Bikepacking Trail Food: Big Calories, Small Package
When covering a lot of miles, and resupply points are as rare as a three-legged unicorn, it’s worth the effort to find food that has a high calorie to weight ratio. Here are several options that pack a lot of energy into a lightweight package.
When sourcing trail food, it’s hard to find a better ratio than 170 calories per ounce (~30 grams). Even at that, you have to carry quite a load to match the 200+ calories per hour your body will be burning. Let’s do the math. During a typical day bikepacking, you might use 3,500 calories per day (a reasonable estimate if you typically eat a 2,000 calorie diet). At 170 calories per ounce, that’s well over a pound of food (over .5 kg); multiply that for a 5 day trip and it adds up. Less calorie dense foods can easily double that number.
While bars and prepackaged foods aren’t always the most appetizing solution, and are certainly not for everyone, there are healthy choices made simply from whole foods. Below you’ll find a list of bars and butters that are tasty, high calorie, and slow burning. One thing you’ll notice about this list is that most of these products are based on nuts and fruits as primary ingredients. By choice, each is minimally processed, without a load of unpronounceable ingredients.
1. Bogg’s Trail Butter
Peanut butter is hard to beat for high calorie fats and protein. Trail Butter was conceived while its co-founder, Jeff Boggess, was on an extended bike tour and used a combination of peanut butter, nuts, honey, and dried fruits to fuel his journey. One day in the Ozark Mountains, Jeff peered into his panniers and saw half-empty jars and bags of these various snacks. To save space, he combined everything into a single jar and realized he’d created something special. Later, his brother Brad summed it up perfectly with the name, “Trail Butter”.
I first tried Trail Butter on the Stagecoach 400. It came highly recommended by the fine folks at the Hub Cyclery, almost to the point of being a requisite for the route. Brendan Collier mentioned that when he races the SC400, Bogg’s Trail Butter is the only food he carries. I realized why after reading the nutrition label. The Mountaineer Maple has 190 calories per 32g serving; that’s 760 calories per 4oz soft pouch!
Trail Butter comes in two additional flavors, Ozark Original, and Expedition Espresso. Each flavor is based on the “Triple Nut Blend” of almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts. My personal favorite is probably the Ozark Original, a chunky concoction with added dried cranberries, honey, semi-sweet chocolate, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, flax seeds, vanilla beans, and sea salt. The Ozark Original is slightly less potent than the Maple, at 680 calories per pouch. The Espresso has 720.
Trail Butter is great straight from the pouch, but it’s also delicious squeezed on a banana, bread, or morning oatmeal. I found that a pouch is best consumed in 8 or 10 small bites over a couple hours of pedaling. If you are looking for an all natural alternative to bars, Trail Butter is a delicious bikepacking food that packs a lot of energy into a handy pouch. Each pouch retails for $5.99, or buy a 6-pack for $32.99.
2. Picky Bars
Picky Bars were developed by Lauren Fleishman, an accomplished marathon runner with a sports science background. She wanted to make a “healthy and athletically balanced bar” at what she considered the perfect size for training, 200 calories. After killing 10 food processors, she finally discovered the perfect blend of performance snack and real food. Picky Bars are based on a 4:1 carb to protein ratio with a base ingredient of organic dates. We sampled 4 flavors and all were delicious in their own way. Each bar packs around 200 calories into a 1.4oz (40g) package.
Picky Bars aren’t the cheapest option, but if you are in it to win it, try the Need For Seed, Lauren’s Meganuts, and the Smooth Caffeinator. Picky Bars are available at REI for $2.75 each, or on pickybar.com as 10-packs.
Larabars have long been a go-to source of quality fuel. The original Larabar is a blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts, and spices. Made from whole food, each of the 20 flavors contains no more than nine ingredients – minimally processed. My personal favorite, Cashew Cookie, contains only two ingredients (dates and cashews) and packs a whopping 230 calories into a tiny 48 gram package. Also try the Chocolate Coconut Chew. Larabars can typically be found for $1.49 at gourmet markets or natural food stores.
3. Justin’s Butter
Justin’s 1.15oz Squeeze Pack is another popular snack. Flavors include Hazelnut, Almond, Honey Almond, Peanut, and my favorite, Vanilla Almond, which has 180 calories per 33 gram pouch. Justin’s is good straight from the pouch or spread on a tortilla. Justin’s pouches can be found at most grocery chains for around $.99 per pouch.
4. Simple Squares
Simple Squares are organic and paleo nutrition bars infused with vanilla and herbs. These are a little different from your typical bar. With flavors such as Ginger, Coffee, Chili Pep, and Sage, the nutty square bars are a hearty savory-sweet meal. Try the Coconut: organic cashews, organic almonds, organic honey, unsweetened coconut and organic vanilla extract, Sea Salt. Simple Squares retail from $2.00-$3.00 and can be purchased in 12-packs.
Other High Calorie Goodies
- Pro Bar (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip): A classic at 390 calories/85g
- Blue Diamond Almonds (100 calorie packs): 100 calories/17g
- Kind Strong: Bold flavors such as Roasted Jalapeño and Thai Sweet Chili ~230 calories/45g