Friday, May 3, 2019

Review: Packit Gourmet

Camping at Moose Lake in Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

There are few things more important than getting the right nutrition in the backcountry. On Denali, we like to say that you "eat and drink your way up the mountain" — in short, nutrition and hydration are key to taking care of yourself, especially at altitude. But with food, you run into the same problems you often run into with other gear: what matters the most to you, comfort or weight? With Packit Gourmet, you don't have to make tradeoffs because you get delicious, packable and fairly lightweight (though not "ultralight") meals.

Packit Gourmet was kind enough to send me a set of breakfast, lunch and dinner foods to test, which I and a friend tested on an overnight backpacking trip to Echo Lake in the Sierra Nevada, another overnight to Kennedy Meadows in the Sierra, an 8-day, off-trail backpacking trip in Sequoia and Kings Canyon and again on an overnight skiing and camping trip outside of Lake Tahoe.

Packing for an 8-day trip in Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Packit Gourmet is a small, family-owned company based outside of Austin in the Texas Hill Country. Their meals are hand-mixed and made in small batches. The meals are composed primarily of dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients and are shelf-stable. While some meals are more involved, many you can cook by adding boiled water and then heating in an insulated "Cook-in-Bag" you can get from Packit Gourmet.

The thing that stands out the most to me about the food from Packit Gourmet is how delicious it is. It tastes far better than anything I've ever had from Mountain House or Backpacker's Pantry. The meals are clearly created with care — their "Austintacious Tortilla Soup", for example, comes with dehydrated lime and a packet of hot sauce to add — and the higher-quality ingredients are reflected in the taste. Apart from the "Austintacious Tortilla Soup," for dinners I also tested "Dottie's Chicken and Dumplings," "Texas State Fair Chilli", "Ramen Rescue" (which you add to regular Ramen), "Shepherd's Cottage Pie" and "The 'Big Easy' Cajun Gumbo." Each one was a winner and filling after a long day in the backcountry.

Packit Gourmet also has an array of breakfast and lunch options. While I didn't try the breakfast smoothies, my friend reported general deliciousness, though you need to be sure to pack your own straw. For lunches, we tried both the "Many Beans Salad" and the "Kickin' Chicken Hot Wings Wrap" and they were great. The lunch portions were incredibly filling, and even when splitting a lunch we still often had leftovers. Be sure to check the directions because sometimes you need to pack additional ingredients — for the wrap, for example, Packit Gourmet sends you the filling but you have to pack your own tortillas.

Getting lunch ready.

These meals are quite packable for mountain adventures. For our 8-day trip, we were able to pack enough food for two people in two large bear canisters. Because of the number of steps and spice packets involved in each of the meals, I wouldn't pack these for a gnarly bivy in storm conditions but would pack them for just about everything else.

On both weight and price, they are comparable to meals offered by Backpacker's Pantry and Mountain House, only way more delicious. Most breakfasts are $6-8, lunches are $8 and dinners are $8-9. The lightest dinner that doesn't require additional ingredients (like your own tortillas) is the "Austintacious Tortilla Soup" at 3.8oz and the heaviest is the "Pasta Beef Bolognese" at 7.4oz.

If you're looking for an easy, tasty, grab-and-go meal for the mountains, I'd definitely recommend Packit Gourmet. I expect to be enjoying their meals for many years to come.

--Shelby Carpenter, former AAI Instructor and Guide, Outdoor Writer

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