Category Archives: Food

Winter Spiced Mixed Nuts

Trail snacks- Festive nuts

Three Points of the Compass is a great fan of nuts as trail food. If ever I am including a bag of snacks, invariably one sort of nut or another is a constituent. Of course this time of year, for some unfathomable reason,  the supermarkets are swamped with various nuts for the festive household. Time to take advantage of this.

I do not show an allegiance to one supermarket over another but Mr and Mrs Three Points of the Compass do pop in to Marks & Spencer on a not infrequent basis… A recent visit saw a seasonal addition to the food hall, and with a couple of quid knocked off too, I snapped up a couple of tubs to try them out.

A handful of the M&S winter spiced mixed nuts

A handful of the M&S winter spiced mixed nuts

The 300g tubs of M&S Winter Spiced Mixed Nuts comprise almonds, cashews and peanuts with cinnamon sugar and ‘a warming hint of cayenne pepper’. These really are quite a lovely mix, sweet with just a touch of heat. Many trail foods can get a little boring after a while, this tasty addition will make a change for a few months of day hikes. At 563 kcal per 100g, calorific content is high. Though I do note that the M&S plain roasted and salted mixed nut tubs, containing almonds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts & pecans, come in at a whopping 673 kcal per 100g. Not only have I returned and stocked up a little with a few extra tubs, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for any post Christmas dip in price too as the supermarket clears their shelves.

M&S Food Hall is a slippery slope for the lover of nuts

M&S Food Hall is a slippery slope for the lover of nuts

 

 

The Icknield Way

After my autumn wander on the Icknield Way- a bit of a gear review

My last post covered my recent six day hoof across the Icknield Way Trail. With a bit of wandering, also a mile backtrack to retrieve a map I thought I had lost, but hadn’t, and one or two momentary periods of confusion when my route abandoned me in a couple of towns, I covered 120 miles.

Day two on the Icknield Way Trail for Three Points of the Compass

Day two on the Icknield Way Trail for Three Points of the Compass

I used this walk as an opportunity to further drill down my gear selection for my Three Points of the Compass walk commencing 1st April 2018. I thought I was just about there, but even at this point, I realise I still need to drop a handful of items, change a couple of others and make one, for me, large change in my approach. I’m not going to cover everything in this post but if you want my thoughts on any item in my Icknield Way gear list, do ask.

Z Packs Duplex on my third night on the Icknield Way Trail

Z Packs Duplex on my third night on the Icknield Way Trail

Z Packs Duplex

This was a perfect opportunity to try out my new Z Packs Duplex shelter. This single skin, cuben hybrid, two person tent proved to be absolutely excellent. I never timed myself erecting it, but it is easy to put up and takes less than five minutes. Even on sloping ground on the first night, I was still able to achieve a taut pitch. I had taken a selection of pegs/stakes and it took only a couple of nights to realise that best results were achieved using the carbon core Easton nails on the four corners, and a longer MSR Groundhog on the two sides (nearest and furthest sides in the image above). My final night on trail was on short springy turf and heather, this coincided with strong gusty wind for most of the night. For this, I double pegged the guys on the windward side and had no problem with anything pulling out. I conclude that my handful of extra pegs is a necessity in the frequently changing soil types of the UK

Last night of wild camping on the Icknield Way Trail. Cavenham Heath proved to be a windy location

Last night of wild camping on the Icknield Way Trail. Cavenham Heath proved to be a windy location despite my finding the most sheltered spot I could in the failing light

I had taken a tall thin cuben dry bag for the tent. This fitted the long ‘wand’ pocket on one side of my Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack well. I had to take care to roll the shelter tightly otherwise it was a pig to get into the drybag.

Many people fixate on the condensation issues inherent in single skin tents. Obviously I have much to learn and experience with this tent, but I found condensation no more of a problem than with a double skin tent. Ventilation is everything. On three nights I set up well, had a through breeze and had zero condensation. I did have a wet interior after a night camping on long wet grass. None dripped on me and my feet and head remained clear of the wet interior. A wipe down with a bandanna in the morning sufficed. If anything, this was handy as it gave me a clean water soaked cloth for a wipe over of my body. The other night had just a little condensation, not enough to worry over.

My base weight was around 11kg with consumables on top of that. My Mariposa pack from Goassamer Gear carried the weight well and was comfortable until a problem manifested itself on day two

My base weight was around 11kg with consumables on top of that. My Mariposa pack from Gossamer Gear carried the weight well and was comfortable until a problem manifested itself on day three

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

Laying my pack down at a halt on day three, I was dismayed to see the internal aluminium stay poking through the belt. There was little, if anything, I could do to fix it

Laying my pack down at a halt on day three, I was dismayed to see the internal aluminium stay poking through the belt. There was little, if anything, I could do to fix it

I purchased by Mariposa pack in 2016 and had already used it on couple of hikes prior to taking it with me on the Icknield Way Trail. This was my one piece of kit to break on me, the first breakage I have experienced for some years beside the wearing out of trail shoes. Some say that lightweight gear isn’t robust, I have found that if properly looked after, such gear is usually no less robust than many a cheaper, heavier option.

However, as I say, I had a problem with the pack. Just before the half way point of the trail, the aluminium stays poked their way through the webbing slots that they nest into on the hipbelt. This meant that much of the weight that was supposed to be transferred to the hipbelt, was mostly placed on the shoulders due to the resulting lack of internal pack structure. There was nothing I could do to repair it. So I released the velcro tab holder at the top of the stay, inside the pack. A couple of days after I returned home, I emailed Gossamer Gear to ask if there was a fix I could carry out. They replied within a couple of hours:

“Sorry to hear about this! What is your best mailing address? I would be happy to send you a new belt and little plastic caps for your frame. We have not had this happen in mass but we have started to put little caps on the stays to prevent this”

Stays poking their way through the hip belt

Removed from the pack, this shows how the stays poked their way through the hip belt

Within a week, I received the replacement belt. I cannot fault Gossamer Gear’s customer service. While an annoyance. I believe the caps on the end of the stays should prevent a re-occurrence so am more than happy to continue with what is, overall, an excellent pack. The external pocket configuration is exactly as I like it and I find myself using the external stretchy mesh pocket on the back far more than I initially thought I would. For example, it is very useful for putting wet socks in to dry.

My original, damaged, Mariposa hipbelt below, and its replacement above. Note how the design has altered slightly, the belt pockets are now positioned further round to the side. Not an advantage I fear

My original, damaged, Mariposa hipbelt below, and its replacement above. Note how the design has altered slightly, the belt pockets are now positioned further round to the sides of the wearer. Not an advantage I fear. Both belts are size Large

Autumn on the trail meant that temperatures varied from close to freezing to into the 20's. A variety of clothing is necessary for such a range that could have ranged still further. My spring/summer walk in 2018 will present a similar problem

Autumn on the trail meant that temperatures varied from close to freezing to into the 20’s. A variety of clothing is necessary for such a range that could have ranged still further. My spring/summer walk in 2018 will present a similar problem

Montane Terra Pants, these are the 'graphite' coloured version. Photographed on Inishowen Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland in 2015. Note the side zips on the leg to provide additional ventilation

Montane Terra Pants, these are the ‘graphite’ coloured version. Note the side zips on the leg to provide additional ventilation. Photographed on Inishowen Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland in 2015.

Trousers

For this walk, Three Points of the Compass took his normal choice of leg wear, the Montane Terra Pants. I have used these for years and will continue to do so until something better comes along. Not light at 367g (including 29g belt) for a size XXL. They are a tough product with a couple of features that I really like. The side zips on the leg are fantastic for a bit of ventilation and the side poppers on the fairly narrow ankles stop an excess of material flapping around. Really useful in muddier conditions which helps to keep the lower part of the trousers much cleaner. I do wish I could find a lighter option though, that still has these features. I wish there were a side cargo pocket too.

 

Maps are essential, guide book a desirable on the Icknield Way Trail. I took a photocopy of the small initial section starting from Tring railway station (from O.S. 181), plus O.S. Explorer maps 193, 194, 209, 210 and 229. Each weihed about 110g. The 'Walkers' Guide' from the Icknield Way Association weighs 154g

Maps are essential, guide book a desirable, on the Icknield Way Trail. I took a photocopy of the small initial section starting from Tring railway station (from O.S. 181), plus O.S. Explorer maps 193, 194, 209, 210 and 229. Each weighed about 110g with covers removed. The ‘Walkers’ Guide’ from the Icknield Way Association weighs 154g

Electronics etc.

I took far more in the way of electronics and gadgets than I required for a walk of this length. Again, this was a deliberate decision to try and duplicate as far as possible the gear I am taking with me on my long hike next year. It may have transpired that I required something from my ‘electronics bag’, as it was, all I needed was my phone.

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Phone, mp3 player, headlight and power- Little was required

Phone

Rug Gear RG730 phone. IP68, 3020mAh battery, 5″ Gorilla Glass 3 capacitive screen. No lightweight at 215g, this android phone does me well

Rug Gear RG730 phone. IP68, 3020mAh battery, 5″ Gorilla Glass 3 capacitive screen. This android phone is no lightweight at 215g but does me well

Three Points of the Compass uses a RugGear RG730 android phone. Not particularly lightweight at 215g, it is a rugged phone, rated IP68, so I have no need for an additional protective case. This saves me a little weight, however I do keep it in a poly bag, usually with other electronics, as I am not daft. I don’t use it much on trail and keep it switched off if not in use during the day. On the Icknield Way, I sent daily messages to my wife and daughter, keeping it switched on for a few hours each evening. I also used the OS Locate ap once just to check my co-ordinates, and accessed the web over two pub lunches. Where it was probably most useful was when calling for a taxi at the end of my walk. The Icknield Way finishes at a car park in the middle of nowhere. I found that there was no service with 02 in that locale. Fortunately, another reason I chose this particular model of phone came to the fore. It is a Dual Sim phone, so I switched to Vodaphone, obtained a signal and Bob’s your Uncle.

From a 100% charge when I left home, this had dropped to 66% by the end of the walk. I never had the need to charge it at all, despite having the necessary lead and powerbank with me. The RG730 has a 13mp rear camera, but beyond a few photos sent to my daughter on the phone, I use my Olympus Tough TG-4 camera for capturing photos.

Stopping early morning to cook a hot breakfast and prepare a hot drink on the Icknield Way

Stopping early morning to cook a hot breakfast and prepare a hot drink on the Icknield Way

Cooking

I am very careful to be as frugal as possible with my meths stove. I light it, pan of water ghows straight on and the flame is extinguisehed as soon as water is heated. Unburnt fuel is retained in the tightly closed burner for the next use. Over six days of walking, with five nights of wild camping, cooking meals and making hot drinks, I used just 179g of fuel

I am very careful to be as frugal as possible with my meths stove. I light it, pan of water goes straight on and the flame is extinguished as soon as the water is heated. Unused fuel is then retained in the tightly closed burner for the next use.

I have long preferred meths (alcohol) for cooking with. I find it pretty much fuss free, silent and my little burner, when combined with the very efficient Caldera Cone, is as efficient a system in a breeze as you are ever likely to find.  I have no real issues with my system, particularly for shorter jaunts such as the Icknield Way. I store my fuel in a bottle that use to hold hot sauce, this has a nozzle cap for directing and controlling the fuel issued.

My MYOG meths burner worked very well. So well that I will certainly use it unaltered when using this system again. Over six days of walking, with five nights of wild camping, cooking meals and making hot drinks, I used just 179g of fuel. However I do recognise that the maths has been done by others and gas does come out as a lighter and more efficient system over longer hikes. So, I will be making the change to a gas system next year.

I’ll comment on what I am going to be using at some point in the future.

 

Hygiene

Compressed towlettes are pretty fantastic. Extreme low weight, low bulk and a drop of Dr. Bronners soap and a smidgen of water converts them into a one-use wash cloth

Compressed towelettes are pretty fantastic. Extreme low weight, low bulk and a drop of Dr. Bronners soap and a smidgen of water converts them into a one-use wash cloth

Three Points of the Compass has been looking for an alternative to the excellent Gerwhol foot cream and balm for some time. I may have found it with the Foot Balm from Naturally Thinking

Three Points of the Compass has been looking for an alternative to the excellent Gehwol foot cream and balm for some time. I may have found it with the Foot Balm from Naturally Thinking

Unlike our hiking cousins in the US, walking in the UK means that we are are in the company of a clean smelling general public on a more frequent basis. I don’t mind getting dirty, but I do like to try and get myself as clean as I can on a hike. Teeth get brushed, hair gets combed and an attempt is made to clean as much of the days grime and sweat off, even if it is only the face, feet and pits that get the most attention. That said, I stank pretty badly at the end of my hike and it was mostly synthetic clothing to blame.

Wash bag and contents. The razor went unused

Wash bag and contents. The razor went unused. Alum stick is heavy but useful. Lanacane anti-chafe gel is an essential

Drying clothes at a midday halt

Drying clothes at a midday halt

I am pretty happy with what I took but the weight and, less importantly at present, the bulk, is still too great and I shall be further refining it. It is very, very easy to slip in too many ‘what if’ and luxury items, I think I need to do a fair amount of inward looking and remove a few of my many comfort items from my gear list. My Three Points of the Compass gear list is currently a work in progress but may be of interest nonetheless.

As I said at the head of this post, I am only reviewing here a handful of the items I took with me. Do ask if you have any questions.

Three Points of the Compass- The End...

Three Points of the Compass– The End…

A small selection of herbs, spices and condiments goes a long way to improving bland trail meals

Additions to a food bag- condiments

 

The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning “spice, seasoning, sauce” and from the Latin condere, meaning “preserve, pickle, season”

Wikipedia (T. Nealon)

While on multi day hikes, Three Points of the Compass now carries food in a wide mouth food bag from Z Packs. This dedicated food bag has a wide opening to make poking around inside easier and can hold anything from pre-prepared meals, to pasta/noodles/instant mash/oats/tortillas, to pouch fish, squeezy cheese, yeast flakes, jerky etc. plus a brew kit.

I do like to ensure that I have just a few extras that may add a little flavour to my meals. For a week’s walk this has usually just comprised of salt and pepper in the little paper sachets that can be picked up in fast food outlets. But with time counting down to my Long Walk, commencing April 2018, I have decided to expand on this slightly.

Below are the handful of additions I will be carrying. The idea of carrying these may be absolute anathema to purist lightweighters, but over time, the fairly bland and repetitive nature of stock carbs can get a little boring and a handful of condiments can go a long way to relieving this. With care, such additions add negligible weight to a reasonably lightweight set-up. And a little goes a long way.

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

I could very easily get carried away with what I wished to plunder my store cupboard for, but eventually settled on just five, these are:

  • Crushed and dried chillies
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Tellicherry freshly crushed peppercorns
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Mixed dried herbs

I have found in the past that the little baggies I use tend to split after repeated opening and frequently don’t like closing after a while due to the fineness of the contents clogging the grooves of the closure. I could use contact lens cases instead but not only do these not hold a great deal but they are fairly weighty considering the original negligible weight of the condiments. Storing in straws, folded back and tucked into themselves is another way, but just a tad fiddly. The various spice holders produced by GSI are well made but simply too heavy, Tic Tac containers get crushed and split, the old 35mm film canisters (remember them?) have the lid pop off when you don’t want it to. None of the various multi compartment pill containers I have seen are light enough, So instead, I purchased a small range of cheap and cheerful lightweight aluminium tins from eBay and selected what I felt was the most appropriate size, which was the smallest, 15ml size. Each empty tins weighs just four and a half grams.

In addition, I have a small bottle of Olive Oil. This is decanted into a 60ml Nalgene bottle that weighs 16g empty. Full, it weighs 74g. The five full tins collectively weigh 72g, but that weight will constantly drop.

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available. These are fives of the many sizes on the market. 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available online. These are just five of the many sizes on the market- 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well once the lid is screwed on

I could have added dried onion, dried vegetables or dried mushrooms to the above selection but many supermarkets and smaller shops stock quite small packs of these which can be picked up in many towns on trail, unlike the more flavoursome, often uncommon, quality ingredients listed above. I am still considering on swapping out my dehydrated garlic for garlic salt, and I do wonder if I should have added celery salt or my lovely smoked paprika…

Perfect Mash from Idahoan

Lunch on the trail (OK, at home)

‘Perfect Mash’ from Idahoan

There are a number of simple staple carbs to be cooked up (or simply soaked) on the trail- Noodles are probably the most used, rice and pasta are both popular also. Dried potato mash is an easily produced rich source of carbs too. This stuff is not gourmet cooking, not by a long shot. But it is lightweight and fairly high in calories. Add a bit of protein, and it more than suffices.

I have long been a fan of the Morrisons instant Bubble and Squeak Mash. An 80g pack provides 340 calories. Morrisons also have Cheese and Onion, or just Onion flavoured varieties. These instant mashes with a bit of added flavour are certainly less bland than the plain Smash type products. So I was interested to spot a few I hadn’t come across before, on the shelf at the local Sainsbury’s supermarket. Whats more, they were on offer too. So I picked up a selection and tried one out for lunch at home, a small tin of salmon was added, though I am not sure I’ll be taking one of those on a hike too often. I am sure I am coming late to the party with these, but hey! If its new on the shelves, its new on the shelves.

475ml of water was heated up with my new home-made alcohol stove set in my Caldera Cone.

475ml of water was heated up with my new home-made alcohol stove set in my Caldera Cone.

Once boiled, powdered mash was tipped straight in, briefly stirred and that was it. In less than a minute, lump free lunch

Once water was boiling, powdered mash was tipped straight in, briefly stirred and that was it. In less than a minute, lump free lunch

Obviously you could eat anything with these instant mashes- cheese, dried meat, tuna pouch, the choice is yours. I was at home so added a small tin of red salmon.

The packs I came across were 109g in three flavours- Buttery, Butter and Herb and Roasted Garlic. Though I note that in the USA there is a far larger number of varieties available. Each of these avaialbe from Sainsbury’s gives three servings, so just right for a sole hiker! Each provides around 442kcal. There is also a Classic pack available in 180g size (for six people), so perhaps a little large for just one person, even if hiking all day. This provides 666kcal. All of these have around 24g of carbohydrate per serving, so about 72g for the whole of the smaller packs. And the salmon? A 213g tin provides around 286kcal and 45g protein.

Stove making

Playing with fire, again…

Having played around with steel tins a few days ago, and come up with my Mk II attempt at a robust, screw top, alcohol/meths stove, it was time to try out a couple of tweaks.

Using a more open gauze produced no weight saving, the very opposite resulted

Using a more open gauze produced no weight saving, the very opposite resulted

Other than using a slightly thinner section of ceramic wadding, therefore not compressed so much, I did wonder if I could lose another gram or two by using a more open wire gauze. But found that this uses a thicker gauge wire and actually came in at two and a half times the equivalent weight. So it was back to using my first choice.

Mk IV being timed

Mk IV burn being timed

My second tweak was to include a choke in the top of my stove. Mk III had a very thin 1g copper sheet disc cut and fitted beneath a wire gauze cap, while Mk IV stove had .016 aluminium sheet cut into a disc with a small square of wire gauze beneath it.  The circular cut out in the copper measures 33mm diameter and was created simply by running the point of a penknife round a bottle cap placed in the centre. The hole cut in the centre of the aluminium sheet was a very different affair. Hacked rather than cut might be a better description! Having no way to hand to create this, I simply folded the disc in half and cut a half moon approx 25mm diameter in the centre with a pair of Leatherman Raptor shears. The disc, sans centre,  weighs 2.4g.

 

Weights:

  • Mk II-    Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, wire gauze: 30.7g
  • Mk III-   Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, copper sheet choke and wire gauze: 29.3g
  • Mk IV-   Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, aluminium sheet choke, wire gauze disc below: 29g
Burn times between my Mk II and Mk III home made stoves were compared

Burn times between my Mk II and Mk III home made stoves were compared. 45ml of fuel was used in each

Burn times- all stoves brim full with fuel
Mk II No choke 22min 50sec
Mk III Copper sheet choke 27min 55sec
Mk IV Aluminium sheet choke 25min 5sec

It was a fairly cool evening at 18° with a slight breeze. In common with my last trial with a home made stove, I didn’t use any form of windshield. Next up is to get some boil times rather than burn times.

As it is, it is looking as though my Mk III is coming in as most effective in burn time and almost as light as the lightest.

The tools of the job

The tools of the job, from left to right- Mk IV, Mk III, Mk II, Mk I. Mk I was the untested disaster!

Playing with fire. the first burn

Playing with fire…

Three Points of the Compass has used stoves of various types, that have relied on a variety of fuels, over the years. In recent times I have become less fussed about all-out speed- now I simply get on with another task while water heats etc. I also don’t like noise around my campsite- my Jetboil and Primus OmniFuel are often simply too intrusive, especially on a quiet morning.

Additionally, I seek simplicity. To this end, for the last couple of years I have been enjoying my Speedster Stoves. Reasonably priced and burning  alcohol/meths, there really isn’t much to go wrong with these. Gary makes them out of small aluminium party favour tins with some wadding inside, held down by a bit of metal gauze. They are similar to the Zelph StarLyte, but I prefer the Speedster for its screw top lid, the plastic lid on the Zelph can split.

The two sizes of Speedster Stove that Three Points of the Compass has been relying on recent treks. 20ml and 30ml variants. So light that a second already primed with fuel can also be taken

The two sizes of Speedster Stove that Three Points of the Compass has been relying on for recent treks. The largest only weighs 18g. So light that a second already primed with fuel can also be taken if wished

In common with a number of other users of these stoves I have found the soft metal a little problematic over time. The threads wear and the fine dust can jam, cross threading is also a more frequently encountered issue. I wiped mine with copper grease which alleviated the problem a little but not entirely.

At the very reasonable cost, I could simply throw a problem stove away and buy a replacement, but with a hike of 1000 miles plus over three months to consider next year, I want a stove that is less likely to wear, so went looking for a steel version. I failed miserably so resolved to have a crack at making my own.

Constructing my own alcohol stove. The completed on on the right was Mark I and never got as far as being lit. I had attempted to simply fold the wire over but it was to stiff, Mark II had snipped edges and enable the wire to be bent well, holding the ceramic gauze down with problem

Constructing my own alcohol stove. The completed one on the right was Mark I and never got as far as being lit. I had attempted to simply fold the wire over but it was too stiff, Mark II (below) had snipped edges and enabled the rim of the wire circle to be bent, holding the ceramic gauze down without problem

I searched the supermarket shelves for a suitable screw top steel container that I could re-purpose. I found plenty of aluminium containers of various sizes but no steel tins. A few minutes on eBay called and I ordered a half-dozen 2oz screw top tins from the US. Each one of these weighs 21g empty.

Ceramic fibre off cuts were also bought online. These are body soluble, the safer version of this type of material. Also a small square of stainless steel woven mesh and that was it. I had all the makings required for a first attempt.

Stuffed with a cut disc of fibre, held in by the wire mesh, the stove will hold 60ml of meths

My Mark II attempt. Stuffed with a cut disc of ceramic fibre, held in by the wire mesh, the stove will hold 60ml of meths

Empty, my stove weighed 30.7g. When brim full of fuel, it weighs 75g. My first three burns with the stove tonight gave me between 17 minutes 15 seconds and 18 minutes 40 seconds of burn, but this was with a light breeze and without utilising my normal Caldera Cone. Air temperature was 23°.

Certainly the thread on these tin plated steel tins should be more robust and hold up longer over time. This is the balance that has to be accepted with the greater weight of this choice of material. I reckon my next attempt will utilise a little less ceramic wadding and if I use a wider weave mesh I can shave off a couple more grams.

I have to be careful though, I am encroaching on to the territory of the thousands of bods out there who love making their own stoves! Nothing wrong with that, but for me, Mark III or Mark IV should hopefully give me what I want.

Three Points of the Compass cooking earlier this year on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

Three Points of the Compass making a brew earlier this year on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

Snickers bitesize

Trail snacks- Snickers

Time I thought, to have a closer look at that staple trail snack of many a hiker- the Snickers bar.

I grew up with this confectionery when it was named Marathon, now that dates me! But I was surprised to find just how much variety there had been in these over the years.

Marathon bars had been sold in the UK since the 1930s and I was as outraged as everyone else when the makers Mars announced a name change in 1990 to bring all of their worldwide products under global rather than local identities. I was unaware of the overseas heritage and long-lived name and, frankly, didn’t care much. Named after the Mars’ family’s favourite horse, the original Snickers was introduced to a welcoming public in 1930.

Marathon bar

Marathon bar, 1980s

For some eighteen months, bars carried both names; ‘Marathon, internationally known as Snickers‘, before changing to simply ‘Snickers’. Obviously I couldn’t really care less about the name change today, plus ça change.

Marathon bar, transition wrapper, 1990s

Marathon bar, transition wrapper, 1990s

Most people, and certainly, most hikers, will be pretty familiar with Snickers bars. They are peanut butter nougat with caramel, topped with roasted peanuts and covered with milk chocolate.

Snickers, new name in UK, 1991/2

Snickers, new name in UK, 1991/2

Those in the UK are marketed as being free from artificial colour, flavour and preservatives. They are also marketed as being suitable for vegetarians. The manufacturer, Mars, Inc., is one of the largest food and confectionery businesses in the World.

Despite much tinkering with the ingredients, more so in recent years, (even to the entire replacement of peanuts in some variants), Snickers are mostly associated to the milk chocolate covered peanuts, complete with nougat and caramel. So linked is the brand to peanuts, that the Snickers brand accompanied Munch Peanut Brittle on the packaging from their initial release in 1971, off and on, until the 1990s. I have illustrated below a few of the short lived varieties that have appeared on the shelves over the years. Some were no doubt re-branded subsequently, or vanished to the great confectionery shop in the sky. There are a few that I have never personally encountered. The Snickers Cruncher bar, released in 2000, containing crisped rice as well as the usual peanuts, caramel and milk chocolate was one that never made it to UK shores.

Snickers Crisper. Crisped rice, peanuts topped with caramel, coated in milk chocolate. 200cal.

Snickers Crisper. Crisped rice, peanuts topped with caramel, coated in milk chocolate. 200cal.

Snickers Nut 'n Butter Crunch

Snickers Nut ‘n Butter Crunch. Another short-lived Limited Edition Snickers bar that I never tried. 2007

You may have noticed from the images how the bars appear to have got smaller over the years. In the UK in 2008/9, manufacturer Mars reduced the size of both their Mars and Snickers bars by 7.2% from 62.5g to 58g (prices remained the same!) and bars then carried 280 calories. In 2013, the size of a single Snickers bar was further reduced to 48g. At the time, this was put down to the manufacturer’s commitment to reducing the calorie content of single service products to less than 250 calories by the end of 2013, a so-called- calorie reduction Responsibility Pledge.

Though size does depend on how you buy them. The one I pulled from a multi-pack today only weighs 41.7g. Snickers also have a habit of making their Limited Edition products in a slightly smaller size.

Snickers. 41.7g

Snickers. 41.7g. 413kcal- Multipack bar. Photographed 2016

However a bar purchased singly in 2016 still gives you 48g of loveliness. Though I do think we are being slightly conned here. It should be noted that none of the ingredients in a typical Snickers are of particularly high quality. Top quality ingredients simply wouldn’t be possible in the vast numbers of confectionery bars produced and consumed globally.  However, all of the ingredients come together nicely and it is not surprising that Snickers have been national favourites for decades.

Snickers, single bar. 49g

Snickers, single bar. 48g. 245kcal. Photographed 2016. Roasted peanuts (24%), caramel 27%), nougat (14%), Milk chocolate (35%). Fat 13.4g of which saturates 4.7g, carbohydrates 26.2g, of which sugars 21.7g, Protein 4.5g, Salt 0.21g

Snickers clones

Snickers clones from Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons

There are many copy cat versions of Snickers available. I have tried many but none quite pass muster against the old favourite. Possibly the best amongst those shown on the left is the M&S version, the ‘nutty ONE’, that has a good balance of flavours and texture.

Snickers Xtreme. 2008

Snickers Xtreme. 58.7g. 2010

Most of us will not have come across many of the varieties that have appeared across the years. Snickers Xtreme not only answered the calls of those turned off by nougat, but was also an exercise in packing as many peanuts into the bar as possible. Originally released as a Snickers Xtreme All Nuts and Caramel version at Candy Expo in 2010 and a fore-runner of the ‘More Nuts’ Snickers bar that hit the UK in 2010. This chocolate bar surrounded an extra quantity of peanuts in the caramel, at the total loss of the nougat from the bar. By the way, the Snickers Xtreme was re-branded temporarily as Snickers XScream in time for Halloween 2015.

I would argue that the Snickers Charged was even more extreme, if for a different reason. It contained 60mg Caffeine and 250mg Taurine in addition to the usual chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat. Enough there to wake you up in the morning and keep you going, however taurine and chocolate are uncomfortable bedfellows.

Snickers Charged. 51.9g

Snickers Charged. 51.9g. 250cal. 2008

The monstrous Snickers Slice 'n Share

The monstrous Snickers Slice ‘n Share weighed over 450g

There were 45g Snickers bars in the 1980s, and today you have a handful of the ‘fun’ size mini bars, most easily encountered in the mixed ‘Celebrations’ tubs. Often you can get seasonal and search out the Snickers Santa and Nutcracker that has occasionally been on offer, hang them from your snow laden tent why don’t you? For our U.S. friends there are also the pumpkin shaped, if normal flavoured, 31g Snickers Pumpkins.

Snickers Egg and Snickers Peanut Butter Egg

Snickers Egg and Snickers Peanut Butter Egg

With all these mini-bars etc. knocking around, for those concerned that they are not getting sufficient Snickers fix, how about the 454g Slice ‘n Share Snickers bar released in 2013. It was 25cm long and contained over 2000 calories. Enough there to keep you going on the trail for a few days.
Perhaps best not to dwell too long on the Snickers Eggs as I am not quite sure that these really qualify as Snickers. Though some of the Limited Edition Snickers  listed below are as alien to the original product as these eggs are.

Snickers Duo. 2 x 41.7g

Snickers Duo. 2 x 41.7g. 213kcal each. photographed 2016

The Duo bars are supposed to be an attempt to side track the former large bars that were slated by health groups. You are now supposed to share the bars, happily presenting the second bar to your nearest and dearest, yeah, right!

Snickers & Hazelnut. 49g. 240kcal

Snickers & Hazelnut. 49g. 240kcal. photographed 2016. Peanuts 17%, Hazelnuts 5.6%, Caramel 27%, milk chocolate with nougat 15%. Fat 11.7g, of which saturates 4.4g, Carbohydrate 29.2g, of which sugars 24.7g, Protein 4g, salt 0.29g

Beside acting as trail snack, a Snickers bar is just the right tool to see you through a cold nights sleep. Eat one of these just before settling down for the night and it provides a good number of calories for the body to burn to keep you warm through the small hours.

Snickers Almond. 49.9g, 230kcal

Snickers Almond. 49.9g, 230kcal, photographed 2016

Snickers Almond

Snickers Almond. 49.9g, 230kcal. Milk chocolate, almonds, caramel, nougat. Total fat 10%, of which 4g Saturated Fat. Sodium 110mg, Carbohydrates- 32g (Sugars- 27g). Protein 3g

Snickers Almond

Snickers Almond

 

 

 

 

 

The Snickers Almond is an excellent product. To some extent I actually (whisper it) prefer it over a regular Snickers. Certainly it is just as good. The balance of flavours and texture is good. I would have to be told that this is an almond and not peanut Snickers before detecting a discernible difference, which probably says much more about my poor palate rather than anything else.

Obviously there are some out there who have a general rather than  specific nut allergy (Peanuts are a legume, not of the nut family).

'limited Edition' Snickers bars. More Caramel, More Nuts, and More Chocolate bars failed to win much public attention in the UK. In truth, there was little dicernable difference between the bars

‘limited Edition’ Snickers bars. More Caramel, More Nuts, and More Chocolate bars failed to win much public attention in the UK. In truth, there was little discernible difference between these bars

The number of varieties of Snickers that have appeared on the shelves is quite astonishing. Mars, the manufacturers, have struggled both to invigorate falling unit sales in a burgeoning sweet market. They have attempted to seek out the new ‘big winner’ in public attention and, ultimately, sales. Being a worldwide product, some varieties have been country specific. I would guess that virtually the same product has appeared in different countries under different names.

Snickers 3xchocolate

Snickers 3 x chocolate. ‘2 to go’ (two bars), 89g, 210 kcal. 2012

In advance of the three ‘More…’ varieties released to the UK market in 2012-14, the market had been thoroughly explored elsewhere in Europe. Befitting a chocolate bar, a version with more ‘this, that and the other’ chocolate was released to an expectant American market in 2012. Together with the usual peanuts, there was chocolate flavoured nougat, chocolate caramel and covered with milk chocolate. In the UK, a Limited Edition ‘More Nuts’ variety was launched in 2010, followed by a ‘More Caramel’ bar in 2013.

Snickers Max Caramel

Snickers Max Caramel. 2012

A ‘Snickers Max Caramel’ version was also trialled in Germany in 2012. A ‘More Choc’ variety was added to the UK special editions in 2014 together with a £3 million advertising campaign. Yes, there is a lot of money in these confectioneries.

Snickers Maximus

Snickers Maximus. 52.5g. 269kcal. No nougat in this bar, so increased proportions of peanuts (26%) and caramel (42%) with the usual chocolate covering (31%). 2011

The Snickers Maximus is essentially the same product as the Snickers More Caramel that followed in its wake. I would guess that both of these are also identical to the ‘Max Caramel’ Limited Edition too. Just how many names can you give the same product?

 

Note that the 3 x chocolate bar shown above is a ‘2 to go’ variant. Mars released a number of their Snickers bars in this format in 2012- There were regular Snickers, Snickers 3 x chocolate, Snickers Almond and Snickers Peanut Butter, though the last actually came as a 4 to go’ as the bars were already produced as small squares.

Snickers- Rockin' nut Road. 49.9g. 230kcal

Snickers- Rockin’ nut Road. 49.9g. 230cal. Photographed 2016

Snickers Rockin' Nut Road

Snickers Rockin’ Nut Road. 49.9g bar providing 10g total fat of which 4.5g is saturated fat. 26g of sugars and 90mg of sodium

I am a bit of a fan of the Snickers Rockin’ nut Road (called Rocky Nut Road in Canada) This is probably because I like the slight bitterness from the dark chocolate, that isn’t swamped by over the sweetness of the caramel and marshmallow flavoured nougat. You can see from the image that Snickers haven’t exactly overloaded these bars with Almonds. The low percentage is probably reflected in the 3g of protein provided. This compares to the 4.5g that comes from a regular 48g Snickers bar. So, taste- OK. But must try harder

 

Snickers Mixed Nuts. 49.9g. 240ckal

Snickers Mixed Nuts. 49.9g. 240cal. Photographed 2016. Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, caramel, nougat, milk chocolate. Fat 12g, of which saturates- 4g. Sodium 115mg, Sugars 26g, Protein 4g

Snickers Mixed Nuts

Snickers Mixed Nuts

While given the moniker ‘Mixed Nuts’ this Snickers has an overwhelming taste of hazelnut. The mix of nuts would benefit from slight tweaking to allow the peanuts and almonds to shine through. That said, this is a tasty product. The proportion of nougat and caramel would appear to be the same as with a regular Snickers which not only gives a lovely chewy texture but allows the sweetness of the caramel to counterbalance the dry mouthfeel of the hazelnuts.

Snickers Mixed Nuts

Snickers Mixed Nuts

Snickers have occasionally knocked out versions of their popular bar with an extra internal portion of nuts, there have been a number of short-lived promotions with ‘10% more nuts’.  The ‘limited edition’ Snickers Mixed Nuts does the same, crams in yet more nuts. Not just peanuts in this case, but hazelnuts and almonds as well. This is one variant I could grow to love. We shall have to gloss over the fact that 26g of this bar is sugars.

Why have one Snickers when you have nine...

Why have one Snickers when you have nine…

The diminutive Nestle Butterfinger

A diminutive Nestle Butterfinger

Nestle, the largest food company in the World, have also produced what I would call their peanutty version of the Snickers via their Butterfinger. I am sure that many would dispute that similarity. I find it interesting how close the packaging is to the Snickers Peanut Butter Squared below. The ‘crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery’ bars are also available as ‘cups’ and bitesize. A very popular sweet, between 2007 and 2010 they were ranked as the eleventh most popular candy bar sold in the United States. Personally I find them  overly sweet, too crunchy at first followed by a tooth cloying likeness to chewing gum.

Snickers peanut butter Squared. 2 x bars. Each 125kcal

Snickers Peanut butter Squared. 2 x bars, each 125cal. 50.5g. Photographed 2016

Snickers Peanut Butter

Snickers Peanut Butter. Two squares totalling 50.5g. Providing 14g total fat, of which saturates 5g. Carbohydrates 29g, of which sugars 23g, protein 5g. 150mg Sodium

Snickers Peanut Butter- There are two squares in these packs, each containing Peanut Butter, peanuts, caramel nougat, milk chocolate. Both squares together provide 250cal.

I admit to being pleasantly surprised with the Snickers Peanut Butter squares. Despite there being a woefully small content to the wrapper, calories are good. Taste is too. A little sweeter than a regular Snickers, probably mostly provided by the thin layer of caramel. There is a distinct lack of the roasted peanut taste. However it is in the texture that the difference primarily lies. Both layers of caramel and nougat are quite thin top and bottom with a good layer of peanut butter between. The Squares filling is smooth with only a slight and infrequent crunch from the very occasional peanut piece in the smooth peanut butter. The latter definitely lacking in the depth of taste that a jar of decent peanut butter might offer. A good confectionery product, but a Snickers it isn’t.

Snickers Peanut Butter (left, Snickers regular (right)

Snickers Peanut Butter (left), Snickers regular (right)

Reece's Minis and Pieces- so, so sweet

Reece’s Peanut Butter Minis and Pieces- so, so sweet

I wonder if the Peanut Butter squares were inspired by the short-lived Snickers Peanut Caramel chews of 2006? Perhaps not, those had no nougat, whereas these square bars, complete with peanut butter, peanuts, caramel, nougat and covered with milk chocolate, are quite excellent. Incidentally, I certainly prefer the Squares over just about any of the Reece’s Peanut Butter products, which I find tooth enamel stripping sweet.

Snickers Dark. 51.9g. 250kcal

Snickers Dark. 51.9g. 250kcal

How about the Snickers Dark? I must again admit to a predilection for dark chocolate and welcome this version of Snickers on the few times that I have come across it, (who recalls the Snickers Intense Choc bar a few years ago?). However, I am very much a minority within my family on this, none of them liking dark chocolate at all, so… all the more for me!

Transformers Snickers

Transformers Nougabot Snickers, 2009

Other ‘Special Edition’ versions of Snickers are alien to me. What about the ‘Intense Choc’ special edition? Possibly they passed me by or have not been made available in the UK. However, I am very pleased that neither the 2009 Transformers ‘Nougabot’ Snickers, complete with bright yellow nougat (right),  or the green stuff that accompanied the Shrek Snickers bar in 2007, are still around to haunt us.

Snickers Adventure Bar

Snickers Adventure Bar, 2008

Some of these film tie-in products are thankfully short-lived and quickly fade from memory, the product being simply gimmicky and not worth pursuing with. After all- anyone remember the Snickers Adventure Bar? Complete with the addition of spice and coconut flavour, it was released to tie in with the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull film. If I want coconut, I’ll buy a Bounty, just keep it away from my Snickers please. Though I shouldn’t complain too much, after all, the 1929 Snickers included Coconut Oil amongst its ingredients.

Snickers Fudge, 50g. 250kcal. 2009/10. No caramel in this, top half is of artery hardening fudge. Though mini versions were also available, almost a health food, almost

Snickers Fudge, 50g. 250kcal. 2009/10. No caramel in this, top half is of artery hardening fudge. Mini versions were also available, almost a health food, almost

Some varieties may justify a longer shelf presence in the shops though. Snickers Fudge is just one of a number of special varieties that I would happily slip in to my pack. However, having missed the opportunity with this one, I am not going to pay the quite extraordinarily inflated prices that ‘past sell by date’ confectionery is sold for on eBay  and the like. But should they pop up on the market again…

Researching this blog, I noticed that another Snickers was out there to find- After a dint of searching, I located a small supply, but they took some finding. This is the intriguingly named Snickers Protein. We all know that peanuts provide a decent amount of protein, the Snickers Xtreme gave 5g of protein. With a very obvious intention of capitalising on today’s protein trend, Snickers Protein and Mars Protein bars were released in early 2016.

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Snickers Protein, 51g. 199kcal. 2016. 7.1g fat of which 2.7g are saturates. 18.4g carbohydrate of which 9.5g is sugar. 18.2g protein with just 0.17g sodium

The Snickers Protein bar contains 18g of protein and was advertised as providing just 190kcal. However I find that the bars as purchased have 199kcal. What is shocking is the vast mark-up in price that has been realised. While a regular Snickers bar (containing 9.4g of protein) can be picked up in a supermarket for 60p, (though packs of four can often be found for £1), on release the Snickers Protein was made available at a recommended retail price of £2.19. So, a real bargain there then! Also, about as far removed from the hikers friend, a regular choccy Snickers bar, as you can get.

Snickers Protein. A deeply unsatisfying bar

Snickers Protein. A deeply unsatisfying bar. Despite being advertised as ‘a caramel layer and peanuts coated in milk chocolate’ you have to search for the peanuts in these, both texture and taste are somewhat bland

Beside the attempt at marketing these bars as a premium product, a step-above and with supposedly little in common with the sweets of norm, these are as far removed from healthy eating as any other Snickers bar.

Snickers Flapjack. "Delicious flapjack with peanuts & caramel, topped with milk chocolate"

Snickers Flapjack- “Delicious flapjack with peanuts & caramel, topped with milk chocolate”

Don’t believe the marketing blurb, the Snickers Flapjack isn’t a flapjack and it isn’t a Snickers. Instead, it is pretty unsatisfying, messy, complicated texture and taste that fails to deliver on both fronts, pass them by…

Snickers Flapjack, 2016

Snickers Flapjack, 2016

Snickers Bites: released around 2013, but only appearing in any large quantity in the UK in 2016. Each 220kcal 'bite sized portion' weighs 45.3g, pack size is 136g.

Snickers Bites: released around 2013, but only appearing in any large quantity in the UK in 2016. Each 220kcal ‘bite sized portion’ weighs 45.3g, pack size is 136g. Photographed 2016

Snickers White

Snickers White. 49g, 241kcal. 2016. 1.8g fat of which 4.5 saturates. 29g carbohydrates of which 24.8g sugars. 4.4g protein with just 0.31g sodium

The most recent variety I have come across is an especially sweet tasting offering. The white chocolate covered Snickers White is uncommonly encountered in the UK and you need to go searching. Time will tell if it becomes more widely available. It is, truth be told, slightly sickly in its intense sweetness. I was reminded of the taste of condensed milk and the savouriness of the peanuts is slightly swamped.

Snickers White is a very similar beast to a normal Snickers with just a change of chocolate

Snickers White is a very similar beast to a normal Snickers with just a change of chocolate. Still a decent amount of peanuts in these

Snickers Sticks- available in boxes of 10

Snickers Sticks- available in boxes of 10

I am hopeful that the slightly smaller Snickers Sticks, more commonly found available in Germany and other places, will be made available in the UK. I like the size of these bar. Each weighs 21.5g and provides 107kcal of the normal Snickers loveliness. This is a really handy size and, if priced correctly, would fill a niche in the confectionery market.

Regardless of the varieties, I shall be continuing to slip the odd Snickers bar into my pack’s hip pockets for some time yet. When energy flags, one of these bars really does satisfy…