Editor’s note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Spring 2021 Issue.
Freeze-dried backpacking meals are an exceptionally convenient way to eat in the backcountry. They are lightweight, simple to prepare, and don’t need refrigeration. Freeze-dried meals have also gotten pretty tasty due to increased consumer demand. However, one thing that manufacturers of shelf-stable meals have generally not offered are options for people with dietary restrictions. But times are changing, and Wild Zora, a food producer based in Colorado, has stepped up to the plate to offer freeze-dried meals with no artificial ingredients that are also gluten-, nut-, grain-, dairy-free with no added sugar. Their meals are packed with protein and utilize free-range meats as well as organic vegetables.
CALDERA CHICKEN CURRY
The flavor of the chicken curry was good—a little sweet with a mild curry taste that had just a tiny hint of heat. Like the other Wild Zora meals that I have tried, I felt that the quality of the protein was a step above most other freeze-dried meals on the market. The recommended 1.5 cups of water left me with a bit more liquid than I would prefer, so I would advise erring on the side of caution with less water, adding more if you need it. The curry fully rehydrated in roughly 10 minutes at 5,280 feet above sea level. At 400 calories, this meal felt filling, thanks to 37 grams of protein. For anyone partaking in extra high-output pursuits, you may want to add some oil or fat to boost the calorie content a bit. The same goes for the meal below.
400 CALORIES | 37G PROTEIN | $13, ONE SERVING | WILDZORA.COM
MOUNTAIN BEEF STEW
After a long day on the trail, a hearty meal is often the main thing on our minds, and for me, few things are as satisfying or filling as a nourishing beef stew. This meal is lightweight and also packed with protein: 37 grams in this single serving. The ingredients are straightforward and include grass-fed beef, vegetables (some organic), spices, and herbs. Preparation is simple, requiring only boiling water and patience. It’s ready in 5-15 minutes, depending on your elevation (longer for higher elevations). The stand-out attribute of this particular meal is the quality of the meat—some of the best we’ve experienced in a freeze-dried meal. Overall, the taste was a little plain, so I would recommend seasoning with some additional salt, pepper, and fat (butter or oil). The shelf-life is two years from the date of production.
410 CALORIES | 37G PROTEIN | $13, ONE SERVING | WILDZORA.COM
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