers like my friend Bobcat aren’t going to be able to use this food to its full potential. It appears to have as many calories as the competition, but a single serving Good to Go retails for the price of a double serving of the competition. I guess it’s still cheaper than dinner at a 4 star hotel.

Flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz) , Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per, Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)

Sweet and Savory: Navitas


Health food store standard, Navitas organic superfood company made an appearance at Outdoor Retailer and rocked the potential for flavor and variety of all natural backpacking snacks. I was already a big fan of backpacking with the Cacao Nibs and Chia seeds, but was stoked for their new line up set to roll out this spring.

Coconut chips (three flavors): cacao, caramel, and chili lime (I tried this was and it was AWESOME). These have the potential to be a low glycemic alternative to potato chips. Of course, coconut chips are never inexpensive, but at least these come in creative flavors.

Superfood+ Line: Cacao Hemp Almonds, Chia Rosemary Pepitas, Coconut Hemp Pepitas, Goji Basil Cashews, Goldenberry Ginger Almonds, Maca Maple Cashews (incredible), Tumeric Tamari Almonds (turmeric is an all-natural ibuprofen alternative).

Although they aren’t new, I was pretty intrigued by the Power Snack cubes (Flavors include: Cacao Goji, Citrus Chia, Coffee Cacao, and Lemon Goldenberry). At $10 for 8 oz, these raw organic cubes are less expensive per oz than many other raw organic bars out there and have no added sugar.

New Twist on a Trusted Bar: Probar

Although they didn’t have a booth at Winter OR this year, during the show, several of my friends swung by ProBar headquarters and met with Jules, the CEO, who had kindly supplied the Gossamer Gear Jamboree in Moab with snacks. I’ve been excited for their two newest flavors, which rolled out a few months ago:

Almond Crunch: Let’s just say that the hikers who tried this bar loved it so much, that what they want to do to this bar is inappropriate to write in the blog. This flavor is phenomenal. (And thank you, Probar, for making a peanut-free bar!)

Strawberry Bliss: It’s like they took my favorite ingredient from the Wholeberry Blast and just dedicated a whole bar to it.

Probar also rolled out their new line, Bites, which offers the same great flavors as their Meal Replacement Bars, except in smaller-portioned (and thus lower calorie) bars. (Hikers, of course, are best sticking to the Meal Replacement Bar).

Best Idea Ever: Alpine Aire Guacamole

How many times have I been sitting on a mountain and wished that I had some guacamole for my chips? Up until now, I didn’t think it was possible to dehydrate an avocado. I thought it was physically not possible. But Alpine Aire has done it–and it’s incredible. Keep your eyes and tongue peeled for this amazing, incredible, much-dreamed about new food idea. Hikers: I introduce you to freeze dried guacamole!

Reading Material: The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook

Stackpole Books presented their newest backpacking food recipe book, the Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook, which includes 398 recipes. Suitable for preppers and hikers alike, if you’re looking for an off-season hobby to get you prepared for backpacking, this book has enough projects in it to keep you busy until next off-season. It includes full color photos of what can be done with a dehydrator—although, admittedly, many of these are way too fancy for a lot of hikers.

Oldie But Goodie: New Clif Bar Flavors

At the Conservation Alliance Breakfast, Clifbar rolled out two new flavors for attendees to try:

Berry Pomegrante Chia

Nuts and Seeds

Macrodelicious: GoMacro Bar

I was pleased to see health food staple Go Macro bar at Outdoor Retailer, showing off some of their cool new packaging designs–which recently won an award for awesome art. Outdoor Retailer was a great place for them to showcase some of their new flavors that I haven’t seen in stores yet: banana + almond butter, sunflower + butter chocolate,  sesame + butter dates, and cashew caramel.

Trail Magic Award: PowerPop

The ultimate in trailside magic showed it’s face at OR this winter: an Otterpop like ice popsicle with electrolytes. I’m just saying if someone showed up at Scissor’s Crossing handing out a few of those, they’d instantly get the status of “angel” from some near-dead hikers.

For a Good Cause: Salazon Chocolate

At Outdoor Retailer, Salazon rolled out their Continental Divide Trail specific salted chocolate bar: 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Almonds. All Salazon bars are Oragnic, Fair Trade, and Rain Forest Alliance certified. Packed with plenty of energy, uppers from the chocolate, and salt to keep your electrolytes in balance, proceeds from this bar go to the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. Now that’s some good chocolate!

Are there any food trends or flavors you’re excited to try in your backpacking food?

Stay tuned for the final segment on Outdoor Retailer: gear and marketing trends in the Outdoor Industry!


Savory Bar Review: Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry bar

This is part of a multi-part series reviewing the State of the Hiker Food Market highlighting the new trend of savory food bars. To see other savory bar reviews, check out the savory bar series.

This weekend, I climbed Goat Mountain with four other thru-hikers: Steven Shattuck (trail name: Twinkle), Brian  Davidson (trail name: Mr. Gorbachev), Bill Murphy (Pi) John McNeedy (Cactus)—representing 40,000 miles of trail experience. We taste tasted the Epic Bison and Cranberry Bar as part of our summit snack.


Weight: 1.5 oz (45g) Calories: 200 Protein: 11 g.

Interesting notes: Grass-fed bison, Paleo, Gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free with no artificial ingredients. High in Vitamin B12.

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: grass-fed bison, uncured bacon-no nitrites or no nitrates, dried cranberries (that’s pretty much it for ingredients)

Price: $2.50 a piece, which is pretty standard for jerky and other preserved trail meats.

Overall thoughts: Despite the bro-ly name of this bar, we all were blown away by this bar’s incredible taste. It had a great, moist texture that made it far superior to any jerky or other meat-based trail food I’ve had. The bar is pretty tiny, but an incredible treat. Pi was all but using his phone to order a case from the summit.

Where to get: Amazon, Epic’s website, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocer’s, Vitamin Shoppes, Coops, REI, local natural food stores, local gear outfitters, and Crossfit gyms. Available in all 50 states and online.

 Nothing like watching 5 experienced long distance hikers try a bacon bar….

Savory Bar Review: Gardenbar Mexican Savory

This is part of a multi-part series reviewing the State of the Hiker Food Market highlighting the new trend of savory food bars. To see other savory bar reviews, check out the savory bar series.

With Brian  Davidson (trail name: Mr. Gorbachev), we took the Garden Bar Savory Mexican bar on our section-hike of the PCT in Washington.


Weight: 1.76 oz (45g) Calories: 190 Protein: 5 g.

Interesting notes: High in Vitamin C and Iron, does not contain any of the 8 major allergens. Vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and GMO-free.

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: teff flakes, quinoa crisps, amaranth flakes, dried crimini mushrooms, freeze dried olives (did not know this was possible!), yellow corn chips (in a bar? Interesting…) black bean flakes (also interesting in a bar)

Price: $1 a piece, so definitely on the reasonable size. Note this is the price Gardenbar charged at PCT Days , so retailers may increase the price.

Overall thoughts: Mr. G really enjoyed the flavor, but these tasted too much like normal hiker dinner (dehydrated black beans) for me to be really excited about it. If I want black beans and corn chips, I’ll eat my dehydrated dinner with Fritos.

Where to get: Gardenbar website, coops and grocery stores in the Pacific Northwest including (but not limited to) Portland, Ashland, Cascade Locks (right on the PCT), Corvallis, Eugene, Vancouver, and randomly . . . my home in Denver.

Gardenbar flavors tested
Gardenbar flavors tested


Disclaimer: We purchased these bars with our own money and have no relation or contact with the company.

Savory bar review: KIND Strong bars

Mr. G is a little intimidated by the Jalapeno flavor
Mr. G is a little intimidated by the Jalapeno flavor

This is part of a multi-part series reviewing the State of the Hiker Food Market highlighting the new trend of savory food bars. To see other savory bar reviews, check out the savory bar series.

With Brian  Davidson (trail name: Mr. Gorbachev), we took the Strong and KIND Savory bars on our section-hike of the PCT in Washington.

The KIND Strong bars come in five flavors (going from mildest to spicest):

We reviewed the first four (my peanut allergy prevented us from sampling the Thai).



Weight: 1.58 oz (45g) Calories: 230 Protein: 10 g. Note: the highest calories and protein of any of the bars reviewed

Interesting notes: Very high protein (10g) and the protein is soy and whey free, Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: Almond-base, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds. I LOVE the BBQ flavors as these are all major umami tastes that I crave on trail.

I love how all the Strong and Kind bars have a heat meter to tell how spicy they are
I love how all the Strong and Kind bars have a heat meter to tell how spicy they are

Price: $1.50 a piece at Sprouts supermarket. Foods this price go into my “treat bar” category instead of the “utility bar” category. However, KIND bars frequently go on sale and has enough calories that it could easily become a utility bar.

Overall thoughts: The KIND Strong bars tasted great and had a hefty, nutty crunch that I really enjoyed compared to other savory bars reviewed. I really appreciated that it had the highest calories and protein of any the bars reviewed. The flavors tasted all fairly similar as they all use a similar base with a few spices added here and there—but that flavor was very satisfying (see spreadsheet of ingredients below). This is very different than the approaches the other savory bar companies have taken, which is to use completely different ingredients in their different flavors. I suspect that KIND’s model makes their bars easier to manufacture, which means we should expect to see the Strong bar’s on the market for a long time to come(definitely a good thing!).

Ingredients in the 4 KIND Strong bars tested. The bars all have similar bases with different spices added.

As a hiker, I find it silly that KIND chooses to advertise these bars as having 42% less fat than almonds alone—backpackers want that fat! As much as I enjoyed these bars, for those on a tight budget, it would be less expensive to just eat the bulk ingredient of all these bars: smoked almonds. That being said, I always crave BBQ flavors on-trail and the KIND and Strong bars definitely hit that spot! If you’ve got a few bucks to spend and a huge hankering for hickory on-trail, this was the best tasting BBQ bar we tried.

Where to get: Amazon, REI stores, major grocery stores everywhere. KIND has put a huge marketing campaign behind these bars, which makes me optimistic that they will be on the market for a long time (unlike other early developers of savory bars).

Savory Bar Review: Slow Food for Fast Lives Indian savory bar


With guest vlogger, Brian “Mr. Gorbachev” Davidson, we took the Slow Food for Fast Lives  Indian savory bar on the Colorado Trail.

Weight: 1.4 oz (40g) Calories: 180 Protein: 5 g

Interesting nutritional notes: Very high in Vitamin C (35%), and pretty good in Iron (8%), Vegan, Gluten-free, GMO-Free

Ingredients I’m intrigued by: CAULIFLOWER (I’m kind of in love with this veggie and can never get it on trail), Lentils (so novel to have this in a bar), Coconut+coconut oil, Potatoes (shouldn’t more bars have potatoes?), Turmeric (good as an anti-inflammatory), Mangoes, Ginger

Price: $1.50 a piece on sale at Sprouts. Foods this price go into my “treat bar” category instead of the “utility bar” category.

Overall thoughts: Amazing—perhaps my favorite bar of all those we reviewed. Loved the density and mouthfeel and it had a fantastic Indian food flavor that I’ve never found in another trail food, including freeze dried stuff.  It could be calorie denser, but it could also work well as a lower-calorie post-gym, dayhike, or bored at the office snack. This is the perfect bar to bring on one of those multi-thousand mile trails where you don’t expect to find many Indian restaurants for the next six months, like the Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, anything in the desert…etc.

Where to get: Slow Food for Fast Lives website, Amazon,  Coops and Natural Food stores in more than 20 states, and Sprouts Farmer’s market grocery stores.

Disclaimer: Mr. G and I purchased these bars with our own money. All bars were tested on trail while hiking–so our reviews may be based on hunger rather than taste. I’m allergic to peanuts and don’t eat turkey, so not all flavors are reviewed.