Backpacker's Pantry Granola with Bananas & Milk

Specs

Dry Weight 9.5 oz / 269 g
Serving Size Two 13 oz Servings

Reviews

3

Good backpacking breakfast. Easy to prepare and pretty…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $6

Summary

Good backpacking breakfast. Easy to prepare and pretty nutritious. More tasty than most freeze dry packaged foods. Price, like all freeze dry, is fairly hefty.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to prepare (hydrates well with cold or hot water)
  • Fairly tasty
  • “Real granola” taste, texture, and mouth feel
  • Minimal waste

Cons

  • Pricey, like all freeze dry prepared meals
  • It’s still granola (though much better than most)
  • Has lots of chemical ingredients I remember from my undergrad chem course
  • At 140 calories per serving, it’s a bit skimpy for backpacking and especially winter
  • For cold preparation, be sure to use potable water or just use boiling water
  • If you are sensitive, note it is “prepared in a facility that processes peanuts, milk, soy, gluten, eggs, and tree nuts”

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Background:
When I started camping, backpacking, and horse packing with my family as a child, there was no such thing as freeze-dry. Your only choice in dried food was jerky for meat, powdered eggs, KLIM (milk spelled backwards – still exists) for powdered milk, and a range of dried fruits and vegetables (raisins, apples, apricots, tomato powder, potato powder, etc). Various dried cereals were available, some of which like oatmeal, grits, Cream of Wheat, and a few others were available for breakfast.

Yes, Familia Muesli and Granolas were around, most being imports from Europe. Generally, these were not very tasty, required a lot of sugar or honey to be palatable, or did not work well for cooking (dried beans took a day or more of soaking). Plus, after WWII ended, there were military surplus K-rations and C-rations. Frankly, our armed services personnel must have been very hungry to eat that stuff.

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When I started college, the sponsor of my scholarship was Food Machinery and Chemical Company (long since absorbed into a huge conglomerate). They provided summer employment for me. At the time, they had a huge contract with the US Military to develop better ways to preserve food that would be tasty in the field and easy to prepare. One of the projects was the perfection of the freeze-dry process. My supervisors found out I was a backpacker and climber. So every Friday, they would hand me a package or two of the latest batch to try over the weekend, with the instructions, “If you figure out how to rehydrate or prepare this, let us know.”

A number of the attempts included meat that was just as chewy as the toughest jerky, although some of the vegetable powders turned out fairly well. I got one package that my climbing buddy Arvid, and I thought was really great – at first. It was dehydrated apple slices. That weekend, we did a climb in the Sierra, and on the peak, started dipping into the bag to eat slice after slice. This stuff was really good. However, we soon got thirsty, and emptied our water bottles. We discovered that the apple slices expanded as they absorbed the water! We spent the next day laying around camp, moaning at our extended bellies. Our report back was to do the rehydration in a pot BEFORE eating the apples.

My experience with freeze dried foods since being a human guinea pig some 50+ years ago has been mixed. Some brands are excellent, while others get very old after a couple weeks straight, especially on expeditions where you have had to haul a month’s supply in, plus supplementing the calories with endless energy bars.

Since I continue to do a lot of backpacking (overnights and month-long) in all seasons, along with rock climbing and mountaineering, I now look for the following features in my backpacking food, whether freeze dry, fresh, sundried, or pre-packaged:

  1. Light weight
  2. Filling
  3. Plenty of calories (fats are ok on an extended trip)
  4. Tasty, but not overwhelmed with spices to hide the inadequacies (I love spicey food in general)
  5. Easy to prepare (and get to edible condition)
  6. “Real food” – taste, texture, mouth feel, after-taste
  7. Variety
  8. Minimal waste to carry out

I pre-prepare a lot of the food I take into the backcountry with me. But I find that a couple of companies produce prepared meals and dishes that meet my criteria. A lot of these are only available in North America and a few other countries. Since a lot of countries have strict customs requirements about food you bring in (including sometimes prepared foods like candy bars or canned food), on expeditions abroad, I often have to rely on hiring local chefs who cater to expeditions.

Backpacker’s Pantry is a company that usually produces acceptable pre-packaged meals. On a recent climbing trip, my spouse suggested I try the Granola with Bananas and Milk. I was a bit reluctant, given my experiences with granolas and mueslis, but I agreed – she does the camping foods part of a couple training courses for Adult Scout leaders, for which I am often the guinea pig.

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First Impressions: Knowing that our intended campsite would have no water available during this 5th year of severe drought in California (there are 5 wildfires burning in the state as I write this), I packed in a couple gallon jugs of water from home. Barb handed me the unopened package, pointed to the water jug, and said, “Prepare breakfast!” That meant heating the water for hot cocoa, so I asked if she wanted the granola hot as well. “No, everybody eats granola with cold milk,” was the reply.

So I tore off the top (above the ziplock re-seal) and poured in the requisite 2 cups of cold water, stirred thoroughly as directed with my over-length freeze-dry package stirring spoon, poured one third into Barb’s collapsible bowl, while I ate the remaining two thirds  from the bag (she thinks because she is smaller, she should eat a smaller portion). Observation – it mixed easily and thoroughly absorbed the water.

Details: What is there to say? It actually was one of the best granolas I have eaten (I think the fresh-tasting bananas helped a lot). Since it was only 2/3 of the package (slightly more than the designated one of two servings), it did not completely fill me up. However, all too often, granolas and mueslis eaten in the back country leave me feeling a bit over-stuffed. So I would say that for a day of rock climbing, it was just the right amount.

The taste, texture, and mouth feel were quite good (though I might have preferred an omelet for a day of climbing). It was good enough that I will consider taking this on a backpacking trip of several days and having it for more than one day on the trail (considering my general feelings about granola and the traditional “bloatmeal on the trail”, that’s actually pretty high praise).

One problem, though, is that I, at least, need more than the 280 calories that one serving supplies for a day of climbing (or 560 if I eat the whole package). The fact that 110 calories of the standard serving is from fat, does mitigate the small total amount somewhat. But, I did down a moderate amount of hot chocolate, which helps boost the morning calorie intake.

The Bottom Line:  Food preservation and reconstitution has come a long way since my college days as a human guinea pig. At least some freeze dry foods are easy to prepare and tasty. In the case of Backpacker’s Pantry, they are doing pretty well. Backpacker’s Pantry Granola also comes with blueberries in place of bananas.

I will note that prepared backpacking foods, especially freeze dry, are expensive. Looking around on the web, I see that this particular meal can cost up to $10 and as low as $5. We got this package on one of the regular sales that REI seems to have several times a year for freeze dry food.

One of the problems with backpacking and climbing foods is that at altitude and when putting out a lot of effort in the hiking, carrying a backpack (even UL), climbing, and backcountry skiing, one’s appetite and tastes shift – favorite foods at sea level often do not taste as good under those conditions. But in this case, I might even change my mind about granolas and mueslis in general.

Alicia TRAILSPACE STAFF

Thanks for the review, Bill, and for your service to making freeze-dried foods better. I've avoided the breakfast freeze dry meals, but maybe I'll try the blueberry version of this one.


1 month ago