Note: this article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.
Packit Gourmet started as a way to feed Debbie and Jeff Mullins’s family during outdoor adventures. They then turned their backcountry culinary skills into a family-owned and operated business. They sell backpacking meals out of their family home near Austin, TX.
Price: Meals range from $3.99 to $8.99.
Product: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, dehydrated ingredients.
Diet: They offer options for vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, dairy-optional, and gluten-conscious meals.
Food is one of a thru-hiker’s key concerns. How much, how often, and damn it had better taste good. Backpacking meals tend to have the benefit of being more calorie dense and nutritious than instant meals and Snickers bars. I’m not bashing the latter—both have their place in my food bag.
On top of their meals, Packit Gourmet also sells dehydrated ingredients to make your own trail meals. They donated eight backpacking meals and a dessert for my recent trek on the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland. I prepared them with my standard kitchen kit: MSR Windburner Stove, BIC lighter, and ate them with a long-handled spork.
Most meals are packaged in thick, food grade plastic “Cook-in-Bags™” (FDA-approved for use with boiling water). Some of their meals are meant to be cooked in a skillet or pot; those categories of meals are all clearly distinguished on their website and packaging. There is actually a lot of information on the front of the package, which I didn’t realize until I had been eating from them for a few days. A quick glance can tell you meal type, serving size, water required, cooking method, cooking time, and the meal types are color-coded.
All of the meals that I had were cooked in-bag. They also sent me a Cook-in-Cozy™, which is more or less an insulated lunch bag. You are supposed to put your meals in there while they are cooking to retain the heat. I think this is because they use more lightweight packaging than other backpacking meals. To be honest, I didn’t bring the cozy because I didn’t want to carry it on trail, and I found the meals retained their temperature well enough without it. For the nitty-gritty ultralighters in the audience, the cozy weighs 1.4 ounces.
The preparation directions are listed on each package and are easy to follow. Most are hot meals, though they offer some cold-water meals (such as the Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney). Like most backpacking meals, you have to wait ten to 20 minutes for the meal to be ready. We presoaked a few meals ahead of time to save time and fuel, which means we had to spend less time ravenously gazing at the package. Does a watched meal package ever soak?
They have a nice, spicy bite to them, which warms the belly. I don’t have a very high spice tolerance, but I found this amount of heat to be perfect. They offer a variety of meals, including basic ramen, Cajun, dumplings, and even burgers. Some meals are called BYOT (Tortilla), but you can supplement them with any carb you want. We added instant rice to some meals to stretch them out to two servings.
- Good Day Sunshine Bowl (Breakfast)
- Curry Mango Chicken Salad (Lunch – cold water)
- All American Works Burger (Dinner – hot water)
- Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney (Dinner – cold water)
I really liked the cold-water meals for lunches so that I didn’t need to bust out my stove midday. If you soak them from an earlier break, your meal will be ready to eat as soon as you stop for lunch. These would also be great choices for those who are stoveless or hiking in hot temperatures. Unlike a lot of backpacking meals I’ve tried in the past, these didn’t end up having a vaguely soupy consistency when cooked. The texture was very pleasant.
The meals come with specific condiments to add, which is a great way to customize flavor to your preference. Note: If you get a meal with a packet of “True Lime” included, don’t use the whole package. It’s very potent.
I love that they sell individual ingredients. That could be a great way to beef up instant meals, or add variety to meals you’ve grown sick of on trail. Speaking of beef, I would absolutely recommend trying out their ground beef. I had it in their All American Works Burger meal and it was possibly the best dehydrated meat I’ve ever had.
I wish the packaging retained heat slightly better. I know that is the purpose of the cozy, but I don’t really want to add such a single-use item to my kitchen kit. Most of the meal temperatures were fine, but a few of the ones that required a longer soak were less than piping hot.
Another downside to these meals is that they are not very calorie-dense, but the cost is comparable to other backpacking meal brands that hold two servings. The meals I had ranged between 360 and 500 calories. If they were either a little cheaper, or had some more food in them to make them two servings, then I think it would justify the price. I would recommend adding some oil to them (personal preference is coconut oil) to add calories and healthy fats. One of the meals did come with olive oil included. Adding tortillas to them is a good call, which could stretch a package into two servings, depending on what level of hiker huger you are experiencing.
I found Packit Gourmet’s backpacking meals to be delicious and easy to make. I am intrigued by their selling of dehydrated ingredients and might purchase them for future trips, either to make my own meals or to supplement other ones that I have bought.
Also, as fun as it may sound, I would not recommend eating Mom’s Banana Puddin’ as your only dinner after finishing a trail. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious. But I can tell you from experience that the sugar crash will hit you hard.
Disclosure: Packit Gourmet donated these meals for the purpose of review.