Back in the day, Native Americans pounded out dried buffalo meat and coated it with animal fat to make a durable, high-energy trail food known to many tribes as pemmican. Today, you don't need to smoke bison to get high-calorie hiking grub; just stop by your local grocer for an energy bar. But with countless brands claiming to be the best on the market, you'd have to consume thousands of sticky, chewy, some- times gnarly calories to find the right stuff. Luckily, we had a better idea: we put 31 bars (representing 10 different brands) in front of 12 hungry hikers to see which deliver the longest-lasting, best-tasting fuel.
Pemmican Fruit and Nut
Grandma would approve of this bar. In fact, she could have baked it. The moist, homemade quality of this cakelike treat shot it to the top of tasters' lists. Made with soy flour, malted corn, and barley, and sweetened with honey and grape juice, the bar boasts a whopping 58 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of protein, enough for two power-packed snack breaks or lunch. One tester enthused that it's the only bar that "truly suffices as a meal replacement." Other flavor: Carob-Cocoa.
Size: 3.75 oz.
Contact: (800) 323-0042; www.mealpack.com
Clif Builder's, Chocolate
Best way to enjoy your protein? Disguise it as chocolate. That's the secret behind this crispy bar, chosen by testers for its 20 grams of protein, thick coat of chocolate frosting, and crunchy cocoa crisps. One tester gushed, "It's big, dense, decadent"; another raved, "This healthy treat tastes like a candy bar." Made with soy protein and organic and natural ingredients, the bar also packs 23 vitamins and minerals into a filling snack or breakfast that gave us several steady hours of energy on the trail. Downside: it'll melt in hot weather. Other flavors: Peanut Butter; Cookies 'n Cream.
Size: 2.4 oz.
Contact: (800) 844-5254; www.clifbar.com
This unique bar will do a ying-yang on your tastebuds with its boldly contrasting flavors. The four Mojo varieties balance crunchy with chewy and sweet with salty by combining peanuts, almonds, and rice crisps with oat syrup and honey. "A nice break from the artificial sweetness of many bars," declared one tester. "Love the big nut pieces and the crispy texture," remarked another. Winning flavors: Honey Roasted Peanut and Mountain Mix. Other flavors: Mixed Nuts and Fruit Nut Crunch. Fewer calories make this bar a great dayhike choice.
Size: 1.59 oz.
Contact: (800) 844-5254; www.mojobar.com
Best of the Rest
3.75 oz. 350 calories; $2.99
This all-around favorite comes in only one flavor, but it's a winner. Its hefty, all-natural mix of raisins, sunflower seeds, cashews, and chocolate chips earned it strong endorsements: "Great variety in taste and texture." "Perfect balance of nutty and fruity." Made with 15 natural ingredients, this performance bar packs a nutritional punch with a 60-15-25 carb-protein-fat ratio, an ideal combination for backpackers. As one tester put it, "It has a balance you can rely on to keep you moving."
Size: 3.75 oz.
Contact: (435) 645-8686; www.theprobar.com