Are Energy Bars Worth the Money?

It has long struck me that Energy Bars are basically just trail mix in wrappers……..with a glucose syrup twist.

That being the case, whilst pottering around on Amazon the other morning, I thought I’d do a little bang-for-my-hiker-buck comparison.

Trail Mix

In preparation for an upcoming series of hikes, I bought 8 lbs (3.63 kg) worth of mixed nuts and raisins.

It cost me a touch over $30. Throw in an extra couple of bucks for some Ziploc baggies and we’ll call it $32.

trail mix

In the spirit of full disclosure, I also throw in some M&M’s on occasion……………

Energy Bars

If I would have purchased the equivalent weight in energy bars, this is roughly what it would have set me back:

  • Clif Bars – $47.70 ($0.90 per bar / 53.3 bars total)
  • Power Bars – $68.74 ($1.23 per bar / 55.9 bars total)
  • Lara Bars –  $75.95 ($0.95 per bar / 80 bars total)
  • Pro Bars –  $81.07 ($1.90 per bar / 42.67 bars total)
  • Kind Bars –  $91.20 ($1.14 per bar / 80 bars total)

(Note: The above-listed prices were the best value I could find on Amazon as of a few days ago).


(Photo from


Whilst I’ll never be mistaken for Mickey the Maths Wiz, this seems like quite a big price difference for items that are basically the same thing. The DIY trail mix combo worked out to be around three times cheaper than Kind Bars, and significantly less expensive than all the other wrapper covered products as well.

Now I’m sure Energy Bar companies could come up with all sorts of statistics showing how their products outperform old fashioned trail mix in any number of ways. But the fact is, I’ve eaten truckloads of both over the decades, and I can’t say I’ve ever noticed any significant difference in regards to performance levels out in the backcountry. And unless I’m missing something (and it wouldn’t be the first time), I don’t think Energy Bars offer any great advantage on the calorie or nutritional fronts either. Indeed, I think the opposite may often be the case.

Alright, alright……….time to address the elephant in the culinary room……….what about taste?……..come on, man, you can’t tell me you enjoy the taste of trail mix as much as the above listed bars?

Actually I can. Don’t get me wrong, I invariably also take some Energy Bars on my hiking trips as well; including all of the items listed above. But I can’t say that I necessarily enjoy them anymore than the trail mix I also bring along.

So there it is. My completely non-scientific, subjective “six cents” on Energy Bars (i.e. two cents in Trail Mix terms) 😉 .





Are Energy Bars Worth the Money? — 13 Comments

  1. Better yet, make a variety if your own mixes. I use other fruits instead of raisins (dried cherries, blue berries, cranberries, apricots, pineapple or mango) and other nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, hazel nuts, toasted coconut) and seeds (pumpkin, hemp, sunflower). Buy from bulk bins or Costco and mix a variety into small zip locks. Less packaging to carry and throw away too! I think boredom and laziness is the reason we often go for the energy bars–at least that is true for me. Thanks for a thought- provoking and informative article!

  2. Excellent review! @ 60 yrs. old, your own blend of trail mix, jerky, dried apricots and a homeopathic tea are all I need! Thanks for a great review!

  3. This is exactly the kind of thing that starts happening when you think for yourself. Pretty soon dogs and cats will be living together in mass hysteria.

    I have to wonder if you replaced the peanuts and M&M’s with peanut M&M’s.

  4. I’m reluctantly going the DIY route as well. I don’t like sweets, so there’s really nothing thats good, affordable, and convenient on the market. I hate that because it’s so easy to grab a bar at a gas station instead of having to plan everything out beforehand.

    • Bars don’t have to be the enemy. The packaging, easy calories, assortment, and taste for a particular bar [insert your fav here] make them a compelling and convenient($) alternative to DIY Trail Mix. I will occasionally grab a handful, or a bagful, of them in a time pinch, being glad that they are available.

      The paradox is that you don’t get that flavor, quality, assortment, etc, unless they are an industry. But I don’t want to buy into the industry, boxes at a time, I just want a convenient bar now and again.

      But…my staple is an equal mix of hazelnuts, cacao nibs, roasted coconut chips, and Trader Joe’s Powerberries. I haven’t costed it out, but I really like the mix and for now it’s my jam!

  5. I love this! I have found the same thing to be true from my experiences. I have even found an advantage to GORP over energy bars – less gas! 🙂 BTW, I like to add some shredded beef jerry to the mix on occasion for variety and extra protein.

  6. I’m finding the same to be true. I really like adding corn nuts to mine. The downside is they will go stale faster unless you use seal a meal. I plan to do more of this in the future. I also think the mix can be bulkier than bars but I prefer protein and salty over sweet so I really do like making my own mix. Another tip, separate the items in the mix so you can mix and match otherwise I get bored with the same old same old.

  7. Back in the pre-energy/internet era (hiking the A.T. in 1977/78) a few of us young guys would mix dry powder milk into some peanut butter and add a variety of nuts/m&m’s/raisins and roll our own energy bar log and place it in a ziploc and eat out of it. We also used to buy small boxes of mincemeat pie mix and bite chunks off the compressed concoction. It kept us pounding out miles back then, and if on a budget I can’t imagine it would do any less today. Thanks for your reality check article – I wouldn’t go out without it.

  8. The thing for me though is that I tire easily of trail mix (I had made 6 pretty durn good mixes for my AT thru), whereas I never got sick of bars for whatever reason. I got a bunch of companies to donate me some for review which was the only real way I could afford it. I will look for deals over the next months to stock up for next summer.

  9. If there’s one iota of truth in you are what you eat ehh maybe some energy/nutritional bars(not high priced glorified sugary candy bars pawned off as “energy”or “nutrition” bars) are worth it to some people sprinkling them into the trail food mix. Hey, Cam you’re beginning to look like a raisin all of a sudden. 🙂

    Different ways to measure worth/value right? Wrappers make fire starting material.

    Energy and nutritional bars come in many forms well beyond what you researched.

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