Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In


Camping & Hiking

Healthy trail eats that pack more nutritional value, flavor

Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.

Trail foods bump up their nutritional value with clean, real ingredients and fancy grains.

Packing light and eating well do not have to be mutually exclusive. Nutrition companies are find ways to increase the nutritional value and flavor of on-the-go eats with natural ingredients and larger array of options.

Eating clean
These days, the most important ingredients in nutrition bars and tablets are the ones not included. Gluten, soy, dairy and artificial sugars are going the way of the GMO, with gluten claiming the title for least-wanted ingredient. More gluten-free options are hitting shelves, and brands that have always offered such treats are making sure we know about it by adding certified “GF” stamps to their packages. Trail bar brand GoMacro has seen increasing demand for its gluten-, soy- and dairy-free recipes, said co-founder Amelia Kirchoff. And the popularity of clean, “real” ingredients has extended to sports tablets, too. Nuun recently switched to a plant-based formula for its sports hydration products.

Go with the grain
Ancient grains—that is, heirloom varieties of less-refined grains such as rice and barley, as well as less familiar ingredients like hemp hearts and kamut—are a hot ingredient this season, popping up in whole-grain bars and mixes. These crunchy carbohydrates are nutrient-dense, making them a natural fit for the trail food category, and also appeal to the Whole Foods audience. Many ancient grains also claim a smaller carbon footprint, which fits the green ethos of the outdoors crowd.

Menu expansion
Established nutrition brands are crossing over into one another’s territory this season by building out their product lines with a full suite of new gels, chews and bars. GU now offers a syrup waffle, and AlpineAire Foods introduces smoothie mixes. “It seemed a natural next step to create options that can act as a replacement for the typical trail snacks, and also be a delicious option beyond the backcountry into everyday activities,” said Leah Jones, marketing communications manager at Katadyn Group, which includes AlpineAire. And Setton Farms, known for its bite-sized pistachio bars, expands its offerings this year with 5-ounce resealable bags of nutty blends with flavors ranging from salty to sweet.

GoMacro Thrive Bars (MSRP $2.20) bring a low-glycemic sensibility to the nutrition bar category with a balanced protein-to-sugar ratio. Blueberry Lavender and Ginger Lemon are unique flavors, but the line also includes such classics as Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip. The plant-based protein in the bars comes from ancient grains such as quinoa, hemp hearts and sprouted flax. The bars are certified organic, kosher, vegan and gluten-free.

Photo courtesy of GoMacro.

AlpineAire introduces its snack line of mixes, dips and dried fruit. The Tex-Mex dips got our attention, but more unexpected were the smoothies (MSRP $6) in a pouch. AlpineAire is gambling there’s no trail-friendly blender debuting at the trade show, and now hikers can get their daily fix of flavors like Super Greens or Strawberry Banana.

Photo courtesy of Alpine Aire.

With the Omeals pouch, you can also use any liquid to trigger a chemical reaction to start heating the precooked meals inside. Just like MREs, the flameless reaction occurs in a separate chamber and does not come in contact with the food. The ability to use any liquid also means you can save treated water for drinking or even leave the stove at home. The bag starts to steam and is ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. The new line of Homestyle Meals (MSRP $10) include Lentils with Beef, Chicken Creole with Brown Rice, Pasta Fagioli and Vegetarian Chili. The packaging includes utensils and is shelf-stable up to three years and biodegradable.

Photo courtesy of Omeals.

OR newbie Kate’s Real Food offers meal bars in five flavors, from several peanut-butter-and-chocolate varieties to its Tiki Bar: Coconut Mango Cashew (MSRP $3), which is free of gluten and dairy and 85 percent organic. The labels call them “pocket meals,” and at 300 to 400 calories apiece, they should be eaten accordingly.

Photo courtesy of Kate’s Real Food.

This story first appeared in the Day 2 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.