Tired of Your Milk Crate? Try the Watertrail Fishing Buddy!

Cliff from ACK Houston shares his personal perspective after replacing his milk crate with a Watertrail Fishing Buddy and using it for the past 6 months.

Cliff's kayak with a Watertrail Fishing Buddy.
Cliff’s kayak with a Watertrail Fishing Buddy.

I purchased the Watertrail Fishing Buddy w/ Rod Holders because it gave me a lot more features than the conventional milk crate that I had previously used. I was able to use it for multiple applications. The Watertrail Fishing Buddy performs very well as a food/drink cooler, which is a great tool in the Texas heat. I usually put two or three frozen water bottles in the Fishing Buddy along with the rest of my food and drinks and it does a good job keeping everything cool while I’m on the water all day.

Whenever I venture offshore, I use the Watertrail Fishing Buddy as a storage container for my tackle boxes, video cameras, and cell phone. The velcro that the Fishing Buddy uses to secure to the top part is very strong, and I trust that it won’t open up in the event that I flip over offshore. I trust the velcro’s strength enough that I store two video cameras, my wallet with my fishing license, and my cell phone in it while offshore.

Overall the Fishing Buddy is a great tool for any kayaker. The ability to pack up to six rods on it, and use the side storage pockets for anything you prefer are also big benefits of the product. I’ve used it numerous times on both the river and offshore and it has held up great, and hasn’t shown any signs of wear or tear. There’s really nothing I would change about the product even if I could, since it’s met all of my expectations so far.

See more about it for yourself here: http://www.austinkayak.com/products/3313/Watertrail-Insulated-Fishing-Buddy-Cooler-and-Tackle-Box.html

Fibers Smaller Than a Strand of Human Hair

Written by Austin Assistant Store Manager Bill Newberry

McNett Microfiber Towel
McNett Microfiber Towel

A towel might not be the first thing that comes to mind when listing out favorite paddling accessories, but it is for me. When I hit the water, I almost always have a McNett Microfiber Towel with me.

With fibers smaller than a strand of human hair, these towels are super absorbent, soft and dry faster than normal towels.  What makes them great for kayaking is that they are light and compact and they can easily fit into a Fisherman or  Chinook PFD, which I like to wear. You might want to think about re-purposing or just leaving the Mesh bag at home, the towel in its mesh bag gets a little too bulky in your PFD pocket.

But the real benefit of the McNett Microfiber Towel is the silver ions they are treated with. These ions allow the towel to stay fresh and odorless longer than a standard towel, making them a necessity for camping or multi-day kayaking trips.  They also do a great job doubling as a bandanna or a dew rag to help keep cool and protected from the sun.

The McNett Microfiber Towel comes in three sizes: medium, large and x-large. Watch the video about them below and then see more info on all three sizes here: http://www.austinkayak.com/brand/159/McNett/filters/NTV8NzY2fHxwcmljZXwwOzc5LDA7ODA=/lastFilter/55/order/priceDesc/v/12/page/1

Kayak Fishing San Marcos with Assistant Store Manager Ryan Schaper

Written by San Marcos Assistant Manager Ryan Schaper

All loaded up for a great day of kayak fishing!
All loaded up for a great day of kayak fishing!

Having the opportunity to work at an outdoor retailer like ACK gives us, the employees, many awesome opportunities to learn about and use products so that we can better understand how they work and relay that information to you, the customer. One of the biggest opportunities is what’s called a Go Play day, where we get to leave the store, office or warehouse for the day and pick up a paddle (or whatever other outdoor gear we most feel like ‘playing’ with).

For my first ever Go Play day, I decided to take a typical kayak fishing day trip down the beautiful, clear, spring-fed San Marcos River, approximately 5 ½ miles of paddling. My target species, bass. The neat thing about river bassin is you can catch 4 species of bass in one water body including: large mouth, small mouth, Guadalupe, and the occasional rock bass.

The boat that I own and use way too much is a Moken 10 standard. Not the fastest of boats but very stable, so stable in fact I stand close to 90% of the time I am fishing on it. The reason I like to stand is I can see much better, cast much farther, and, with the lures I am typically using, the hook set ratio goes way up while standing.  Other than my kayak, there are many things that I use every time I go kayak fishing but the three things I would like to showcase and are arguably the most important are my Boga grips, paddle and sunglasses.

The Boga Grips in action.
The Boga Grips in action.

Boga grips are an amazing pair of fish grips that simultaneously double as a very accurate scale. Once you get your fish on the Bogas, it will not be coming off until you hit the release. As you can see from the picture they are safer for both you and the fish. They allow you to safely handle the fish and you can easily pull it through the water, allowing the fish to regain oxygen and lost strength from your fight. Once the fish has recovered hit the release and it will swim on it way.

My paddle is also very important to me and is something I most definitely never leave home without. I own a fiberglass Shuna paddle from Werner Hooked which I choose because it has a wider blade and with the Moken being so wide it allows me to move more water, especially while standing because I am not able to get the blade as deep.  Compared to my old cheap paddle the Werner makes a world of a difference. I hear the argument often from guys stating that they would rather have a cheaper heavier paddle because they want to get more of a “workout.” That is not necessarily true; a higher end paddle makes you more efficient on the water and allows a higher cadence which provides a better workout. My Shuna has bailed me out more times than I can count. For example fishing a river you are always dealing with current and I tend to catch my bigger fish either in or very close to heavy current.  With my Werner paddle I can get in sometimes 2 to 3 more casts than I could previously with my low end paddle because I know with 2-3 swift strokes of the Shuna I can easily change the direction of my boat in preparation for going down or getting sucked into a heavy rapid.

One of my bass for the day!
One of my bass for the day!

The final pieces of equipment that I NEVER leave home without on any day of the week are my Costa Del Mar Sunglasses. I cannot stress enough the importance of good sunglasses.  I own the Black Fin frames with the 580 G green lenses.  I have the green lenses because I am predominantly fishing clear water but they are many lenses options for different water bodies.  These glasses reduce glare off the water dramatically and even allow you to see through the water! Depending on conditions I can sometimes see more than 8 feet under the water! This helps drastically because I can determine varying depths in the water and occasionally even see the fish and sight cast to them.  The biggest bass pictured here was one that I actually saw his tail sticking out from under a rock ledge 4 feet under the water, casted to him and the fight was on! The fish was over 19 inches and over 3 lbs on the Boga grips!

When the day was over I had caught and released over a dozen bass ranging from 10 to 19 inches in length and 3 different species. Overall was a great fishing day on the San Marcos River!

Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mount Makes Kayak Hunting Easy

Written by Austin Store Manager Justin Fees

The Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mount
The Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mount

Gun mounts are not just for atv’s, four wheelers and trucks…they can also be used on kayaks! Kayak hunting is a favorite pastime for many paddlers, including myself and it all starts with the gun mount. The Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mounts make it easy to carry and secure your shotgun or rifle to your kayak while you move through the water. These are basically the same design as most gun mounts for off road vehicles but have a base designed to be mounted on most any kayak or canoe.

The Good & The Bad of the Pack Rack Plus Kayak Gun Mount

I am a big fan of these mounts and have them installed on my personal kayak. I find that they make it very easy to access my firearm quickly when I’m trying to get a jump on wild game. Flexible rubber grips inside the mount that act like teeth and the locking rubber strap work in tandem to create a secure connection so I never have to worry about loosing my gun by knocking it off or flipping my kayak. These will fit most any long gun so no matter what type of game I’m after, the mounts work well. Mounting these brackets are fairly easy and are designed to fit most any application. In some cases you may have to purchase additional hardware depending on where you want to mount them.

Give kayak hunting a try!
Give kayak hunting a try!
Img Source: http://adventureonthewater.com/

The one negative I’ve experienced when using these mounts is that they sometimes get in the way when exiting my kayak. Granted, the opposite side from the mount is not affected and still easy to exit, but that means I’m constantly forced to remember which way to pull up to the bank or dock. These mounts will sit several inches off the deck of the boat so make sure you don’t get anything snagged on them, or you could end up tipping the boat over. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but it’s always a concern.

Overall I am glad to have these mounts installed on my kayak and recommend this product for the any kayak hunter. See more information about it here: http://www.austinkayak.com/products/1353/Pack-Rack-Plus-Kayak-Gun-Mounts.html

Feel Free Prostaffer Goes Offshore Kayak Fishing with the Moken 14

The Moken 14 Continues to Impress for Offshore Kayak Fishing

Feel Free Kayaks pro-staffer “Scribs” Perry submitted this report from the Florida coast, giving us another reason why the Moken 14 rocks for offshore kayak fishing. Here’s what he had to say:

Launched into the gulf in Navarre,  FL around 10:30. We had a steady north wind blowing at our backs that kept the surf knocked down. After crossing the last sandbar the swells got pretty bad. We trolled cigar minnows heading out to the snapper spot. About a mile from the launch I got a king to hit my rig. Continue reading Feel Free Prostaffer Goes Offshore Kayak Fishing with the Moken 14

Lighten the Load with the Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender From Darby

Truck Bed Extender

Extend -A- Truck Bed Extender

Darby solved an age-old question for the paddlesports fan – How can I make hauling my gear down to the water even easier? The Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender has long been one of our more popular products and there are several reasons why:

  • It is easy to use.
  • It is relatively inexpensive.
  • It makes hauling boats a lot easier.
  • And gets you down to the water faster!

With a setup that takes only a few minutes, you’ll be sliding your boats into the bed of your pickup or on the roof (with the appropriate rack and/or pad setup) and be out adventuring in no time.

In the upright position, the Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender will adjust to a roof level from 55-60 inches. As the bed extender, it will reach 50 inches out from the hitch and adjusts from 13-20 inches above the hitch. The crossbar is 48 inches wide and has two metal loops on either end, welded on to serve as tie-down points. The Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender can hold two boats at a time and fits any two inch receiver.

While we can sing its praises all we want, our customers have the final say and according to our site, the Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender is a big hit. Based on 83 reviews at the time of this post, the Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender has a 4.8 out of 5-star rating. Here’s one review that speaks to its great problem-solving skills:

This is what I should have purchased in the first place. We have 2 large kayaks, 89 lbs. @ 15 ft each which are very hard to place on the rack above the truck bed/cab, the rack I originally purchased. I would put off fishing trips because of the hardship and hassle of loading and tying down the kayak. Now with the Darby extender I simply pick up the kayak to waist height and slide it in. Then just a couple of easily attached ratchet straps and I’m done. Just as easy to unload. On top of that I can then take the extender off quickly and easily and put the 2 pieces in the truck cab for safe keeping. It goes on and off quickly and very easily. – David F.

We took it upon ourselves to make a video to show you just how easy the installation of the Extend-A-Truck Bed Extender is. Check it out!

-Trent @ ACK

Starting Off The Morning Right With Breakfast Camping Food

For our fourth day of cubicle camping, Trent and I elected to get our cooking in early and try some of the breakfast camping food options at ACK. We’ve all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that’s even more true when you’re out on the trail. A good morning meal will get you energized and prepared for a day full of outdoor adventure. Today’s menu included Trail Food’s PB & Banana Oatmeal and Granola with Bananas & Milk, and then Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal and Huevos Rancheros from Backpacker’s Pantry.

Meal 1: Granola with Bananas & Milk 

The Granola all cooked up. Nice & thick!
The Granola all cooked up. Nice & thick!

The Granola with Bananas & Milk from Backpacker’s Pantry was the biggest meal of the morning by far and costs a couple extra bucks over the other options for today. It includes vanilla, banana and milk powder – a combination of flavors I was very much looking forward to! Trent was going to have to sit this one out since he’s got a tree nut allergy… so it was all mine.

A note about allergens: Read packaging closely before buying/ eating. Both Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry will have an allergy warning on the packaging and those will also be specifically listed out on product pages at ACK.com. We didn’t expect this one to have tree nuts in it but Trent is sure glad we read the warning!

I opened it up and my first thought was that it looked a bit like the granola had some sort of sugary frosting to it, although it was really just a mixture of the banana, vanilla and milk powder. I couldn’t resist and gave it a try when it was still dry and really wouldn’t have minded eating it as it was because it tasted great! It was just the right amount of sweet and the vanilla was a great touch. I wanted to see what it was like actually cooked though, so I fired up the JetBoil and had the granola ready in about 5 minutes (2 minutes to boil water, 3 minutes to cook). One thing to note – this works with cold water too!

It had thickened up great when I opened it up which I appreciated because I prefer my granola or oatmeal on the thick side. After a few stirs I dug in while it was still hot. It was delicious, although definitely on the sweet side of the spectrum. For the flavors, I found the banana to be very subtle and the vanilla seemed to have come out more during cooking.

Meal 2 & 3: PB & Banana Oatmeal and Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal

Organic Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal from Backpacker's Pantry.
Organic Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal from Backpacker’s Pantry.

The two different oatmeals from Backpacker’s Pantry and Trail Foods were both one serving meal pouches and each cost under $5. The Trail Food’s Peanut Butter & Banana Oatmeal beat out the Backpacker’s Pantry option in terms of vitamins and minerals, although both had a good mix of carbs, protein and calories to get you fueled for the day. One thing to note though is that the Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal is an organic option and we were both interested to see how this would affect the taste – it certainly didn’t seem to effect the price all that much!

Joseph’s Review: I enjoyed the Peanut Butter & Raisin Oatmeal quite a bit. It was a very hearty meal and actually kind of reminded me of a Cliff Bar. It might’ve been that we didn’t use the right amount of water but this one turned out very thick and clumpy as you can see in the picture. The taste was still great though and I ended up eating most of this one for my breakfast. It was probably my favorite for the day. It didn’t look pretty, but this would certainly get the job done on the trail!

The PB & Banana Oatmeal
The PB & Banana Oatmeal

Trent’s Review: I went for the PB & Banana Oatmeal from Trail Foods. It came with two separate packets in addition to the oatmeal – one with peanut butter and a sugar packet. After cooking, I tried it without them and quickly elected to add them in. The sugar was a much needed touch. It had a very distinct flavor although the banana was very subtle.

We had the opposite problem with this oatmeal in that it turned out to have too much liquid, at least for my taste (I like my oatmeal thick). After pouring a bit out, it was perfect. This was my top meal for the day. It combined good flavor, consistency and was packed with a ton of goodness to prepare you for the day.

Meal 4: Huevos Rancheros

We mixed things up with our last meal of Huevos Rancheros, a common breakfast entree here in the great state of Texas. Would it translate well to a camp food form? We were determined to find out.

Unlike the other meals, the Huevos Rancheros does not cook in its pouch and requires some type of skillet to go along with your stove. This means there’s extra stuff to hike in and dishes to clean up afterwards. It does ask that you first rehydrate the beans for about 10 minutes and without the typical easy standing bottom of other pouches we had to get a little creative to keep it upright while the beans rehydrated.

Once this was done, we fired up the JetBoil and cooked us some eggs. The JetBoil is probably not the best stove to cook this meal. It suggests to slow cook the eggs but the JetBoil only has one setting and it’s not a heat you could use to slow cook something. Keeping this in mind, we served the eggs and dug in.

Joseph’s Review: It didn’t quite live up to its TexMex name and was severely lacking spice (I recommend bringing some kind of salsa if you go for this meal) but the eggs tasted like actual eggs and the veggies, cheese and spices did add a nice flavor. The one thing that didn’t turn out right was the beans, which must’ve needed some extra time to rehydrate as they were a bit crunchy. I ended up eating around them and even after all the oatmeal and granola found myself going for more and more of this meal. I would make this a certain addition to my breakfast camping food pantry IF it didn’t require the skillet. I like to keep things simple with these meals and it if can’t cook in the pouch, I probably won’t be using it.

Trent’s Review: My first thought when trying these was that it had the same texture and consistency of tofu scramble, something I had gotten very used to while I was in in the middle of my vegetarian phase. This didn’t bother me one bit, but I could see how some people might not like it. As mentioned above, I think this would’ve done better over a more controlled fire or at least by holding the skillet above your stove while you cook. I think having the extra control would’ve improved on both the eggs and the beans. Overall though, I thought it had a good blend of flavors that all complimented one another very well.

Draining Water from our PB & Banana Oatmeal.
Draining Water from our PB & Banana Oatmeal.

Too Much Water? Just Drain A Little Out!

Measuring the correct amount of water on these meals sometimes comes down to a personal preference and the amount the pouch lists on the back is just the suggestion. If you ever find that your meal comes out too watery after cooking, there’s a simple solution: drain some out! With the resealable tops, you can easily seal up most of the meal and then pour out as much water as you’d like.

We haven’t had to do this too often this week but we’ve also cut back on how much water we’ve added  compared to the suggested amount. Try a few meals and get a feel for how much water tastes best to you.

Stay tuned for tomorrow as we’ll be cooking up our final round of meals – a three course meal from Backpacker’s Pantry!


Ultimate Lightweight Camp Foods: No Stove Required

'Cooking' up some trail foods just outside the office.
‘Cooking’ up some trail foods just outside the office.

Some of the biggest reasons people turn to camp foods like the meals from Backpacker’s Pantry and Trail Foods are for their simplicity and light weight. Today, we look at four different options that go a step further by eliminating the need for a stove. Rather than using hot or boiling water, these options require only cold water, meaning you can use the same stuff you’re drinking to ‘cook’ your meal. These are your ultimate lightweight camp foods.

While these cold water meals won’t come in the same variety as the typical style of other camping food, they do provide a surprising amount of tasty options, including the four we tried today. Today’s menu consisted of two desserts from Trail Foods (Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding and Key Lime Pie) and two cold salads from Backpacker’s Pantry (Cold Pasta Salad and Cold Potato Salad). We still brought out the JetBoil Flash Stove and used it’s measuring cup to make sure we were accurate.

Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker's Pantry
Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker’s Pantry

Meals 1 & 2: Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables & Cold Potato Salad

We started with the cold salad options from Backpacker’s Pantry (that way we could end with desserts). Both are advertised as two serving lunch options and are a bit on the pricier side ($7.99) compared to our $5 backcountry lunch options from Monday. We currently stock the cold pasta salad w/ vegetables at ACK and offer the cold potato salad via special order. Similar items like a cold black bean salad and cold couscous salad can be found on our site as well.

Backpacker’s Pantry on their Cold Pasta Salad: The salad uses pre-cooked pasta that’s only partially cooked to help retain the natural nutrients. When you rehydrate them in our meal, you’re able to get the full nutritional value from the pasta and all of the other ingredients.

Backpacker's Pantry Cold Potato Salad - available via special order at ACK.com.
Backpacker’s Pantry Cold Potato Salad – available via special order at ACK.com.

The water measurements were 3/4 cups for the potato salad and 1 cup for the pasta salad. It was handy to have the measuring cup that comes along with the Jetboil Flash Stove which measures out 1 cup. The other glaring difference was that these meals took 30 minutes to ‘cook’! That’s something to keep in mind when planning an outing with these. After our half-hour waiting period, we dug in.

Joseph’s Potato Salad Review: I absolutely love potato salad but I think I’ve only ever had it refrigerated and with a mayo base. I have to say that I was really impressed with this meal and ended up eating it for my lunch today.  It was tasty! It felt like a German style dish that normally might be served as a side but had plenty of substance to fill me up as a regular lunch. I will definitely be adding this one to my trail foods pantry. I gave the pasta salad a try but Trent ended up hoarding most of it for his lunch. See what he had to say about it.

Trent’s Pasta Salad Review: I had the Pasta Salad for lunch today and am going to start with a pointer for those making it: about half way through the 30 minutes of ‘cooking’, open the pouch up and stir. I had a thin layer of noodles at the top that didn’t get the same amount of re-hydration as the noodles at the bottom. That being said, I really enjoyed this meal. It had a very wide variety of flavors compared to several of the other meals I’ve tried. This was my lunch for the day and was very filling.

Chocolate Banana Pudding, yum!
Chocolate PB Pudding. Yum!

Meals 3 & 4: Chocolate PB Pudding & Key Lime Pie

After our salads, we turned to dessert. The idea of using cold water to ‘cook’ these desserts was a little less exotic than having it cook our salad lunches because they were essentially both powdered mixes that needed thickening. A majority of the Trail Foods desserts require only cold water to cook and this Chocolate PB Pudding and Key Lime Pie were no exception.

Both of these meals are listed as part of Trail Food’s ‘Recovery’ line of meals meaning they are intended for a post adventure snack to aid in, for lack of a better word, recovery. They come packed high in protein (especially the pudding!) as part of this line.

Trail Foods Key Lime Pie
Trail Foods Key Lime Pie

Unlike the salads, these desserts were ready in about five minutes so we had them served up quick!

Joseph’s Review: Our first thought on these was that they weren’t the most appealing thing in the world to look at but hey – you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Plus, what else can pudding look like? And the Key Lime Pie was essentially a pudding. I ended up eating the majority of the Chocolate PB Pudding and have to say that it tasted great! The peanut butter came in an additional packet which I mixed in. It did get a little clumpy rather than mixing in perfectly but I don’t feel like it detracted from the taste. Overall this was a very sweet meal but not overly so with a good mix of chocolate and peanut butter flavor. This is definitely my favorite dessert so far.

Trent’s Review: I tasted the Chocolate PB Pudding first and immediately thought of the pudding that came in the kid’s frozen TV dinners I ate when I was younger. It’s not a bad taste but I’m a key lime pie fan so I went with that option. To clarify, it’s called Key Lime Pie because of the flavor and ingredients, but as you might’ve expected, the consistency is similar to the chocolate pudding. It came with an additional graham cracker crumble packet (pie crust!) which we mixed into the meal. I think next time I’ll leave it as a topping because it kind of messed with the texture. The taste was great but boy was it sweet! I had my fill of it for dessert and still had easily half the bowl left.  My recommendation would be to share this one between multiple people after your meal.

Leave No Trace – Use Your Meal Pouch To Hike Out Trash

Both Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry have designed their meal pouches be more than just packaging. They work to cook the food, eat out of and contain any trash you end up with at the end. While they don’t create much of a mess to begin with, be sure to throw away trash like the torn top and any additional plastic packing for spices or add-ins. Of course, these bags are big enough that you could probably add whatever other trash you need to out in the backcountry! Once you’ve got it all inside, just seal and store in your pack until you’re able to get to a dumpster. Remember, leave no trace!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow when we look at breakfast camp food options available at ACK!


Lunch for Under $5 – 4 Cheap Backcountry Lunches

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 ACK.com 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!



Find Some Relaxation Under The Shade of the Kelty Noah’s Tarp

Noah's Tarp on Beach - ACK
The Noah’s Tarp 9 providing some shade.

ACK Web Developer Jeremy Arntz is one of the company’s most frequent paddlers who is typically found on the water at Austin’s Lake Travis once or twice a week. Recently, he landed a new piece of gear and wanted to share his excitement about it – the Kelty Noah’s Tarp. See what he had to say:

Take Your Time And Enjoy The Outdoors With the Protection of the Kelty Noahs Tarp

It may sound weird that one of my favorite pieces of paddling gear is the Kelty Noah’s Tarp 9. However, as much as I love paddling, it’s also nice to relax near the water and to do that you need something to shelter yourself from the sun and elements. The Noah’s tarp is compact and light weight – both important factors for kayaking. When combined with a pair of Kelty Staff Poles and a cheap rubber mallet the whole kit weighs only 4 pounds and easily fits into the front hatch of my Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160 with plenty room left over for the rest of my gear. As the sun shifts during the day, only minor adjustments of the tarp are needed to maximize shade. Adding a Nite Ize Figure 9 small line tightener to the mix makes line adjustments even easier.

It has plenty of loops and grommets to make different configurations possible. So far, I’ve found the “Flying Diamond” (pictured) to work best for my needs. However you choose to use it, the Noah’s Tarp provides a light weight and versatile way to escape the elements and comes in three sizes 9, 12, and 16 feet.

Some Elements Can’t Be Beat

The tarp is great, but it isn’t made to handle every condition. For example, setup is fairly easy for two people to get done in minutes but on a windy day – not so much. My wife and I had such a hard time one outing that we decided against setting it up all together. It makes me worried about trying to set it up on my own, although I am sure that with some practice it could be done. In addition, the tarp could be thicker to completely block the sun. I would compare it to the material of a tent in the fact that if you are laying under it and staring straight up, you can see the sun right through.

Still, the Noah’s tarp has quickly become my new favorite paddling accessory. There really isn’t anything more relaxing after a long paddle than pulling up to a sandy beach and relaxing in the shade. For all of you Austin area paddlers, keep an eye out for my wife and I laying under it around Lake Travis next time you go out. (Hint: Our favorite spot is Windy Point!)