Camp on Paleo!
One of the (many) reasons why I love my job as a Paleo Plan Nutritionist involves sampling and reviewing the rapidly evolving array of Paleo foods that are becoming available on the market. Now I know what you’re thinking…pre-made foods aren’t Paleo! While it may be true that our ancestors didn’t have pre-packaged foods, it’s also true that most of us are no longer living in caves or gathering our food from the wild. The reality is that most of us (more often than not) consume food that has been altered from it’s original form, or harvested by someone else. I for one am pretty stoked that conscientious companies are embracing the Paleo movement and concocting products that are not only Paleo-friendly, but easy to take on the go. Especially when said foods make it easier to stay Paleo when you’re camping or backpacking in the wilderness!
As an avid hiker and backpacker reigning proudly from the great Pacific Northwest, I’ve experienced my fair-share of ‘camping food’, most of it pretty bland and disappointing. Moreover, the vast majority of portable backpacking foods are loaded with nasty ingredients that I wouldn’t touch with my hiking pole. ;) Alas, since I headed down the Paleo path five years ago, I’ve relied mainly on jerky, nuts/seeds and dehydrated fruits/veggies to fuel my hiking excursions.
I was pretty excited (albeit hesitant) when the fine folks at Paleo Meals to Go (PMTG) sent me some samples of their freeze-dried Paleo meals to test out. I’ll admit that I didn’t have high expectations… I mean, how tasty can freeze-dried meat and veggies be? Well let me tell you…they can be EXTREMELY tasty and incredibly convenient and portable to boot!
Backpacking on Paleo!
Last week I went on an epic camping and backpacking adventure through the North Cascades Wilderness (in northern Washington state), taking advantage of the last warm summer weather before autumn arrives in a few days. I packed up my gear including my trusty MSR PocketStove and the Paleo Meals to Go in my beloved Osprey backpack, and hit the trail!
For dinner the first night, I prepared the Summit Savory Chicken meal by PMTG. My fiance and I ate this meal at our base camp before we headed out on our backpacking adventure. If you’ve ever gone backpacking for several days, then you know how bland foods start seeming pretty tasty as the days pass by. I wanted to test out PMTG before we started backpacking, so that my taste buds weren’t biased by starvation. :)
I was really surprised at how flavorful and filling the Summit Savory Chicken meal was! The ingredients are simple: chicken, broccoli, spinach, onions, asparagus, mushrooms, bell pepper, granulated onion and garlic. As you can see from the picture, PMTG come in a lightweight pouch that the meal can be prepared in by simply adding water!
For breakfast after spending 2 nights out in the wild, I put PMTG’s Palisade Pineapple Mango to the test. I’ve never been a fan of oatmeal, and in fact, loathed it B.P. (Before Paleo). I was pleasantly surprised by this Paleo version of oatmeal, which contains far more protein and fat than traditional oatmeals. Weighing only 4.5oz it packed easily into my backpack, while packing a TON of flavor! This delightful blend of coconut, nuts, pineapple, bananas, mango, flax, vanilla, and optional honey crystals filled me up and fueled me for a good part of the day! I only ate half of one serving (half of one pouch) and felt replete for several miles of hiking without any snacks or hunger pangs. That wouldn’t happen with regular carb-rich oatmeal, that’s for sure!
Review of Paleo Meals To Go
Overall, I give Paleo Meals To Go (PMTG) two enthusiastic thumbs up! My dad always told me to make a pro/con list to minimize bias in my thought processes, so here it is:
Pros of PMTG:
- Light and easy to pack – they weigh about ¼ pound.
- Just add water! It doesn’t get much easier than that!
- Very easy to prepare – PMTG can be prepared directly in their pouch (or in your camping pot). No messy dishes to clean after your meal when prepared in the pouch!
Fast to prepare – ready to eat within 4-6 minutes.
- Can be prepared with hot or cold water.
- Tasty! Not overly spiced.
- Spices are packaged separately. The salt and sweetener (granulated honey crystals) packets are separate for those restricting sodium or sugar in their diets.
- Long shelf life – 12 to 16 months. This may be shorter than some other freeze-dried products out there, but it’s a more than reasonable amount of time to consume a food product (in my opinion).
- Freeze-drying preserves nutrients (better than dehydrating foods via air-drying or heat-drying methods). Much of the flavor and nutrition is retained in freeze-dried foods as a result of the food being first frozen then dehydrated to remove water and oxygen, the two main factors which spoil food.
- Emergency survival food. Because of their freeze-dried nature, PMTG would make a great addition to your home emergency preparedness kit, since they require no power to prepare (simply add cold water).
Cons of PMTG:
- One serving per container. I don’t really think this is a con, but I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about PMTG so I’m putting it here! There may not be enough calories or carbs for some people to sustain hardcore, all-day hiking, but this certainly wasn’t my issue. In fact, my fiance and I shared both meals and one pouch fed us both! In any case, some folks may need to eat an entire pouch (or more) to feel satiated.
- Some may think it’s bland (but I don’t). My fiance thought the Summit Savory Chicken could have used a bit more seasoning, but I thought the flavor was spot-on. So if you’re a fan of stronger flavors, you may want to pack along an extra ziplock of your favorite seasonings to add. It tastes like what it is: chicken and vegetables with a hint of garlic and onion, which is pretty dang amazing when you’re preparing and eating it from the top of a mountain! (oops that was a pro…back to the cons).
- Looks kinda gross (but tastes delicious). I would never expect a reconstituted freeze-dried food to look anything more than mush, which is pretty much what this looks like. But seriously, it’s tastes so good…who cares what it looks like?! (Whoops! It’s another con turned pro!)
- Price. Not surprisingly, PMTG cost more than grain- and filler-based freeze-dried foods ($12.99/pouch). I for one would much rather pay a higher price for food that is high in quality and responsibly-processed, but price may be a detriment for some folks.
- Packaging. According to their website, PMTG packages are produced by the IMPAK Corporation with “Foil Kraft Lamination, a barrier material used to keep oxygen and moisture levels low.” Are there toxicity concerns? Probably not. Do I know this for sure? No. Am I concerned? Nah.
- Freeze-drying isn’t whole food. Some of the nutrition in freeze-dried foods is reduced, but as mentioned, freeze-dried maintains nutrition and flavor better than the vast majority of commercial preparation methods, so again, this really isn’t a con.
Paleo Meals To Go – My New Best Backpacking Buddy!
While I only tested out two of the tasty meals from Paleo Meals To Go, they offer a few other flavors and I can’t wait to try their Mountain Beef Stew and the Cliffside Coconut Berry. I just noticed on their website, that they’ve got a couple new meals in the works, but alas…with the rain (and hopefully soon, the snow) arriving to the great Northwest, I may just have to wait until next year to sample their new flavors. I hope this review has been helpful for you, and if camping on Paleo is in your future, then I highly recommend packin’ Paleo Meals To Go on your next adventure!