'Cooking' up some trail foods just outside the office.
‘Cooking’ up some trail foods just outside the office.

Some of the biggest reasons people turn to camp foods like the meals from Backpacker’s Pantry and Trail Foods are for their simplicity and light weight. Today, we look at four different options that go a step further by eliminating the need for a camping stove. Rather than using hot or boiling water, these options require only cold water, meaning you can use the same stuff you’re drinking to ‘cook’ your meal. These are your ultimate lightweight camp foods.

While these cold water meals won’t come in the same variety as the typical style of other camping food, they do provide a surprising amount of tasty options, including the four we tried today. Today’s menu consisted of two desserts from Trail Foods (Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding and Key Lime Pie) and two cold salads from Backpacker’s Pantry (Cold Pasta Salad and Cold Potato Salad). We still brought out the JetBoil Flash Stove and used it’s measuring cup to make sure we were accurate.

Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker's Pantry
Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables from Backpacker’s Pantry

Meals 1 & 2: Cold Pasta Salad w/ Vegetables & Cold Potato Salad

We started with the cold salad options from Backpacker’s Pantry (that way we could end with desserts). Both are advertised as two serving lunch options and are a bit on the pricier side ($7.99) compared to our $5 backcountry lunch options from Monday. We currently stock the cold pasta salad w/ vegetables at ACK and offer the cold potato salad via special order. Similar items like a cold black bean salad and cold couscous salad can be found on our site as well.

Backpacker’s Pantry on their Cold Pasta Salad: The salad uses pre-cooked pasta that’s only partially cooked to help retain the natural nutrients. When you rehydrate them in our meal, you’re able to get the full nutritional value from the pasta and all of the other ingredients.

Backpacker's Pantry Cold Potato Salad - available via special order at ACK.com.
Backpacker’s Pantry Cold Potato Salad – available via special order at ACK.com.

The water measurements were 3/4 cups for the potato salad and 1 cup for the pasta salad. It was handy to have the measuring cup that comes along with the Jetboil Flash Stove which measures out 1 cup. The other glaring difference was that these meals took 30 minutes to ‘cook’! That’s something to keep in mind when planning an outing with these. After our half-hour waiting period, we dug in.

Joseph’s Potato Salad Review: I absolutely love potato salad but I think I’ve only ever had it refrigerated and with a mayo base. I have to say that I was really impressed with this meal and ended up eating it for my lunch today.  It was tasty! It felt like a German style dish that normally might be served as a side but had plenty of substance to fill me up as a regular lunch. I will definitely be adding this one to my trail foods pantry. I gave the pasta salad a try but Trent ended up hoarding most of it for his lunch. See what he had to say about it.

Trent’s Pasta Salad Review: I had the Pasta Salad for lunch today and am going to start with a pointer for those making it: about half way through the 30 minutes of ‘cooking’, open the pouch up and stir. I had a thin layer of noodles at the top that didn’t get the same amount of re-hydration as the noodles at the bottom. That being said, I really enjoyed this meal. It had a very wide variety of flavors compared to several of the other meals I’ve tried. This was my lunch for the day and was very filling.

Chocolate Banana Pudding, yum!
Chocolate PB Pudding. Yum!

Meals 3 & 4: Chocolate PB Pudding & Key Lime Pie

After our salads, we turned to dessert. The idea of using cold water to ‘cook’ these desserts was a little less exotic than having it cook our salad lunches because they were essentially both powdered mixes that needed thickening. A majority of the Trail Foods desserts require only cold water to cook and this Chocolate PB Pudding and Key Lime Pie were no exception.

Both of these meals are listed as part of Trail Food’s ‘Recovery’ line of meals meaning they are intended for a post adventure snack to aid in, for lack of a better word, recovery. They come packed high in protein (especially the pudding!) as part of this line.

Trail Foods Key Lime Pie
Trail Foods Key Lime Pie

Unlike the salads, these desserts were ready in about five minutes so we had them served up quick!

Joseph’s Review: Our first thought on these was that they weren’t the most appealing thing in the world to look at but hey – you can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Plus, what else can pudding look like? And the Key Lime Pie was essentially a pudding. I ended up eating the majority of the Chocolate PB Pudding and have to say that it tasted great! The peanut butter came in an additional packet which I mixed in. It did get a little clumpy rather than mixing in perfectly but I don’t feel like it detracted from the taste. Overall this was a very sweet meal but not overly so with a good mix of chocolate and peanut butter flavor. This is definitely my favorite dessert so far.

Trent’s Review: I tasted the Chocolate PB Pudding first and immediately thought of the pudding that came in the kid’s frozen TV dinners I ate when I was younger. It’s not a bad taste but I’m a key lime pie fan so I went with that option. To clarify, it’s called Key Lime Pie because of the flavor and ingredients, but as you might’ve expected, the consistency is similar to the chocolate pudding. It came with an additional graham cracker crumble packet (pie crust!) which we mixed into the meal. I think next time I’ll leave it as a topping because it kind of messed with the texture. The taste was great but boy was it sweet! I had my fill of it for dessert and still had easily half the bowl left.  My recommendation would be to share this one between multiple people after your meal.

Leave No Trace – Use Your Meal Pouch To Hike Out Trash

Both Trail Foods and Backpacker’s Pantry have designed their meal pouches be more than just packaging. They work to cook the food, eat out of and contain any trash you end up with at the end. While they don’t create much of a mess to begin with, be sure to throw away trash like the torn top and any additional plastic packing for spices or add-ins. Of course, these bags are big enough that you could probably add whatever other trash you need to out in the backcountry! Once you’ve got it all inside, just seal and store in your pack until you’re able to get to a dumpster. Remember, leave no trace!

Keep an eye out for tomorrow when we look at breakfast camp food options available at ACK!