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Backpacking Gourmet

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If you haven’t tasted today’s new flavors of camping food, you might wan’t to grab a spoon. Things have changed and we’re asking for seconds. Here are three of our favorite heat and eat meals for any adventure.  Bon apéttit!

Eating out never tasted so good. Alpine Aire’s Leonardo Fettuccini.

Story and photos by Brandon Mathis

We were done. Smoked. Caput after a day fastpacking through a remote desert canyon system that essentially became a choose-your-own-adventure trail marathon. A massive serving of lasagna from a bag seemed out of place, but it was simply heaven sent. We’ve tried a growing list of backpacking foods and our take is they are breaking out of a mold. Marketed for emergency meals, camp, travel and just simple pack lunches, it’s worth a look at what’s out there today. Here are how things are different.

The author boiling some water for a lasagna feast in the Utah backcountry.

New Menu

Forget mac and cheese (or don’t; it’s still here and we still love it) but the rules have changed. If you can boil water you can eat lasagna, pad Thai, fettuccini Alfredo, chicken gumbo, curry and quinoa to name a few. There are even selections for every meal of the day plus dessert, dips, fruit smoothies and snacks.

Easy Options

Organic, gluten free, even vegan? You’re all set. Most dietary restrictions are easy to work with in today’s market, and the deciding factor is largely going to come down to what’s available at your local outfitter and cost. You can expect to pay anything from $6 to $12 for around 300 calories or more per serving or meal, depending on the brand. Most of the meals we like take a cup or two of boiling water. Add that to the package they come in, seal it up and do something else for 15 to 20 minutes while they rehydrate.

Who said cashew chicken isn’t great for breakfast? The advantage of tasty foods that are easy to prepare is meals become simple when you’re out on the go. You want go hungry.

Backpacker’s Pantry Chicken Cashew Curry 

These guys have been around since 1951, so they know a thing or two about freeze-dried and rehydrated foods. If you put this rice dish on a plate with chopsticks, you’d pay full price and then tip your server. Two servings at 290 calories each. Made in Colorado. $8.95

It looks good in a bowl, but we like Alpine Aire’s Leonardo Fettuccini straight out of the bag with a long handled spoon and a killer view.

Alpine Aire: Vegetarian Leonardo Fettuccine

We typically don’t go for creamy pasta dishes but 30 miles into the desert and we devour it. Savory cheese, broccoli, mushrooms and garlic-lathered noodles. This is a staple you can count on to fill you up and taste delicious. Two servings at 330 calories each. Made in the USA. $6.00

Good To-Go Pad Thai

Our favorite. This is the closest thing to gourmet dehydrated we’ve seen, and better than dishes we’ve sat down and ordered. Gluten-free and pescatarian (those who eat fish, but not meat), with a wild American shrimp sauce, it comes with the peanuts in their own little bag so they’re perfect when you add them. One serving at 460 calories. Made in Maine. $7.00

Dining out tip

These are usually tall bags. Use a long-handled spoon/spork, good for digging deep and stirring the meals to avoid un-rehydrated mouthfuls at the bottom. We like to use the stout empty zip lock container for garbage if we’re on the move.

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