Good To-Go Smoked Three Bean Chili
This is a fresh, healthy and tasty alternative to…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (samples provided by Good to Go for testing and review)
This is a fresh, healthy and tasty alternative to the every growing line of pre-packaged backpacker meals. The taste and ingredient list are excellent but the re-hydration period is quite a bit longer than other similar products.
I would highly recommend this product for those looking specifically for vegetarian and gluten-free options.
- All real, natural ingredients
- No chemical preservatives
- Made in Maine/America by a small family start-up
- Comes in 1 or 2 serving size packages
- Reseal-able package can be used directly to hydrate contents (no need to dirty dishes)
- Slim, durable packaging
- Some ingredients take a little long to rehydrate
- Only 3 meal options (for now)
- Not as long of a shelf life as others (due to the lack of chemical preservatives)
A note: I’ve included some of the same commentary for all three Good To Go reviews—Smoked Three Bean Chili, Thai Curry, and Herbed Mushroom Risotto. For particulars of each meal, skip to the section titled 'Taste'.
Here's what was included in my sample box...note the bonus 'happy' beverages!
About Me: I have progressed somewhat in my habits of backcountry cuisine but will never achieve true greatness. You most likely won't ever catch me porting fresh, raw ingredients into the wilderness to ingeniously craft baked goods in a dutch oven. Sad to say, I’m just not much of a cook at home and so my choices in backcountry foods are even more basic. I also like to travel light, fast, and for long distances, which just doesn’t equate to grand culinary efforts.
For years, my budget for three square meals on a backpacking trip consisted of 1-2 Clif bars for breakfast, 2 for lunch, and a pasta side mixed with tuna for dinner. Oh, and don’t forget the desert chocolate! I’ve added in the usual suspects such as dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, etc., but my strategy has always been very minimalistic. Where many are willing to carry more weight in order to have fresh food, I always saw this as an opportunity to cut weight.
Fortunately I’ve also been able to get by doing more for less in terms of caloric burn/ intake, at least for periods up to a week. But I realize this won’t work for everyone nor would it probably work for me if I were to ever take on an extended thru-hike.
A size comparison to other market competitors
The area where I stand to realize great improvement is in the quality of the dehydrated foods that I carry in my pack. A few years ago I started upgrading from the ramen and pasta packets to the trendier purpose-made meals, the likes of Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry.
While it’s true that most of these options provide very lightweight, quick, easy, AND tasty/filling meals, they’re still not exactly what you’d call healthy. Mainly they’re chocked full of sodium, some with as much as 45% DV per serving! These, like so many packaged foods, also tend to have a lot of artificial ingredients and preservatives.
So I am glad to see a small, family owned start-up company like Good To Go filling the niche of healthier, more natural backpacking meals. They have taken all the benefits of the self-contained packaging and filled it with more nutritious, better-tasting, real food.
Taste: I’ve tried several iterations of backpacking chili and this is by far the freshest and most satisfying I’ve had. It’s basically dehydrated beans and vegetables, paired with quality spices: simple but good. I would have preferred it to be a little more spicy but admittedly this is a trait that is not very well suited to multiple days in the backcountry.
I had the chili without any other food but since Good To Go was thoughtful enough to include various single-serving ‘happy’ beverages in my sample package, I decided it paired best with the Maker’s Mark. I’m not really a fan of bourbon, but the mystical setting of a cypress dome, the summer heat, and the sting in the drink added a unique and somehow fitting flair to the experience.
Prep: The long re-hydration period is probably the biggest downside. Instructions call for a full 20 minutes after boiling water has been added. This wouldn’t be a big deal if one is settled down in camp for the night. The package can be sealed and set aside while various other chores are accomplished and the time will go by quickly. The package suggests that you ponder ‘how big the universe is’…good advice I think.
But since I had to do the prep during a brief rest period on a day hike, I essential had to eat on the run. Even so, I simply put the sealed package in my pack while we hiked a little further. I didn’t time it exactly, so when we stopped to look around maybe 15 minutes later, I took the opportunity to begin my meal. And it wasn't disappointing, though I found the texture of some of the ingredients (mainly the corn) was a bit crunchy, meaning it still needed more time.
Simply add boiling water, stir/shake, and wait.
I’m rather used to this aspect of dehydrated meals since my hunger (or impatience) often gets the best of me. In fact, I almost always burn my mouth from diving in too soon. But 20 minutes is maybe pushing the limits of the fine line between the food being fully hydrated and becoming too cold. In a chilly environment, it would be wise to insulate the package during this wait time.
Packaging: The packaging is top notch. I didn’t struggle to open it, it sealed easily, and the bottom expands sufficiently in order to stand upright unsupported. I was impressed by how slim and compact the package is compared to other similar products.
I would note that in this picture, the sample is being compared to double-serving packages, so it’s not a fair comparison. But it does give you an idea of scale if you’re familiar with these other products. My only suggestion would be to include a fill line on the packaging to know how much water to add. I tend to just pour water in until it ‘looks good’…so perhaps it’s time I invest in marking lines on my pot.
Satiety & Energy: I had the chili for lunch as part of a day hike. It was all I ate during the hike and I felt pretty darned good, but it was only a 6 mile hike. Since I’m used to eating very little during the day and then splurging on double-serving meals for dinner, I would probably opt for the same strategy with this product. That or bring other foods to pair it with. I’m not a vegetarian so I would probably consider pairing it with beef jerky or some sort of packet protein like tuna.
I did note that of all the various meal samples I have on stock, the Good To Go meals have by far the most calories per serving, from 340 to 410. If you’re looking for better bang for your buck in terms of caloric density, these would be a good choice. However, at around 3.4 oz per serving, they are not quite as lightweight as some of the others (though still plenty light for backpacking). This weight per serving would probably be reduced slightly if you opt for the double-serving package and plan to split the contents between meals or two persons (does anyone actually do this in the backcountry, I’m curious to know?)
Claims: All three Good To Go selections are both gluten free and vegetarian (except the Thai Curry, which is pescatarian). They are advertised as being ‘real food’ and in reading the ingredient list, this claim is not exaggerated. In fact, just looking inside the bags, you can recognize actual elements…in the case of the Thai Curry, there are whole chunks of broccoli florets!
This picture is from the Thai Curry sample
I would also point out that the three selection are generally much lower in sodium than their counterparts. The Thai Curry has the most at 500mg, the chili has only 360 mg and is also pretty is high in protein at 16 g. So in my experience, these meals did provide a fresh, healthy and tasty alternative to the every growing line of backpacker meals.
Best For: I would recommend these products especially for outdoors people that are particularly conscious of food ingredients. My friend Megan is a good example. She loves the outdoors and also enjoys spending hours prepping amazing foods for the trail. She is vegan and thus has to essentially create all her own meals from scratch. Knowing this, I asked her to try the chili on our hike and after reading the ingredient list, she agreed that she could eat it. She also agreed that the taste was great for a pre-packaged, dehydrated meal.
Final thoughts: Aside from the good taste and nutritious nature of the products, I also like the idea of supporting small American businesses. The co-founder of the company, Jennifer Scism, is a former New York City chef who now resides with her husband and business partner in Maine. It's the little things, like a handwritten postcard from Jennifer included in my sample package, that impress upon me the sincerity and genuineness of such small businesses.
As always, I thank them and Trailspace for the opportunity to do some TASTE-testing (my favorite kind of gear testing!) and I wish them all the best in their new endeavors.
You won't be sorry — this is REAL food! Does it…
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer
You won't be sorry — this is REAL food!
Does it get any better than warm chili on a cold day? Perfect for those chilly days on the slopes! Chock full of veggies, beans, and a slightly smokey flavor.
It's easy to prepare — just add boiling water. You can eat well at the ski lodge without it costing a fortune, what a concept... Portions are generous and it kept me going for the rest of the day! YUMMY!!!
Full disclosure: I am friends with the owners of Good To-Go. I've had the opportunity to sample these recipes as they were evolving before production, and Jen keeps making them better and better! What you've got here is the best recipe yet.
This one is super hearty and would be awesome after…
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Ate it)
This one is super hearty and would be awesome after a long hard hike, yummy like the other two.
- Easy to prepare
- Make sure you follow directions; beans will not reconstitute if you don't use boiling water
Very excited that there are three very different meals to make on my next backcountry trip. I also think these would be excellent choices for boaters who may be out at sea or might want something easier to prepare.
Maybe the best of the batch, and that's saying something...
Source: received it as a personal gift
Maybe the best of the batch, and that's saying something...
Easy to make, not freeze dried,dehydrated; made by prize winning NYC chef — seriously — just add boiling water. I don't hike or camp if I can help it; i'm a glutton/gourmet (?gourmand?) and I cook, eat, and then look forward to my next meal.
My wife and I got three bags of this as a gift and decided to make them all one night and have a tasting. They were sensational. Good enough to eat and serve as a dish at home; I'd serve this to guests. Filling, high quality calories, a lot of thought has gone into this by people who know what they are doing.
DISCLOSURE: I am in investor in Good To-Go and have a relationship with the owners.