Category Archives: Gear

We test outdoor gear to see if it lives up to the marketing hype

Hi-Mountain Seasonings Camping Food: Good Vittles

While food reviews aren’t exactly the primary focus of, we were please to have the opportunity to review the complete selection of Hi Mountain Seasonings new Camping Meal line of outdoor foods.

We became interested in the Hi Mountain products after using their lineup of jerky cure and summer sausage spices this fall.  After using spice mixes from a variety of manufacturers over the years, we found that the Hi Mountain line of products is not only the best tasting but one of the better values in a packaged mix.

When we discovered that they were venturing into the camping food market, we were intrigued.  After a pleasant meeting with the President of Hi Mountain Seasonings Hans Hummel at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, we were sent all four of the initial offerings for a trial run.

The food comes in a heavy plastic pouch that only requires the addition of boiling water and, after 15-minute wait, offers up two tasty servings.   All of the ingredients are dehydrated and therefore cost less and take up less space than comparable freeze-dried food.  More importantly, they taste better than freeze-dried.

Now, after two camping trips, here is our scorecard on those initial four dishes;

Campfire Chili Macaroni

Campfire Chili Macaroni–  As this was our first test of the Hi Mountain camping foods , we were a little too excited to wait the required 15 minutes before sampling the product.

It proved very tasty, even with the crunchy texture of the not-completely-rehydrated beans.

Lesson one: you really have to wait 15 minutes for everything to fully rehydrate.

Overall, in taste and appearance the chili was much like something you’d cook on the stove at home.  That might sound like damning with faint praise but when you consider that a few minutes prior this dish was collection of dust and rocks, it is remarkable that the taste and consistency was something far-removed from standard dried fare.

While the macaroni, beans and other ingredients were unremarkable, the defining characteristic is the depth of the spice profile used in the seasonings.  As we expected from this company, the complexity and great flavors  indicated that someone went to a great deal of trouble in developing this dish rather than just dumping in some generic dried tomato base and a few flakes of garlic.

Carmel Apple Crunch

Hot Carmel Apple Crunch–  This was our dessert and proved POWERFUL.  After the required waiting period, we opened the pouch and inhaled a strong aroma of apples, caramel and cinnamon with a slight whiff of cranberies.  After topping with the included pouch of granola, we dug into the thickened mass of apples

The texture was like that of a good apple cobbler, a thick and creamy sauce surrounding the apples, punctuated by the granola.

The interesting thing was the strength of the spices and overall taste.  By no stretch was it unpleasant but it was rich and strong, almost too much so.  This is one that might be better in a smaller portion size.  In fact, the recommended “three serving”-sized pouch might be completely accurate on this particular item.

Green Chili Casserole– The taste?  Incredible.   The look..well…to be honest, one of my fellow backpackers described it as “identical to vomit.”  We must admit that we likewise shared a little trepidation at the appearance of the casserole.

The name is somewhat deceiving as the meal is actually more of a thick stew of rice, ground beef, tomatoes, chilies and corn.  In texture, it is almost identical to a good gumbo; in taste- incredible!

Our first tentative sampling, based on the appearance, was only a little bit on the spoon carefully slurped down.  The assembled group around the campfire waited expectantly for a reaction; being guys, I’m sure they were hoping for some type of violent up-heaving if not outright seizure.  However, trying to master understatement, I replied to the inquires with “good…..pretty good….in fact, it’s damn tasty.”

They looked somewhat let down.

Too bad.

It would be hard to ruin meat and rice in any case but Hi Mountain has taken the humble base and placed a blend of spices that is savory, complex and satisfying.  It is also spicy enough that wimpy-tongued diners might find this one a little challenging.  To our somewhat burned-out gustatory sense, we’d rate it a medium, though keep in mind that we  consider pickled jalapeno peppers eaten from the jar to be a mild appetizer.

This one is a definite keeper.  In fact, we’d serve this one at home for dinner if they would only sell the mix in our local supermarket.

Cajun Beans and Rice– This is another rich dish with a complex, tangy and satisfying flavor profile.  With a coansiderable mount of spice in the thick sauce that envelopes the rice and beans, your dinner guests would be raving if you served this dish at home.  Of the group, this ran a very close second to the Green Chili Casserole as our favorite.

Conclusion: Long ago we dropped the prepackaged ‘camping food’ from our pack and simply brought along a few favorites from the grocery.  After having tried prepared food from virtually all the major camping food manufacturers, we had grown jaded on the lot.  After eating too many watery sauces and chemically-enhanced entrees that taste like they’ve been sitting in a warehouse for three decades, we’ve pretty much given up on purchasing our victuals at the camp store.

Campfire Chili Macaroni prior to preparation

However, we are reconsidering that position as Hi Mountain has raised the bar in term of taste.   Based upon the complexity of the flavors, it appears that Hi Mountain has spent a considerable amount of time in the test kitchen trying to find the best balance among the myriad of ingredients.  The only downside we can find: there are only three entrees and one dessert to choose from.

Note on serving size:  each packet “serves three.”   If you’ve ever eaten any camping food on the trail, you know that most camping food “feeds four” packages will only serve one average-sized male after he’s put six or ten miles under his boots.  In the case of Hi Mountain foods, we ourselves did finish one package at a sitting but just barely.  For the average-sized person, a good bet would be one package to serve two.

Cost: Suggested retail is $7.99

Information From Hi-Mountain Seasonings, Inc.

Just Add Hot Water for a Delicious Meal

Hi Mountain Seasonings Introduces New Camping Meals

RIVERTON, Wyoming (January 11, 2011) — World renowned for its jerky cure and seasonings, Hi Mountain Seasonings is pleased to announce the launch of a new line of camping, backpacking or outdoor foods. Four freeze-dried meals—Cajun Beans & Rice, Green Chile Casserole, Campfire Chili Macaroni and Hot Caramel Apple Crunch—will be the first offerings in this line of great-tasting, convenient, easy-to-prepare meals that boast a very long shelf life.

Hi Mountain Seasonings’ new Camping Meals are perfectly preserved, and there is no change in the shape, flavor, nutrition or texture of the food once restored to its original form by adding hot water to the resealable foil packet. Each of these four new meals contains three servings per packet, but they weigh only eight or nine ounces apiece, making them about 90-percent lighter in their freeze-dried form. They are easy to transport in a backpack or travel bag, providing great tasting meals wherever your adventures take you.

The Cajun Beans & Rice meal ingredients include dehydrated red beans, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, celery and precooked long-grain rice. Each of the three servings in the packet contains 230 calories, 9 grams of protein, 52 grams of carbohydrates and only 3.5 grams of total fat.

The Green Chile Casserole ingredients include precooked long-grain rice, dehydrated black beans, onions, tomatoes, corn, green chili peppers and ground beef. Each of its three servings contains 230 calories, 8 grams of protein, 45 grams of carbohydrates, and only 4 grams of total fat.

The primary ingredients in the Campfire Chili Macaroni are dehydrated red beans, black beans, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and macaroni noodles. Each of its three servings contain 270 calories, 12 grams of protein, 58 grams of carbohydrates, only 3 grams of total fat and no saturated fat.

Hot Caramel Apple Crunch, which is perfect for breakfast or dessert, includes dehydrated apples and cranberries, brown sugar, spices, cinnamon, granola and whole oats. Its three servings contain 220 calories, one gram of protein, 53 grams of carbohydrates and a single gram of fat.

The new convenient camping meals are available online at and at retailers and specialty stores nationwide for $7.99 per packet.

Next time you are on the go, be sure to grab one of Hi Mountain Seasonings new Camping Meals. You never know where your adventure will take you, but when you pack Hi Mountain Seasonings Camping Meals for your trip, you won’t be going hungry!

Hi Mountain’s entire line of products, cooking tips, instructional videos, and recipes are also available at, and the products can be found at high-quality sporting goods stores, farm and ranch stores and your local grocery stores.

Located in the heart of Wyoming, Hi Mountain Seasonings was founded in 1991. It is the premier manufacturer of kits for homemade jerky and sausage. Hi Mountain Seasonings has successfully captured distinct, traditional Western flavors in its Jerky Cure & Seasonings, Western Style Seasonings, Bacon cures and other products that make up the unique line of gourmet Western seasonings. For additional information, write: Hi Mountain Seasonings, 1000 College View Drive, Riverton, WY 82501; call toll-free 1-800-829-2285; or visit the company website at



Gear: Jetboil- It’s that good

As an experienced outdoors enthusiast, former SWAT sniper and career police officer, I have seen my share of gadgets.  Experience has shown the lion’s share of these gimcracks fail when subjected to real-world use.  Worse yet, they often prove to be more trouble than the problem they purport to rectify.  That’s why we were highly skeptical of the Jetboil stove.

After hearing that what appears to be a largish travel mug would cook our food within the space of one minute, we were dubious to the point of almost walking out of the press conference.  Sixty seconds later, we were stunned.

A Jetboil representative had started with a packed stove, assembled it and made a cup of water boil in what actually proved to be less than a minute.  He now had our full attention.

The system ready for packing
The system ready for packing

The award-winning Jetboil system is comprised of two basic parts, a stove and a mated 1-liter cup that serves as both pot and eating/drinking utensil.  However, the cup is far more sophisticated than initially meets the eye.   Made of hard-anodized aluminum, it is double-walled and covered by a neoprene jacket that makes it easy to hold with bare hands even when piping hot.

The real secret to the whole system inside the bottom ring where a computer-designed heat exchanger rests over the burner, essentially turning the cartridge stove into a high-efficiency furnace.

How efficient is it?  According to company literature, the tiny palm-sized 100-gram fuel canister will boil as much water as traditional 227-gram cartridges used by many older stoves.  Company claims aside, field use shows that the Jetboil will indeed bring two cups of water to a hard, rolling boil in approximately one minute at reasonable temperatures.

Considering the system takes less than 15 seconds to assemble and fire, this makes the Jetboil the closest thing to a microwave oven that you can throw into a backpack.

The stove- heart of Jetboil system
The stove- heart of Jetboil system

The stove offers a push-button ignition system that makes lighting a snap.  As the stove stays mated with the fuel cartridge while stored inside the cup, cooking is simply a matter of removing the stove/fuel cartridge unit, snapping the cup into place over the burner, turning on the fuel valve and hitting the igniter button.

For anyone looking for a quick, hot meal or drink while in the field, the Jetboil is just about the perfect accessory.

One of the simplest ways to prepare a meal is with the use of single-serving pouches of freeze-dried food.  After the requisite amount of water is boiled and poured into the pouch, the bag is placed back inside the cup to soak.  A few minutes later the meal is ready.  After eating, the empty pouch is removed, the cup is already clean, the stove is placed back inside and you are done with all mealtime chores except cleaning the spoon.

Heat exchanger rings
Heat exchanger rings

The Jetboil makes coffee or tea in the outdoors as easy as turning on your stove at home.  Using the optional coffee press, a suitable amount of java is dumped into hot water, steeped for a few minutes then the grounds are pressed out of the way by a strainer.  The integral plastic lid keeps the beverage warm and free from errant insects.

There are shortcomings with any piece of equipment and Jetboil has a few, though they are more conceptual than function or manufacture quality.

First, it is a cartridge stove system so there is no way to tell how much fuel remains.  However, in practice this hasn’t proved a significant drawback.  Cartridge stoves are also notoriously fickle in cold weather or very high altitudes.  Jetboil claims to have solved this issue with a mixture of gases that function better in difficult conditions.  Even at this, Jetboil recommends carrying a spare cartridge in your pocket during severe cold weather.

Being a cartridge stove, it simmers far better than a gasoline stove.  However, the Jetboil is really intended to do one thing well: boil water very, very quickly for simple meals or beverages.  If you are looking to cook complex recipes or fry a mess of trout, you might consider a bigger stove or campfire.  There is also a new, larger kettle available that has not yet been evaluated by S.W.A.T.

The stove works with many other types of fuel cartridge but the Jetboil is widely available in U.S. outdoor store, making resupply is a fairly simple matter.  Since only the Jetfuel canisters are small enough to pack inside the cooking pot, one of the prime reasons for using the system in the first place, we have never tried another brand.

Finally, the system is somewhat top heavy and not especially steady without the optional stabilizer accessory, making spilled ramen noodles a serious possibility.  Again, this is no worse than other small backpacking stoves and not an issue with the stabilizer.

With the ease of making hot water and beverages, our test Jetboil has seen a tremendous amount of field time.  Where hiking lunches used to consist of jerky and crackers, a single-serving freeze-dried pouch allows the luxury of a hot meal break.  Several duck blinds have been made a bit more civilized with hot coffee or tea and when not in the field, the stove stays inside our vehicle in the emergency gear bag.

If you are seeking a lightweight, relatively small, quick and very easy method of producing hot food for one person, the Jetboil is the ticket!

The 411:

Jetboil suggested retail price:  $79.95

Pot support and stabilizer: $19.95

French Coffee Press: $19.95

Available through outdoor retailers such as Dicks Sporting Goods, REI, Campmor, Eastern Mountain Sports and most stores that carry backpacking supplies.

Jetboil Inc.
PO Box 173
529 Sunapee Street
Guild, NH 03754
Tel: (603) 863-7700