With new backpacking foods popping up on the market everywhere these days, a crew of long distance hikers and I wanted to test out some new flavors and varieties before outdoor season gets into full swing.
As big time foodies who also love backpacking, we were stoked to discover a relatively new company on the market, Good to Go, which calls itself a gourmet backpacking food—and for good reason! Founded by Iron Chef winner (and longtime owner of NY Times 4 star rated restaurant Annissa in NYC), Jennifer Scism, Good to Go is a new pre-packaged backpacking dinner that first appeared at Summer OR and is quickly hitting the shelves of specialty outfitters.
I had the chance to try a few bites of Good to Go at Winter OR—and was blown away by the restaurant quality flavor. But how would food prepared by a top chef perform in the backcountry when faced by a crew of hungry hikers? We took Good to Go on a three day backpacking trip in Great Sand Dunes National Park and the foothills of the Sangre to Cristo Range in Colorado to test our Good to Go’s flavors—Herbed Mushroom Risotto, Classic Marinara with Penne, Thai Curry, and Smoked Three Bean Chili.
I bring you a trip report told in the story of four meals. The abridged version is that while hikers generally enjoy eating, on a cold and wet trip, Good to Go raised our spirits and made the being outdoors experience even more beautiful.
Dinner: Smoked Three Bean Chili
As the chef at any American Long Distance Hiking Association West Gathering can tell you, long distances hikers have an appetite bigger than a college freshman football team. Yet, after spending the day walking as far as the eye could see climbing dunes, we still found the Good to Go portions if anything, generous. Unlike many other backpacking food companies, one container=one generous meal for one person. If you’re hiking with two, bring one for each of you.
As we watched the storm roll in, we cooked up the Smoked Three Bean Chili. The meal was light in salt, but big on flavor. We loved the smokiness of the paprika mixed with the ancho chili powder. After getting pelted by wind and sand all day and not seeing a soul around, having a warm, gourmet meal really hit the spot and added to the epic-ness of our adventure.
Breakfast: Classic Marinara with Penne
So, it was harsh night out in the Dunes. Despite our efforts to find a wind-free spot, gusts of sand spit into our sleeping faces, we got snowed on, and one of our crew got lost in the Dunes doing some night photography.
We needed a breakfast pick me up. BAD. So we cooked up the Classic Marinara with Penne. As with all the Good to Go Meals, prep is simple enough it can be done when the brain is still in a pre-coffee state. We simply boiled up so water, tossed it in the pouch, and sealed it, and waited 20 minutes—enough time to get some coffee brewing!
I’m a big sucker for marinara—especially while backpacking. It’s a classic flavor, and one that is often botched in the backcountry. Good to Go’s marinara was spot on and I could just hear my Italian friends saying that it was like being back in their grandmother’s kitchen. Except not. We were in the middle of a Sand Dune getting snowed on.
Dinner: Herbed Mushroom Risotto
By 10 am, the weather had turned, and soon the snow was coming down hard. Temperatures and visibility dropped. It was snowing so hard, that we decided not to hike on in the afternoon. Luckily, we got out tents up in a relative break in the snow, and were able to hike around basecamp and enjoy the beauty of the snow for a few hours. But by dinner time, we were cold, wet, and ready for something to warm us from the inside out and give us the energy to keep our bodies toasty though the cold night ahead.
I’m always a big fan of risotto, and Good to Go’s cremini mushroom, garlic, white wine, walnut, and basil seemed rich enough to keep me snug all night. Amazingly, Good to Go actually uses Arborio rice like a true risotto, not like the mock risottos made of instant rice that I see in other backpacking foods and that I make myself. Good to Go Foods are all dehydrated, so they take a little longer to soak in boiling water than backpacking goods that are freeze dried and won’t work for those who go stoveless. If you’re impatient like me, or at altitude (water boils at a lower temperature at altitude, so backpacking dinners soaked at high altitude will take more soaking time), you can always stick your food in your pot and cook it for 5 minutes.
I’m not sure how they were able to turn Arborio rice into something that would rehydrate in the backcountry, but the result was creamy and hearty and just want our cold and wet crew needed.
Dinner: Thai Curry
After staying surprisingly comfortably warm all night (with only a heavy snow-covered branch falling right by our tent to disturb the night) we packed up our wet tents and headed out. We enjoyed a relatively warm and dry day watching the foot of snow melt and evaporate. To celebrate how we’d been able to make the best of the weekend—regardless of the weather—I cracked into the Thai Curry, which I knew from the beginning was going to be my favorite flavor of the four.
It’s filled with tons of veggies—green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. But the best part is the flavorful sauce of coconut milk, but also spices you never see in other backpacking foods– Kaffir lime, cardamom, tamarind, and lemongrass. That night, I went home but could only think of the months I spend each year hiking in remote places that don’t have ethnic food restaurants. How even tastier this meal would have tasted then!
In conclusion, Good to Go offers high quality ingredients (in fact—all pronounceable) in a gourmet style dehydrated backpacking food. You can check out their flavors and where you can get them at Good to Go. While some long distance hikers may find the food too gourmet (and pricey) to eat for every meal, it is the perfect treat for special trips such as the time you have to take your food picky mom out on her first backpacking trip, a hiking trip with a hot date you’re trying to impress, or the really hard part of the your long distance hike when you’re going to want a big pick me up.
Flavors: Thai Curry (380 calories per 3.8 oz), Smoked Three Bean Chili (vegetarian, 340 calories per 3.5 oz), Herbed Mushroom Risotto (410 calories per 3.5 oz), Classic Marinara with Penne (460 calories for 3.5 oz)