I’ve written blog posts about the world of gear writing, and even though I’m doing less and less of this type of coverage, I just wrapped up a “Best of 2022 Foods” article for Backpacker, and thought I’d dive into the behind the scenes, plus let you know about a giveaway a few of the brands are doing to celebrate their recognition!!
Food is my favorite “gear” to test for obvious reasons. This was our 3rd year covering the food category for Backpacker, and it just always blows my mind. As I said in the intro to my article, year after year, there are far more artisan food makers out there, and backpacking cuisine has come a long way. Of course these options come at a price, and anyone can survive on ramen, beef jerky and pop tarts if that’s all their pocketbook allows. But we have no desire to do that during our long hikes and love discovering new choices!
For this year’s food roundup, there were 28 brands tested among 19 awesome and dedicated testers from February 2021 until November 2021. The brands really struck me this year. Many were relatively unknown “mom-and-pop” and smaller boutique start-ups than any other year. I communicated directly with the brands rather than PR reps. Smaller brands are also so grateful to be included in the testing cycle, but especially when they win a coveted spot on the final list. I’ve never received so many thank yous for being picked, but really, the credit is owed to our testers who did most of the legwork in making the choices.
And as I said, a few of the brands featured in my article—Fernweh, Pinnacle, Alpen Fuel and Crafty Weka Bar—are doing a giveaway!!! There will be three prize packs (worth $75) with the winning meals/snacks, plus my book, Between Each Step. The brands asked me if I wanted to participate since I was the writer on the article, so I decided why not? The giveaway will run from March 10-17 and is open to US residents, and winners will be announced March 21. You need to submit your e-mail address via this link (starting 3/10) and follow the brands on IG, but I assure you, the prizes are worth the effort to enter.
I thought this blog post would be a good chance to showcase a few of the brands in the giveaway!
Ashley Lance started Fernweh Food Co. as a side hustle to create her own meals for her adventures, but now it’s her full-time gig. The mushroom pot pie is our personal favorite, but the testers loved the Green Tamale Pie better. All the meals are vegan, and in compostable or omnidegradable packaging (meaning it decomposes wherever there are naturally occurring microbes—much faster than regular packaging). Fun fact: fernweh is German for “far-longing,” an ache for distant places. Follow Fernweh on IG @fernwehfoodco!
A husband-wife team started Alpen Fuel as a side hustle as well, but when Shaun lost his job during the pandemic, he and wife Emily went all in. They have 5 delicious granolas. Emily actually makes the Lemon Berry Granola that made the Backpacker list, and hand-zests the lemon plus watches the honey like a hawk so it doesn’t burn when baking on the oats. Follow Alpen Fuel on @alpenfuel!
Similarly, brothers Ben & John Ritner wanted to make better gourmet freeze-dried meals for their adventures, and launched Pinnacle Foods in 2021. Our pick would have been the Sticky-Teriyaki Chicken with Garlic Asparagus and Coconut Rice, but testers chose the Herb-Roasted Chicken and White Cheddar Dumplings as the top. Follow Pinnacle on IG @pinnaclefoodsco!
Lastly, Crafty Weka immediately appealed to us personally because of the New Zealand connection and one of the ingredients is the country’s famous Manuka honey! But it wasn’t us who chose to feature them; ALL of our testers loved these little dudes for their nutrition and taste. Go follow @CraftyWekaBar on IG!
So anyway, go enter the giveaway (starting March 10)!! Justin & I will actually be off the grid until March 16, so hopefully you don’t have any questions for us …
And to end this food testing post, I thought it’d be fun to highlight some tester feedback quotes that didn’t make the cut. These quotes have no context, but most of them were for other products that did not make the cut. Our testers are seriously the most dedicated and creative backpackers out there. We’re so lucky!! Anyway, here are some of the quotes …
The words “rice cake” bring back the Styrofoam taste of commercial rice cakes in the college dorm when I felt like I needed to diet.
Texture looked substantial and dense. If I closed my eyes, I might think I was eating my Aunt Linda’s fruit cake.
Brick-like texture with an almost wet exterior. You could throw this thing and shatter a window. It took me almost as much energy to eat it as it did to climb up the mountain.
A good crunch is hard to find, unless you are a crazy al dente Ramon eater.
The flavors do not melt well together. There’s almost like a molasses taste with a fruit aftertaste.
Although it looks dry at first sight, it didn’t deplete my moisture supply.
If I have another bar, I think I will hurl, but let’s be honest, Snickers are delicious, just not that healthy.
It reminds me a bit of being in a bad romance where when it is good, it is really good, but there are some downsides.
High fructose corn syrup for the win when it comes to cost.
It reminded me of those chocolate-covered orange candies at Christmas, but with healthy ingredients.
My only regret is that there weren’t more
34 g of fat is a lot, but it comes from coconut/almonds, which is relatively healthy and better than a side of bacon
This feels like a brick in your gut!
The cinnamon and banana and sugar were balanced and didn’t bring up to the world of kid’s cereal like Frosted Flakes or Cin. Toast Crunch.
F-ing delicious, just feature their food every month.
I wouldn’t eat this and hang out on the couch.
It has a ‘back of the throat’ lingering feeling that you’ve eaten something stale.
I feel like a tolerant person for most things, but this was hard to stomach.
It has a twinge of coffee, a spark of tangy, and the color of dishwater
There’s some kind of taste in there I can’t identify but it’s like eating chemicals