Gear Guide 2012: Food - Dinner

Hunger-sating (and quick to prepare) meals to cap off a long day on the trail.
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Hunger-sating (and quick to prepare) meals to cap off a long day on the trail.


Coleman Ziti Spaghetti

“Satisfying simplicity,” says one tester who appreciated the seven-minute cook time of this easy-prep pasta meal after a 13-mile day. “Quick-to-make carbs were just what I needed, the portion size is spot-on for a healthy appetite, and the smooth sauce has a fresh tomato flavor but isn’t overpowering or too thick.” Spice it up with included packets of Parmesan and red-pepper flakes. $5; 1 serving; trailfoods.com



Hungry Hikers Murray’s Hurried Curry

Around day four of any backpacking trip, the thought of another freeze- dried pasta dish sounds as appealing as a few fresh blisters. Which is why this curry dish won the Editor's Choice award. The smell of coconut milk and curry alone was enough to give us a lift after a 10-mile, 5,000-foot day. Then the texture of the al dente Israeli couscous woke up tired taste buds. And the combination of chicken (not tough and chewy) and peas (not mushy) in the coconut-curry sauce caused camp chaos: Was there enough to go around? And could we make another batch fast? Thankfully, the Hurried Curry lives up to its name: Just boil two cups of water, simmer the bag’s contents for 8 to 10 minutes, and devour. $9 (10 oz.; makes two 1-pound servings); hungryhikers.com

[[Killer Deal]]

Knorr Steak Fajita Rice Sides

“A budget-friendly, one-pot meal with three pots’ worth of flavor,” says one tester of Knorr’s newest just-add-water cuisine. In less than 12 minutes, this packable five-ounce pouch transforms into a moist and flavorful rice blend with a tasty, red-pepper tang. With 525 calories per pouch (a hungry backpacker’s portion is the entire 2.5-serving bag) it’s a meal on its own, but testers’ favorite BYO mix-ins included packaged chicken, avocado, and chunks of a smoky cheese. Other new flavors also scored big: spicy Buffalo Chicken and tangy Baby Back BBQ. $1.30; 2.5 servings (1 pouch); knorr.com

Mountain House New Orleans Style Rice with Shrimp and Ham

“Surprisingly flavorful” and “amazingly delicious” were the two most common tester responses to this Southern-inspired entrée (pictured above), our favorite in Mountain House’s new low-sodium line. Testers loved the robust taste and portions, reporting that the hearty serving of veggie-rich, tomato-sauced rice was easily enough for two. The only complaint? The tasty chunks of ham and shrimp are ample, but rehydrate a bit chewy. Allow a few extra minutes of soaking if you prefer a softer texture. $7; 2 servings; mountainhouse.com

Packit Gourmet Texas State Fair Chili

The bane of some camping food: lack of texture. The bane of most: lack of flavor. This stewy meal ups the ante on both. The base is a meaty, tomato-based broth packed with as much flavor as the Lone Star State itself. But the proverbial icing on the cake? Included toppings of crushed Frito-style corn chips, shredded cheese, and a packet of Texas Pete Hot Sauce that will warm your insides on a cold night. $6; 1 serving; packitgourmet.com

Packit Gourmet Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney

Rehydrate this curry-flavored potato and pea stuffing, fold it into a tortilla, fry the wrap until it’s hot, and you have an exotic meal inspired by an authentic Himalayan trekking snack. The three-step preparation is more involved than most of the add-boiling-water dinners reviewed here, but the result is well worth the effort. “Sometimes I need more to do than just wait for my food to rehydrate,” says a tester. “This meal added some simple prep, but the cleanup is still really easy to manage at camp, and it’s a satisfying dinner or snack.” Another winning element: the spicy mango chutney, a sweet comple- ment to the savory Indian spices in the filling. The frying oil is included, but tortillas are BYO. $6; 1 serving; packitgourmet.com