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TRAIL FOODS TASTE-OFF

Break Out of the Breakfast Rut

PCT: Oregon’s Trail Foods Taste-Off is back! This year, we’re focusing specifically on organic, vegetarian and gluten-free foods, and we’re kicking things off with some tasty breakfast selections that are sure to excite your taste buds. Plus, all of these selections are quick and easy to prepare, so you don’t have to waste a lot of precious hiking time, or clean up a big mess after. So if you’re looking to get away from your same-ol’ breakfast bar, give one of these flavorful meals a try.

Backpacker’s Bistro: Sweet Potato Hash

A surprisingly different kind of breakfast. This would definitely be a welcome treat on the trail, and help get me get going in the morning. ~ Mitzi

Topping our list is a fantastically flavorful dish of sweet potatoes, carmelized onions and maple-fennel sausage that provides a delightfully sweet and savory breakfast meal. We especially like that this gluten-free dish features whole food ingredients and is low in sodium. A single serving is loaded with all the fuel you need to tackle a big morning ascent or long mileage push. Prep is as easy as can be: boil water, mix and wait. The 15-minute cook time is a bit long, but we can tell you, it’s worth the wait (see Pro Tips). The single-serve packet makes a hearty 8-ounce portion.

DIET: GF
CARBS: 58g    
SERVINGS: 1–2
PROTEIN: 12g   
CALORIES: 480
FAT: 23g  

Packit Gourmet: Santa Fe Corn Pudding

Big chunks of corn and veggies, with great flavor. ~ Tami

Pudding for breakfast? Well, it’s more like polenta. This easy-prep vegetarian meal features a combination of sweet corn, cheddar and jack cheeses, jalapeno peppers and a pleasant dash of maple sugar. At first mix, this dish looks like it could be a soupy glop, but it steeps up nicely and turns into a fluffy, flavorful porridge that many on our team really enjoyed (see Pro Tips). The 10-ounce single-serving size is quite ample for one person, with a good amount of calories, carbs and protein to get you moving. Wanna amp it up? Mix in some of Packit’s sausage crumbles.

DIET: VEG
CARBS: 66g    
SERVINGS: 1
PROTEIN: 15g   
CALORIES: 410
FAT: 11g  

Packit Gourmet: Jamaican Peanut Porridge

Surprisingly tasty, with rich peanut flavor and some sweetness. ~ Philip

This unusual vegetarian and gluten-free breakfast offering initially tripped up our tasters, as it’s called porridge (think oatmeal), yet it’s actually a beverage (think smoothie). Regardless, this out-of-the-ordinary concoction resonated with some of our tasters for its rich and savory combination of peanuts, coconut milk, nutmeg and vanilla. Plus, one 9-ounce serving is packed with carbs and protein to help fuel you up in the morning. The rest of our tasters who didn’t care for “peanut soup” improvised by mixing in a bit of granola and turning this into a crunchy peanut butter cereal.

DIET: VEG, GF*
CARBS: 49g    
SERVINGS: 1
PROTEIN: 12g   
CALORIES: 350
FAT: 14g  

Alpine Aire: Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Solid banana and chocolate flavors. ~ Brandon

Like chocolate? Like banana? Then you’re probably going to like this quick and easy gluten-free breakfast beverage. The trick to achieving the desired taste and consistency of this powdered smoothie mix is really cold water, a good sealing bottle and a little patience. On first mix, we found this drink to be a bit chalky. But after giving it a few minutes to dissolve completely, then giving it a good, vigorous shaking helped blend it up and froth it into a tasty, creamy drink. Full of antioxidants and NutraProtein Power Blend, one single-serve packet makes a very filling 12-ounce smoothie.

DIET: VEG, GF
CARBS: 40g    
SERVINGS: 1
PROTEIN: 6g   
CALORIES: 200
FAT: 2.5g  

Patagonia Provisions: Creamy Banana Cereal

Good natural banana flavor. ~ Philip

Buckwheat is not for everyone, as it can have a very strong, earthy flavor, so this hot cereal packed with organic buckwheat kasha, rolled oats and flax seeds divided our tasting panel. Those who liked it gave it props for its pleasant banana and flavor and mild sweetness. Those who didn’t favor it as much found it more appealing after adding a little maple syrup, or by dropping in a dollop of peanut butter (good for an extra calorie and protein boost). Prepared as directed, we found this one came out a little runny, so recommend adjusting the amount of water used (see Pro Tips). 

DIET: ORG, VEG
CARBS: 42g    
SERVINGS: 2
PROTEIN: 8g   
CALORIES: 210
FAT: 3g  

DRINK – Laird Superfood Instafuel

The flavor is wicked-delicious and reminds me of a coconut latte. ~ Tami

Looking for a quick boost in the morning with a tropical flair? Combining 100% Arabica coffee with Laird’s Superfood Creamer (a vegandairy-free and gluten-free combination of coconut milk powder, aquimin, coconut oil and red palm oil), this flavor-packed cup o’ joe will have you dreaming of palm trees and sandy beaches. A few of our tasters found this coffee to be a bit on the strong side, so added a little sugar to even out the flavor; the rest of us just wanted more. A single-serve packet makes a large, 12-ounce cup of coffee.

DIET: VEG, GF
CARBS: 4g    
SERVINGS: 1
PROTEIN: 0g   
CALORIES: 35
FAT: 1.5g  

PRO TIPS:

LONG COOK TIMES: For meals that require longer steeping times, use a cooking cozy to keep the package hot and insulated while it prepares. This is especially helpful at higher elevations and in colder temps. This will help the food contents cook to its intended doneness, and is particularly useful for dishes that contain beans, potatoes, rice and other ingredients that aren’t so great when crunchy.

SOUPY DISHES: Many hot cereals that rely on steeping often turn out soupy and can be difficult to choke down. Try one of these solutions: 1) Instead of adding boiling water and letting it sit, add the cereal to the boiling water in your pot and simmer over low heat until it reaches a desired consistency. Or 2), add less water to the packet and add more incrementally to reach your desired consistency.

REDUCE PACKAGING WASTE: For many beverage mixes, you can reduce the amount of waste you produce—and have to pack out—by purchasing larger bulk packages. Just measure out the number of servings you’ll need on trail, then put into a zip-top baggie. For powdered mixes, it’s actually best to double-bag—just in case of a leak. When you’re ready, just spoon out a serving size, mix up and enjoy.

Next week we’re sharing some of our favorite organic, vegetarian and gluten-free energy food snacks. You don’t want to miss this one, as there’s some amazingly tasty items in there, with many you’ve probably never heard of. See you next week!

Meet Our Taste-Off Panel

asars spot
Tami Asars
brandon spot
Brandon Fralic
lisa spot
Lisa Holmes
kramer spot
Philip Kramer
mitzi spot
Mitzi Sugar
wood spot
Rachel Wood
eli spot
Eli Boschetto
This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, PCT: Oregon may receive a small commission. These commissions help offset PCT: Oregon’s hosting, operating and development expenses. Affiliate links do not change your purchase prices.
Based on sample availability and dietary restrictions, not all panel participants taste-tested all menu items. Nutrition information is based on single serving size. *Indicates a food item that is made with gluten-free ingredients, however it may not have been produced or packaged in a gluten-free environment.
Main photo: Sunrise near Hobart Bluff, on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon.

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