This is the age of ultralight. Virtually every piece of kit the mountain hunter needs to take afield has been stripped down to weights unimaginable a decade ago. But without the adequate fuel to keep you going, all the fancy gear in the world won’t carry your ass up the mountain or bring it back down in one piece. No, it’s our food that gives us the energy to climb, side hill, descend and do it all over again for days on end. Good gear helps, but food tops the list of mission critical items the mountain hunter depends on.
Ironically, given how many hunters take the time to cut down their toothbrush handles or calculate exactly how much stove fuel they’ll need, very few of us analyze our food choices with the same rigour. Year in and year out, the standard mountain hunter’s menu remains the same: freeze-dried backpacking meals, oatmeal, energy bars, jerky, and a compilation of calorie-rich snacks, meal fortifiers, and performance supplements. There are some that discuss calories per gram or ounce of packed weight but all calories are not created equal. The problem with many of our tried and tested options is they may be calorie-rich but they are not necessarily nutrient dense. Most are carb heavy, and although they pack a caloric punch, lack the quality fats and proteins that really power sustained, multi-day efforts.
Think gasoline versus diesel.
But what’s the alternative? Real food is too heavy and perishable and although the old timers often foraged, fished and hunted for many of their meals, their trips were measured in weeks and months not days. The average modern hunter does not have the luxury of time to hunt and gather on the trail.
Like many of you, I’d given up on trying to find better ways to fuel my hunts. I was convinced it was going to be yet another season of Turkey Tetrazzini and Beef Stroganoff for this hunter. And then I found Heather’s Choice Adventure Meals.
After researching her product line and then interviewing her for the Blazing Trail column back in May, I was given hope that it might finally be possible to carry high quality, nutrient dense meals (aka a balance of slow burning carbs and quality fats and proteins), in a non-perishable, lightweight and convenient package into the field. So a few weeks ago I made a “test” order and waited (impatiently) for my meals to arrive. And man, was it worth the wait.
First off, a read through Heather’s menu is a mouth watering experience. With combos like Elk Shepherd’s Pie, Dark Chocolate Bison Chili, and Venison Tomatillo Rancheros this ain’t no Mountain House line-up. Second, these are dehydrated not freeze-dried meals and although there are conflicting opinions regarding taste differences between the two, I can personally attest to the fact Heather’s meals actually taste like real food. I challenge any one of you to suggest you actually look forward to another Mountain House by the halfway point on your hunt. Well with a meal of Elk Shepherd’s Pie or Tomatillos Rancheros in tow I can assure you dinner will be something you actually look forward to and more importantly will give you the essential nutrient balance you need to recover and get at it the next day.
But that’s still not the most impressive aspect of these products. As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words and if you look at the photo below comparing the size differences of a standard Mountain House with one of Heather’s meals you’ll be blown away. They are nearly half the size, and a few grams lighter. You can literally get TWO high-quality, great tasting, nutrient dense meals into the same pack volume as one Mountain House. Now THAT is an impressive metric even the most ounce focused mountain hunter can get behind.
And let’s not forget the Buckwheat Breakfasts. With slow burning combos like Pie Spiced Apple, Blueberry Cinnamon and Banana Nutmeg all backed up with quality fats in a package thinner than most guys’ wallets you’d be hard pressed to find a breakfast option that packs as much punch into such a thin, lightweight package.
In summary, you need to check out Heather’s products. I’d actually planned an entirely different article for this month’s Mountain Life column but after receiving my test order and tasting and seeing the difference I literally felt like I had to write this and share just how impressed I was with the quality and unbelievable packability of her adventure meals.
I can honestly, no bullshit guarantee you will not be disappointed if you give them a try. If you’re even remotely serious about the quality of your food and try to eat a healthy, balanced nutrient dense diet throughout the year the days of compromising while on the hunt are behind you. In my opinion, the previously undisputed King of Backcountry Meals has been de-throned. There’s a new Queen in town.
Editor in Chief