Backpacker's Pantry and the Search for Paleo-Friendly Backpacking Meals

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Ground beef and mixed veggies all ready to go. Yum!
There are few things better than sitting down for a hot meal in the middle of the woods after a long day of hiking. Though I've found a number of snacks that allow me to keep my generally Paleo* eating habits in tact on the trail, when it comes to full meals on backpacking trips, finding options has been a challenge. Nuts, seeds, and beef jerky are good to munch on, but aren't enough to get me through an extended trip. When Backpacker's Pantry asked me to test some of their dehydrated backpacking meals, I mentioned my struggle to find Paleo-friendly options and they had a few solutions in mind.

To start, what exactly does "Paleo" mean?* There are slightly different definitions of what eating according to the Paleo lifestyle involves, but the most well-known Paleo prescriptions recommend we primarily eat high quality grass fed, humanely raised lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats like avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil and more. The same recommendation includes avoiding processed foods with ingredients we can't pronounce, grains (including rice and corn), legumes (including soy), added sugars, alcohol, and dairy products.

The "before" picture - ground beef and Sicilian mixed veggies.
How does the Paleo prescription translate to backpacking food? Ideally, I'd carry fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes, eggs and lean meats on the trail with me. But unless you're car camping with a cooler, that's not a practical option. Neither is surviving on beef jerky and nuts for multiple days. (Unless it's an emergency, of course!)  In the past, I'd try my best to avoid eating things I know don't agree with me like large quantities of grains and legumes, but would accept that I'd have to make do for a few days if I wanted to use dehydrated meals. As it turns out, I don't have to. Backpacker's Pantry sent me a complete dinner consisting of freeze dried cooked beef, organic olive oil, Sicilian mixed vegetables, and freeze dried strawberries for dessert.

For breakfast, I tried the organic scrambled eggs and was absolutely blown away. In the past, the dehydrated eggs I've tried had the texture and flavor of an old sponge. These eggs looked, smelled and tasted like the scrambled eggs I'd make in my kitchen at home. Preparation involved adding 1/4 cup of water to the powdered yellow mixture, stirring, then adding another 1/4 cup of water, which I did with a fork. The instructions suggest that after the mixture is ready, the eggs should be prepared in a greased pan. Luckily, Backpacker's Pantry has little olive oil packets that are perfect to take on the trail. It's a little more work than I normally put in to backpacking breakfasts, but I'm willing to do it for eggs that taste like home.

Looks like dinner to me!
When I opened the freeze dried cooked beef bag for dinner, I was surprised to find the meat in small cubes. It wasn't aesthetically appealing, but as soon as I added warm water, it smelled like I'd turned on the grill on a summer evening. Delicious. The preparation instructions for the beef didn't specify water temperature, but as I planned to eat the beef warm, I figured warm water would be best. I drained the extra water after five minutes (I'm impatient when I'm hungry), took a taste and was amazed at how delicious it was on its own - like ground beef I'd make at home. I could easily see the dehydrated ground beef becoming a backpacking staple for me.

I was equally impressed with the Sicilian mixed vegetables and will definitely eat them again. Following the preparation instructions involved a 13 minute wait, but I found them ready in seven. They didn't taste or have the texture of dehydrated food, and paired with the beef, I had a great dinner. Unfortunately, the mixed vegetables, which contain corn, aren't 100% Paleo. If you're strict Paleo, you'll need a different combination of veggies like diced carrots and peas.

Based on the taste tests, you can bet I'll be bringing all three of these dehydrated delicacies with me on my next trip. Well done, Backpacker's Pantry. Well done.

What are some of your backpacking food favorites? Have you tried any of these? How do you feel about dehydrated meals?

*The Paleo lifestyle isn't for everyone and I didn't adopt Paleo principles without doing some serious research. The way I choose to eat is a result of a lot of reading, experimenting, and paying close attention to how what I eat and drink makes me feel. If you're interested in learning more about the science behind these recommendations, pick up a copy of The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet and It Starts with Food.

3 comments :

Heather Balogh said...

I was pretty impressed with their food in Alaska too! There were a few meals that I didn't love but overall, I thought they were tasty. I even told Will I was gonna buy a dozen bags of the dessert, cook 'em up, and dump them in a baking dish to try to trick him into thinking I made him something special :)

Dawn said...

Great article! I wanted to share a website that sells ready made freeze-dried Paleo meals. I hope this information is helpful to all of your readers.
www.PaleoMealsToGo.com

dawn said...

Check out www.PaleoMealsToGo.com