Dining In the Parks: EPIC Bars
Whether you're hiking, paddling, cycling, or simply windshield touring in a national park, you're bound to get hungry and begin searching for a snack. To the ubiquitous trail mix, jerky, or piece of fruit, there's now another option. The EPIC bar.
Made here in the U.S.A. by an Austin, Texas, company, these pocket snacks come in three flavors: bison, beef, and turkey. But that's just the start.
Armed with a socially conscious mission when it comes to these trail snacks, the company works only with suppliers that can certify that their animals "receive the utmost humane treatment."
"We believe that EPIC animals should always live pasture-centered lives where turkeys forage, pigs wallow, and buffalo roam. This is the way nature intended animals to be and we see ourselves as leaders in recognizing the value of sustainable and responsible animal welfare practices," the company states on its website.
Quite a bit of science went into the company's decisions as to where to source its ingredients, and to rely strictly on animals that were grass-fed (except for turkeys, as the company hasn't yet found a supplier of "100 pecent pastured turkey") and never given antibiotics or hormones.
"...the most compelling argument for consuming grass-fed meats comes from the EPIC nutrition that is passed on from animal to human. The brilliance of this nutrient transfer is based on how the animals are raised. Grass-fed animals are loaded with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are better for both cardiovascular health and contain anti-inflammatory properties. They also have significantly higher values of vitamins A and E as well as antioxidants," the company says.
"For athletes, grass-fed meat is particularly favorable in that it contains up to twice the levels of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which promotes the development of lean muscle tissue and lowers the risk for a myriad of other health problems."
Science aside, EPIC bars have an interesting list of ingredients. Beyond the mainstays of beef, bison, or turkey, the bars might have dried cranberries, almonds or habanero peppers mixed in, along with various seasonings, such as sea salt, dehydrated garlic, paprika, celery powder, etc. They also are free of soy and gluten, as well as nitrites.
Calorie-wise, the bison bars pack 200 calories, the beef bars 190, and the turkey bars 150. Sodium levels range from 220mg in the bison bars to 240mg in both the turkey and beef. Protein ranges from 11 grams per bar for the bison to 14 grams for the turkey.
Taste-wise, they pack a lot of flavor and go down quickly, though some might think the salt comes through a little too much in the bison bar. But if you're working hard hiking, paddling, or backpacking, no doubt you could use the sodium.
If there are any downsides, one might be that the bars are a tad on the small size, at just 1.5 ounces. Definitely not as compressed or chewy as jerky -- the company describes them as "tender" -- EPIC bars are devoured quickly.
During a trip to Yellowstone National Park our group of four paddlers relied in part on EPIC bars to keep us going (and see how they tasted and kept us going!). When we got to the Old Faithful complex for our last night in the park, we were pleasantly surprised to see EPIC bars in the general store.
So keep an eye out for these bars on your next trip to a national park, or go to the company's website to order some: a box of 12 bars sells for $34, or you can buy a three-bar sampler for $8.50