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Powerbar Bake-off

Backpacking food can be really expensive if you buy commercially packaged meals and snacks. Most freeze-dried meals cost $5-8 dollars and powerbars can cost as much as $3.50 each. Your best alternative is to prepare your own meals and snacks or to find prepackaged foods that are easy to cook, lightweight and nutritious.

For example, I have an easy-to-make recipe which I call an Amish powerbar that I use as a substitute for commercial energy bars. My Amish powerbar recipe contains two pieces of whole wheat bread, two tablespoons of peanut butter, and a tablespoon of honey. Simple and extremely cost effective. I wrap each one in it’s own ziploc sandwich bag and they stay fresh for 3-4 days.

Amish PowerbarProBarHoney Stinger Protein Bar
Total Fat161715
Saturated Fat246

Here’s a nutritional comparison of the Amish powerbar against Probars and Honey Stinger Protein Bars, two of the most caloric energy bars you can buy today. (Cliffbars are in a completely different league since they only provide about 250 calories of energy). As you can see, the Amish powerbar is a fraction of the price of the commercial energy bars but provides comparable nutritional value. It is a bit on the heavy side and it is more perishable but it provides a excellent balance of sugars, fat, and slow burning complex carbohydrates. Tastewise, it beats Probars and Honey Stingers hands down. And from a convenience standpoint, you can eat the entire sandwich at once or save the un-eaten portion in its ziploc bag.

This comparison illustrates how little added value commercial energy bars provide beyond the fact that they have a longer shelf life and slightly more caloric density. Something to consider when you are packing your food bag.


  1. Hah. I eat those all the time at home. I have always just called it a peanut butter and honey sandwich, though.

  2. I love your humor, thanks for sharing!

  3. Your Amish Powerbar is only 85 cal/oz. That's pretty low on the scale. Your standard Clif, despite being lower in total calories, run 100 – 115 cal/oz. I'll take the Clif and keep my food weight down. Maybe if you dried your recipe out, or baked it, you could cut the weight and increase the density.

  4. Good advice. I was just reeling from the price of pre-packaged foods. If weight was the only metric, I'd just bring a stick of butter.

  5. In 1994 ago Joe Bank and nutritionist and dietitian Anita Hirsch created a great energy 'ball.' I've made them several times. I form them into squares, not balls – and package them in small ziplock bags. This seems to provide better and faster energy than the PB&H sandwich. These are excellent in frozen conditions, or on hot days. It was published in Backpacker.

  6. this is awesome! People get so caught up in grams – sometimes they lose sight of the goal. What's healthier than PB, Honey, and Whole Wheat Bread? Thanks for keeping it real

  7. PB is actually considered to be unhealthy in a lot of circles. The same goes for any bread. That, of course, is a whole other discussion.

  8. Mmm Honey is natures most pure food, plus it never goes bad or stale, at least not for a long long time, and as a "Natural" unprocessed Sugar it is easily absorbed and used by the body easier and quicker than a chemical soup. Plus it is full of minute amounts of what I call Nature bits that man can not duplicate. The Bread provides the Carbs and the Peanut butter the Proteins and Oils that you need for digestion especially if your living on Freeze Dried foods, plus, Peanut butter has many uses other than just eating as does Honey, for burns and is great for brushing or cleaning you mouth if you lack a Oral Hyigene equipment..Other than the bread spoiling I'd can't really see a down side to PB&H…whereas the chemical soups, some people do have allergic reactions to, especially the good old trots which Honey and Peanut butter may help alieviate…Give me a squashed in the bottom of the pack PB&H anytime over a man made concoction. I prefer PB&H& whole wheat crackers myself…

  9. I am gluten-free so I am challenged at lunch on the trail. I found a reasonable solution in something called "moose-goo" ( I ate this almost everyday on the trail for 2 months last year and never found anything better for afternoon energy (and actually never got sick of it).

    Revlee's wife came up with the idea of making a large batch, putting it in the freezer long enough to firm up, then cutting it into strips. These go into a snack zip-loc which greatly reduces the mess. I usually bite the end off the bag and squeeze it onto a Cliff bar. I haven't tried baking it into cookies, but in cold weather you can eat it like dough out of the bag.

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