It’s week #3 in our Trail Food Taste-Off series. In this round, we’re sharing our picks for protein items, namely meat snacks and nut butters. Foods packed with energy-rich fats and proteins are good for endurance, longevity and maintaining muscle strength.* But they also need to taste good and sit well in the stomach—this means no shoe leather-like beef jerky. We sampled a variety of these items and here are our favorites.
“Great for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert!” — Eli
It’s no surprise that this flavor-packed nut butter came in first place with our crew (actually receiving a perfect score from every participant!), because it’s so darn good! This peanut- and gluten-free blend employs an almond butter base and mixes in crunchy chunks of dark chocolate and ground coffee, with just a touch of sea salt and vanilla. Just try not to eat the whole packet in one sitting! Plus, it’s made in Oregon—nice!
SERVINGS: 4 CALORIES: 190 PROTEIN: 5g FATs: 17g (GF)
Coming in a close second is this creamy blend of chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds. As good as it tastes, you might think it’s not good for you—to the contrary. This butter blend uses only all-natural ingredients, including organic cane sugar, organic cocoa, vanilla and sea salt. Forget those energy gels loaded with mystery chemicals, just pack along extra packets of Justin’s butters—the Honey Almond is equally tasty!
SERVINGS: 1 CALORIES: 180 PROTEIN: 4g FATS: 14g (GF, DF)
“This is definitely coming on my next long hike.” — Chris
This is nothing short of meat candy—and it’s totally good for you! An overwhelming favorite among our panel, this moist and tasty meat snack is made from grass-fed beef with no hormones, preservatives, nitrites or MSG. It’s even gluten-free! It’s rich flavor comes from a recipe of soy sauce, black and red pepper, garlic, onion and pineapple juice. Those of us that like it spicy also recommend the Szechuan Peppercorn variety.
SERVINGS: 2.5 CALORIES: 80 PROTEIN: 10g FATS: 1g (GF, DF)
This tasty turkey jerky is great for those who prefer a cow- and pork-free diet. Our panel loved these sweet and chewy bits of marinated turkey breast, and were willing to trade the low fat content for the great taste and lots of protein. The flavor comes from a blend of soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, pineapple, black pepper and garlic—and that’s it! It’s also gluten-free, with no added preservatives, nitrites or MSG.
SERVINGS: 2 CALORIES: 70 PROTEIN: 10g FATS: 0.5g (GF)
The score for our #5 selection was so close, we’re featuring both, starting with these tasty meat sticks. Available in a variety of flavors, our group favored the Uncured Bacon and Habanero Pineapple flavors the most. Each stick is made from high-quality, grass-fed beef, natural pork or free-range turkey, and flavored with natural seasonings and no antibiotics, hormones or GMOs. They’re even gluten-free and certified paleo.
SERVINGS: 1 CALORIES: 90–100 PROTEIN: 6–7g FATS: 6–8g (GF)
These appropriately-named meat snacks are great fuel for the trail and come in 1- and 2-ounce sizes in four unique flavors. The Blueberry Maple was a surprising hit with several in our group, while others favored the spicy Jalapeño variety. Each Fatty is made with a combination of grass-fed beef and natural pork, and uses only natural herbs, spices and hickory smoke, with no nitrates or MSG.
SERVINGS: 1 CALORIES: 100–110 PROTEIN: 6–7g FATS: 7–8g (GF)
What’s your favorite protein snack on trail? Leave us a comment below.
Our Trail Food Taste-Off series continues next week with even more snacks. Stay tuned!
PCT: Oregon’s Trail Foods Taste-Off panel consists of a selection of seasoned Pacific Crest Trail section- and thru-hikers, each with years of on-trail experience. Selections and rankings are based on aggregated scoring of a variety of factors, including flavor, texture, ingredients and nutritional value.
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*Want more info about backpacking nutrition? Check out this article at wildbackpacker.com.