Simple Gourmet: Peak Refuel Backcountry Meals

A couple of years ago, my buddy and I backpacked into Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains for the spring bear hunt. The first morning, we found two excellent bears feeding together. We spotted them from almost three miles away and spent the morning closing the distance. We finally made it to within 300 yards across a big draw. The two bears reappeared in the grass opposite, one black and one chocolate — just what we were after.

Unfortunately, we miscommunicated with each other and flubbed our shots. It was incredibly disappointing, but it was an amazing adventure.

Last Spring, I backpacked into the same spot looking for redemption. I never did spot a bear, but even though I was hiking all over and spending lots of energy, I felt great. I think a lot of it was due to the meals I’d chosen to bring.

Peak Refuel just tastes like good food.

I’m all for making food from scratch, and this column is normally all about crafting tasty meals from the animals you kill. But when you’re planning to add the challenges of backpacking on top of the challenges of hunting, I think you should keep it simple.

Some folks dehydrate their own meals to take backpacking because backpacking meals have historically been less than excellent. Eating them for a few days can leave you feeling pretty poorly and wishing for better bathroom facilities. So, making your own made sense.

The test kitchen has normal people who create tasty recipes.

These new Peak Refuel meals have changed the game. They are simply made of food without weird additives. Last fall, I got the chance to tour their plant, which is one of the largest freeze-drying facilities in the country, and I’ve met the chefs and hung out in their kitchen. I can attest that these meals are just good food made with normal ingredients. Then freeze-dried.

Freeze drying is itself fascinating. These huge vacuum chambers can make a lot of meals in a short time.

Unlike other backpacking meals I’ve used, these don’t taste like freeze-dried food. They taste like something I made at home. Plus, they are packed with protein so your body can recover faster and feel full longer. Amazingly, Peak Refuel doesn’t use any soy or vegetable protein to pad their protein count — it’s just from the meat and other ingredients. And their meals usually have the highest protein count on the shelf.

Bring tortillas to add some calories and eat your meal as a wrap.

You just add boiling water, wait a few minutes, then eat out of the pouch.

A few tips for cooking backpacking meals:

  • Use a backpacking-style stove that boils water quickly — I like this one from Camp Chef.
  • Remember that at high altitudes, water boils at a lower temperature — sometimes low enough to stick your finger in. That just means it’ll take the meal longer to re-hydrate. At very high altitudes (maybe over 12,000 feet) you might add the water then keep hunting while the food cooks in its pouch in your pack.
  • Give the pouch a shake to loosen the ingredients out of the corners of the bag. They can settle and get packed tightly, which makes it harder to get the water down in there.
  • Bring a long spoon. If you want to eat out of the pouch and skip washing dishes, you’ll want a long spoon so you reach the bottom of the pouch.
  • Add calories. Bring tortillas and eat the meal as a wrap. Another popular method is to add mashed potato packets to the meal — just remember to add more water, too.
  • Make sure your pot is marked at the level of water you need to cook your meals. It’d be silly to bring a measuring cup, and it’s not very nice to guess the amount of water and end up with soup or half-dry food.

You’ll find Peak Refuel meals at your outdoor store, or online at PeakRefuel.com.

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About the author: Levi Sim is an avid hunter, and an increasingly avid shooter. He strives to make delicious and simple recipes from the game he kills. He makes a living as a professional photographer, writer, and photography instructor. Check out his work and he’d love to connect on Instagram: @outdoorslevi

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Stan d. Upnow April 29, 2022, 9:08 am

    I’ve used freeze-dried meals quite a bit while camping(won’t mention the brands; not Peak). They usually contain large amounts of fat, carbs, & sodium; cheap stuff in place of meat. Also, their instructions to “add boiling water, seal the pouch, and wait 10 minutes” is never right. My experience was that Much more water is necessary, the wait time is at least double/triple that recommended, and some of the contents never properly rehydrate. The 4-serving pouch is a joke. I would eat the whole thing myself and Still want more! Plus, the stuff is really expensive for what you actually get.
    Only real advantage is the big weight savings; great if backpacking.

    • Levi Sim June 4, 2022, 12:22 pm

      I agree. That’s why I like these Peak Refuel so much. Real ingredients, and really tasty. Again, the “wait 10 minutes” totally depends on the temperature of your water, which is much lower at higher altitudes. Some folks will add water at lunch to the dinner meal and then re-heat the whole bag in a pot of water at dinner time to ensure full hydration. So far, these 2-serving bags make a very hearty meal for one person, and I think I could actually split them.

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