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Friday, November 21, 2014

A Closer Look: Packit Gourmet

For the month of November I am highlighting some of my favorite hiking based companies, giving readers a closer look into the people who make the gear they love on the trail as well as products that remind us of the trail when we can't be there. Today we are taking a closer look at Austin based company, Packit Gourmet- providing delicious quality meals and snacks for the trail! 


TTS: Who is behind Packit Gourmet? Can you tell me about your background as a hiker and backpacker? How did you start Packit Gourmet?


Loren: Packit Gourmet is a small family owned business.  As a family we've been camping, hiking and canoeing - and creating our own backcountry meals together – for forty years.  We always felt that a good meal was just as important to the overall experience as anything else;  and "back in the day" we spent weeks dehydrating our own ingredients in order to have both the healthiest and best tasting meals on our own backcountry adventures.  In 2005, after an extensive wilderness trip that demanded a great deal of resourcefulness in preparing our own meal packs,  we thought others in the camping community might relish a "one stop shop" where both ingredients and good meals could be purchased.  We launched Packit Gourmet based upon the idea that "home cooking is the new Gourmet;"  and that concept continues to fuel our meal development as we seek out robust flavors and familiar combinations that will be both filling and satisfying at the end of a long hard day.


 Packit Gourmet Family - From Left: Jeff Mullins, Debbie Mullins, 
Sean Welton, Sarah Welton, Loren Mullins
Algonquin Provincial Park, Canada



TTS: How are your meal, snack, and other products different than what you may find walking into a typical outdoor retailer?

Loren: Our meals are hand-mixed in small batches - and packaged by hand- so no mechanization.   This allows us to spot check flavors and quality so that we are confident that each meal going out is something we would enjoy ourselves in the backcountry.  Meals are packed as a "meal kit" with additional components and instructions to make a cohesive meal.  Whether we think a meal tastes best with a drizzle of Texas Pete's Hot Sauce or olive oil is needed for a quick fry- we include it!  And detailed instructions for preparation at both camp and at home are always provided.
 
 
TTS: Where does your inspiration come from?

Loren: Our roots are in the deep South regions of the United States;  but our travels have exposed us to flavors worldwide.  That being said, most of the flavors you'll find in our meal offerings are inspired by our own home-cooking experience and the comfort foods that we enjoy best ourselves.   For example - the Dottie of "Dottie's Chicken and Dumplings" fame - - is named after my mother - a world class Chicken and Dumplings cook.  So I have that "taste in my mouth" and in my memory when I am creating these meals; I keep tweaking until the flavors reach that expectation.
 
 
 
 Bangers & Mash with Open Meal Pack
 
 
TTS: Do you have a favorite meal or snack at the moment? I'm sure the answer to this will change with each new meal developed!

Loren: Everyone here has a particular favorite, but as a snack - the freeze dried veggies serve as an easy, nutritious guilt-free snack.   Even the youngest member of the family - who is two - requests snacks of freeze dried okra, green beans, peas, corn and apples on a daily basis. Carob Energy Nuggets and Kountry Boy Sausage sticks are items that we take on every trip. Meal-wise - we like everything or we wouldn't sell it;  but meals that always make the list when loading up for a trip include:  Breakfast:  Migas, Grits, Corn Pudding – Lunches: Roast Beef Wrap, Chicken Salads – Dinners:  Gumbo, Chili, Chicken & Dumplings, Corn Chowder – Desserts:  Pumpkin Cheesecake, Banana Puddin'.  In the end, it really does depend upon who answers this question - everyone has their individual favorites.
 
 
TTS: How is Packit Gourmet different than any other online retailer?

Loren: I'm not sure that I could say how we are actually different because I don't have a working relationship with any  similar companies, but if I had to guess I would say that we are unique in that we are a completely family-run business.  We remain a small business and are happy in expanding organically through word-of-mouth, reviews and people like you who are interested in writing about our company.   Our limited size allows us to have more control over the products that we purchase, produce and make available to our customers.  It also enables us to enjoy a more personal relationship with our customers than might be possible if we were larger.  We really enjoy receiving notes, photos and shared camping experiences from our customers – and we recognize many repeat customers by name when they place an order - so that's super cool!   We also feel fortunate to be located in a rural setting - so we literally live, work and play in "the great outdoors" each and every day.  As such we are committed to incorporating eco-minded business practices that include, for example:  recycling/composting all cardboard packaging instead of sending it to the local landfill; and the implementation of a rain water collection system in the near future.
 
 
 
 Founders: Debbie Mullins & Sarah Welton
 
 
 
TTS: What is your favorite outdoor location?

Loren: For sentimental reasons, I would have to say the Algonquin and Quetico wilderness canoe areas in Ontario, Canada.  Our daughters each experienced their first wilderness canoe adventure at age three in Algonquin where they marveled at small otters following our canoe trail; heard the sound of loons at night and saw a family of moose foraging for dinner.  Our eldest had her third birthday on a small island in Algonquin and one of our favorite photos is of our youngest daughter being carried in her dad's arms across a beaver dam.  Good times!  In 2005 after our daughter's wedding, my husband and I took off to celebrate our 30th anniversary with a ten day trek into Quetico that started with a float plane drop into a remote lake.  These pristine areas remind us that we are fortunate to experience nature in such close proximity.


TTS: What is your one "must have" item you carry with you backpacking?
 
Loren: For its lightweight quick cooking superiority - we love our Jet Boil! 
 
 
 
If you're looking for meals for the trail that you'd eat at home, check out Packit Gourmet's selection! You can also follow them on facebook and Twitter!


Want to check out other small hiking-based companies? Take a closer look at TrailSigns, Gossamer Gear, ZPacks, Backcountry Ninjas, and AntiGravityGear!