Category: backpacking food

Greenbelly – The Search for the Perfect Food Bar

I’m always on the hunt for the Perfect bar.  Bars are easy to carry, typically pack a nutritious punch, and most of them seem to be shelf stable for DECADES.  My favorite to date is the Big Sur Bar.  It is really more like a desert bar with its chocolate, nuts, dates, granola, etc.  I’ve tried many of the others – Cliff, Luna, Nature Valley – you name the bar and I have probably tried it.  Other than the Big Sur Bars, bars are always the last thing eaten in my pack, and the first thing used for barter with other hikers.

Recently, I was recommended bars made by “Greenbelly,” and decided to give them a shot.  I had heard the words “meal replacement,” and immediately thought they MUST be better than a typical food or protein bar.  I also like the “dream” behind the bars.  An accountant had quit his job, gone hiking, and then decided to start a company, selling his own creations.   Starting a company, related to my love of hiking, is a common fantasy I have, as I sit staring at spreadsheets and answering emails.  You GO Chris Cage!

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I ordered the bars, a three pack, and waited for them to arrive.  They have three flavors, and I got one of each.  I find I tend to prefer anything with peanut butter, but fruit and chocolate combined, are not bad either.

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The bars/meals – I’m not sure what to call them – arrived in the middle of the week while I was traveling, and were immediately put with all of my other “damn hiking stuff” in the basement.  It was about two weeks before I thought to ask about them.  I received a blank stare for a moment, and then “Oh those.”  “They are in the basement where they belong.”  Unfortunately, my love of hiking is not always shared by my family.  I headed downstairs to bring them up for examination, where they were received with eye rolls and shakes of the head, as I spread them across the island.

The first thing I noticed was the packaging.  The bars were pretty snappy in their little black bags, with bright colored food pictures and lettering.  The company had done a nice job on the packaging.  There were two bars per sack, and I liked that that each sack had a zip lock, reseal able top.  The packaging was a little heavy for me, and even though I would be able to reseal each sack, I would probably end up repacking them in much thinner zip lock bags when time to head out for a hike.  Space and weight are always highly valued when hiking long distances.

The first bar I decided to try was the Peanut/Apricot flavor.   I was pleasantly surprised.  I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the Apricot flavor, but I enjoyed the peanut butter.  They were not too sweet, which is often an issue with other bars.  They were also not too gooey, and seemed much more “natural” than other bars I have tried.  I liked that each bar was a little crumbly and a different size.  It almost made them seem hand made, unlike let’s say a Cliff Bar, that always seems to have just rolled down the conveyor belt from the duplication machine.  I made that machine name up, in case anyone is wondering.

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The next bar I tried was the Cranberry/Almond bar.  Fruit bars are never my favorites.  I just have never cared much for dried fruit, but as far as fruit and nut bars go, these were better than others than I’ve tasted in the past.  What I liked best, was again that more natural look.  They did not have the shiny glaze you often find on the grocery store bars, as if they had just been shellacked to preserve them for life.  I would probably not carry these (that whole dried fruit thing) but can recommend them more highly than others I have choked down.  I smacked a little more on my bite, and let Lulu finish the rest.  She, by the way, MUCH prefers them to her dog biscuits.

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The last contender was the Dark Chocolate/Banana bar.  Now, I know that dark chocolate is supposed to be a better chocolate for me to eat, but YUCK.  I just do not like dark chocolate, and my least favorite fruit, second to the prune, is bananas.  I nibbled a corner, acknowledging a good texture, and tossed the rest back into the sack.   I offered the unnibbled bar, as a show off good faith for taking over the kitchen island, but received a frown and “I don’t eat backpacking food” in return.

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In Summary, the packaging is awesome, although I would pack it in lighter bags for hiking.  I love the graphics and zip lock top.  The bars themselves are a step above other bars I have eaten, but still not my favorite Big Sur Bar.   My favorite – the Peanut Butter/Apricot – maybe minus the apricots.  I would be fine with some not dark chocolate, chocolate chunks instead of apricots, but they are still good.  I also like the fact that they appear to be naturally made, and provide a lot of the ingredients needed for hard hiking.  If choosing a bar for my hike, I would take these – at least the Peanut Butter bars.  As far as bars go – they are well made.

On a rating scale – Lulu gave them a 3.5 out of 5 stars, and she is a hard grader.  Also, keep in mind that ALL other bars, other than of course the Big Sur Bar, currently don’t exceed 1.5….unless of course a candy bar.  One other thing – Lulu can’t have chocolate, so they may have scored higher or lower for her if she had tasted the Dark Chocolate/Banana.  I personally suspect the score would not have changed though.