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Backpacker Magazine – February/March 2013

Backpacker-Friendly Chocolate

Cocoa packs high energy and healthy antioxidants, and our testing revealed the best-tasting, most-meltproof varieties for the trail.

by: Kristy Holland

Best-tasting, most melt-proof chocolate varieties (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)
Photo by BP0313SKIL_BYDLON_Bars_bjk_445x260.jpg
Best-tasting, most melt-proof chocolate varieties (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)
Grape-Nut-size pieces of actual cocoa bean (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)
Photo by BP0313SKIL_BYDLON_Nips_bjk_445x260.jpg
Grape-Nut-size pieces of actual cocoa bean (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)
Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Photo by BP0313SKIL_BYDLON_HotCoco_bjk_445x260.jpg
Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

Trail-Friendly Craving Killers

» Nibs These Grape-Nut-size pieces of actual cocoa bean (shown above) have the highest antioxidant levels and lowest fat of edible cocoa. They don’t melt, so you can add them to trail mix in any season. They can be bitter to newbies, so initiate friends with a sugar-coated version like Nativas Naturals Sweet Nibs ($7; 4 oz.;

» Energy gels Low-fat, chocolate-flavored blends of clean-burning sugar are mess-free stand-ins for a candy bar. “Like brownie mix, but better for you,” say 

testers. Bonus: They won’t freeze solid in the cold. Try Gu’s Chocolate Energy Gel ($1; 1 oz.;

Cocoa’s Superfood Cred

Ounce-for-ounce, dark chocolate has more antioxidants than red wine or blueberries—a daily 30-calorie dose is enough to offer benefits. Studies link it to everything from vascular health to a strengthened immune system to improved mood and cognitive function. Milk and white chocolate varieties have less cocoa, ergo fewer health perks. To balance good health but still indulge, keep daily servings below 50 calories (unless you’re making up for a trail-day deficit), and opt for bars with between 60 and 75 percent cocoa. Higher cocoa content makes bars bitter, but lighter chocolate is fattier, less healthy, and liquefies at lower temps. 

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

3 cups powdered milk

5 oz. chocolate pudding mix (non-instant)

1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup powdered sugar

 dash of salt


At home Sift ingredients together and store in an airtight 

container for up to three months. Package trip-size servings in a zip-top bag.

In camp Dissolve one heaping tablespoon of mix into one cup of hot water, steep, and serve. Optional: Top with marshmallows, stir with a peppermint stick, or add an ounce of spirits. 

Get more camp-friendly recipes and trail-snack ideas featuring your favorite sweet at







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Eric Nelson
Nov 23, 2013

I highly recommend the dark chocolate M & M's. They do not melt in your trail mix and the candy coating adds that extra something.

peeved healthy hiker
Nov 22, 2013

I posted earlier about this, but (for some reason) the post is no longer here, so I'll say it again: "powdered nondairy creamer" is not healthy! It should not be included in the homemade hot cocoa recipe.

Star Star Star
healthy hiker
Nov 22, 2013

Good tips on dark chocolate, Ms. Holland--but I can't believe that your homemade hot cocoa recipe (above) calls for "powdered nondairy creamer." Why, when the recipe already includes powdered milk? Do you know what's in that "nondairy creamer"? Nothing healthy: hydrogenated oils (i.e. trans fats), corn syrup solids (probably from GMO, high-fructose corn), and a whole bunch of (probably cancer-causing) artificial ingredients. Those who care can read more here ( or just Google "nondairy creamer ingredients." By the way, that Land O' Lakes hot cocoa also contains unhealthy ingredients. Please read the "fine print," Backpacker Magazine writers and editors. Your readers deserve better.


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