Technical Trail Food Round Up

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While it would be nice to sit down mid ride to a quality home made sandwich, reality means that your lovingly created sandwich is likely to get jiggled and squashed on the trail until it looks less than appetising. In the heat of summer, it might also be quite damaging to your health after a few hours warming, and bacteria multiplying. A cafe stop isn’t always an option, and in any case you might not want to linger – there’s miles to be covered, right? So, here’s where ‘technical’ trail foods may come in handy.

Designed to keep you going during sporting activity, there’s any number of options on the market. I’ve tested a selection here, and given them some thought against what I consider to be the key requirements of a good trail food:

Nutrition – I’m not overly bothered about this if I’m honest. I want calories, and sometimes caffeine, but that’s about it really.

Portability – I want to be able to carry my food easily, get into it easily, and eat it on the go. I don’t want it to get squashed in my bag – even if it sits there for a few rides – and I don’t want bits to fall off it as I ride along trying to eat it.

Taste and Texture – I want it to taste nice, sit easily in my stomach, and be easy to swallow. I don’t want it to be so disgusting that I can only contemplate eating it once I’ve bonked and am crawling on hands and knees dreaming of custard.

So, the eating is over, here’s the verdict…

OTE Dark Chocolate Mint Protein Bar

OTE Protein bar

  • Price: £1.90 per bar
  • From: otesports.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 157kcal, 10.8g carbohydrates, 22.3g protein (per bar). Not vegetarian.
  • Portability: Fairly indestructible bar in easy ripping packaging.
  • Taste and Texture: Looks like a Milky Way. Slightly floury texture, with crispy bits. Pleasantly minty with a chocolate coating.
  • Overall: Quite pleasant, in a vaguely healthy sort of way. Intended for recovery rather than during exercise.

Mule Bar Eastern Express

Mule Bar Eastern Express

  • Price: £1.49 per bar
  • From: mulebar.com
  • Nutrition: 265kcal, 22.5g carbohydrates, 7.1g protein (per bar). Vegetarian.
  • Portability: Lumpy bar means eating on the move risks losing chunks.
  • Taste and Texture: Looks like an interesting flapjack. Pleasant contrast of crunchy nuts and chewy bar. A sweet but savoury curried flavour with a fair degree of spice.
  • Overall: The most palatable chewy bar I’ve encountered – happy to eat as an emergency lunch.

Clif Shot Energy Gel – Mocha

Clif Shot

  • Price: £1.49
  • From: clifbar.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 94kcal, 23g carbohydrates, 0g protein, 50mg caffeine (per gel)
  • Portability: Easy to carry, easy to open, but difficult to breath while eating it.
  • Taste and Texture: Not so much a gel as a thick caramel. Tasty – like a posh chocolate coffee caramel – but very sweet.
  • Overall: A good emergency pick me up, but probably only a one per ride affair. In fact, the oacket says to only eat 1 per day.

OTE Pineapple Caffeine Gel

OTE Caffeine Gel

  • Price: £1.85 per sachet
  • From: otesports.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 82kcal, 20.5g carbohydrates, 0g protein, 50mg caffeine (per gel). Vegan.
  • Portability: Easy to carry and pretty easy to open, with two opening options: ‘sip’ and ‘gulp’
  • Taste and Texture: An easy to eat gel, neither thick nor runny. Not strongly flavoured – think weak Sunday School squash – and sits easy in the stomach.
  • Overall: The nicest gel I’ve found – i don’t have to be bonking to want to eat this.

Clif Bar Energy Bar

Clif Bar

  • Price: £1.59 per bar
  • From: clifbar.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 252kcal, 36g carbohydrates,11g protein (per peanut flavour bar)
  • Portability: Can be a bit hard in the cold, takes a fair bit of chewing. Stop so you can breath.
  • Taste and Texture: Come in many flavours. All those I’ve tried taste somewhere between worthy and stale, with the exception of the Peanut Butter ones, which are like a worthy but fairly edible cookie.
  • Overall: Fairly filling if you can find a flavour that you like.

Honey Stinger Waffle

Honey Stinger

  • Price: £1.40
  • From: 2pure.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 160kcal, 21g carbohydrates, 0g protein (per honey flavour waffle). Vegetarian.
  • Portability: Not easy to get into while riding. Eating is manageable, but not easy, on the move. If it’s got bent in your pack, bits have a tendency to fall off along the cracks in the biscuit.
  • Taste and Texture: Tasty chewy biscuit, a bit like a stroopwaffle, available in a variety of flavours. Nice enough to eat with morning coffee even if you’re not riding a bike.
  • Overall: Bit big and floppy to eat on the move but tasty enough to be worth stopping for.

Primal Pantry Raw Paleo Bar

Primal Pantry Paleo Bar

  • Price: £27 for 18 bars
  • From: primalpantry.com
  • Nutrition: 199kcal, 19.4g carbohydrates, 4.2g protein (per apple & pecan flavour bar). Vegan.
  • Portability: Good solid but chewy bar that sticks together well, fairly easy to unwrap.
  • Taste and Texture: Obviously healthy but genuinely tasty. A slight sediment left in the mouth – date skins perhaps – that’ll have you picking bits out of your teeth.
  • Overall: A nice change to overly sweet bars, one I’d definitely like to eat again, but with a drink for afterwards.

Wiggle Nutrition Energy Gels

Wiggle Gel

  • Price: £5 for 9 gels
  • From: wiggle.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 90kcal, 22.6g carbohydrates, 0g protein (per blackcurrant gel). Vegan.
  • Portability: Easy to carry and open, nice small volume gels.
  • Taste and Texture: Very sweet and very sticky, like runny jam, but a manageable quantity. Some of the flavours were surprisingly nice, but they’re a bit love it or hate it.
  • Overall: A good budget emergency gel if you can stomach the sweetness.

PowerBar Energize

PowerBar Energize

  • Price: £1.50 per bar
  • From: powerbar.eu
  • Nutrition: 180kcal, 37g carbohydrates, 2.9g protein (per mango bar). Vegetarian.
  • Portability: Easy to carry, fairly easily opened. Well stuck together for eating on the go.
  • Taste and Texture: Available in a range of flavours, and in consistency a bit like those fruit bars you give kids for their packed lunch. The mango flavour is delicious, the gingerbread one less so. The ‘Belle Italia’ flavour – tomato and basil – manages to taste like pizza with sugar on, or the bottom of a poorly mixed minestrone cup a soup.
  • Overall: Stick to the mango flavour and you’ll be pleasantly fuelled.

Skratch Labs Fruit Drops Energy Chews

Skratch Labs Fruit Chew

  • Price: £2.50 per packet
  • From: silverfish-uk.com
  • Nutrition: 160kcal, 40g carbohydrates, 0g protein (per packet). Vegan.
  • Portability: Easy to carry, probably best opened before tucking in a handy pocket for quick access. The choose are quite dry on the outside, so they don’t stick together – meaning you can pick out one at a time if your gloves allow.
  • Taste and Texture: Orange flavour is pleasantly refreshing. Chews are small and not too sticky – so don’t get glued to your teeth, and you can breath while eating and riding.
  • Overall: Nice but pricey alternative to a bag of jelly sweets.

Clif Shot Bloks

Clif shot Bloks

  • Price: £2.59
  • From: clifbar.co.uk
  • Nutrition: 192kcal, 48g carbohydrates, 0g protein (per packet )
  • Portability: Easy to handle and eat while riding if you can ease up so you don’t need to breath to hard.
  • Taste and Texture: A row of blocks of jelly like food. Not as tough to pull apart as a block of actual jelly, it’s approximately the consistency of the inside of a jelly baby. Sweet, not too sticky, and pleasant enough tasting.
  • Overall: A handy alternative to a gel – you don’t have to eat it all at once – but the blocks are a bit of a mouthful. Breathing hard and eating may be a problem.

Haribo Starmix

Haribo Starmix

  • Price: 77p for 160g packet
  • From: haribo.com
  • Nutrition: 342kcal, 77g carbohydrates, 6.6g protein (per 100g ). Not Vegetarian.
  • Portability: Open the packet before you set off and stash in a handy pocket for easy snacks during your ride.
  • Taste and Texture: Jelly sweets. Not technically a trail food. But tasty.
  • Overall: Cheap and the variety of flavours means you can eat quite a few before you get sick of them.

What will be in my pack?

There weren’t many items I tasted that I’d refuse to eat again, but there were some definite favourites. These are the ones I’ll be seeking out to carry in my pack over long rides this summer. So which ones are they?

First up, it’s the OTE Pineapple Gel – I found I could stomach these even when feeling on the edge and extremely tired. They can sit unharmed in my pack for ride after ride until they’re needed, and I could eat them on the go without losing bits or ending up as a sticky mess.

Second, I’m torn between the spicy Mule Bar Eastern Express and the PowerBar Mango. Although the spicy Mule Bar makes a really pleasant change from sweet, the PowerBar Mango just beats it on the basis that it’s easier to eat on the go.

Finally, it’s good old Haribo. Cheap, easy to share with friends, and a variety of flavours in one packet.

Trail Food

Review Info

Brand:OTE, Mule Bar, Clif, Honey Stinger, Primal Pantry, Wiggle, PowerBar , Skratch Labs, Haribo
Product:Various
From:Various
Price:From £1.40
Tested:by Hannah for

Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (0)

    I bought two Clif Shots at Llandegla on Saturday. I had the Chocolate one before I set off. Tastes like treacle with chocolate in and is much thicker than any gel I’ve had before. I wouldn’t want to try and eat it whilst riding. I could feel it trying to remove my teeth. On a massively positive note though, the tear-off top is held on by a little piece of plastic which prevents that annoying tiny bit of rubbish coming away – so hopefully less trail trash unless you’re too selfish and lazy to pocket the wrapper.

    I know it’s a bit of a pain but could you put if these are vegetarian/vegan? It helps us unwashed tree hugging hippies:-)
    ( I know the haribo’s aren’t)

    sideshowdave – I’ve added in the ones I have managed to check. Will update the others as and when I hear from the other companies.

    This is like Top Trumps for biscuits.

    Stehannah – cheers makes it easier to order online if I know they’re ok to eat 😀

    You are forgetting the trusty Ziploc full of nuts and raisins (or trail mix as or American cousins call it). Helps that it’s actual food but the energy release is nothing like as immediate as sugary stuffs

    I go with a combination of a bag of nuts and fruit plus a bag of sugary stuff (haribo an obvious favourite), eat something one an hour and electrolyte wotsit in my bottle/camelbak (although I probably only see the benefit from that on longer rides.

    On the road (or if you find a handy shop on the trail) a can of full fat coke or other caffeinated sugary beverage of choice is a magical shot to the muscles if you’re bonking a bit

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