Friday, December 5, 2014

Gear Review: 'Camp Chow' Camp Food - Boundary Waters' Finest

Last month, I attended the 2014 Winter Camping Symposium in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. After the Symposium, I made my way northward to Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, an area on the US-Canadian border renowned for its beauty and pristine wilderness.

A friend, who accompanied me on the trip, had some family property on Gunflint. She was well-versed in the area's cool attractions. One of the places she wanted me to visit was the Trail Center Lodge, a historic locale which she said had an "amazing breakfast." Boy was she right! The breakfast there truly WAS amazing. Their pork sausage gravy was literally the best sausage gravy I had ever eaten.

After breakfast in Trail Center's restaurant, my friend tugged at my sleeve to check out their "Camp Chow" brand camp food, which was on display at the gift shop. She said Camp Chow had a great reputation with the locals, and that we should consider grabbing some to take back to Colorado.

Impressed by the breakfast I had at the restaurant, I took her advice and grabbed a couple of the Camp Chow meals to take home with me. 'Shrimp Chowder' and 'Wild Rice Casserole with Pork' looked interesting, so I settled on those.

Back home in Colorado, I fired up my stove and tried them both. Wow, were they delicious!

Definitely a nice change of pace from Mountain House Backpacking Food. Although I like Mountain House, the Camp Chow is on a whole other level. Camp Chow tastes like high quality restaurant food and takes only a little more effort to make than an instant Mountain House meal. Foodies that like to camp and backpack, take note!

Impressed by the taste of Camp Chow, I decided to get in touch with Sarah Hamilton, the owner of Trail Center and the genius behind Camp Chow.

Sarah decided to start the Camp Chow brand after listening to thousands of comments from her restaurant patrons. Fresh from hiking the Gunflint Trail or canoeing the Boundary Waters, these wayward travelers often complained of dehydrated backpacking food that was bland, too salty, or over-processed.

So she used her expertise, from years of serving delicious foods at her restaurant, to create an alternative to the less than stellar backpacking pabulum her patrons had been eating.

Camp Chow quickly became a favorite with local outfitters. In fact, her Camp Chow 'Pork Gravy' recipe became so popular that Sarah now uses it in her restaurant!

After speaking with Sarah, she very graciously offered to send Leah and I some of her Camp Chow food to sample. Yes folks, she really had to twist our arms on this one!

Most of Camp Chow's food is easy to make (i.e. just add to boiling water), and quick, taking just 5-7 minutes for most of the breakfast meals and 8-15 minutes for a dinner entree. In keeping with Sarah's philosophy, Camp Chow meals tend to be slightly less salty than average, allowing users to tweak them to perfection with a touch of salt if desired.

I've now sampled several new Camp Chow meals that Sarah sent. These have included her Chicken Alfredo, Beef Stroganoff, Broccoli and Cheese and James' Rice Pudding. They were all outstanding-- fresh, flavorful, delightfully complex, you name it.

And then there are Sarah's pork gravy breakfast meals. I tried her 'Sausage Gravy with Scambled Eggs' and 'Grits with Pork Sausage.' Both of these meals were every bit as good as I remember from Sarah's restaurant-- in other words-- fantastic!

Sarah has many more meals listed on her site, including soups, creative camp breads (bushcrafting bannock lovers, are you listening?), lunch entrees, side dishes, and desserts, which you can check out here-


Although none of the Camp Chow meals are exactly cheap ($6 to $10 per meal), they taste great, portions are very generous, and the ingredients are fresh and very high quality. In fact, I bet you could really impress your significant other on a day hike if you whipped out some Camp Chow for an impromptu lunch on the trail.

For more info visit Trail Center's Camp Chow page at

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