Clif Black Cherry and Cola Shot Bloks with Caffeine
By Raymond Estrella
May 27, 2009
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Clif Bars Inc
Web site: www.clifbar.com
Product: Shot Bloks
Year manufactured: 2009
Flavor: Black Cherry & Cola
Net weight listed: 2.1 oz (60 g)
Actual weight with packaging: 2.2 oz (63 g)
Weight of each Shot Blok: 0.35 oz (10.5 g)
Caffeine per package: 100 mg
Ingredients (from packaging): Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Brown Rice Syrup Solids, Pectin, Citric Acid, Green Tea Extract, Colored with Black Carrot Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Organic Sunflower Oil, Carnauba Wax. (The Cola also contains Tumeric.)
The Clif Black Cherry and Cola Shot Bloks (hereafter referred to as the Shot Bloks) are roughly ¾ in (1.9 cm) cubes of gelatin-like electrolyte chews. The consistency is kind of like a Gummy Bear but softer. They come in a ¾ in x 6 in (2 x 15 cm) tube that contains six Bloks stacked on top of each other. The front of the package differs from most of Clif's Shot Blok packages as it has a round white notice in the corner that has a silhouetted coffee cup with a "1" in it. This is to designate that these two flavors will give the equivalent of one cup of coffee per package.
This is because what sets this flavor apart from the others is the addition 17 mg of caffeine in each Blok, or 100 mg of wake-wake medicine per package.
They are shiny, almost wet looking, but are only slightly oily feeling when touched. They are a bit sticky, the Cola more so than the Black Cherry, and leave a residual stickiness on my fingers. Even though they have no honey in them, the Cola flavor smells a lot like honey to me, with just a hint of cola. The Black Cherry smells just like its name.
The taste of the Cola (seen above) even conveys honey to my taste buds as I first put one in my mouth. Then I notice the subtle cola flavor and sweetness that is tempered by the tang of the sodium and I suppose the caffeine, which I would assume gives some bitterness.
The Black Cherry (seen below) is sweeter tasting up front but has a lingering bitterness in the aftertaste.
Instead of honey though it is rice syrup that is the main ingredient of the Shot Bloks. This high carbohydrate sweetener is used by many endurance athletes in the form of gel packs because of its ability to provide both instant-use carbs (energy) and some longer lasting effects. The actual time that the rice syrup will provide carbohydrates to the body is two to three hours.
They also give an instant contribution of carbs from the organic evaporated cane juice that is the next highest volume ingredient. This is better known as Turbinado, or "raw" sugar, the tan colored large crystal sugar found in the light brown packages at Starbucks.
Six Shot Bloks are inside each package. According to the nutritional information on the package three Bloks constitute a single serving. As the serving size is 100 calories this means that each Blok is 33 calories, and the entire package will provide 200 calories. To give some comparison, a peppermint twist hard candy (carried by many hikers, me included) has 25 calories each. But as it all comes from refined sugar it will be used within minutes by the body and can result in a "sugar crash" if too many carbs come from that type of source at once.
Each package gives 48 grams of carbohydrates, and no protein or fat.
As they are an electrolyte chew, each serving delivers 70 mg of sodium, or 140 mg per package. The most well known name in electrolyte replacement drinks has 110 mg per serving, and 440 mg in an entire quart (liter) bottle.
The Shot Bloks also contribute 20 mg of potassium per serving. While good, this is not that high in my experience with other products. I really believe in the contributions of potassium as it helps with cramping in hot weather or high activity levels and I would like to see this higher if possible in future formulations.
As most of my food reviews bear out, I am very interested in natural products. Almost all the bars I use are raw and organic. So it was of interest to me to read this on Clif's web site.
"CLIF SHOT BLOKS chews are the first product in the SHOT line to be USDA certified organic, which means that each flavor contains a minimum of 95% Organic ingredients. We strive to use the most sustainable ingredients possible in our products. The environmental benefits of buying organic ingredients for our products have a direct positive impact on the air and water quality on this planet. CLIF SHOT BLOKS chews are USDA certified organic by Quality Assurance International (QAI)."
I know a lot of other people that share my desire for healthy nutritional choices and figure some of our readers would like to be made aware of it too.
Here are the backpacking trips I have eaten the caffeinated Shot Bloks during:
Jenn and I took them on a backpacking trip to San Mateo Wilderness in Cleveland National Forest. We did a 9 mile (14.5 km) first day with an all up-hill 3.5 mile (5.6 km) hike back the next day. It hit 75 F (24 C) for a high but felt hotter in the sun, and got down to a chilly 28 F (-2 C) at night. High elevation was 2000 ft (610 m) with a total of 1300 ft (400 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Next I did a winter trip to San Jacinto State Park. I went to Tamarack by way of Round Valley. It snowed on me as I set up my tent. It was 19 F (-7 C) when I finished dinner at 6:00 PM. The temp had dropped to 17 F (-8 C) by 9:30 PM, the last time I checked as it started snowing again at 11:00 PM and I did not want to go out to where I had the thermometer hanging on my trekking pole. (I know, wimp!)
Then Jenn and I went to Agua Bonita Spring in the Santa Rosa Mountains. This was a very hot hike that dropped from high desert to low desert. Highs of 75 F and got down to 33 F at night (24 to 1 C). We went 21 miles (34 km) with 2950 ft (900 m) of gain and loss.
I brought some them on an easy 5 mile (8 km) out-and-back overnighter in the Angeles National Forest near Lake Hughes. I stayed at 4000 ft (1220 m) elevation. The low temp was 26 F (-3 C).
Then Jenn and I both had them along for four days of assorted approach hiking, climbing and day-hiking in Red Rocks Nevada and Zion National Park in Utah. Our first day was rained out and got very cold but the next three days were great. Temps ranged from 40 to 72 F with elevations from 3600 ft to almost 6000 ft (1100 - 1800 m). Winds were constant, but mild except for the first day when they were very strong.
I also munched them on a 30 mi (48 km) three-day backpacking trip to San Jacinto State Park and San Jacinto National Wilderness that saw 8800 ft (2682 m) of elevation gain over trails that ranged from dirt and sand (decomposed granite), exposed granite and packed snow up to three ft (1 m) deep. It was extremely cold for a late April trip with temps from 44 down to 24 F (7 to -4 C) and winds to 20 mph (32 km/h).
Next they were consumed on an over-nighter in the San Gorgonio Wilderness by way of the Momyer Creek Trail. Forecast was rain turning to snow. I set up camp at Saxton. Starting pack weight including a bear canister and winter gear was 33 lb (15 kg). I did 15.5 mi (25 km) with 5260 ft (1600 m) of gain. Temps ranged from 39 F to 55 F (4 to 13 C).
Then I had them on a two day trip to Maplewood State Park to pre-scout sites for this summers' hiking with the kids. The trails were free of snow but quite wet and muddy in spots. I walked 12 mi (19 km) with a starting pack weight of 21 lb (9.5 kg). The temps ranged from 34 to 45 F (1 to 7 C).
Last was the big trip. I took a bunch with me on a four-day trip (three hiking) to the Hetch Hetchy region of Yosemite National Park. The coldest it got was 35 F (2 C) with highs to 80 F (27 C). The elevations ranged from 3800 to 8400 ft (1160 to 2560 m) with trails that were mostly rock with a bit of packed dirt, and some marshy, muddy spots. There was a lot of water on the trails. I did 46 mi (74 km) with over 10,800 ft (3300 m) of gain.
There have also been many day-hikes over the past four months that I took a pack to start off with on the trail.
I was introduced to these by my wife who gave me a couple packs of the Cola because she could not stand the flavor. As she did not care for the Margarita flavor (which I really like and reviewed) it came as no surprise that I liked the Cola too. What was a surprise was reading that they contained caffeine.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
I would like to say that in my pursuit of healthy living I have learned to forgo all sources of caffeine. And I even tried to once. It did not work too well. But I have cut it down to just morning use. In the coldest months of the year I have coffee in the morning and during the other nine months I start off my day with a big Diet Pepsi for my kick-start.
Even when hiking I like my caffeine. I stopped making coffee when I switched to a no-cook style for breakfasts and lunches back in 2004. To get my fix I take chocolate-covered coffee beans, eating about four or five each morning. While this works well in cold or mild weather, it can be a mess in hot weather when they melt together.
When I saw these caffeine added Shot Blok flavors I decided to do a long term review of them to see how they work out for me.
It should be noted that Clif does make another caffeine added flavor, Orange, but as it has half the caffeine of the flavors here I chose not to use it. I mean the whole point is more caffeine right? RIGHT?! Whoa, I better cut back for the rest of the day…
As mentioned before my wife does not care for the Cola flavor. I like the Cola a lot and have taken that flavor two or three to one over Black Cherry, which Jenn loves. Just goes to show how every set of taste buds are different.
The actual cola flavor is pretty subdued. I wish they would boost it a bit. Maybe because I have diet cola in the morning for most the year I associate it with caffeine and am more receptive.
The Black Cherry is much stronger flavored. It tastes and smells completely of cherry. It also seems sweeter to me as I chew it. Yet once finished it has a bitter aftertaste that I guess is from the Green Tea Extract, which is where the caffeine comes from. I do not pick this up in the Cola, or maybe I should say that if present it does not come across negativly to my taste buds.
When I wrote my review of the Margarita flavor Bloks they still came in a bag, not the new tubular packaging. I like the new style much better.
The tubes have a printed "cut here" at one end. While there is not a notch to facilitate tearing the package open I have had good success by holding the package in one hand and grabbing the sealed, crimped end between my teeth. A twisting pull usually results in the entire top popping off. Occasionally it does not tear cleanly and I have to stop and use two hands to finish opening the package. I would say that over the past four months I have had a 90% tear success rate. The inclusion of a slightly weakened area, like an indented line, would make it even easier to open.
Once opened the individual Bloks may be pushed out of the tube by squeezing the side of the package and squirting a Blok out, as may be seen to the right. As I eat the Shot Bloks as I am hiking I like this much better than the old bags. I keep the tube in my pocket where its length makes it easy to grab as it stays near the top of my pocket. A quick squeeze to work a Blok to the top, and a pop in my mouth and I am happily chewing as I slip the package back into my pocket.
The way that I have been using the caffeinated Shot Bloks is to have one package as soon as I start hiking in the morning. I eat a bar of some kind as I am breaking camp and loading my pack. Then once under way I open the Shot Bloks and eat them over the course of 30 minutes or so. I have a second package between 9:00 and 10:00 am, then a bar for lunch around noon.
I have not missed my coffee beans. And I know that the Shot Bloks are working because I do not get the headache that I normally do when deprived of caffeine. So they truly are a coffee (or tea) substitute for me.
Because the Shot Bloks provide electrolytes too I have not been bringing as much powdered electrolyte drink mix on my trips. In fact I have cut it in half, bringing only two servings per day as opposed to three or four like I normally do.
I like the carbs provided too. By spreading the Bloks out I get a pretty good, steady caloric boost and burn with them.
The Shot Bloks handle weather quite well. As I am in snow and cold quite a bit many mornings my Bloks were quite hard but never frozen stiff. They were always pliable, although the first one could take a bit of extra chewing. After that they warmed up quickly in my pocket. On the hot weather trips they soften quite a bit from heat but never melt or get too gooey. In Yosemite they all got very hot as I left my bear canister out in the sun as I went on a side-trip hike for the day. I did not open one of the very soft tubes but the next morning when I did take two more packs out they were fine.
All in all I like the caffeine-boosted Bloks. As mentioned earlier I take the Cola much more than the Black Cherry. Now if Clif wants a really happy hiker in Ray, they will make a caffeine added Margarita version. Caffeine and extra salt, sweet! (Wait, that would be not sweet, huh? But it would still be sweet, ah, I mean, great!)
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella