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By Diane Spicer
Paleo backpacking food incorporates all of the usual suspects of trail food you're probably familiar with:
But when you throw in the "paleo" qualifier, you've tightly restricted the ingredient list.
And you've also reduced your easy options in the backcountry.
But there's good news for paleo backpackers in this Paleo Meals To Go review.
Disclosure of Material Connection:
Hiking For Her received pouches of dehydrated food from Paleo Meals To Go, coordinated by Outdoor PR in consideration for review publication.
Update: The brand is now part of WildZora.
is no financial relationship between
Paleo Meals To Go WildZora and Hiking For Her, but as an Amazon affiliate, purchasing through that link will result in a small commission.
There is also no financial relationship between Outdoor PR and Hiking For Her.
However, I was personally motivated as a gluten free (GF) hiker to sample this paleo backpacking food. Because grain is omitted in a paleo diet, all of these meals are also GF.
As always, this review was written with you, an avid hiker, in mind.
Let's define the paleo diet before moving on.
Paleo refers to our paleolithic ancestors, the ones we don't remember but who kept the human race alive by either chasing down their food or finding it as they foraged.
If you hike on a paleo diet, you turn to these ancestral foods for your nutrients:
Here's where things get really interesting for hikers.
Grains and legumes are literally off the table.
What modifications have to be made to keep a paleo-devoted hiker fueled on a hike?
The labels on the Paleo Meals To Go paleo backpacking food will answer that question.
And as a paleo hiker, you can bid a fond farewell to dairy products and refined sugar, too.
It's a different way of approaching trail nutrition, that's for sure.
As a non-Paleo but somewhat restricted eater who also happens to log hundreds of miles on the trail each year, I was eager to read the ingredient lists and sample the nutrient density of the freeze dried food for this Paleo Meals To Go review.
It's a sad reality for some of us hikers that food can make us sick, rob us of energy, and take us off the trail to deal with gut issues.
The more restrictive the diet, the harder it is to find hiking food that works for, not against, us.
By the way, that's exactly how Paleo Meals To Go was started.
Backpackers cherish freeze dried food because it is lightweight, packs small, and is fast and easy to rehydrate.
Not sure about the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried hiking food? Read this.
Paleo Meals To Go freeze dried meals are packaged in the time honored backpacking tradition of a free standing foil pouch with a zip seal, surrounded with a paper wrapper bearing instructions and a standard nutrition label.
The company is redesigning the tall pouch pictured here into a consumer friendly wider bowl (landscape format).
The new design will be available in a few more months (it's August 2016 at the time of this writing).
Add the right amount of water to the pouch, stir, and set your time keeper.
Twelve minutes or so later, and you can chow down.
Tip: Always err on the side of more water, especially if you're not sure of your hydration status after a long hike, or are eating prior to tackling a strenuous trail.
I found that using the maximum amount of water in the recommended range gave the best rehydration results. That's important for your taste buds, because they rely upon dissolved molecules.
And not having to wait around while the beans rehydrated (because there were no beans!) was a plus.
Disclosure: In an abundance of caution, I prepared and consumed these paleo backpacking meals in the comfort of my own kitchen.
Two reasons for this:
Don't be a dingbat like me and leave the dessicant pouch in your food as you pour in the hot water.
Luckily, it didn't dissolve but things could have gone horribly wrong.
Every backpacker has her own definition of tasty.
But all of us can agree that food becomes the linchpin in a successful backpacking adventure.
If your food is bland, soggy or chemical soaked, it's going to be tough to enjoy your meals.
And when you eat less, your energy level and recovery times are impacted.
So it was a pleasant surprise to open the foil packages and be able to identify real food.
And to smell savory spices that my nose could identify instantly.
In fact, I'm willing to upgrade to a fantastic surprise.
Look at those veggies! And I wish you could take a whiff of this stew.
As a backpacker who has learned over the decades to "just make do" with convenient rehydrated food for breakfast and dinner, these meals were a revelation.
I can honestly tell you that I've never had freeze dried backpacking food quite this tasty.
In fact, while eating the Mountain Beef Stew, I couldn't keep myself from saying Yum! over and over again.
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Yes, with modifications.
Modification #1: BYOS
The seasonings are quite mild.
The salt content is low on purpose, with options to add high quality sea salt.
But here's the thing:
Backpackers sweat a lot, and along with water we lose precious electrolytes that keep big muscles going hour after hour.
So bring along extra sea salt if you find yourself concerned about the potential for electrolyte imbalances.
Personally, I really like the option of modifying the amount of salt, according to taste preferences and dietary restrictions.
Modification #2: Coconut and digestive issues
The amount of fat via coconut and nuts in the breakfast options was concerning to me, a non-Paleo hiker and someone who no longer possesses a gallbladder (where emulsifying bile is stored to help digest fat).
Palisade Pineapple Mango
Cliffside Coconut Berry
Although I enjoyed the fruit-dominated taste of these breakfast choices, my digestive system balked at the amount of saturated fat.
I suspect that if you're a Paleo hiker, your digestive system has switched over to coconut and nuts as mainstays in your diet. You might not have any problem consuming that amount of fat for breakfast.
And without getting deeply into the whole animal -vs- plant fats issue, let's just say that coconut oils (medium chain fatty acids) are more easily digested than animal fats.
But converting fat calories into energy from any source is less efficient than using carbohydrates for energy, and I could feel my body working harder than usual to process my breakfast.
To be fair, not having a gallbladder always puts me at a disadvantage when eating fat.
On the bright side, the whopping amount of dietary fiber (~60% of daily total) will fill you up and keep you regular.
And here's a different option in the Paleo Meals To Go offerings:
The Butte Cacao Banana entrée does not rely upon coconut, using lots of almonds instead (almond flour, slivers and whole almonds) along with flax to give it bulk.
Modification #3: More calories for dinner.
At the end of a long hiking day, I'm ravenous.
The "hungry as a bear" joke isn't funny when you're by yourself in the middle of bear country, but it's true.
So looking at the amount of calories for a Paleo Meals To Go dinner entrée had me a bit concerned.
The portion size was enough to fill me up right away, with lots of bulky meat and sweet potatoes, carrots and other dense food.
But my body would need more calories than this to get ready for the next day on the trail without any weight loss.
And I hate waking up at 2A from hunger pangs.
To avoid these issues, I would supplement the evening meal with some good olive oil (for satiety) and a handful of jerky.
At the risk of further infuriating the paleo community:
Half a cup of quinoa would be mighty tasty topped with this!
And if you're larger than the 5'3", 130 pound person writing this review, you'll be even more eager to consume more calories.
Maybe you could eat two packages for dinner.
If you have a nut allergy, you won't be able to enjoy some of this food.
There is a heavy reliance upon the paleo approved nuts: almonds, walnuts, and pecans.
But if you enjoy nuts, these are high quality and very tasty.
I was impressed with the short list of "real" ingredients.
If you've never looked at an ingredient list for freeze dried meals, go ahead and count the number of ingredients next time you have a chance.
If you're a long time backpacker, you already know what I'm getting at.
Many companies rely upon way too many unpronounceable and probably undigestible ingredients and chemicals in their meals.
In contrast, every ingredient listed in the Paleo Meals To Go repertoire is a recognizable food, both in name and by sight.
I was also impressed with the size and amount of the pieces of meat, vegetables and fruit. No skimping on ingredients!
For example, this Apex Fruit Snacks package had recognizable and very tasty dried fruit, including berries, mango, bananas, and pineapple.
This is how 48 grams of non-fat goodness, with 42 grams of tasty energy-producing carbohydrates in 170 calories, looks.
Warning: You're not going to want to share this snack. It's that good.
And I was blown away by the flavor of the entrées.
In the future, I will be eating this tasty food while car camping and backpacking.
I also plan to add several pouches to my disaster preparedness kits in my car and garage.
And stashing a few in my carry on bag would make a lot of sense, given the dismal track record of the airline industry lately.
One final reason to love this paleo backpacking food:
Each meal delivers a large load of vitamins and minerals per serving.
I've been a fan of two other backpacking food companies for years, and I'm here to tell you that I'm switching my dinner entrées and snacks to Paleo Meals To Go.
They gave me great flavor, real ingredients, no digestive upsets, and a fast way to satisfy my appetite.
If the price point of pre-packaged freeze dried backpacking food is a concern for you, this food will seem pricey to you.
However, your hiking trip depends upon your quality of sleep, stamina and a strong immune system.
In turn, these depend upon your nutritional status.
This food is going to give you energy, replenish your nutrient stores and make you really look forward to your meals on the trail.
What are these things worth to you?
For me, skimping on trail food just can't happen.
Instead, I make my hiking gear and outdoor clothing last as long as possible (duct tape is the greatest thing ever invented).
Then I spend my hard earned money on high quality food like this.
And I never regret it.
So hurrah for Paleo Meals To Go. They widened my gluten free healthy backpacking food choices.
I do not hesitate to recommend that you try their products. And remember, no one paid me to say this!
I'm simply delighted to share a high quality, tasty freeze dried backpacking food option with you.
You can order
Paleo Meals To Go WildZora here.
I'm pleased to have the deep satisfaction of sharing a great source of paleo backpacking food with you.
And if you're a gluten free hiker, you'll be pleased with their selection, too.
If we ever meet up on the trail, you're invited for dinner! (I'll be the one in the creatively duct taped pants.)
And now you know exactly what I'll be serving.
Paleo Backpacking Food: Paleo Meals To Go