Gear Guide 2012: Food – Lunch & Snacks

Grab these quick-fix and fast-fueling trail meals on the go.

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Backpacker’s Pantry Potato Salad

“It’s not exactly potato salad,” says one tester. “But peas, eggs, cheddar, and a ranchy kick make this light meal satisfying without weighing me down.” Twelve grams of fat per serving come mostly from an olive oil (instead of mayo) base, and the fresh taste is enhanced by cold- water prep. Just soak the contents for 10 to 15 minutes while you hike. Tester tip: Bring crackers or bread and use the salad as a spread or sandwich filling. $8; 2 servings;

Barney Butter Almond Butter Snack Packs

Smooth and creamy, with a pleasantly nutty flavor, this snack-size spreadable was one tester’s go-to for healthy, high-calorie energy. “I squeeze it onto apples, crackers, or even straight into my mouth,” says a three-pack-a-day tester who has one request for the manufacturer: “Make it in a bigger tube.” $1; 1 serving (1 oz.);

Honey Stinger Caffeinated Lime-Ade Energy Chews

A tester favorite for their smaller-than-average size and a mix of quick- absorbing organic sugars, these chews are perfect for fueling eat-or-bonk hikes, runs, and bike rides. Both new flavors (Lime-Ade and a noncaffeinated Pink Lemonade) were hits in the field, scoring points for their “summery, citrusy, and tart flavor.” Some critics say they’re too sweet and turn rock-hard in temps below freezing. $2; 1 serving; $2;

Journey Bar Coconut Curry

Surprise your taste buds with this salty-yet-exotic snack. The Thai-inspired bar combines unsweetened coconut with almonds, amaranth, chili powder, and turmeric for a savory bite you should consider for short trips; the crumbly bars turned to dust during rugged or multiday treks. Note: Journey’s lineup is all about strong, unusual flavor combinations—they hit every tongue differently. While testers liked the Parmesan Romano, Pizza Marinara, and Rosemary bars, many found Wasabi Ginger and Hickory Barbecue unpalatable. $2; 1 bar;

Kate’s Real Food Stash Bar

Loaded with omega-3-rich flax seeds and protein-packed hemp, this moist, dense, peanut- and-chocolate energy bar is great for on-the-go snacking or to supplement a dull trail meal. Testers loved it so much, they crumbled it into plain granola for a morning energy boost. Prefer a fruitier flavor? Try the tart dark chocolate-and-cherry Handle Bar. $3; 1 bar;

Packit Gourmet Happy Hour Dips Pico de Gallo

Fresh salsa on a multiday trip? Believe it. A quick cold-water soak hydrates the chunky, cilantro- and lime-spiced Pico de Gallo Salsa. “It tastes like it’s fresh, but this salsa is so much easier to carry than delicate tomatoes,” says one tester who now carries it to spice up provisions on every weeklong outing. None of the dips in Packit’s “Happy Hour” line are complete meals in themselves, so combine the prep-in-bag mixes with pan-fried tortillas for a hearty snack. There’s also a Chorizo Bean Dip and Queso Rico mix (sold individually). $5; 2 servings;

Roo! Natural Foods Rice & Beans Stew

These single-serving, boil-in-bag pouches are perfect for short trips where flavor and convenience trump weight worries—a single, low-cal serving weighs 12 ounces. The thick, tomato-laced stew was a hit with testers who say they’d even eat it at home (the herby Tuscan Bean Soup flavor earned similar praise). At only 120 calories per serving, it’s a light midday meal on its own, but one tester recommends wrapping the rice and beans in a tortilla with cheese or avocado for a “no-fuss burrito.” $4; 1 serving;

Sahale Snacks Maple Pecans

“A modern twist on gorp,” says one tester. “This blend of pecans and walnuts, dried whole cherries and apple bits, and a cinnamon glaze is perfectly chewy, crunchy, and sweet.” Testers noted that the individual-serving sizes are pricy. One suggests: “Buy the 15-ounce bag and repackage in smaller bags for family trips—so you don’t eat it all in one sitting.” $11; 14 servings;

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