Whether you’re still looking for a way to spend your tax refund, preparing for a summer of adventure, or just trying to save some cash by buying bulk, consider stocking up for a full season in the backcountry with the High Attitude Six Pack from Mary Janes Farm, which includes 12 to 25 servings each of six of the company’s most popular dishes for backpackers.
Mary Janes Farm bulk options are a bargain compared to individual pouch prices you’ll find at the local gear shop. One of four different sampler packs available, the High Attitude includes 18 pounds of food in three-pound bulk bags—67 big meals and 9 desserts. The food comes in big plastic bags, but I suggest also ordering EcoPouches (about 50 cents each - ask for them when you order). These burnable 7 by 8.5-inch bags let you portion out meals to suit your appetite and seal them yourself with a low-heat iron. Of course, zipper lock baggies work just fine also.
Just to be clear: I’m not a “foodie” or a vegetarian, nor are my friends who helped me taste test the sampler while on a snowshoeing trip on Mount Hood’s Cooper Spur. Whatever our palettes might lack in sophistication, however, we make up for in appetite. Read on for the rundown of our favorites–in order–of some of the best food you’ll ever eat on the trail.
1. Nick's Couch Potatoes
Even better than mom’s mashed potatoes, these are spiked with sharp cheddar, parmesan and “bacon-less” bits (textured low fat soy flour, salt, natural flavors and caramel color), which add protein and a smoky flavor to the carb-filled organic potato flakes. You’ll swear it’s real bacon. “Amazingly addictive,” says one tester.
2. Outrageous Outback Oatmeal
With so many cheaper instant alternatives out there, I was skeptical of the value of the Mary Janes Farm version. But this version is good for any meal of the day and well worth a little extra dough. “This is how I always want other oatmeals to taste, but they don’t.,” says one tester. Tempered with creamy dry soymilk, Outrageous Outback Oatmeal is packed with sweet currants, crunchy sunflower seeds, and warming spices. Way better than Quaker packets.
Mac and cheese meets chili in this tasty, hearty blend. Pour water in the pouch, wait 8 minutes and start chowing. The durum semolina pasta holds a good, firm texture while sharp cheddar, lentils, pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, red bell peppers, garlic and spices round out this healthy, moderately spicy meal. I could eat this meal every day but full disclosure: Like most bean dishes, this one generates some gassiness.
4. Black Bean Hummus
This great-tasting hummus just needs a vessel to spread it on—bagel, pita, bread or tortilla–for a perfect cold lunch. Mix with boiling water, stir well, wait five minutes, then let it chill to your taste. Black beans, roasted sesame seeds, lemon oil and spices make the Mediterranean flavor come alive in the backcountry. The only reason this scored fourth in our test is that it’s not a complete meal on its own.
5. Santa Fe Pasta
It could be a regional bias of two Northwestern ignoramuses, but the flavoring and combination of ingredients in this admittedly complete and healthy meal seemed a bit off. Pasta, cheddar, corn, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers and jalapeños are all great in my book. But something about the spice blend—cumin, cilantro and garlic—didn’t appeal to some of our taste testers. (Suggestion: Before you buy this one in bulk, order a single serving to see if you like it.)
6. Bavarian Chocolate Mousse
The only reason this comes last is that it’s dessert. Just add water, stir, and be patient. This thick, creamy, rich dessert gets better the longer it sits. “It tastes like pudding after 15 minutes in near-freezing temps and like ice cream in close to an hour,” says one tester.
Bottom line: This healthy and great-tasting vegetarian food sampler offers the variety people need for big groups, expeditions or a full season of solo adventures.
The High Attitude Six Pack includes:
•3 lbs. Nick’s Couch Potatoes (equal to 17 Outpost pouches—each Outpost pouch equals approximately 1.5 servings)
•3 lbs. Outrageous Outback Oatmeal (equal to 17 Outpost pouches)
•3 lbs. Chilimac (over 9 Outpost pouches)
•3 lbs. Black Bean Hummus (equal to 13 Outpost pouches)
•3 lbs. Santa Fe Pasta (over 11 Outpost pouches)
•3 lbs. Bavarian Chocolate Mousse (equal to 9 Outpost pouches)