At some point out on the trail, food just becomes fuel, and you lose count of the number of tortillas you’ve eaten. Try as we might to change it up (tortillas and tuna … peanut butter and jelly tortillas … tortillas and cream cheese …), eventually “never wanting to see a tortilla again” becomes a completely healthy and understandable mental state to find yourself in. The same goes for our old friend the bagel, and the metric ton of trail mix we’ve inhaled over the past few years. Our solution: Treat yourself every now and then to some next-level dehydrated camping meals.
We’ve been testing, tasting, and loving a wide variety of dehydrated options this year, and decided to share a few of our top picks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We also have a few of our favorite pre-packaged backpack-stable snacks to throw some extra flavor and variety in your regular camping food rotation.
Backpacker’s Pantry Granola With Blueberries, Almonds, & Milk
On some mornings you want that full spread of bacon and eggs with extra cheese, on others you want something a little lighter on your stomach. That’s why we love Backpacker’s Pantry’s take on hot cereal, which is a healthy mix of granola along with organic blueberries, coconut, and almonds, with a touch of brown sugar for sweetness. What’s most impressive about this quick and easy meal is that it still provides lasting energy with a full 620 calories per serving, thanks in part to the dehydrated butter and whole milk included in every bag. It’s also surprisingly tasty when eaten cold, which makes it a godsend out on the trail should you happen to run out of fuel for boiling water.
Heather’s Choice Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder
Heather’s Choice is an Anchorage, Alaska-based backpacking food company that specializes in energy-packed meals made from hearty ingredients. Our favorite by far is this smoked salmon chowder, which is packed to the brim with a generous helping of wild-caught sockeye salmon alongside potatoes, celery, and carrots. It’s plenty hearty enough for dinner but also makes for a decadent mid-day meal you’ll want to sit and savor. A single portion of this chowder provides a whopping 39 grams of protein and a total of 490 calories of long-lasting energy. Bonus points to Heather’s Choice for the handy measuring scale that comes on the side of every bag, so there’s no second-guessing the right amount of water mid-pour.
Good To-Go Mushroom Risotto
Good To-Go has made a name for itself by bringing gourmet flavors into the dehydrated camping meal scene. Founded by professional chef, restaurant owner, and Iron Chef winner Jennifer Scism, Good To-Go’s meal options read like the menu of a multicultural four-star restaurant and include everything from Cuban rice bowls to Korean-style Bibimbap. Our favorite right now is their Mushroom Risotto, which is a deliciously thick and creamy treat loaded down with flavor-packed cremini mushrooms and basil pesto. Good To-Go’s dehydrated camp meals typically require a little more wait time than your average meal in a bag (the risotto needs about 20 minutes, for instance), but my God is it worth the wait.
While we’re certainly thankful for fast and easy trail snacks like hard meat and cheese, jerky, and GORP (that’s good old raisins and peanuts for the uninitiated), from time to time you’ve gotta treat yourself to something special. While it can be tempting to reach for the most unhealthy snacks known to man, we’ve got a few favorites this year that spare all the refined sugar and preservatives that plague your typical outdoor fare.
Patagonia Provisions Venison Links
Since their introduction to the Hawaiian islands back in the late 1800s, axis deer populations have grown rapidly. So much so, in fact, that their numbers now seriously threaten the fragile ecosystem of native plants and animals on the islands. Lucky for us, the folks at Maui Nui Venison have made a business out of managing this invasive species through humane harvesting, and their efforts are now being supported by none other than Patagonia Provisions. The collaboration yielded these delicious smoked sausage links, which are lightly seasoned with juniper, black pepper, and mustard seed to create a snack that tastes as good as it feels to eat. If you’re looking to upgrade your standard hard meat and cheese snack options, this is by far our favorite alternative available.
Solely Organic Mango Halves
When we pick snacks for energy outdoors, calories are often the driving factor. That, and convenience. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t keep a bag of gummy worms within arms reach at all times out on the trail, which is why we’re big fans of Solely dried fruit as a sweet-tooth alternative from time to time. Their organic mango halves are our favorite option this year by far. Each serving packs about 130 calories of fast energy thanks to the mango’s natural sugar, which means you’re looking at just shy of 800 calories in every 8-ounce bag. They also pack a decent amount of potassium, so you’ll be stocking up on electrolytes while you snack to help keep muscle cramps at bay while you hike, bike, or paddle throughout the day.
If you’ve never had biltong before, you’re missing out. We like to think of it as a high-quality beef jerky alternative. Biltong is made by airdrying seasoned beef steaks, then thinly slicing each slab down into snackable sizes. It’s nitrate-free, sugar-free, and completely free from artificial ingredients as well, so it’s about as healthy as it gets for shelf-stable meat. Biltong is a little more tender than jerky, and because it’s cut from real steak slabs, each bite is a little different. Some are thick and soft, others are thin and chewy, and a handful in every bag actually has a little fat left on the edges, which is a real treat. Our favorite currently is Kalahari’s Rosemary Truffle variety, although because the flavor of the meat is really the star of the show, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
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