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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Packit Gourmet Assorted Trail Meals > Test Report by Carol Crooker

PACKIT GOURMET TRAIL MEALS
TEST SERIES BY CAROL CROOKER

INITIAL REPORT - June 14, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT - September 25, 2009

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 50
LOCATION: Phoenix, AZ
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

For the past 10 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year, usually in Arizona and the western mountains on trips that last 3 to 6 days. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). My three-season base pack weight varies from about 8 to 12 pounds (4 - 5 kg) and my winter base pack weight is about 18 pounds (8 kg). I normally use a tarp for shelter. I also packraft (backpacking that includes travel by raft) and apply the same lightweight principles I use backpacking.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Manufacturer photo.
Manufacturer: Packit Gourmet
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.packitgourmet.com/

No Cooking RequiredMSRPServingsListed Net Weight oz (g)Actual Weight oz (g)
Jump Start Fruit Smoothie$3.4913.8 (108)3.8 (108)
Italian Salami Wrap*$8.4928.5 (241)11.1 (315)
Cajun Ranch Chicken Salad$8.4926.7 (190)7.0 (198)
All-American Burger Wrap**$5.4913.9 (111)4.3 (122)
Cook-in-Bag
Dottie's Chicken and Dumplings$9.4928.0 (227)8.8 (249)
Creamy Italian Polenta$3.9913.5 (99)3.4 (96)
Calls for Steaming
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes$5.4928.7 (247)9.2 (251)
Calls for Frying
Skillet Cornbread$4.99210.0 (183)11.7 (332)
Savory Polenta Scramble***$8.49210.8 (306)11.3 (320)
Migas del Sol$7.49 26.4 (181)10.7 (303)
Calls for Making a Roux and Simmering
Nawlins YaYa Gumbo$11.49 212.2 (346)14.3 (405)

* The Italian Salami Wrap has the added weight of an optional Tool Kit (salt and pepper, wipe, and wax paper prep mat).
** The All-American Burger Wrap can be prepared with cold water or hot.
*** The Savory Polenta Scrapple also requires boiling water.


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The manufacturer allowed the testers to select their own meals for the test. I chose food that appealed to me and called for a variety of cooking methods. I am approaching the test from the perspective of an ultralight backpacker who wants to use a cook setup of minimal weight even on some of the more complex meals. If one prefers only the simplest possible meals - either no cook or add boiling water - Packit Gourmet has quite a few options, some of which can be seen in my list of meals above.

The meals are attractively packaged in stand-up zipper pouches that can withstand boiling water. Ingredients are packed separately within the pouches in their own plastic bags, and each meal has a piece of stiff paper with detailed instructions, ingredients, and nutritional information. My first impression is that these meals look fun - it'll be a bit like Christmas opening the outer pouch to see all the "presents" inside. My second impression is, "Wow, that's a lot of packaging!" (thinking about weight of course), and my third impression is, "This looks like real food."

As an example, the All-American Burger Wrap has packets with spiced ground beef, ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, and mayonnaise.

The boil-in-bags look pretty sturdy and may have secondary uses, while the paper of the instructions look like it might make good fire starting material. Since all ingredients come in their own pouches, the outer pouch could be left at home to save a little weight.

Each meal has the option of adding a free Tool Kit that contains two salt packets, two pepper packets, two biodegradable wipes or moist towelettes, and a piece of waxed paper to be used as a "prep mat." I selected this option with the Italian Salami Wrap meal just to check it out.

The net weights listed on the website are all within about 2 oz (57 g) of the actual weight except for two meals. The Italian Salami Wrap weighs 2.6 oz (74 g) extra with some (or all?) of that weight due to the added tool kit. The only meal with a listed weight that is way off is the Migas del Sol with an actual weight 4.3 oz (122 g) more than the listed weight. Most meals weighed a bit more than is listed on the web site.

When ordering, many of the meals have options like TVP (vegetarian) or pork sausage with the Creamy Italian Polenta; mild, medium or hot salsa with the Migas del Sol; and mesquite smoked, or Cajun ranch Chicken Salad.

Servings listed on the nutrition label usually (8 of the 11 meals I have) differ from the number of servings listed on the front of the package. I believe the actual number of intended servings is what is listed on the front and that is the number I used in the above table. Some math is required to calculate how many calories you are getting if you eat half of a two-serving package with the nutrition information broken down into three servings.

Packit Gourmet included the Jump Start Fruit Smoothie with a little sticky note saying it came with their compliments. Nice!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

Cooking instructions are included with each meal. They appear to be thorough and detailed. The instructions also include a quick look at what utensils and cookware will be needed and whether there is a bring-your-own option such as tortillas for the All-American Burger Wrap. There are also optional cooking methods listed in some cases, such as a cook-in-bag option.

SUMMARY

Surveying the various Packit Gourmet meals, I am eager to get on the trail and give them a try. They look delicious.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 5
Dual use for outer package.
June 22-24, Chevelon Creek on the Mogollon Rim in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
Elevation 6100 ft (1860 m)
Weather hot and often overcast with a few hours of sprinkles and light rain, temperatures from 90 - 53 F (32 - 12 C).
This was a short backpack trip along Chevelon Creek following a trail or bushwhacking where there was none.

August 17-19, over Wheeler Peak from West Fork (Red River) trailhead to Bull-of-the-Woods trailhead in the Carson National Forest just north of Taos, New Mexico.
Elevation 9600 -13,161 ft (2900 - 4011 m)
Weather mostly clear with temperatures from 80 - 41 F (27 - 5 C); breezy to windy the final half of the trip.
The trail was forested dirt trail at beginning and end, with rocky trail above treeline on both sides of Wheeler Peak - the highest point in New Mexico.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

All-American Burger Wrap
This came in a one-serving package so there was no need to repackage it. I ate it for a late dinner at the Chevelon Creek trail head. The burger can be rehydrated with cool or hot water, or cooked in a pot over low heat for 3-5 minutes. I opted for the last option since it was late, and I was hungry. The burger and additives rehydrated nicely using a quarter ounce of fuel in a Caldera Cone/AntiGravityGear stove system fitted for an 1100 ml (37 oz) titanium pot. There were a just a few bits of crunch here and there, but this did not affect the taste. The taste was spicier than I like for a burger - a peppery (black pepper) taste I believe. I like spicy food, but wanted something blander in a burger. With that said, the flavor was full and rich. I used the prep mat that I'd requested since adding the condiments to the burger got messy. I added all the condiments (mustard, mayo, ketchup, and pickle relish) and burger to a tortilla. It truly was a satisfying meal. Although the directions specify there are two wraps worth, I was able to stuff almost all of it into one 8 in (20 cm) tortilla. Two tortillas would have made the meal even more filling. I don't think the burger would have been substantial enough for me if I'd eaten it without the tortilla.
IMAGE 1
Migas del Sol scrambled egg dish.


Migas del Sol
Migas del Sol is a scrambled egg mix with crumbled tortillas. It came in a two-serving pack which I decided to split into two meals at the trail head. I needed to remove half of the egg mix and half of the corn tortilla crumbles. The resealable zipper bags made restowing the remaining halves easy. The green chili salsa I'd requested (there were three other salsa options) came in separate pouches so I didn't need to repackage it. The one difficulty was the oil. There was only one pack of oil so I used just half and repacked it as best I could with the intention of having the rest of the Migas for breakfast the next day.

I used three-quarter of an ounce of alcohol fuel to fry the Migas in a small aluminum frypan (6.25 in, 16 cm diameter). I decided I didn't need a spatula and just used a spoon. The corn tortilla crumbles get added near the end of the cooking time. They added a really good flavor to the eggs. The amount of eggs was substantial. I could have easily filled two 8 in (20 cm) tortillas but just used one and ate the leftovers out of the pan. I enjoyed the taste of the eggs and crumbles. The salsa taste was only OK. It tasted a bit too sharp to me. I would say it tasted like preservatives, but there are none in this organic salsa. Perhaps the lime juice wasn't to my liking.

Italian Salami Wrap
The Salami Wrap comes in a two-serving package and will make four tortillas worth according to the directions. I intended to split this on the trail and have the rest the next day. However, it was quite hot out and I wasn't comfortable with the salami package being open for 24-hours before eating it so I forced myself to eat the whole thing. That was too much food! One serving is indeed enough for me. Once again I used just one tortilla for each serving. I wasn't able to stuff everything in, so I ate the leftovers from the cup I rehydrated the veggies in. I either need two tortillas or one huge tortilla next time.
IMAGE 2
Italian Salami Wrap.

As you can see from the photo, there are a lot of parts to this meal. There is a pack of salami, a veggie pouch, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and a variety of condiments. In this case, I should have opened the outer pouch at home and left the condiments I didn't want there (there was yellow mustard, brown mustard, mayo and crushed red pepper). This was a very messy meal. I found myself happy that I'd brought along the Tool Kit and had a wetnap to use after eating a wrap. When I opened the mayonnaise pack a bunch of oil ran out since it had separated so I skipped the mayo.

What a tasty meal - as much flavor as something I'd get in a deli. The veggies rehydrated easily - the slices of black olives were soft but firm (be careful not to add too much water). The sun dried tomatoes tasted great and had a nice soft texture.

Nawlins YaYa Gumbo
This was the meal I was most excited about. It sounded authentic, requiring that a roux of flour and olive oil be made first. I also was excited since one description of Chevelon Creek said that it was teaming with crayfish. What could be more authentic than fresh crayfish for the gumbo? I was able to catch five crayfish and cooked and cleaned them to add to the gumbo. I was nervous about the roux since I'm not much of a cook, I know it can be burned and it takes awhile to cook. The only mishap I had in preparing the roux was that the constant stirring of the small amount of flour and oil in the bottom of my pot melted the plastic spoon I was using.
IMAGE 3
Nawlins YaYa Gumbo.

I split this two-serving meal in two at home. That required dividing four different ingredients and repackaging each for the trail.

The taste was fantastic! Making the roux really was worth it for that special flavor it added. I also added some of the supplied Tobasco sauce for a little kick. The flavor of the toastees (like sweetened croutons), was delightful. I'm looking forward to any other meals that include toastees.

I used 1 oz ( ml) of fuel total for making the roux and simmering the Gumbo.

There was a large volume of gumbo from the 2 cups (473 ml) of water used and my serving was filling, but I was still hungry within a few hours. According to the package insert, there are only 270 calories per serving of the gumbo.

I made the gumbo again on the Mt Wheeler trail. To make it as simple as possible I skipped making the roux and instead boiled the flour, oil, and water in a 600 ml (20 oz) titanium cup. I added the liquid to the gumbo mix and, after letting it sit in a cozy for 20 minutes, found it nicely cooked. A little Tabasco spiced it up, but it was still just a nice soup. I got all the same calories with this method, but the roux truly does add a unique gumbo taste.

IMAGE 4
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake.
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes
The Lava Cakes come in a two serving size, with each serving two cakes worth. I packed one-quarter of the mix (about 1/4 cup, 59 ml) for one cake. They are cooked by steaming. Packit Gourmet offers silicone muffin cups and a 2.3 oz (65 g) silicone steamer but I passed. I used a silicone mini-Bundt pan I have and rested it on rocks in the bottom of my titanium pot. I used about 0.5 oz (15 ml) of fuel to steam the cake for about 8 minutes and removed it from the heat when the cake cracked as the directions advise. I let it sit for two minutes and then enjoyed the deep, rich taste of warm chocolate. Very good!

Cajun Ranch Chicken Salad
Although this was billed as two servings, I ate it all at once for a very filling lunch. It had a very slight Cajun flavor and was slightly sweet from the cranberries - a nice bonus flavor. For my taste, it needed a bit of salt. Once again the mayonnaise in the small packets had separated but, since it was to be mixed in with the chicken, I didn't mind.

I made the chicken in the provided pouch. I added water to just below the top of the mix, but it still came out a little soupy. My fingers got oily even with the regular length serving spoon I used. A very long spoon is needed to keep fingers clean. The pouch made a nice garbage container for the messy leftovers (two mayo packets and one ranch dressing packet).

Skillet Cornbread
This cornbread had a slightly sweet, slightly cakey taste. It was good even though I prefer a more grainy cornbread texture. Half of the "2-4" serving mix filled my 6 in (15 cm) aluminum frypan and made a substantial side to my dinner. Even though I am an unskilled fryer (when I tried to flip the bread, it all fell apart), it came out tasting good.

IMAGE 6
Polenta scrapple with maple syrup.
Eat A Peach Jump-Start Fruit Smoothie
This smoothie was a free bonus from Packit Gourmet. It has a whopping 40 g of protein per serving. I drank it for breakfast on the Wheeler trip and was running on full for hours. Stirring was not enough to break up the lumps, but a good shaking in the AntiGravityGear Trail Designs Caldera Kitchen 4 cup screw lid container with cozy did the trick. The peaches still had some freeze dried crunch after 20 minutes - I'd prefer them to be softer. The taste was deliciously peachy with a powdered milk taste familiar from other protein drinks I've had.

Creamy Italian Polenta
This was easy to make - just add boiling water to the pouch and stir. I ate the polenta for lunch and enjoyed the nice warming sensation. The sausage was especially good. It tasted like fresh cooked sausage.

Dottie's Chicken and Dumplings
This was chicken soup with triangular, thick, flat noodles. I enjoyed the texture of the noodles. The soup was bland and needed some salt, possibly spices, and more fat.

Savory Polenta Scrapple Cakes with Sausage
The scrapple tasted like a spicier version of the polenta dish above. There were also real maple syrup granules to add sweetness. I added warm (not hot) water to the granules and had to stir a long time to get the mix to dissolve. The taste was authentic and I enjoyed it even though my preference is for non-sweet breakfasts. I fried three cakes and ate the rest of the scrapple straight out of the rehydrating container. The frying adds nice texture but is a step I would normally skip in order to get on the trail quicker.

NOTES ON PACKAGING

Weights:
Tool Kit 0.4 oz (11 g)
Large, medium, and small outer packages 0.4, 0.3, and 0.2 oz (11, 9, 7 g)
Large, medium, and small instruction sheets 0.2, 0.1, and 0.1 oz (6, 3, 3 g)

Discarding the outer pouch and directions saves from 0.6 to 0.3 oz (17 - 9 g) per food item which adds up quickly over a trip.

The outer packages that the Packit Gourmet food comes in can handle boiling water and are quite sturdy. The package weight adds up when carrying multiple meals so I will likely remove the outer packaging before trips unless I can find a dual use for it. On my first trip, I used one of the large size packages to gather water. It holds 6 cups (3/4 L) nicely and seals securely enough to leave it in camp for hours without spilling. Carrying the Packit Gourmet pouch allowed me to use the small mouthed Platypus 1 L bladder with a Steripen UV water purifier (which needs to be in contact with the water in order to operate but won't fit inside a Platypus). The combination saved me nearly an ounce (26 g) over a Nalgene Canteen and also added more overnight water storage capacity.

NOTES ON SERVING SIZE
Packit Gourmet has added reference photos showing serving sizes of select meals to their web site - a helpful feature.

They have also increased their selection of single serving meals - a real bonus for solo hikers.

SUMMARY

This food is as close to "real" as I've had backpacking. Some of the dishes take some extra preparation to get the best flavor (Nawlins Ya Ya Gumbo for example) but short cuts are an option. Some of the food is messy (e.g. Italian Salami Wrap).

What I like:
- A wide variety.
- Real food taste.
- Lots of ingredients to mess with (but see packaging weight below).
- I now use an outer package as my water gathering/Steripen treating container. It is quite sturdy.

What I don't like:
- Not always easy for the solo backpacker. Splitting requires a bit of work at home and may not be practical on the trail if the weather is hot and there are ingredients such as sausage that can spoil. Packit Gourmet made more meals available in single servings during the test period and apparently plans to expand the single serving choices even further in the future.

- Packaging is heavy (but outer pouches can be left at home).

CONTINUED USE

I definitely plan to continue eating Packit Gourmet food. Some dishes, like the Italian Salami Wrap, I'll save for a special treat on more leisurely trips. Others, like the Smoothies and polenta dishes, will fit into my usual minimal cooking style.

Dishes I like the most:
Eat A Peach Smoothie Jump-Start Fruit Smoothie
Creamy Italian Polenta
Italian Salami Wrap
Nawlins YaYa Gumbo

Dishes I'll likely skip:
Dottie's Chicken and Dumplings

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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