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Test Kitchen: Nuts

Protein-packed and calorie-dense, nuts are a classic backpackers' superfood. We taste-tested 96 spreads, mixes, and bars to bring you the healthiest (and tastiest) options for the trail.
BP0813_AssortedNuts_445x260.jpgTest Kitchen: Nuts (Photo by Ben Fullerton)

Pack-Friendly Picks

Whole nuts
Beta Studies show most nut varieties may reduce the risk of heart disease, thanks to their cholesterol-busting mono- and polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and B-complex vitamins. And with an extra-long shelf life and melt-proof weather resistance, they’re ideal for the trail.
Choosing Raw nuts usually provide the most nutrients; chocolate-coated boost calories; and roasted have rich flavor. Salted nuts help replace electrolytes lost to sweat.
Buying tip Shop in bulk to save cash and create your own mixes.
Top pick Our favorite DIY combo: honey roasted peanuts + dark chocolate almonds + peanut butter M&M’s + mini marshmallows + Chex Muddy Buddies.

Bars
Beta Trail bars offer convenient, mess-free nutrition in individual packages; most can survive in your pack, unopened, for eight months or more. Dietician Rebekah Spetnagel, M.S.S, R.D., suggests checking the ingredient list: “If sugar is first, don’t buy it. Think simple, recognizable, healthy ingredients like whole nuts, fruits, and whole grains. ”
Packing In hot weather, freeze chocolaty bars pretrek, pack them in the center of your bag for insulation, and eat them on day one.
Buying tip Make your own bars (use our online recipes, see below). Save time: Whip up a triple batch, wrap individual bars in foil, and freeze for trips all season.
Top pick KIND’s all-natural Nut Delight bar ($2; kindsnacks.com)

Spreads
Beta Peanut butter, a timeless sandwich filler, can upgrade almost any backcountry meal: Try it on s’mores, as a marinade for fresh fish, and mixed into rice noodles. Branch out with almond butter (less saturated fat, more fiber, but freezes in cold temps) and cashew butter (decadently sweet).
Packing Use GSI’s Soft Sided Condiment Bottle Set ($12 for four 2-oz. bottles; gsioutdoors.com), or pick up a single-serving squeeze pack from Justin’s or Artisana.
Buying tip Natural spreads require refrigeration after opening. Taking the whole jar for a group trip or long trek? Conventional processed butters last up to four months.
Top pick Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter packs ($6 for 10; justins.com)

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