The standard cost of  lunch at a fast food restaurant these days seems to be about $5, so to kick things off for our week of trail foods, Trent and I thought we’d take a look at trail lunches for $5 or less. From my experience with trail eating, it’s important to consider your the purpose of your meal – backcountry lunches, for example, shouldn’t be too heavy but should provide you with the energy you need to get through the rest of the day. Each option we selected for today does just that… well, mostly.

On the menu for day 1 was Louisiana Red Beans & Rice from Backpacker’s Pantry as well as Trail Food’s Tuscan Alfredo Rotini, Veggie Pizza Pasta and for desert, Bananas Foster Bread Pudding. Trail Foods provided far more options than Backpacker’s Pantry when it comes to meals at this price and the reason has a lot to do with serving size. On average, Backpacker’s Pantry meals make two servings per packet while Trail Foods only makes one. In terms of calories, the Louisiana Red Beans provides 180-200 more than the Trail Foods options.

We fired up the jetboil and got started with some Red Beans & Rice.
We fired up the jetboil and got started with some Red Beans & Rice.

Meal 1: Louisiana Red Beans & Rice

The Louisiana Red Beans & Rice was a great place to start our week. It’s a simple meal that everyone has had in some form or another. As mentioned above, Backpacker’s Pantry packs two servings of food into this pouch for $3.99.  It re-hydrated well and was ready to eat in about 15 minutes. After some vigorous stirring to make sure the spices were appropriately portioned, it was time to eat.

Joseph’s Review: I like my food spicy, and while this had a tiny kick to it I wasn’t that impressed by the heat. Overall the taste was great and it did have quite a bit of seasoning on it to give it plenty of flavor. I definitely would eat this one again, especially at such a great price!

Trent’s Review: Plenty of classic southern flavors in this hearty meal. No one you can go wrong with this one. Definitely a staple in my trail foods pantry.

ProTip: Backpacker’s Pantry Meals offer 2 servings – but that doesn’t mean they’ll fill two people up. Serve this one as a midday snack for 3-4 people or pair with half of a banana and share between two. Eating it solo is always an option, but you better be hungry!

Veggie Pizza Pasta or Pasta Marinara?
What do you think: Veggie Pizza Pasta or Pasta Marinara?

Meal 2 & 3: Tuscan Alfredo Rotini & Veggie Pizza Pasta

Pasta is another very standard trail meal as the noodles cook the same on the trail as they do in the kitchen (depending on your altitude, of course). Trail Foods categorize their meals as Prepare, Perform, Recover or Enjoy Your Day – both of the meals we sampled were labelled as Perform, which means they’re intended to be a lunch or snack and are infused with electrolytes to keep you energized during long periods of activity.

This was our first time eating a meal from Trail Foods and we quickly noticed a difference on the nutrition facts between these pouches and the Louisiana Red Beans & Rice from Backpacker’s Pantry – the list of Vitamins & Minerals was about five times longer on both of the pasta options! While this might not affect every camper or hiker’s decision, this does mean Trail Food meals might have an edge when it comes to energizing you for vigorous activity.

These single serving pouches were both ready in about 10 minutes using the Jetboil and were easily identifiable when we served them up into our bowls.

The Trail Foods Alfredo Tuscan Rotini
The Trail Foods Alfredo Tuscan Rotini

Joseph’s Review: Of the two, I preferred the Veggie Pizza Pasta, which could just as easily be called Pasta Marinara. It claims to use a spicy sauce, but I wouldn’t say it had a kick at all. Overall, it was right on for a simple yet typical pasta with a tomato based sauce. The Tuscan Alfredo Rotini looked a bit more creamy and was heavier, though I wouldn’t say it was much heavier of a meal than the Veggie Pizza Pasta. In my opinion, two were actually quite similar aside from the difference in sauces. The one kicker for me was the basil flakes in the Rotini, I just wasn’t a fan.

Trent’s Review: I enjoyed the Tuscan Alfredo Rotini over the Veggie Pizza Pasta. The sauce was creamy and the flavors were instantly recognizable. Definitely a solid choice in my book. As far as the Veggie Pizza Pasta goes, I felt like it was a little bland and indistinct but it wasn’t bad at all. I would take this one along to mix my meals up if I’m on the trail for a while.

Enjoy your day with some Bananas Foster Bread Pudding from Trail Foods.
Enjoy your day with some Bananas Foster Bread Pudding from Trail Foods.

Meal 4: Banana Fosters Bread Pudding

Remember when I said almost all of our meals would be tuned to energize you midday for some outdoor activity? This meal came to us from Trail Food’s new Enjoy Your Day line of meals and actually isn’t yet available at directly (though you are certainly able to put in a special order for it!). Unlike the Pastas which belong to the Perform line of meals, this pudding is meant to help you, for lack of a better phrase, enjoy your day! A quick look on the packaging shows it’s not packed full of the same electrolytes, vitamins and minerals as the two previous meals.

This was the quickest of the meals to cook up and was ready in less than 5 minutes! See more about the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding from Trail Foods’ website.

Joseph’s Review: The pudding was a nice meal to end our day with, I mean, it’s pudding! Great dessert even though it’s not the most appetizing looking food in the world.

Trent’s Review: Not much to look at but a nice treat. The flavors weren’t very distinct but overall this bread pudding was very sweet and tasty.

Blind Taste Test Factoid: Four out of of five ACK employees were given this meal in a blind taste test and thought it was apple cobbler. The fifth thought it was peach although they all enjoyed it just the same.

Grab One Of Our Backcountry Lunches and Hit the Trail!

Enjoying some lunch on top of a rock & wood structure out on the trail.
Joseph enjoying some lunch on top of a rock & wood structure out on the trail.

It only costs $5 to try one of these backcountry lunches yourself so what are you waiting for? Give them a try and have some fun outside – you can eat them just about anywhere!

Our first four meals of the week are done and have to say we had a lot of fun. Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post when Trent and I take a look at some 2 Serving Dinner Options from Backpacker’s Pantry. Comment below if you have any questions or comments about today’s meal reviews!