Trail Curry in 15 Minutes

The setup.
The setup.

On my last camping trip I vowed to try something new for my camp cooking and quickly settled on the instant gourmet camping meals from Backpacker’s Pantry. What attracted me to these lightweight pouches was how easy they claimed to be – just add boiling water and eat! No heavy duty cooking gear required. So I picked up a couple & added in my Jetboil Stove and Bugaboo Camper Cookset (although I only needed the bowls & plates from it).

I decided to start with their Chicken Cashew Curry. My goal was to determine if the process was really as simple as they claimed it was, find out if I actually liked the food (duh!) and see if each package was enough to really served two people.

Adding water directly to the pouch.
Adding water directly to the pouch.

Combined with my Jetboil, the whole process was a breeze. I simply added some water to the cooking cup and turned up the burner. Two minutes later, I had boiling water ready to add to the dry mix. Too much boiling water as we would find out later.

The pouch that contains the dry food is what makes things so great. It’s more than just a plastic container meant to hold the food contents – in fact, it’s very functional! It includes a zip-lock top that keeps the heat in and a gusset bottom that makes it easy to stand up. I poured the boiling water directly into the free-standing pouch, zipped it up & let it sit for the required 13 minutes.

So a total of 15 minutes after starting (AND WITH ZERO DISHES TO CLEAN), I had ready to eat trail curry. But how did it taste?

Two bowl sized servings.
Two bowl sized servings.

As I prepared to serve the meal into our two bowls from GSI, I quickly realized that I had added a bit too much water (I should have measured more carefully). To remedy this I drained some out of the bag directly before dishing out the food. Once that was done, the food was ready to go! With close to a third of the food still left in the bag, our two 14 oz. bowls were filled almost to the top.

The final verdict on the taste? Two thumbs up! It was well spiced and had a decent amount of veggies and chicken mixed in. Next time I think I will be bringing a condiment bottle full of Sriracha and maybe some kind of fresh veggie to add to kick it up a notch.

My favorite thing about the entire experience? Only two dishes to clean AND that could’ve been avoided by eating directly out of the bag. That is certainly hard to beat! I will note that because the bag is so tall eating directly out of it would probably require a long utensil like this spoon from Optimus.

We carry a full line of Backpacker’s Pantry products and encourage you to check them out here. I know I certainly will be! See some more photos of the cooking experience below:

 

Solar Photon 2 – Employee Review

ACK Employee Colter MacKenzie took a three day weekend as part of ACK’s Go Play Day Initiative to get employees adventuring outside and he hit some campsites by the lake with some new gear. One of these items included the Solar Photon 2 Tent from Terra Nova and he wanted to share his thoughts about the product here:

The Solar Photon 2
The Solar Photon 2

The Solar Photon 2 was by far my favorite tent used on the trip (the other tent being a Kelty Trail Ridge 4). This insanely lightweight, compact tent was so easy to put up and seemed to be very well thought out. The tri-pole support design was unique and it’s easy set-up impressed me. It comes with 15 micro stakes that to my surprise were incredibly effective. I found that you only need 10 of them for the tent, so there are 5 spares. Other than the fact that the stakes were so small and could be lost easily, I want this technology with all the tents I use in the future. The fabric of this tent was seriously mind blowing. It was so thin and light, yet it seemed very strong and rigid. It was easy to put up although the staking process seemed to take the longest due to the fact it has 10 points of contact with the ground. As the wind howled the tent didn’t budge, no flapping or shaking, it was solid.

Once inside this tent I quickly noticed it was a lot less spacious than our Trail Ridge 4, obviously, but it seemed ok for a two person tent but I still felt that it was difficult to move around inside once all the bedding was in place. The interior is a vibrant yellow which was amazing in the morning when the sun came up because it gave the inside of the tent a nice yellow glow. I would recommend this tent to anyone who is looking for a ultra-light backpacking tent for a winter or summer environment. The tent was warm at night and breathed very well in the morning, I never got too hot or too cold inside. There was also more than enough room for 2 people once we laid down. I give this tent a 10 out of 10 because I was so impressed with the design and technology. It truly made the camping experience a bit less stressful knowing this thing wasn’t going anywhere no matter how hard the wind blew.

See more about the Solar Photon 2 Tent in this video from Terra Nova:

Trail Ridge 4 – Employee Review

ACK Employee Colter MacKenzie took a three day weekend as part of ACK’s Go Play Day Initiative to get employees adventuring outside and he and some friends hit some campsites by the lake with some new gear. One of these items included the Trail Ridge 4 Tent from Kelty and he wanted to share his thoughts about the product here:

The Trail Ridge 4
The Trail Ridge 4

The Trail Ridge 4 is a four person tent that was extremely easy to put up. The poles were strong but easy to put in place and used the classic X formation to support the structure. I was really impressed with the attachment design of how the rain cover attached at the base of the poles with a simple squeeze clip and webbing design. It was a cold night at first and the tent held up really well with the wind and cold. It did a great job of holding our body heat inside the tent with all the panels closed and rain cover on. Inside the tent there was plenty of mesh bag compartments that came in very handy for a bottle of water and other valuables.

The fabric of the tent was thick and durable. The seams and seals on the tent also seemed very durable. And as for clean up, the tent packed up just as quickly and it was put up. All the pieces fit into the carrying case with ease and there was no struggle trying to get the zipper closed once everything was in the bag.  As cons go, the tent held our body heat in almost too well! In the morning when the sun came up it started to feel like a sauna. But that was quickly fixed by opening the fly and exposing the mosquito net walls to let air in. I would recommend this tent for a small family (3-4 people) that want a sturdy, yet simple tent. I give it a 9 out of 10.

See more about the tent in this video from Kelty:

Outfit Your Expedition with Exped Equipment

Heads up, Outdoor EXPEDition-ers, you can now find a new line of products at ACK to Outfit Your Adventure from Exped, an innovative company that’s been designing products for the casual hiker to the technical climber since 1997. Swiss based, Exped has slowly been making a name for themselves in the States and we aren’t surprised if you haven’t heard of them.

Exped prides themselves in their long list of industry firsts, awards and patents and have a history in ingenious simplicity in all of their products. Need some examples? The Exped Orion Tent is one of their first creations. The Orion combines the styles of a tunnel tent with that of a dome tent into what they call a ridge tunnel tent. If you’re not familiar with the different styles of tents, what this really means is that the Orion combines usable space and freestanding capability unlike most tents. If you’re looking for a new lightweight tent with plenty of storage space for gear that can also handle some tough weather – check this one out.

And anyone can see the innovation of Exped’s DreamWalker Sleeping Bag. Ok, sure, it kind of looks like an oversized snuggie and you’re probably asking yourself why anyone would think to bring this on a real camping trip. First impressions aside, this thing is packed with function that we bet anyone can find useful out in the field. Just watch this video:

Of course, these aren’t the only two products from Exped that we have picked up, and we encourage you to familiarize yourself with our full line of tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, sleeping pads, footprints, camping pillows and more here. I hope that you’re as excited as we are to find these unique products at ACK.com and be sure to comment below with any Exped experiences you’ve had in the past or questions about the new gear!

Joseph @ACK

In Focus: the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

ACK’s Steve Messana has taken quite a… shine… to the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp and wanted to show its unique features off in a new “In Focus:” video. This headlamp is pretty nifty with its different beams for different situations, its versatility and the convenient lock-out feature but the video is definitely the best way to get the whole picture so check it out and don’t hesitate to leave us a comment with your questions or general comments.

-Trent @ ACK

In Focus: the Jetboil Flash Cooking System

You want to be comfortable when camping and food is certainly a big part of that comfort. We like the Jetboil Flash Cooking System so much we decided to show it off a bit in a new “In Focus:” video. This thing heats water in no time (well, ~2 minutes if you’re counting…) and will have you preparing food quickly so you can get back out there on the trail or in your boat so you can enjoy your trip without spending most of it cooking food! Enjoy the video and let us know if you have any questions or comments!

-Trent @ ACK

Trip Report: Big Bend National Park

That’s Rob!

Rob Abercrombie of our ACK Customer Relationship Team had a busy December helping customers find the perfect outdoor holiday gift. By the end of the month, he managed to find his own: a hiking trip through the South Loop of Big Bend National Park. Here is his report.

I camped out in Big Bend for a week, 12/16-12/21, something I had been wanting to do since moving here and driving through West Texas. I took 385S and drove through the small town of Marathon, and stayed the first night at the Chisos Basin camp ground. I probably saw the most wildlife camping in this populated area than I did in the backcountry. There was a gray fox that visited my site and grey tailed deer were scattered about early in the morning.

I hiked the South Rim trail and obtained a backcountry permit for a solo campsite on top of the Tule Mountains. The South Rim is about a 12 mile loop, with stunning views that go 200 miles into Mexico with out seeing any signs of pavement. Staying that night on the Tule Mountain ridge was windy, but also great for access to wake up before 5am and hike the mile and half trail to the top Emory Peak (7,800′), the highest point in the Chisos Mountains and the park. I got up and watched the sunrise over Mexico and there are not enough adjectives to describe the color change. The sunrise and sunset are the main attraction to why anyone would ever visit a desert.

The Rio Grande River.

Afterwards I stayed at the Rio Grande Village in a primitive site called the Gravel Pitt. The site was off-road and secluded and I could tell that it would be better to sleep in the car rather than the ground… scorpion country.  The site offered more stunning views over the Sierra Del Carmen mountains. I also visited the nearby hot springs, because what could be better than walking around in 90 degree weather and hoping in a natural pool of 108 degree water? You can rinse/cool off in the Rio Grande, but if you venture past the deepest part of the river, then technically you have crossed the boarder and can be fined up to 5,000 dollars and thrown in jail.  To my surprise parts of the Rio Grande are barely deep enough to cover the top of your boot.

The last couple days I bumped around the Santa Clara Canyon and walked around in Terlingua, a town full of river guides and transient hippies, and I can’t wait to do another visit. I highly recommend going at least once in your life, the stars are outstanding, the chance of running into a mountain lion are good, and if you enjoy trails that cover all types of terrain- then Big Bend is the place to be. Remember to stock up on plenty of water and bring a good camera. I took all photos using an iPhone with an HDR-pro app and instagram.

Viva La Big Bend.  

Rob @ACK

Raccoon the Biggest Pitfall of Winter Camping in Texas

The other day I took an opportunity to “go play” at Huntsville State Park with a couple of my good friends. The weather was typical of a winter day in east Texas, a bit cool with some precipitation. However, I wasn’t going to let some weather stop me from going camping!

I find that winter camping can be rather fun when done with the proper gear. I used my NEMO Losi two person tent,  which I have been told can handle quite a bit. It held up even when the winds picked up to 15 mph accompanied with some rain. I was especially impressed with how easy it was to set up and take down.

Nighttime proved to be the most exciting part of the trip. Make sure that you bring plenty of dry storage for your food, because the raccoons at Huntsville (or any other campsite) are relentless. I was tending to my fire about 15 feet from our picnic table when I heard a crash and a clang. I spotted the little rascal with my Princeton Tech Quad Tactical headlamp. The little critter ran off with my marshmallows! I found them the next morning about 15 feet from my tent, but they were soiled on and mostly eaten. I know better now, appropriate food storage devices are a necessity when camping at Huntsville!

Brock @ACK Spring Store

 

Therm-a-Rest Sleeping Bags? Yes Sleeping Bags…

You read that right, Therm-a-Rest, the kings of the sleeping pad have just released a new line of sleeping bags and they are stout. From the 750+ fill goose down 0°F Altair (Read:Really Warm) to the 40°F Regulus Blanket they’ve got you covered…literally. The general premise behind the line seems to be warm, light and packable – directed at folks heading up the mountains and into the backcountry, whether it be on foot or on skis. Some interesting and innovative designs, especially the Navis 20-45°F hybrid bag featuring sewn-through construction in the upper half of the bag, which then layers easily over a lightweight parka or pullover. The 20-45 rating depends on the jacket that it is combined with.  If you are heading out into the cold this winter and want to sleep as snug as a bug in a rug, check out the new line.

Steve @ACK

Blog Spotlight: TrailCooking.com

Source: TrailCooking.com

Part of the camping experience is the food you eat while you’re in the outdoors. Maybe you’re a minimalist and only interested in bringing a few meal bars, or maybe you bring your Lodge Logic Dutch Ovens and cook a hearty meal around the fire. Whatever the case, we wanted to share a very in depth and well put together blog that I will be looking to next time I need to plan a camp outing.

The motto at TrailCooking.com is “do not take what you do not like to eat,” and you should have no difficulty following that with their long list of different meal ideas. What makes their blog so unique is that recipes include directions for at home and in camp with different methods of camp cooking included in each. Not all of their posts are in-depth recipe ideas either – they also include tips for healthy eats and recommend products and gear for your adventures. Check them out!

Joseph @ACK