10 Best Energy Bars for Hiking & Protein Bars of 2024

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A runner eating a Clif Bar
Clif Bar – Photo credit: Heather Eldridge (CleverHiker.com)

The humble energy bar. Always there when you need it most – right before a big run, just before the final push to a summit, or found in the bottom of your bag when you realize you left your lunch sitting on the kitchen counter. Energy bars may be small but they serve an awfully important function, so it’s a good idea to make sure the fuel you put in your body is high-quality and tasty.

Over the last decade, we taste tested and carefully analyzed the ingredients of more than 200 energy bars, gels, and chews. In this guide, we’ll share our favorites that have fueled over 20,000 miles of hiking for the CleverHiker team.

There’s more to staying healthy and energized on trail than just snacking. We’ve got all of your calorie and hydration needs covered in our guides to the Best Freeze-Dried Meals, Best Backpacking Food, and Best Hydration Mixes.

Quick Picks for Energy Bars

Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list of the best energy bars with in-depth reviews.

Best energy bar overall: Kate’s Real Food ($2.57)

Best energy bar runner-up: Bobo’s Oat Bars ($2.74)

Best budget energy bar: Luna Bar ($1.37)

Best value energy bar: CLIF Bar ($1.54)

Most affordable energy bar: Nature Valley ($0.61)

Best energy chews: CLIF Bloks ($2.92)

Best calorie/oz. ratio: Honey Stinger Waffles ($1.72)

Best meal replacement bar: PROBAR ($3.33)

High-quality ingredients & unique flavors: TAOS Bakes ($2.49)

What’s new

We’re always taking new bars, energy chews, and gels on trail to make sure we’re recommending the best of the best:

  • Kate’s Real Food Bars are still our top pick due to their pleasing texture, delicious flavors, and high-quality ingredients.

  • Bobo’s Oat Bars take the number two spot as well as the title of best energy bar runner-up.

  • We find ourselves reaching for the delicious sweet and fruity flavors of Luna Bars more and more, so they’ve moved up to the third spot and take the title of best budget energy bar.

Kate’s Real Food

Best energy bar overall

Price: $2.57

Weight: 2.2 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 270


  • Excellent flavor & texture
  • Excellent value
  • High average calorie/oz
  • Gluten-free
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Organic


  • Not as widely available in stores
  • Expensive

We haven’t tried a bar from Kate’s Real Food that we didn’t like. These high-quality snacks are made with ingredients you can pronounce, and all of the flavors are organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO certified, so you can be sure you’re treating your body and your taste buds well. Kate’s Bars also have a great texture – it’s a good mix of moist and crunchy, and it doesn’t feel gritty or get stuck in your teeth. When you need a quick energy boost on the trail, you will not be disappointed by a Kate’s Real Food Bar.

Our Favorite Flavors: Dark Chocolate Cherry & Almond (GF), Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate (GF), Lemon Coconut & Ginger (GF), Mango Coconut (GF), Dark Chocolate Mint (GF)

Bobo’s Oat Bars

Best energy bar runner-up

Price: $2.74

Weight: 3 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 350


  • Large variety of flavors
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • High-quality ingredients


  • Expensive

Bobo’s Oat Bars are baked with simple ingredients, and they’re packed with sweet goodness. At an average of 350 calories per bar, these dense snacks act as an entire meal and can satiate the grumbliest of tummies. While their average calorie/oz. and cost-per-calorie ratios aren’t quite as impressive as PROBars, we like the flavors and textures of these a bit better. Do yourself a favor, and definitely try the Lemon Poppyseed bar.

Our favorite flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (GF, V), Lemon Poppyseed (GF, V), Coconut (GF, V)

Luna Bar

Best budget energy bar

Price: $1.37

Weight: 1.69 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 190


  • Affordable
  • Great flavors & texture
  • Gluten-free
  • Widely available in grocery stores


  • May be a little sweet for some
  • Melts easily in the sun

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Luna Bar offers some of the most decadent, dessert-like flavors we’ve tried. These affordable snacks are widely available in grocery stores, so we almost always pack along a couple of them for hiking trips. The soft, yet slightly crunchy texture on these bars is very appealing, but many Luna Bars are coated in a layer that melts easily in warmer temperatures. If you don’t mind licking the wrapper to get every last bit, these bars are definitely worth it.

Our favorite flavors: Lemon Zest (GF), Lemon Zest & Blueberry (GF), Blueberry Bliss (GF), Chocolate Cupcake (GF), Chocolate Dipped Coconut (GF)

Clif Bar

Best value energy bar

Price: $1.54

Weight: 2.4 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 260


  • Widely available in grocery stores
  • Affordable
  • Large variety of flavors


  • Most flavors are not allergen/special diet-friendly
  • Somewhat low calorie/oz.

The crowd favorite CLIF Bar finds its way into our packs for pretty much every hike. We love that these bars can be found in most grocery stores and gear shops, so it’s easy to grab them as a last minute snack on the way out to the trailhead. With over 20 flavors available (plus new and seasonal flavors added occasionally), CLIF Bar makes it easy to have plenty of variety in your snack selection. And since the bars themselves are pretty compact, CLIF Bars make a great affordable option for backpacking.

Our favorite flavors: Chocolate BrownieSpiced Pumpkin PiePeanut Butter Banana w/ Dark Chocolate

Nature Valley Crunchy Bars

Most affordable energy bars

Price: $0.61

Weight: 1.5 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 190


  • Affordable
  • High calorie/oz
  • Widely available at grocery stores
  • Great crunchy texture


  • Crumby

We’ve been eating Nature Valley Crunchy Bars since we were young, and they’re still a favorite. Boasting the best cost-per-calorie ratio of any bar on our list – and an impressive average of 126.7 calories-per-ounce – these widely available snacks are a great solution for trips where you need to balance a tight budget against the need for a large quantity. We love the crunchy texture, but Nature Valley bars are a little dry and crumbly, so make sure you have some water handy to wash it all down. If you’re looking for even more calories-per-ounce in a single bar, check out the Nature Valley Packed bars (average 135.3 calorie/oz.).

Our favorite flavors: Oats ‘n Honey, Maple Brown Sugar

CLIF Bloks

Best energy chews

Price: $2.92

Weight: 2.12 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 200


  • Quick energy
  • Good source of electrolytes/caffeine (depends on flavor)
  • Vegan
  • Gluten-free
  • Nut-free


  • Low calorie/oz.
  • Expensive

CLIF Bloks are a great alternative to bars for times when you’re not as concerned about taking in a large amount of calories, but instead just need a quick energy boost. We take Bloks on runs and challenging day hikes when we need to replenish electrolytes or get a little bit of caffeine in our system. And for those with special dietary restrictions or common food allergies, CLIF Bloks are all gluten-free, vegan (they use pectin instead of gelatin), and nut-free.

Our favorite flavors: Black Cherry (NF, GF, V), Salted Watermelon (NF, GF, V), Strawberry (NF, GF, V), Orange (NF, GF, V)

Honey Stinger Waffles

Best calorie/oz. ratio

Price: $1.72

Weight: 1 lb. .06 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 150


  • High calorie/oz.
  • Excellent value
  • Great flavors
  • Lots of gluten-free options


  • Crumbles easily

If you’re concerned about getting the best calorie-to-ounce ratio out of your food for long-haul backpacking trips, Honey Stinger Waffles may be the perfect snack for you. These sweet waffles are packed with an average of 141.5 calories per ounce, which is the highest calorie/oz. ratio on our list. That said, they’re a little brittle and can get a bit crumbly when packed away in a backpack. If you don’t mind making a bit of a crumb mess, the compact size of these snacks is great for packing and the flavor offerings are great.

Our favorite flavors: Cinnamon (GF, NF), Salted Caramel (GF, NF), Cookies & Cream (GF, NF)

PROBAR Meal Bars

Best meal replacement bars

Price: $3.33

Weight: 3 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 380


  • Excellent calorie/oz. ratio
  • Good source of protein
  • Large variety of flavors & sizes
  • Gluten-free
  • Vegan
  • Mostly organic ingredients


  • Texture isn’t as appealing as some others

PROBAR Meal Bars are a go-to for us on big mile days when we need a quick way to get a lot of calories. They’re packed with an average of 380 calories per bar, which can account for an entire meal on its own. We typically like to eat them in the morning – especially the breakfast favorites, Blueberry Muffin and Banana Nut Bread – to get a good energy boost before hitting the trail. They also make for a great snack to grab when we’re on-the-go and don’t have time to make a meal.

Our favorite flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Meal Bar (GF, V), Chocolate Coconut (GF, V), Blueberry Muffin (GF, V), Banana Nut Bread (GF, V)

TAOS Bakes

High-quality ingredients & unique flavors

Price: $2.49

Weight: 1.8 oz.

Calories Per Bar: 230


  • Excellent value
  • Great flavors & texture
  • Gluten-free
  • Non-GMO
  • High-quality ingredients


  • Not as widely available as some

TAOS Bakes Bars come in some really unique flavors, like Piñon Coffee + Dark Chocolate and Caramel Pecan + Cranberries. The brand’s dedication to using high-quality ingredients and providing what they call a great “eater experience” really sets these bars apart. The moist texture makes you feel like you’re eating something straight froma bakery instead of a plastic package, and we dare you to not lick the wrapper after you’ve finished your snack.

Our favorite flavors: Caramel Pecan + Cranberries (GF), PB Chocolate + Butterscotch (GF), Toasted Coconut + Vanilla Bean (GF), Piñon Coffee + Dark Chocolate (GF)


What’s Most Important to You in an Energy Bar?


Energy bars usually cost between $1-3 per bar. That’s not bad if you’re just picking up a few, but if you’re stocking up for a big trip, the cost really starts to add up. We like buying bars from REI since we can get singles of each flavor instead of having to commit to a big box of one variety. Single bars at REI tend to be more expensive, but you’ll get 10% off when you buy 10 or more energy foods.

If there’s a single flavor you really like, buying bulk boxes from retailers like Amazon typically gets you a decent discount. To get the best value, we also look for lightweight foods that are calorie-dense.

Best value energy bars (typically 1 per calorie)


It’s not much fun to eat a snack that doesn’t taste good, no matter how much you need the calories. The following brands consistently have the best flavors, and we’ve outlined our taste-tested favorites by each brand in our full reviews above.

Energy bars with the best flavors

Photo credit: Casey Handley (CleverHiker.com)


There are inevitably going to be days on trail when you just CAN’T be bothered to pull out your cookset. The kind of days when breakfast is a couple of energy bars, lunch is a couple of energy bars, and dinner is tuna in a tortilla… and a couple of energy bars.

Whether you’re stocking up for those days on trail, a marathon, or a walk on the beach, the key is to look for energy foods with a high calorie count and low weight. We typically look for snacks with 125 or more calories per ounce.

Snacks with the most calories per ounce (over 125)

Allergies, diet & ingredients

Allergies are a bummer, and it can be difficult to find something that agrees with your body and your taste buds when you’re on a restricted diet. We poured over ingredients lists and marked all of the energy bars on our main list above with GF (gluten-free), NF (nut-free), and V (vegan) to help make it easier to find the right bars for you. We also looked for bars that use organic ingredients and are non-GMO certified to determine which ones provide the cleanest fuel for your body.

Energy bars with the highest quality ingredients


Texture truly can make or break an energy bar. If it’s too dry and we have to wash it down with an entire bottle of water, that’s a no-go. If it’s too chewy and we spend the rest of the day picking it out of our teeth, it also may not make the cut. Whatever your texture preference is, there’s a bar out there for you.

Best soft baked bars

Best chewy bars

Best crunchy bars

Best protein bars

Best energy chews

Best nut butter

Other Trail Snacks

We love energy bars, but we also like to make sure we have a wide variety of snacks available to us on trail to keep things interesting. These are a few of our favorite staple items that always make it into our food bags:

  • Solely Fruit Jerky – Delicious pressed fruit jerky, the only ingredient is organic fruit
  • Primal Spirit Vegan Jerky – Vegan jerky with great flavors and texture, we highly recommend the Thai Peanut
  • Jack’s Links Jerky – Jerky and pepperoni sticks are savory, sometimes spicy, and packed full of salty, protein goodness
  • Justin’s Nut Butters – These nut butters come in a variety of flavors and will give you the best calorie and protein bang for your buck