I would highly recommend this product for those looking specifically for an all-natural, vegetarian, gluten-free option.
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
Not as long of a shelf life as others (due to the lack of chemical preservatives)
Only 4 meal options (for now)
I have progressed somewhat in my backcountry cuisine habits but will never achieve true greatness. You won't likely ever catch me porting fresh, raw ingredients into the wilderness to ingeniously craft baked goods in a dutch oven. 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 and lunch, then a pasta side mixed with tuna for dinner. 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.
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.
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.
The 20 minute recommended re-hydration period is probably the biggest downside to the Good-To-Go product line. This isn't a big deal if you are 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.
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.
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. 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?)
I would recommend these products especially for outdoors people that are particularly conscious of food ingredients.
Aside from the good taste and nutritious nature of the products, I also like the idea of supporting small American businesses.