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Food Reviews

Swedish Fish Are the Ultimate Backpacking Candy

These little Scandanavian gummies have earned a permanent place in our packs. Why? Let us count the ways.

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If Halloween is the best night of the year for kids who love candy, then the day after is when grown-ups with a sweet tooth hit the jackpot. Overnight, entire aisles of sweets get marked down, selling for 50 to 90 percent off. It’s a great day to stock up on hiking fuel. And this year, I’ll be stocking up on Swedish Fish.

My love for Swedish Fish as a backpacking snack started on the Fjällräven Classic, a weekend-long group hike the brand organized along the spine of the Rockies in Colorado. At aid stations along the route, tables brimmed with the loose Scandanavian-themed gummies. I grabbed them by the handful (the pre-Covid world was a different place), munching on them across passes and at water breaks. 

Now, on long backpacking trips, trail runs, ski tours, or basically any other adventure, Swedish Fish are my secret weapon. Why? Let me break down why I’m raiding my local grocery store for these—and why you should too.

They’re Pure Sugar

Granted, this isn’t particularly unique—most candy is all sugar, after all, and that’s not usually something you brag about when you’re talking nutrition. But when you need energy, and fast, taking a hit of simple carbohydrates is a quick way to get it, hence all of the energy gels and blocks at your local REI. But not all sugars are the same: As our friends at Outside outlined in a recent article on energy gels, research suggests a combination of glucose and fructose can boost athletes’ endurance without causing tummy troubles. One of the main ingredients in Swedish Fish is invert sugar, which is—you guessed it—a combination of glucose and fructose. No wonder these gummies go down so smooth.

They’re Cheap

Even when they’re not on sale, Swedish Fish are a fraction of the price of purpose-made energy chews. Clif Shot Bloks retail for about 92 cents an ounce; Swedish Fish, about 34 cents, are comparable to other candies. Add in that post-Halloween discount, and you can stock up for a season’s worth of backpacking trips all at once. (Just make sure to keep them in an airtight container; no one likes a leathery, dried-out gummy.)

They’re Covered in Wax

OK, bear with me on this one: This is the best thing about Swedish Fish. Like a lot of candies, they’re covered in carnauba wax, a palm-derived substance that candymakers use to give their creations that appealing gloss that consumers love. Thanks to that, you can keep them almost anywhere without creating a sticky mess: I’ve decanted them into my shell’s chest pockets on ski tours, where they stayed just warm enough to be edible, and stashed them in my hipbelt pockets on backpacking trips. As long as the weather’s not hot enough to melt them, they won’t pick up dust or crumbs from other food like gummy bears do. (Do pick somewhere reasonably clean, though.) Bonus: No need for single-serving plastic means less waste, and less microtrash to carry out.

So keep your M&Ms and your Skittles: I’ll be boosting my blood sugar with a schoolful of those fruity, chewy candies on my hikes this fall and winter. Try it, and you might just find yourself going fishing for them too.

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