Our Associate Editor, Tim Stetzer takes on the difficult task of trying out some of PROBAR’s food products and gets great feedback even from the most discerning of 6 year olds!
PROBAR: Food On The Go
Some folks love to cook while they’re on the trail. I’m not one of them. When I hike, backpack, or camp, I try keeping things simple. If it involves more than boiling water, I’m all done. I don’t want to spend my time in the woods at a cook pot, or worry about the mess of cleanup. Doing dishes isn’t my idea of becoming one with nature. Because of this my meals are generally pretty simple. I might go for a backpacker’s meal for dinner, or maybe even the good old MRE, a packet of tuna, or something similar. Breakfast and lunches are likely to be things like beef jerky, trail mix, pitas, bagels or Naan bread. Basically things that can be eaten quick and cold and that aren’t susceptible to being crushed and ruined in a pack. One of the mainstay items I tend to take for breakfast and lunch to supplement this kind of stuff is granola or snack bars of various sorts. These may well be the ultimate trail food since they’re light, compact, generally pretty full of energy, and relatively crush proof. Being that our editor knows that, he offered me the chance to try out some PROBAR products, which were a new line of outdoors bars to me.
PROBAR is the brainchild of Art Eggertsen, a natural food chef and snowboard fanatic, who grew tired of other types of unappetizing trail bars and decided to do something about it himself. Art took to the kitchen and set about designing a line of all natural, organic, unprocessed foods. The results were a line of PROBARs that are tasty, nutritious and even healthy! When you look at the ingredients list on a PROBAR package you might be shocked to realize that you can actually recognize everything that goes into it! No odd chemicals and preservatives that you need a chemistry degree to understand.
Now that’s all good stuff but the proof to me is in the stomach. I’m all for healthy and organic, but I’m not one to follow the fads and just buy something because its trendy. Even though I’ve been known to partake in the military issue Meals Rejected by Everyone, I generally prefer something that has some good flavor to it and that will satisfy the appetite while on the trail. For my testing I had a chance to try out a great cross section of the PROBAR line with a mix of items from both their “Art’s Original Collection” and their “Sweet and Savory” line. Between the two, you have a full dozen flavors to choose from ranging from fruit based bars like the Whole Berry Blast and Cran-Lemon Twister, to items like the Cherry Pretzel bar and the Apple Cinnamon Crunch bar which remind me more of bakery products than trail bars.
I used the PROBAR packs in a variety of settings over the past couple of months. Some I just took to work for breakfast and used my coworkers as lab rats for taste testing. Others I packed on a couple of day hikes and a weekend camping trip. Still others I packed with me during the recent G-20 Summit that was held here in Pittsburgh. We worked pretty long days during the summit and although they fed us well, it was comforting to have a quick and easy source of energy when I needed it. It serves as a good reminder that PROBAR products aren’t just for the woods; they’ll do for just about any sort of occasion where you need compact, tasty food, that will keep, and stand up to being banged around in a pack or a pocket.
When you take a PROBAR out of its package you notice a couple things right off the bat. First, it’s a pretty good sized, squarish bar. Bigger than many other granola or energy bars you see. Second, you can see that’s its made up of nuts and fruits! It isn’t a glob of textureless goo molded into a bar form; it actually still has the component parts of the bar in a recognizable form. It’s kind of a novel concept to be able to tell what you’re eating for a change. The PROBARS are a fairly substantial meal unto themselves too. Calories range from around 350 to 400 depending on the particular bar. Fat runs from 17g to 24g on a variety of the bars I looked at. That’s a fair bit of calories and fat to keep your body running in cold weather and under heavy exertion. Either by themselves or supplemented with some beef jerky, tuna, or something similar, and you would be in pretty good shape for a day on the trail or on the slopes.
So, how do the PROBARS taste? Well, pretty good by most accounts. Between my forced taste testing sessions at work and my own use, I got a fair range of opinions about the bars. Generally speaking, all of the fruit bars went over well except for with one of my co-workers who is oddly anti-fruit. She was an anomaly though; most folks loved them. The Nutty Banana Boom was popular and most of the guys thought it was a good breakfast choice. It had a good mild flavor to it that went well with tea and coffee. The Cran-Lemon Twister bar had a nice citrus zing to it that was a good contrast to blander trail foods like jerky and nuts. It would be a good one for lunch or dinner, or to pep you up on hike. My father-in-law liked the Cocoa Pistachio bar and described it as having a “nice cocoa taste with a hint of pistachio” to it. Even my 6 year old daughter took a liking to the Whole Berry Blast bar. She thought it was soft and chewy and had a good berry flavor to it. If you can please the palette of a 6 year old with an energy bar, you’re doing something right!
Were there any that didn’t go over so great? Well, I have to admit that the Kettle Corn bars met with the most mixed results. I didn’t care for them personally, and that was the general consensus at work. A couple of the guys thought they were okay and one guy really liked it though. It just goes to show you that people’s tastes vary. With a dozen different choices available there’s a good chance anyone can find a variety that suit him or her.
Individual PROBAR products are competitively priced at around $3 per bar, give or take a little depending which ones you get, or where you get them. If you buy a 12 pack, you get a bit of price break as well. You can find them online, at REI stores and at many nutrition stores. Check PROBAR’s website for locations in your area. If you’re ordering online, I found that Amazon has a good variety, and when you buy a 12 pack of bars you qualify for their free shipping, so that’s always a bonus. Wherever you decide to get them, it’s well worth trying them if you’re in the market for an all-natural and organic trail food that’s nutritious and tasty at the same time. You can even try a sampler pack and do a taste test yourself to see which ones you and your friends like best!