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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Clif Bar > Berry Shot Bloks > Test Report by Greg McDonald

CLIF SHOT BLOKS
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 07, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Greg McDonald
EMAIL: gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 21
LOCATION: Boynton Beach, Florida
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I have been camping for 15 years, 11 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).


Clif Bar & Company

INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

Manufacturer: Clif Bar & Company
Image Courtesy of Clif Bar & Company
Nutritional Information

Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.clifbar.com/
MSRP: $1.99 per FASTPAK
Listed Weight: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Measured Packaged Weight: 2.3 oz (65 g)
Measured Packaged Dimensions (Approximate): 5.75 x 1.5 x .75 in (15 x 4 x 2 cm)
Flavor Tested: Mountain Berry
Flavors Available: Cran-Razz, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry, Pina Colada, Orange (25mg caffeine), Black Cherry (50 mg caffeine), Cola (50mg caffeine), Margarita (triple the sodium).

The Product in Depth

FASTPAK and SHOT BLOK
FASTPAK and SHOT BLOK

Both the Mountain Berry flavor and the FASTPAK packaging are new products from Clif Bar & Co. I have not noticed them for sale yet in any of the supermarkets or outdoor stores that I have recently visited, although Clif's press release did indicate they would start rolling out to store in November.

The SHOT BLOKS are basically little blocks of energy. The SHOT BLOKS are designed to deliver carbohydrates and electrolytes to my body while, for the purposes of this review, hiking. Each FASTPAK contains 6 SHOT BLOKS. The SHOT BLOKS are cubic in shape. The Mountain Berry flavor is purple in color and measure about .875 x .875 x .625 in (2.2 x 2.2 x 2.0 cm) individually.

Compared to proteins and fats, carbohydrates are the easiest compound for the body to process into energy and are therefore the body's preferred source of energy during a workout. Continual replenishment of carbohydrates is important during an activity such as hiking, which is one of the reasons why I keep an assortment of small foods within easy reach while on the trail. Each serving of SHOT BLOKS delivers 24 g of carbohydrates, of which 50% are complex carbohydrates and 50% are simple carbohydrates. The simple carbohydrates are just simple sugars that are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream for a faster burst of energy. Complex carbohydrates take longer for the body to break down and will therefore steadily release into the bloodstream to help mantain energy levels over longer periods of time.

The SHOT BLOKS also contain electrolytes that the body sheds through perspiration. Electrolytes are natural salts, such as sodium and potassium, found in the body that serve to conduct electrical signals from the brain to muscles and nerves. When the body sweats to cool itself it also sheds these natural salts. This isn't too big of a deal when working out at the gym or playing pickup basketball with some friends, but if I'm sweating and my body is really working hard over an entire day on the trail it is critical that those salts be replenished to avoid cramping (among other more dangerous things). Each SHOT BLOKS serving contains 70 mg of sodium and 20 mg of potassium.

According to Clif, the FASTPAK is 33% smaller than the older packaging used for the other flavors of SHOT BLOKS. It is not clear whether 33% smaller refers to the dimensions of the packaging, the weight, or both. The stated purpose for the redesign is to make it easier to consume SHOT BLOKS on-the-go and reduce the waste of excess packaging.

Both the individual packaging and Clif's website indicate that I should consume 3 to 6 individual BLOKS (or 1 to 2 servings) per hour during activity. The FAQ section on Clif's website recommends experimenting with different levels of consumption to find out the best balance for me and my personal replenishment needs. On the package, Clif advises that I "Always follow consumption with water" but it doesn't give any indication of how much. This led me to believe it was probably personal preference, but the FAQ section once again came through for me and advises I "follow with a mouthful of water". Not exactly a precise measurement for the detail-oriented out there, but good enough for me.

The last bit of relevant information I could find was the "expiration date" of sorts for the SHOT BLOKS. Clif guarantees the SHOT BLOKS fresh for 12 months from when they are packaged. On the FASTPAKS I received, the date "07 Oct 09" is printed below the barcode on the back.

I have to take a moment and commend Clif Bar & Co. on how well they have designed and put together their website. It is aesthetically very cool, easy to navigate, and is absolutely packed with both "beginner" and "intermediate" information about the products. This new flavor and packaging were not yet available, but for every other product I was able to find tons of FAQs and nutritional information. I'm no nutritionist and I still found the information clearly presented and easy to understand. Top notch, and worth commending.

Taste Test

When I first opened the box and grabbed one of the individual FASTPAKs I was a little surprised by what I felt. I suppose I didn't really know what to expect, but for whatever reason I hadn't counted on the individual BLOKS being quite so large and squishy.

The FASTPAK packaging seems like it may prove to be a pretty good design. I decided to try and open the first FASTPAK by hand rather than with scissors or a knife. There is a small "CUT HERE" spot on the FASTPAK which would seem to indicate it should be opened with a cut by some sort of blade. However, I intend on using them while in-stride on the trail and am not too keen on the idea of whipping out my knife to do it. Thus, I decided to give it a try tearing it with my fingers and would resort to my teeth if necessary. It took a decent grip and tear before the packaging gave way which was a bit surprising, but I got it open nonetheless. I squeezed the still-closed end of the packaging like a tube of toothpaste to push out one of the BLOKS. It was actually a smoother and easier squeeze than I initially thought would be necessary - just a little bit of pressure and out popped a SHOT BLOK cube.

The BLOKS themselves have a gummy but not a sticky feel - the best way I can describe them is similar to gummy bears. They do have a bit of a smell: a combination of sweet with a hint of tart if that makes any sense. My dog, for one, was very intrigued by it. It certainly isn't a bad smell - I think I'd say "pleasant". Besides, who would I be to criticize the way that I smell after 8 hours on the trail?

In my opinion, food is supposed to taste good. Regardless of how healthy something is I'm usually pretty resistant to eating it if it has the flavor of the sole of my boot. I was a bit nervous about my initial taste test, but I soldiered on in the name of gear testing science. I must say that they actually taste pretty good.

The SHOT BLOKS have a pleasantly tart and smooth taste that is distinctively berry. While I can see how I could possibly get burnt out if I consumed a ton of the stuff, I enjoy the flavor of them thus far. I also found the texture to be very intriguing. The BLOKS are easy for me to chew thoroughly into smaller bits and swallow. They do not break apart into ragged pieces or get stuck in my teeth, which is actually sort of what I expected to happen. Another plus for the SHOT BLOKS is the lack of a strong and lasting aftertaste. Overall, I'd say they go down smooth and easy from taste to tummy.

Putting it to the Test

The CLIF SHOT BLOKS is a pretty cool product that has a lot of things going for it. My initial research seems to indicate that they have a large portion of what my body needs to sustain itself while pushing it on the trail. Furthermore, they come in a convenient and thus far easy-to-use package. Perhaps most importantly, they taste pretty good and are easy to put down. So far, so good. The only thing I've found so far that jumped out at me was a typo I noticed on the retail display box that the SHOT BLOKS came packaged in - it seems somebody left the "r" of off "Flavor". Whoops.

I will be using the SHOT BLOKS in their recommended form during the most active part of the Florida hiking season: the winter. I expect to encounter a range of temperatures, environments, and challenges and I look forward to putting the SHOT BLOKS to the test.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Locations and Conditions

The trail locations where I have been enjoying the SHOT BLOKS include day hikes in Jonathan Dickinson State Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, as well as overnight trips on the rim trail of Lake Okeechobee and the Ocala National Forest. On the dayhikes the SHOT BLOKS have been my primary snack food (along with a bag lunch). On the overnights, the BLOKS have been supplemented with the original Clif bars.

Temperatures have ranged between 33 and 80 F (0 and 27 C) over the course of the field testing period with mild precipitation on two occasions. I have been trekking through winds ranging from about 10 to 18 mph (16 and 29 km/h) which, factoring in the wind chill, has dropped temperatures as low as 23 F (-5 C). Humidity swung between 40% and 80% during the hikes.

Field Performance: The Packaging

Overall I'd say the packaging on the new SHOT BLOKS is a winner. The minimalist packaging keeps the size and weight down to barely more than the food itself and means less garbage for me to pack out of the backcountry. One of the best things about the packaging is how easy it is to actually eat from it.

I do have a gripe about the packaging that I need to mention. I really wish that the CUT HERE line was perforated so I could open it more easily. When I'm moving on the trail I want to be able to get into the packaging without having to fumble with both hands. Since I don't carry scissors on the trail, I'd need to use a knife to cut it open. Moving down the trail while trying to cut open a narrow piece of packaging with a sharp blade is a recipe for disaster in my opinion, so that's not an option for me. What I ended up doing was tearing the packages open with my teeth. I guess there really isn't anything wrong with that, but I'd much prefer tearing along a perforation with my fingers. I would think this would be an easy improvement for Clif to make.

Field Performance: The BLOKS Themselves

The BLOKS seemed to do a wonderful job of supplementing my body's needs during my hikes. I can't really measure a performance boost too much because I obviously can't rule out a placebo effect. Having said that, when I used the BLOKS as my primary source of carbohydrates on hikes I always felt as though I had plenty of energy to keep going. From this I feel confident in saying that the SHOT BLOKS supported my body very well.

The BLOKS fit very well into my routine. I'm a hungry hiker, and I tend to snack on things pretty constantly. I'd pop three of them at a time, just as Clif suggests, then take a swig of water to wash it down. The BLOKS satisfied my urge to munch very well. I'm also happy that the BLOKS didn't leave my mouth feeling dry after eating them which would cause me to drink a little too much water to counteract that. I was originally concerned that I'd grow tired of the Berry taste, which turned out to be true after several packages in a row. I really like the Mountain Berry flavor, but I would like to see some additional flavors just so I'd have some variety.

The weather conditions that I have encountered didn't seem to have too much effect on the consistency of the BLOKS, which is nice. When it was very hot and they'd been left in the sun for a bit they did become slightly more gummy but they didn't melt or become too gooey or sticky. I never had the BLOKS down below freezing, although I did have them close on a few occasions. When it was down near freezing they became a little more firm, but again they still remained easy to eat and relatively unchanged.

Final Thoughts

I like the SHOT BLOKS. I've worked them into my eating routine on the trail and will definitely continue to eat them. My favorite things about the SHOT BLOKS are the taste, the packaging, and the nutritional value. The two things I'd like to see Clif do from here are to add perforation along the CUT HERE lint to make the package easier to get into and to add some additional flavors in the same packaging for more varieties.

This concludes my Test Series on the CLIF Mountain Berry SHOT BLOKS. I'd like to thank Clif and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me the opportunity to test some great food! Happy trails!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.


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