Chances are, unless you are dehydrating your personal recipes at home, the words, ‘trail food’ don’t inspire visions of mouthwatering and well-rounded meals. Prepackaged pouch dinners of the past touted words like ‘house’ and ‘pantry’ in their names in an effort to convince us their sodium-laden, carb-heavy starch piles resemble some semblance of the food we feed ourselves at home.
Fortunately, a mother and son duo from Bend Oregon have since stepped in to completely elevate the adventure meal game. Food for the Sole was built out of a desire to make healthy meals with carefully selected ingredients that don’t simply fuel adventures, but also enhance them.
The team concocted a dish of Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale and Quinoa that came with me on my last escapade. And, it is, no joke, without exaggeration, the best meal I have ever enjoyed in the backcountry. The petite package stuffed with perfectly seasoned veggies and clean proteins provided exactly what my tired trail body was craving. It weighs only 4.2 ounces, requires very little boiling water, and rehydrates so superbly that the caramelized onions taste like they are fresh out of an iron skillet.
What I Loved About the Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale and Quinoa
Real Ingredients - The difference can be seen right away. This packet isn’t full of fillers or powders. Each ingredient is easily identifiable. One glance into the see-through pouch and my appetite stirs.
Rehydrates to Perfection - My skepticism surrounding the kale in particular had me expecting a slightly slimy finished product once the boiling water had done its work. I could not have been more wrong. The kale and sweet potatoes plump back to life so splendidly it is truly hard to tell they were dehydrated in the first place. The pumpkin seeds retain the right amount of crunch to really complement the veggies and eradicate any fears of feasting on mush for dinner.
Complex Flavors- The onions are the secret stars of this dish. They add to the flavor complexity and aid in highlighting the subtle notes of citrus and olive oil. Additionally, the nutty finish from the quinoa is accented with a touch of salt that isn’t overdone. For the first time in my backpacking history, I didn't need to dig out my hot sauce packets or miniature spice rack to doctor up my meal in hope of flavor. There was also no need to wrap it in a tortilla to mask the salt content. This recipe is perfectly balanced and delicious all on its own.
Vegetables!- Multi-day escapades usually leave me fantasizing about eating giant salads by day three or four. Vegetables used to be difficult to pack and hard to come by on my backcountry menu. I am by no means a vegetarian but this dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan meal fills in the gaps that trail food used to leave in my diet. The actual vegetables are super packable and such a welcome change. The 19 grams of protein contained within left me fully satisfied without needing meat.
Less Waste- The slender and appropriately sized packaging slides right into an Opsack or bear can. There is no need to repackage it for the sake of space. I am always looking for ways to reduce waste so I am grateful Food for the Sole chose responsible packaging that holds boiling water and is not filled with air.
What I Didn’t Love
Ambiguous Instructions- Even though the wait time is perfectly calculated, the water instructions simply state to pour boiling water into the bag to just below the top of the food. While many might appreciate the simplicity, I often dry camp and guard my water supply more diligently than a chihuahua with a new toy, so it would be nice to have a measurement to work with.
Portion- The portion size could easily fall into the ‘loves’ section since on lower mile days it is just the right size and prevents any possibility of leftovers — because, let’s face it, no one wants to pack out a bunch of water-laden food or eat last night’s dinner for a cold breakfast. That being said, the full-sized version would not suffice on a really physically demanding day. A very hungry hiker would need to add in avocado, toss it all in a tortilla, and probably still need a side dish or two.
Genuinely the best pre-made meal I have ever enjoyed in nature, Food for the Sole is going to be my brand of choice going forward. Their lineup of flavor-packed recipes range from breakfast to dinner with some enticing dessert options as well. If their other meals are anything like the Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Kale and Quinoa, I just might become a brand loyalist. I am earnestly looking forward to trying each and every product they make.
Mandy Esch is an international pro skater turned avid outdoorswoman who enjoys backpacking, camping, fly fishing, cliff diving and passing on what she learns along the way. In her backpacking blog, Mandy shares video trail reviews and trip planning guides. Follow her adventures at www.backcountrydirtbag.com.