The humble snack. Always there when you need it most – right before a big run, just before the final push to a summit, or found in the bottom of your bag when you realize you left your lunch sitting on the kitchen counter. Yes, the snack. It may be small but it’s awfully important, so it’s a good idea to make sure the fuel you put in your body is high-quality and tasty.
We taste tested and carefully analyzed the ingredients of each of these energy bars, gels, and chews to bring you this list of the best energy bars and snacks.
Related:Best Trail Food Guides
Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list.
- Best energy bars overall for quality ingredients, flavor & texture:Kate’s Real Food
- Best value energy bars: CLIF Bar
- Best meal replacement bars: PROBAR
- Best budget energy bars: Nature Valley
- Best energy chews: CLIF Bloks
- Best calorie/oz. ratio: Honey Stinger Waffles
- Delicious & filling energy bars with high-quality ingredients: Bobo’s Oat Bars
- Affordable energy bars with sweet flavors: Luna Bar
- High-quality ingredients and unique flavors: TAOS Bakes
- Best energy gels: CLIF Shots
What’s Most Important to You in an Energy Bar?
PRICE – Energy bars usually cost between $1-3 per bar. That’s not bad if you’re just picking up a few, but if you’re stocking up for a big trip, the cost really starts to add up. Luckily, if you’re buying at REI, there’s a sweet 10% discount when you buy 10 or more energy foods. Other retailers typically offer a little discount for buying in bulk as well. To get the best value, we also look for lightweight foods that are calorie-dense.
FLAVOR – It’s not much fun to eat a snack that doesn’t taste good, no matter how much you need the calories. The following brands consistently have the best flavors. See our taste-tested favorites by each brand in the list below.
CALORIES/OZ.– There are inevitably going to be days on trail when you just CAN’T be bothered to pull out your cookset. The kind of days when breakfast is a couple of energy bars, lunch is a couple of energy bars, and dinner is tuna in a tortilla… and a couple of energy bars. Whether you’re stocking up for those days on trail, a marathon, or a walk on the beach, the key is to look for energy foods with a high calorie count and low weight. We typically look for snacks with 125 or more calories per ounce.
- Snacks with the most calories per ounce (over 125): Justin’s – Cinnamon Almond Butter, Kate’s Real Food – Lemon Coconut & Ginger, Gu – Campfire S’mores Stroopwafel, Nature Valley – Packed Peanut Butter & Cranberry, Nature Valley – Crunchy Oats ‘n Honey, PROBAR – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Meal Bar, PROBAR – Chocolate Coconut Meal Bar, TAOS BAKES – Caramel Pecan + Cranberries, Honey Stinger – Cinnamon Waffle, Honey Stinger – Salted Caramel Waffle
ALLERGIES, DIET & INGREDIENTS – Allergies are a bummer, and it can be difficult to find something that agrees with your body and your taste buds when you’re on a restricted diet. We poured over ingredients lists and marked all of the energy bars on our list with GF (gluten-free), NF (nut-free), and V (vegan) to help make it easier to find the right bars for you. We also looked for bars that use organic ingredients and are non-GMO certified to determine which ones provide the cleanest fuel for your body.
TEXTURE – Texture truly can make or break an energy bar. If it’s too dry and we have to wash it down with an entire bottle of water, that’s a no-go. If it’s too chewy and we spend the rest of the day picking it out of our teeth, it also may not make the cut. Whatever your texture preference is, there’s a bar out there for you.
Best Energy Bars of 2023
NF = Nut Free, GF = Gluten Free, V = Vegan
*Ingredients can change without notice, so be sure to consult the packaging for the most up-to-date ingredient list
BEST ENERGY BARS OVERALL FOR QUALITY INGREDIENTS, FLAVOR & TEXTURE
NET WEIGHT: 2.2 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 270
PROS: Excellent flavor & texture, excellent value, high average calorie/oz, gluten-free, high-quality ingredients, organic
CONS: Not as widely available in stores, expensive
BOTTOM LINE: We haven’t tried a bar from Kate’s Real Food that we didn’t like. These high-quality snacks are made with ingredients you can pronounce, and all of the flavors are organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO certified, so you can be sure you’re treating your body and your taste buds well. Kate’s Bars also have a great texture – it’s a good mix of moist and crunchy, and it doesn’t feel gritty or get stuck in your teeth. When you need a quick energy boost on the trail, you will not be disappointed by a Kate’s Real Food Bar.
BEST VALUE ENERGY BARS
NET WEIGHT: 2.4 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 260
PROS: Widely available in grocery stores, affordable, large variety of flavors
CONS: Most flavors are not allergen/special diet-friendly, somewhat low calorie/oz.
BOTTOM LINE: The crowd favorite CLIF Bar finds its way into our packs for pretty much every hike. We love that these bars can be found in most grocery stores and gear shops, so it’s easy to grab them as a last minute snack on the way out to the trailhead. With over 20 flavors available (plus new and seasonal flavors added occasionally), CLIF Bar makes it easy to have plenty of variety in your snack selection. And since the bars themselves are pretty compact, CLIF Bars make a great affordable option for backpacking.
BEST MEAL REPLACEMENT BARS
NET WEIGHT: 3 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 380
PROS: Excellent calorie/oz. ratio, good source of protein, large variety of flavors & sizes, gluten-free, vegan, mostly organic ingredients
CONS: Texture isn’t as appealing as some others
BOTTOM LINE: PROBAR Meal Bars are a go-to for us on big mile days when we need a quick way to get a lot of calories. They’re packed with an average of 380 calories per bar, which can account for an entire meal on its own. We typically like to eat them in the morning – especially the breakfast favorites, Blueberry Muffin and Banana Nut Bread – to get a good energy boost before hitting the trail. They also make for a great snack to grab when we’re on-the-go and don’t have time to make a meal.
BEST BUDGET ENERGY BARS
MSRP: About 25¢ per bar
NET WEIGHT: 1.5 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 190
PROS: Affordable, high calorie/oz., widely available at grocery stores, great crunchy texture
BOTTOM LINE: We’ve been eating Nature Valley Crunchy Bars since we were young, and they’re still a favorite. Boasting the best cost-per-calorie ratio of any bar on our list – and an impressive average of 126.7 calories-per-ounce – these widely available snacks are a great solution for trips where you need to balance a tight budget against the need for a large quantity. We love the crunchy texture, but Nature Valley bars are a little dry and crumbly, so make sure you have some water handy to wash it all down. If you’re looking for even more calories-per-ounce in a single bar, check out the Nature Valley Packed bars (average 135.3 calorie/oz.).
OUR FAVORITE FLAVORS: Oats ‘n Honey
BEST ENERGY CHEWS
NET WEIGHT: 2.12 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER PACKAGE: 200
PROS: Quick energy, good source of electrolytes/caffeine (depends on flavor), vegan, gluten-free, nut-free
CONS: Low calorie/oz., expensive
BOTTOM LINE: CLIF Bloks are a great alternative to bars for times when you’re not as concerned about taking in a large amount of calories, but instead just need a quick energy boost. We take Bloks on runs and challenging day hikes when we need to replenish electrolytes or get a little bit of caffeine in our system. And for those with special dietary restrictions or common food allergies, CLIF Bloks are all gluten-free, vegan (they use pectin instead of gelatin), and nut-free.
BEST CALORIE/OZ. RATIO
NET WEIGHT: 1.06 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 150
PROS: High calorie/oz., excellent value, great flavors, lots of gluten-free options
CONS: Crumbles easily
BOTTOM LINE: If you’re concerned about getting the best calorie-to-ounce ratio out of your food for long-haul backpacking trips, Honey Stinger Waffles may be the perfect snack for you. These sweet waffles are packed with an average of 141.5 calories per ounce, which is the highest calorie/oz. ratio on our list. That said, they’re a little brittle and can get a bit crumbly when packed away in a backpack. If you don’t mind making a bit of a crumb mess, thecompact size of these snacks is great for packing and the flavor offerings are great.
DELICIOUS & FILLING ENERGY BARS WITH HIGH-QUALITY INGREDIENTS
NET WEIGHT: 3 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 350
PROS: Large variety of flavors, vegan, gluten-free, high-quality ingredients
BOTTOM LINE: Bobo’s Oat Bars are baked with simple ingredients, and they’re packed with sweet goodness. At an average of 350 calories per bar, these dense snacks act as an entire meal and can satiate the grumbliest of tummies. While their average calorie/oz. and cost-per-calorie ratios aren’t quite as impressive as PROBars, we like the flavors and textures of these a bit better. Do yourself a favor, and definitely try the Lemon Poppyseed bar.
AFFORDABLE ENERGY BARS WITH SWEET FLAVORS
NET WEIGHT: 1.69 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 190
PROS: Affordable, great flavors & texture, gluten-free, widely available in grocery stores
CONS: May be a little sweet for some, melts easily in the sun
BOTTOM LINE: If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Luna Bar offers some of the most decadent, dessert-like flavors we’ve tried. These affordable snacks are widely available in grocery stores, so we almost always pack along a couple of them for hiking trips. The soft, yet slightly crunchy texture on these bars is very appealing, but many Luna Bars are coated in a layer that melts easily in warmer temperatures. If you don’t mind licking the wrapper to get every last bit, these bars are definitely worth it.
HIGH-QUALITY INGREDIENTS & UNIQUE FLAVORS
MSRP: About $2.50 per bar
NET WEIGHT: 1.8 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER BAR: 230
PROS: Excellent value, great flavors & texture, gluten-free, non-GMO, high-quality ingredients
CONS: Not as widely available as some
BOTTOM LINE: TAOS Bakes Bars come in some really unique flavors, like Piñon Coffee + Dark Chocolate and Caramel Pecan + Cranberries. The brand’s dedication to using high-quality ingredients and providing what they call a great “eater experience” really sets these bars apart. The moist texture makes you feel like you’re eating something straight froma bakery instead of a plastic package, and we dare you to not lick the wrapper after you’ve finished your snack.
BEST ENERGY GELS
NET WEIGHT: 1.2 oz.
AVERAGE CALORIES PER SHOT: 100
PROS: Good source of electrolytes/caffeine (depends on the flavor), good boost of quick energy
CONS: Texture isn’t for everyone, low calorie/oz., expensive
BOTTOM LINE: CLIF Shots energy gels are a great way to inject a quick boost of pep into your step. They’re compact and easy to stash in a running vest pocket or a fanny pack for trail runs or busy days on the go. They aren’t a great source of calories, so if you need longer lasting energy we recommend going with an energy bar instead. That said, the simple carbohydrates in CLIF Shots are quicker and easier to process for endurance athletes than any energy bar.
OUR FAVORITE FLAVORS: Razz (NF, V)
Other Trail Snacks
We love energy bars, but we also like to make sure we have a wide variety of snacks available to us on trail to keep things interesting. These are a few of our favorite staple items that always make it into our food bags:
- Solely Fruit Jerky – Delicious pressed fruit jerky, the only ingredient is organic fruit
- Primal Spirit Vegan Jerky – Vegan jerky with great flavors and texture, we highly recommend the Thai Peanut
- Jack’s Links Jerky – Jerky and pepperoni sticks are savory, sometimes spicy, and packed full of salty, protein goodness
- Justin’s Nut Butters – These nut butters come in a variety of flavors and will give you the best calorie and protein bang for your buck
Need More Gear Advice?
If you liked this list, you’ll love the CleverHiker Gear Guide where we test and recommend tons of outdoor adventure gear from a variety of categories. here are some links to popular articles:
Why Trust Us?
We fully understand how tough it is to find trustworthy gear advice, and that’s one of the main reasons we built CleverHiker. We live for outdoor adventure, and we take these guides very seriously. Here are some of the reasons you can trust us:
- Our choices are completely independent and based on personal experience.
- We’ve logged over 10,000 trail miles and test outdoor gear for a living.
- We own and field test every product we recommend, which is sadly not the norm.
- We travel to industry trade shows to learn about upcoming product innovations.
- We constantly update our guides when new products launch.
- We treat our recommendations as if they were for our family and friends.
- We’re lifelong learners and we’re always open to constructive criticism. If you think we’ve missed a product or got something wrong, we’d love to hear your feedback.
We hope this guide helps you find the perfect gear for your needs. If you have more questions or a suggestion, we’d love to hear from you! Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on our latest posts then visit our Facebook page and Instagram to join the community conversation.
If you found this guide helpful, please give it a share on social media! Also, be sure to check out our CleverHiker Gear Guide to see all of our top gear picks.
Thanks for reading and happy trails!
Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, which means we may receive a modest commission if purchases are made through those links. This adds no cost to our readers and helps us keep our site up and running. Our reputation is our most important asset, which is why we only provide completely honest and unbiased recommendations.