Packing food for overnight backpacking trips can be a challenge. How much food do you bring? How do you keep it fresh and prevent spoilage? And how much does it weigh? And let’s not even get started on thru-hiking, when you sometimes need to carry weeks’ worth of food all at once…
Opt for fresh food, and you’ll be carrying a lot of weight and you run the risk of it spoiling or making a giant mess in your bag. Cooking takes time. Opt for packaged food, and you’ll likely be eating a lot of cold, dry, boring and possibly unhealthy meals. (Unless it’s jerky. We love jerky).
That’s where Greenbelly Backpacking Meals comes in, and where its founder, Chris Cage, got the inspiration. After quitting his job to hike the Appalachian Trail and backpack New Zealand, he saw the need for easy, delicious and healthy backpacking foods that were a step above energy bars and weren’t full of processed junk. (Hey, we like processed junk every once in a while, too).
So, he created a recipe for all-in-one backpacking meals that supposedly provide 1/3 of your daily nutrition in an easy-to-eat package (2 bars) that requires no cooking whatsoever. The result was Greenbelly Meals.
So, what’s in a Greenbelly Meal?
For this review, Greenbelly provided us with their three core flavors – Dark Chocolate Banana, Peanut Apricot, and Cranberry Almond. Each package contains two meal bars, for a total of 640 calories, 17g protein, 22g fat and 100g carbs. They’re gluten-free and vegan, and designed to be made from the simplest, healthiest ingredients possible – mainly, rice, nuts and tapioca syrup, to name a few.
The idea of each bar providing 1/3 of your nutrition is based on the general recommend daily intake, from the looks of it. Personally, I burn a lot more than 1920 calories a day – especially when hiking long distances – and could easily eat 5 or 6 of these in a single day. Many people would also disagree with the recommended allotment of macronutrients – 300g of carbs is too much for many smaller people, and more fat and protein could be welcome.
But, Greenbelly meals has done a pretty solid job of sticking to that recommended nutrition profile. They technically don’t claim that each bar 1/3 of your daily calories – just 1/3 of daily nutrition, and they’re right in that regard.
The exact nutritional profile of each meal is:
Total Fat: 22g
Total Carb: 100g
Upon receiving these meals, we took them on a short, 2-day trip into the Sierra, near Lake Tahoe, and decided to see how they held up – and how they tasted.
First up, Cranberry Almond
Cranberry Almond was a surprise, to say the least. I didn’t know what to expect when first taking a bite, but was pleasantly surprised by the sweet, pleasant taste of the Cranberry Almond. The texture and bite is very similar to a Rice Krispy Treat – light and fluffy – while flavor is like a Clif Bar – but lighter and admittedly, even better.
It’s sweet, but not too sweet. A bit salty, but not too salty. Mild would be a good word. You can taste the Cranberries, but the almond is a little bit harder to make out. There chunks of cranberry in there for a sweet, tasty bite as you eat the bar.
Overall, I’d rate the Cranberry Almond a solid 8/10 in terms of flavor. But let’s note: flavor is quite subjective, and this could easily be a 10 in other people’s books.
Next, Chocolate Banana
Now, I’m a chocolate addict, and love bananas too. So the Chocolate Banana meal was a no-brainer in terms of flavor, and I was looking forward to this bar. In terms of texture and nutrition, it’s right on the money – just like the Cranberry Almond. Light, fluffy, delicious. But in terms of flavor . . . it was a little bit underwhelming.
While Cranberry Almond was sweet and mild, Chocolate Banana was a bit too mild. It was kind of hard to make out the different flavors. There was definitely chocolate, but only a bit. There was banana, but the chocolate buried it – which is saying a lot, considering how mild the chocolate was. It was still the right combo of sweet and salty, but the flavors just didn’t shine through.
Would I still eat it? Of course! I’ll eat anything, especially anything with chocolate and banana.
All in all, Chocolate Banana gets a 7/10 for taste.
…And Finally, Peanut/Apricot
Last, the Peanut Apricot. This one surprised me the most. I am a peanut addict, but not so big into apricots – so I didn’t really know what to expect.
Upon digging in however, I was pleasantly surprised. Peanut Apricot had the same light, fluffy texture as the other two, but had an even more interesting combination of sweet and salty – as peanuts and apricots are likely to create together. At first, it was a bit offputting, but it quickly grew on me – becoming my favorite of the three flavors.
I’d rank it a solid 9/10 in terms of flavor.
So, Is it Filling?
Taste might be important (very important…) but the real question of how Greenbelly Meals perform, is how filling they are. As 1/3 of your estimated daily nutrition, each meal package should be satisfying and filling.
As mentioned, I’m a larger guy who definitely burns more than 3 meals worth of these in a day, especially when exercising or hiking. And personally, I don’t find them filling – or like a meal. I still think they’re closer in overall feel and taste to an energy bar than a meal, and even if they pack 650 calories, it still feels like you’re eating a snack. But, mileage may vary depending on how much you eat.
They’re also a bit expensive. Each meal; will generally cost you between $6-$7, which is pretty pricey, especially when you’re eating several of them per day. You could easily get the same number of calories from energy bars for ½ to 1/3 of the price or could find some alternative ways of packing food to save money.
With that said, we still think they are delicious (especially that Peanut Apricot) and we appreciate the healthy, simple ingredients. A better choice than a lot of sugar-filled, junky energy bars. If you’re looking for some tasty food for a long backpacking trip, where ease, convenience and nutrition matter – and you don’t mind spending a few bucks – you could do a lot worse than packing a few Greenbelly Meals.