Eric and Laura Poole know trail food better than anyone should know trail food. As the magazine's Get Out More! Road Team, they logged 598 miles on the trail last year--and another 27,000 road miles crisscrossing the U.S. conducting backpacking clinics. Because they consumed countless camp-cooked meals along the way, we knew we'd get good beta when we asked them to put more than a dozen new entrées to the test. You'll find these four winners in their packs this season.
Chicken Saigon Noodles
9.63 oz. (two servings), 550 calories per serving, $7.95
Flavor A well-balanced blend of soy sauce, garlic, chili, and cayenne peppers gives this ramen dish a satisfying kick. The small chunks of chicken, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and other veggies reconstituted quickly, but if you break up the noodles before adding water to the package, do it lightly so you don't puncture the bag.
Fuel 78 grams of carbs, 25 grams of protein, and 17 grams of fat provides a good nutritional balance, but a big eater could finish this on his own.
Contact: (800) 641-0500; www.backpackerspantry.com
Cheesy Sweet Potatoes With Pie Spices
6.5 oz. (two servings), 494 calories per serving, $5.75
Flavor The scent of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg evoke grandma's cooking on Thanksgiving--and the sweet-and-spicy taste at the end of a hard slog makes this dish just as gratifying. But skip the cheese crumples; they tasted a tad stale. And this comfort food is best served steaming, even though the package says "serve hot or cold."
Fuel Sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic carb, which means they supply plenty of slow-burning energy. They're also naturally fat free, low in sodium, and high in fiber. Use as a side, not your full meal.
Contact: (800) 442-0852; www.cachelake.com
Pro-Pak Beef Stroganoff With Noodles
4.06 oz. (1 serving), 520 calories per serving, $5.29
Flavor Flavorful beef, fresh-tasting mushrooms, and a tangy sour cream finish made stroganoff a best seller long ago; the new vacuum-sealed packaging earns it a top spot this year. The stand-up pouch makes prep easy, the zipper keeps it hot, and the compact size let us dip down for the last bite.
Fuel The bump from 13 to 16 ounces per serving (when prepared) will satiate even the biggest eaters. And the spacer-saving packaging won't expand at altitude--saving you room for other goodies.
Contact: (877) 366-3877
Tofu (Eggless) Salad
6.25 oz. (two servings), 439 calories per serving, $7.95
Flavor No more gorp for lunch. This stoveless meal of tofu, celery, onion, and peppers seasoned with turmeric had us feeling like we were lunching at a fine vegetarian eatery. It took 20 minutes to reconstitute fully, but we used the time to filter water and spread mayo, mustard, and relish (included) on a pita (not included).
Fuel An impressive 13 grams of protein will help keep you full until dinner, but you'll need that pita, or bread or tortilla, to supplement a mere 19 grams of carbs.
Contact: (828) 497-4113 www.adventurefoods.com