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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Shar - Next Level Trail Mix > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Shar Snacks Trail Mix

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - July 24, 2018

Long Term Report - October 26, 2018

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 64
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 230 lbs (105 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

I do most of my hiking in the desert Southwest, but occasionally get up into the Pacific Northwest and my old stomping grounds in Northern Minnesota.  I am a comfort-weight guy when it comes to most gear, trying to stay as light as possible but I don't go to extremes. I normally take some mixed nuts and/or trail mix with me when backpacking for fat, fiber and fullness.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Shar Snacks
sh01
Manufacturer website
https://sharsnacks.com
Model tested
Original Mix
Year manufactured
2018
Size tested
4.5 oz (128 g)
6 packages were supplied for testing
Country of manufacture
USA
MSRP
$8.99/bag
Warranty
Not stated
Weight
4.9 oz (139 g) total weight with packaging and carabiner
Materials
Plastic packaging, almonds, pecans, pistachios, dark chocolate, cranberries, cherries, cashews, wild blueberries, coconut.
Also includes evaporated cane juice (sugar), and sunflower oil.

According to the website Shar Snacks are an organic, responsibly sourced, handcrafted snack made in Austin Texas.  The company gives 20% of profits to the Conservation Alliance.  Judging from the nutrition information on the package, it is high in calories, fat and fiber; this is not unexpected given the high nut content of the mix.  Each package contains 2.5 servings, so it is enough to share for two people.

Initial Inspection

The product comes in a fairly large plastic package with a tear-off seal and resealable opening.  The package is labeled to be vegan, gluten-free and paleo.  If this is correct, then there is no milk in the chocolate chips, i.e. it is not milk chocolate.

I live in Tucson, Arizona where it gets pretty toasty, in fact it was over 100 F (38 C) the day the product was delivered.  It's not easy to see in the photo above at left, but the chocolate chips melted against the clear plastic window.  This is why I typically avoid chocolate in my snacks, during the summer months it can be common even for candy-coated chocolate to melt and get squishy.

The presence of the carabiner and metal grommet on every pack seems like dead weight to me, and I will likely remove the carabiner before taking it on my backpacking trips.  I have invested a lot of financial resources in lightening the load in my backpack, and since the carabiner has no apparent utility it will stay at home.

Summary

This trail mix looks and sounds pretty delicious and filling. I can't wait to get out on the trail and tear into a package.

Long Term Report

Test Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance
Altitude
Weather
September 1-8, 2018
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely, Minnesota
Canoe
Our base camp was about a 12 mile (19 km) paddle from the drop-off point.  We paddled several hours each day in pursuit of fish and scenery.
About 420 ft
(128 m)
45-70 F
(7-21 C),
Sunny several days, all day rain one day
October 4-6, 2018
Long Valley campgrounds near Payson, Arizona
Arizona National Scenic Trail
1.3 miles (2.1 km)
6750-7300 ft
(2055-2225 m)
38-65 F
(3-18 C)
Sunny and clear
October 22-25, 2018 Gila Wilderness in Western New Mexico Middle Fork
24 miles (39 km) 6800-7350 ft
(2073-2240 m)
32-65 F
(0-18 C)
Rain and more rain

Boundary Waters Canoe Trip

This was an 8-day/7-night canoe expedition into the wilderness of northern Minnesota right near the Canadian border.  I took three packages of the trail mix with me and demolished them all, with some assistance from the other seven paddlers.

This stuff is dang tasty.  There is a "clean" flavor and aroma to it that I have not experienced in a trail mix before.  I don't know if it's the freshness of the ingredients, but it's a real treat.  I really like the pecans in the mix, they really add a nice crunch and flavor.  The blueberries are exceptionally flavorful - they actually taste like real blueberries.  The only issue I had with it was if I left a bag out in the sun the chocolate had a tendency to melt.  I understand the goal to have pure chocolate in the mix, but a candy-coating, like an M&M, might be prudent.

I shared the snacks with my fellow paddlers and they judged it "excellent".

Hammock Hang at Long Valley

sh03This was an annual weekend get-together of the hammock aficionados of the desert southwest held at a campsite on the Mogollon Rim just north of Payson, Arizona.  We do a bit of hiking, but the main activity is consumption of adult beverages and eating massive quantities of grilled meat.

I took a package of the Shar mix on our one hike along the Arizona National Scenic trail, descending down the Rim to an attempt at making a railroad tunnel in the last century.  I was a bit ahead of my fellow hikers, and lunchtime was nigh, so I managed to consume a half-bag of the snack mix as shown in the photo at left.  FWIW, I find that half a bag is just right for a snack, and since I typically have two snacks per day on the trail, one whole bag is perfect.


Middle Fork of the Gila

sh04I've hiked the lower sections of the Gila extensively, but never made the drive up near the headwaters at Snow Lake before.  The weather forecast was for one night of rain, but that turned into rain every night and an all-day rain on my planned big mileage day.  This hike requires constant wading across the Gila River, so I was wet all day long from mid-thigh down, and combining that with hiking in the rain and colder temperatures I skirted with hypothermia a few times and had to severely curtail my expectations for how far I would hike.  It was a hike with lots of "character-building opportunities"...

The photo at left was taken on the trail during one of the brief moments when the sun came out, in fact the sky really cleared up for a while on Wednesday.   A few hours after this picture was taken it clouded up and rained again!

It's important when I'm cold to keep well-fed, particularly with fat as opposed to just carbs.  I provisioned myself on this trip with one package of the Shar snacks per day.  I normally bring a couple of Clif bars with me for each day, but I decided to rely on the Shar trail mix.  This strategy worked out well.  I typically consumed half of a bag at my morning and afternoon rest stop.  The mix has enough variety in it that I did not get sick of eating it.

sh05I had one concern with the product on this trip: from Day One it seemed like the chocolate chips developed a "bloom" or white powdery coating.  This was noticeable at the time I opened each package, so it was not the result of the damp conditions impacting the product unless the moisture penetrated the packaging.  It didn't seem to alter the flavor or texture of the chocolate chips, just the appearance (see photo).

The other items in the mix held up perfectly - the nuts did not get rancid, the dried fruit stayed nice and soft, no issues with anything besides the chocolate.

This was a solo hike, so I didn't have the opportunity to share the snacks with anyone else.  In fact I only saw one other human being in four days!


Conclusions

I enjoyed partaking of the Shar snack mix for the last few months.  It is delicious and I felt healthy somehow eating it.  It can be hard to get fruit into the diet on the trail, and the cherries and blueberries in the mix were a welcome addition to my normal trail diet.

The weak link in the mix is the chocolate chips: they melt in the heat, and it eventually "bloomed" in the unopened package.  I guess there's a reason why so many trail mixes use M&M's or their equivalent as they don't melt and if the chocolate blooms inside the candy coating it is not visible.  I also think the mix could do with a bit lighter packaging: use a lightweight bag and lose the carabiner.  When I was carrying 3-4 bags of the stuff I thought the overall weight was a bit on the high side.


Many thanks to Shar Snacks and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

Read more gear reviews by Kurt Papke

Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Shar - Next Level Trail Mix > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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