Good To-Go Smoked Three Bean Chili
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.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(samples provided by Good to Go for testing and review)
All natural ingredients, high protein, and high fiber ensure this meal will leave you full and satisfied on the trail. Unfortunately, mediocre re-hydration and an off flavor kept me from enjoying this meal as much as I had hoped.
- Nothing artificial
- Never fully re-hydrates
- Onions overwhelm all other flavors
After trying Good To-Go's Thai Curry, I was anxiously anticipating trying this meal in the middle of a three-day, two-night outing in Shawnee National Forest.
As I mentioned in the Thai Curry review, I love the fact that the ingredients are all-natural, real food! There are no artificial flavors or preservatives.
I also appreciate the Nutrition Facts. High protein, Fat, and Fiber ensure that you stay full after eating (Carbs based on sugars and starches breakdown too quickly—which is why that chocolate bar leaves you hungry after a short time.).
Eating this meal with a couple of tortillas, a cup of hot chocolate, and four short-bread cookies left me full and content after a second day of hiking ten miles.
First, the beans never fully re-hydrated. Having read other reviews, I knew this might be a problem. So I intentionally cooked the meal an extra 10 minutes.
Second, although I really enjoy sautéed onions in most dishes, the caramelized onions overwhelmed every other flavor in the chili. While I could tell there were some really great flavors hiding in that bag, I had to work past the strong sweetness of the onions to find them.
If you understand packaging labels, ingredients are listed in the order of quantity. So, noting the second picture (above), the second greatest item in this recipe is onion.
Being completely honest, I couldn't have finished this meal straight out of the bag. It was just too overwhelming of flavor. Fortunately, I still had a couple of tortillas from my lunch stash, and that was enough to make the meal palatable, but not really enjoyable.
I know others have given this meal a higher rating. So maybe I had an off batch. This meal is still better than the food I have ever tried from Backpacker's Pantry, but it's not something I will try again.
Source: received it as a sample, freebie, or prize (Trailspace Reviewer of the Month prize package)
The best dehydrated meal I've tasted. Real ingredients and restaurant-quality taste make this a 5-star product.
- Real ingredients
- Easy prep
- Seem like more packaging than necessary
On a dayhike that included a significant morning climb, my wife and I knew we’d be hungry by mid-day so we packed this meal and a small stove and hit the trail. When the trail finally flattened out and we got around to making lunch, we were blown away by the delicious taste, especially compared to other freeze-dried and dehydrated meals we’ve had in the past.
Our only regret was having just one pouch to split between the two of us because 1) it was really tasty! and 2) we were both hungrier than we anticipated. The package does say it is a single serving, so we should have known better than to split it. Fortunately, we had some other snacks packed as well.
As for preparation, the 4-step directions are clearly labeled on the back of the package, which is a nice touch. My only suggestion would be to add a 5th step that says, “Leave No Trace. Take home all trash including the oxygen absorber and packaging.” I’ve been to a few too many campsites where bits and pieces of freeze-dried meal packaging were left behind.
My only other suggestion would be to add a line inside the pouch that shows how much water to add. This way the user doesn't have to pre-measure or guess 1.25 cups (300 mL) of water.
There isn’t a single ingredient in this meal that I can’t routinely find in my own kitchen cupboards or refrigerator. As someone who cooks almost every night, I greatly appreciate this fact and am actually interested in trying to re-create this recipe at home.
Lastly, I like the overall design and functionality of the packaging, but I do wonder if it is bigger than necessary. There seems to be considerable unused space for the food. Maybe there is a good reason for this, I don’t know.
I highly recommend the Go-To-Go Smoked Three Bean Chili for those who like the smoky flavors of vegetarian chili and are looking for both great taste and real sustenance in their backcountry meals.
Source: received it as a sample, freebie, or prize (Trailspace)
Coming from someone who is not a fan of packaged dinners—this was good! Easy instructions and good flavor, with only a few less hydrated/crunchy pieces. A great vegetarian alternative on the trail.
- Sturdy packaging
- Clear easy instructions
- Rehydration consistency
- Wait time
I did this review to supplement Lah’s excellent review of the meal and to give another non-biased account of experience with it. No offense to other reviewers, but several seem to be related to the company in some way.
First off, when evaluating food choices I think it is a good baseline to describe my eating habits on the trail:
- Lots of fresh stuff on short trips especially first day or so
- Meals are usually a base (rice, pasta, barley) with home dehydrated vegetables
- Add variety to the menu with pre-packaged meals, tending to stay with favorites.
- Not usually a boil-in-bag guy, I find simmering my own meals hydrates them better (using wood burner so no fuel issues)
I approach a meal test the same way for pre-packaged as I do for my own recipes and concoctions. Rather than relying on my trail hunger to override my taste buds, I test each meal out at home or the office to ensure I like it in “normal” surroundings. If I enjoy it there, I know I will like it on the trail. This takes the “I’m starving and will eat anything after a long day” factor out of the evaluation.
I have yet to have a meal on the trail taste worse than it did at home. Therefore I feel this is a high-bar tests of the product. I do make sure I have worked out that day to ensure that I have an appetite somewhat resembling what I will be like on the trail.
I also follow instructions to the letter with the amount of water etc in order to get a consistent comparison. Good meals will be reused and tweaked with more or less water etc to perfect (if possible) the flavor and consistency to meet my personal choice.
The Smoked Three Bean Chili comes in a sturdy package that looks like it can stand up to some abuse. I had no problem shaking it around to mix it and felt confident it would hold the meal after hydrating with no issues. I knew it wouldn’t leak and the shape of the bottom kept it balanced and difficult to tip over. The only drawback with the packaging is that it is not clear if the material is recyclable after use and washing.
The instructions were clear as you could ask: just tear the package open, remove the oxygen absorber (which I forget about every fifth meal!), add boiling water, mix well, and wait 20 minutes. During the wait they offer some friendly and mildly humorous advice—always welcome after a long day on the trail.
Cooking was easy, as expected. I mixed it with a utensil and then closed and shook/massaged the bag until I felt the mix was thorough. Although this may sound strange coming from someone who often cooks and simmers his own meals on the trail, I found the 20 minute wait time a bit long.
There are other meals that are just as easy and have about half the wait time, but I am not sure they taste as good. I kept thinking about one of those days when you reach camp with a ravenous hunger but then have to wait 30 minutes to boil water and hydrate the meal. I guess snacks would fill the gap...
Rehydration of the chili was as good as any pre-packaged backpacking meal I have tried. There were a few relatively crunchy parts, but nothing out of the ordinary. Maybe the mixing wasn’t as thorough as I thought, or it needs slightly longer than 20 minutes? Either way, it was a minor amount of “crunchies” which I expect in this type of dinner.
The flavor of the Smoked Three Bean Chili was excellent. I enjoyed the well balanced flavors, but did not find it too spicy. I would rate it as mild, but I like a good pepper in a meal so this is a relative scale. I added some spice (Sriracha sauce) to the meal to simulate what I might do on the trail, and that gave it the right amount of kick for me. I would not suggest increasing the spice level as that is very dependent on the person and one can always bump it up with some spices from your cook kit after trying it.
I could also taste the freshness, or lack of preservatives. This is a simple meal with natural ingredients and both vegetarian and gluten free. I always enjoy a meal more when I know it is healthy. Check out the ingredient list (Good To-Go even points out how easy it is to pronounce them!).
While I wasn't on the trail for this test, I do similar testing on all my food choices and had worked up an appetite. The calories-per-ounce ratio for this meal is really good at 340 calories for 3.5 ounces of food. This filled me up until dinner time!
Overall this is an excellent choice for an easy backpacking meal that fills the corners and tastes good. The only downside I found was the long wait time that still resulted in some “crunchies”. I can simmer my own meals within 20 minutes, but that may be too much work for most folks. I don’t think any meal will convert me to a regular package meal guy, but I recognize this is better than most others I have tried and may be on my list for longer trips to help with backpack weight and menu variety.
This is a very good choice for the fuel conscious and non-fiddlers in camp. The Smoked Three Bean Chili is a healthy alternative to overly processed options with much longer ingredient lists. I rate this highly with only a reduction for the hydration issue common to many meals of this type.
Hope you enjoyed this review and find this meal as tasty and convenient as I did!
Source: received it as a sample, freebie, or prize (Trailspace - Reviewer of the Month Prize)
One of my new favorite backpacking meals.
- Healthy ingredients
- Great flavor
- Heavier packaging
- Long wait time
This was my first GTG dehydrated meal and I really enjoyed it. I tried it on a car camping trip after a day of day hiking in the Blue Ridge Mtns. Yes, you need to bring the water to a boil and yes you need to allow the full 20 minutes. But the wait was worth it. One of the best dehydrated meals I've had after hiking.
Really appreciate all the healthy ingredients and that it is not chock full of unfamiliar chemical terms. I did not find the carmelized onions overpowering as another reviewer stated. I did chose for mine to be a little spicier, so I had a packet of Taco Bell hot sauce.
I have since taken this product on a multi-day backpacking trip, and I repackaged it into a ziplock bag to reduce weight. That worked fine. I also added some bacon jerky on the trail, and that was an amazing addition.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $10
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.
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer
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.
Source: tested or reviewed it for the manufacturer (Ate it)
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.
Source: received it as a personal gift
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