Having recently found myself to be intolerant to gluten, rather than just intolerable, I had to change my eating habits. Obviously on a mountain you really don’t want to find out that a meal isn’t suitable for your diet, if you do get caught short in this unfortunate situation, then we can recommend sphagnum moss.
The easy part is that you can exclude every pasta dish for obvious reasons. Beyond that, it becomes a bit of a chore to find suitable grub. Here’s our run down of what suppliers make it easy to identify any suitable gluten free backpacking foods and if they provide a decent choice. We look specifically at food targeted at the backpacker , which includes Look What We Found who do explicitly market their pouches for camping. We’ve rated these on choice and how easy it is to identify which ones are gluten free.
1 – Look What We Found – These are one of the best gluten free choices, and they advertise the fact clearly. They’ve a gluten free page, so it’s very easy to find suitable food, which does appear to be most of their range. It does make sense, as it seems that mystery gluten seems to find itself into food that’s been processed to death, while the LWWF keep this to a minimum.
Out of 26 pouches, 20 are gluten free – which is a great result. The Tees Valley Meatballs and the Staffordshire Chicken Tikka are both a wild camping staples for me, so this is excellent news. I’ll add the new Northumberland Creamy Rice Pudding to that as well. The only downside is that my local supermarkets have an atrocious choice, and don’t stock them, with the exception of ASDA that happen to stock my two favourites. I will end up having to order direct from the company, which is the same for most of the food mentioned below.
2 – Fuizion – Previously one of my favourite dehydrated foods, but unfortunately all contain gluten and thus unsuitable. They do cater for special dietary requirements for expeditions, but I don’t think a quick weekend wild camp at Llyn y Cwn counts as an ‘expedition’ despite how badass we feel, and there’s obviously an expense involved in this that takes it beyond the reach of your typical wild camper.
3 – Mountain House – I know that the Lasagne will not be suitable, which I’m gutted about, but what about the scrambled eggs which are currently my first choice for breakfast? Unfortunately the scrambled eggs are out as the potato has a crispy coating that contains flour. In their favour, they note on this page – that all their stuff is clearly labelled for allergens, including gluten. Having to go through each product individually was a pain, but their gluten free mains are: Chicken Korma, Chicken Tikka, Vegetarian Tikka, Salmon and Potato, while the chilli doesn’t state, but appears OK. Their three puddings are also gluten free. The Chicken Tikka is passable, but not among my favourites.
4 – Reiter / Travellunch – I’ve stopped eating these recently with exception of the chocolate mousse, but they were OK just not as good as Fuizion and Mountain House. While their scrambled eggs are gluten free, you need to fry them, which is out of the question with a lightweight titanium pot. There’s a comprehensive list – which while in German, at least they’re taking this seriously, but only state 4 items, all of which are vegetarian. I emailed them to confirm, and they really do take it seriously and state:
The 4 explicit named gluten free meals are produced after a wet cleaning of our production machinery (blender, filling line, etc.). This process is costly and therefore limited to this 4 products.
So you definitely know where you stand, and that their gluten free products really are.
5 – Wayfarers – Their main website state nothing about whether their products contain gluten or not. This site – Penrose Outdoors – states that their entire range contain Gluten which is good enough for me. If I’ve got to scrabble around various online shops to determine the ingredients that means that Wayfarers are off the list.
6 – Expedition Foods – I’ve never used these previously, but it turns out they’ve got 21 Gluten Free meals availalble – and you can just choose to add only gluten free items to your basket using a dedicated page. Regarding the choice, they’ve out done the competition for ease of identifying the products and for the range. Their Sweet and Sour contains malt vinegar, but this is apparently safe (link). They certainly get our award for the best dedicated gluten free backpacking food – and our Expedition Foods review found they weren’t half bad either.
7 – Real Turmat – I’ve not tried these so far, and while they’ve got a good range they only have two casseroles that are gluten free, plus a third that’s also lactose free, and I really don’t do casseroles. A choice of 3 is poor.
8 – Adventure Foods – Another brand I’m yet to try out, but they’ve got a selection that don’t contain gluten, as opposed to being noted gluten-free. It’s mainly a curry containing pineapple, so being the fussy eater that I am, that’s out as well! However, the puddings look promising, especially the chocolate and a vanilla mousses.
9 – Trek ‘n Eat They have a wide range of meals, but only a few are gluten free. It wasn’t easy to find the gluten free varieties, but the only ones we found for certain were the Red Fish Curry, Mediterranean Fish Stew, Scrambled egg with onion, a couple of vegetarian options, chocolate mousse, rice pudding and an intriguing cheese fondue! I’m certainly going to try a few of these out, but the choice is limited and we could only find a few suppliers, but fortunately Complete Outdoors sell the full range.
Overall, it seems that the winners by a wide margin are Expedition Foods and Look What We Found. They both have a decent choice of gluten free foods that’s clearly labelled as well as being tasty. These are now the mainstay of my backpacking larder, but I seriously miss the puddings by Reiter and the Mountain House Scrambled egg which I might be able to tolerate. Fortunately, the Trek ‘n Eat Rice puddings and chocolate puddings look appealing – so keep your eyes peeled for a review soon!