How These Meals Were Tested
I tried out four different varieties of meals while on a 5 day backpacking trip to the high Sierras. The meals were all cooked between elevations of 9500 and 11,000 feet, in temperatures hovering in the low 60s. All four meals were cooked as per the easy-to-follow instructions on the bag.
Altitude causes some mayhem as to providing accurate cooking times. I did my best to estimate extra time needed for these meals to reconstitute, but there is definitely a component of human-error when things came out a little too crunchy.
A Little Bit About Good To-Go
Good To-Go is the creation of Jennifer Scism, renowned chef and co-owner of Annisa, and her husband David Koorits. They began creating homemade dehydrated meals in lieu of the lower quality options on the market. Good To-Go is a manifestation of the trial and error they went through to create high quality meals that are locally sourced and taste great! Their statement says it all:
“Each recipe was developed with one goal: to elevate your expectations of what trail food can taste like. We want you to take a break from whatever adventure you’re on, sit down, take a bite, and say, ‘Wow!’”
Currently, there are six different dinner options available; pad thai, classic marinara with penne, smoked three bean chili, indian vegetable korma, thai curry, and herbed mushroom risotto.
Gluten Free, Pescatarian
The first meal I tried was the quintessential dish of Thailand - Pad Thai. I cooked this meal at almost 10,000 feet (elevation causes cooking times to differ widely -- remember, these folks are from Maine). Despite adding 5 minutes to the recommended 15 minute cook time, this meal still came out a little overly crunchy.
Human-error? Probably. Often times you need to almost double the time it takes dehydrated foods to reconstitute when you’re at elevations that high.
Despite the crunch-factor, I really enjoyed the flavor profile in this meal. Lovers of the heavy peanut sauce frequently found in Americanized Pad Thai will be thrown off by the savory tamarind sauce. But don’t let that deter you -- this meal is delicious.
Contents upon opening
After water is added
Ready to eat
Classic Marinara with Penne
Gluten Free, Vegan
When I made this meal I was HUNGRY. The kind of hungry where you sit next to the food and focus all of your energy on willing it to reconstitute faster. When the time was up I busted open the pouch and dove in with gusto, and guess what? It tasted like marinara pasta.
Now let me be clear, I mean that in a good way.
This is one of my go-to meals to make from scratch. I bring along some penne, tomato powder, maybe a zucchini, and some spices. It takes just a little bit longer to prepare my from-scratch version as this pre-dehydrated version.
The end result? They taste the same.
I think this is a great representation of the high quality food found in Good To-Go meals. That I could bring fresh vegetables and deal with all the prep and extra dishes involved in making this from scratch just to yield the same result as a simple bag meal is pretty stellar.
Smoked Three Bean Chili
Gluten Free, Vegan
I’m a sucker for backcountry chili, and this dinner option didn’t let me down. The consistency was perfect, the flavors were rich and complex, and the calories were just the right amount.
You’ve gotta be careful when reconstituting veggies and especially beans. If you don’t, you’ll end up with some serious GI issues and indescribably smelly gas. So follow the instructions closely.
I didn’t have any negative effects from this meal, so it not only passed the taste test, but my tent mate was none the wiser (as it should be).
Indian Vegetable Korma
Gluten Free, Vegatarian
I loooooove vegetable korma, and it provides a great change of pace from the usual backcountry meal offerings (pasta... curry... beans...), so I was very excited for this meal.
This meal did come out a little crunchy, so I’d recommend doubling the “HANG OUT” time if you're at elevation and even increasing the water by just a little.
The taste, however, was awesome. Spicy, creamy, nutty, and packed full of veggies - just like a vegetable korma should be.
Gluten Free, Pescatarian
Winner of Backpacker’s 2014 Editor’s Choice Snow Award. This spicy rice dish is loaded with broccoli, peas, green beans, and cauliflower.
Herbed Mushroom Risotto
Gluten Free, Vegan
A soft and creamy risotto dish made with pesto, white wine, onions, and sauteed mushrooms.
Soon To Be Released Meals
The Good To-Go team sampled their latest offering, a take on oatmeal, at this summer’s Outdoor Retailer show. While there isn’t a date yet for when this new meal will become available, I’m excited to watch how they expand into breakfast options.
What I Liked
I’ve tried a number of dehydrated meals and can easily say Good To-Go has the best flavor on the market. Unless you’re creating your own dehydrated meals, you simply cannot get flavors this good (and you may not even then!).
Part of the reason the flavor is so good is because of the locally sourced ingredients and lack of preservatives that make up each meal (I’m sure having a master-chef has a lot to do with it, too).
I have a four-step process that allows me to set up camp and eat within 30 minutes. First -- I arrive at camp and empty out my backpack. Second -- I boil the specified amount of water (this only takes a few minutes). Third -- I pour the boiling water into the pouch, give it a stir, and proceed to set up my tent. Fourth -- after about 20 minutes my sleeping area is all set up, my dinner is reconstituted, and I can eat and clean up within a few minutes.
Ease of Use
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Boil some water, pour it into the bag, stir, wait, eat.
Single serving packs weigh 3.4 ounces and have between 340 and 430 calories, giving them an excellent caloric density of over 100 calories/ounce.
What Could Have Been Better
There’s a tricky balance between fully reconstituting dehydrated ingredients so they aren’t crunch (and make you fart) and not overdoing it to the point where they are mushy (and not fun to eat). If you’re making these meals at lower elevations (sub 5000 ft), my assumption is that the Good To-Go directions are spot on. However, for higher elevations it becomes more a guessing game. At 10,000 feet I’d suggest doubling the cook time to make sure your meals aren’t overly crunchy.
Either way, make sure you add BOILING WATER (just like the directions say) to the bag. Not “it boiled a few minutes ago” water, BOILING WATER.
Good To-Go’s pricing is competitive with other dehydrated meal brands, but at $6.75 each it would get pretty pricey to plan a long trip with just these meals as dinner. But you cannot beat the simplicity and quality of these meals if you’ve got some extra room in your budget.
Is It Enough Food?
After a long day on the trail, you want to make sure that you have enough calories to refuel and keep warm overnight. Luckily, the folks at Good To-Go know what an adequate serving size looks like in the field. Single servings run from 340 - 430 calories and if you don’t think that will be enough, you can opt for the double serving pouch instead (or bring along a Snickers for dessert).
Planning backcountry meals is a major pain point for many people. Good To-Go solves the issues of having to create a menu, purchase food, and package food for a trip. You’ll need to shell out a little extra cash if you go for their high quality dinners.
My recommendation is to go ahead and plan your backcountry dinners with Good To-Go’s meals if you doing a few weekend trips each year. But if you’re planning a long adventure, I’d suggest packing a mixture of cheaper meal options along with these dehydrated meals (check out my outdoor cookbook for ideas and menu planning help).
No dehydrated meal brand comes close to the quality of food, calories, and taste that Good To-Go provides. If you’re planning a trip and want great food with minimal hassle, look no further!