Camp Cooking

Fernweh, a New Dehydrated Food Company, Is Changing the Backpacking Game

It’s Portland-based, vegan, sustainably-packaged, and oodles better than Mountain House.

By Kiva Hanson July 8, 2019

Rehydrating a Fernweh meal in the wild. 

You know the drill: add boiling water to your plastic-and-foil pouch, wait 10 minutes, and eat, for the thousandth time, a powdered rendition of beef stroganoff. Ashley Lance, owner of Fernweh Food Co, is trying to change that experience while saving the environment. Fernweh, which launched July 1, makes vegan, dehydrated meals using mostly seasonal, local, organic ingredients, and, most critically, packs them in reusable, food-safe cotton muslin bags. 

After being laid off from her job in early 2019, Lance decided it was now or never for her side-hustle: dehydrated adventure foods. She started dehydrating meals herself over five years ago out of a desire to have good, healthy, vegan food that lasted on the trail without all of the plastic packaging she saw piling up at trailheads. 

Her four headlining meals are cooked in a kitchen space at Southeast 13th and Powell. After prepping all the food (mostly seasonal veggies and “seconds,” a.k.a ugly produce) by hand, she cooks the meals together to marry the flavors, an industry rarity. 

Vegan, local, and sustainable is all well and good…but does it taste good? Here are our thoughts from an early sampling:

Fernweh's food-safe cotton muslin bags

Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl (411 calories, 3.5 oz)

This alt-oatmeal, made with chickpea flour and sweet potato, gets major textural boost from chunks of dates, banana, toasted coconut, pecans, and strawberry. It's warming, hearty, spice-filled, and a drastic improvement over instant oatmeal.

Eastside Protein Pasta (666 calories, 5 oz.)

Hints of lemon and basil, salty bites of Kalamata olive and bits of thinly sliced almonds make this pasta-lentil combo a worthy upgrade from the ol’ pasta primavera routine. Note for impatient diners: this dish takes almost 20 minutes to rehydrate.

Southwest Stew (470 calories, 5 oz.)

There’s some real heat to this stew, which gets its kick from a thick chipotle-tomato sauce. With substantial servings of black beans, bell peppers, and sweet potato, it’s the kind of rib-sticking fare that’ll fill you up after a long day of hiking. 

Mushroom Pot Pie (556 calories, 5 oz.)

Our favorite of the bunch has thick hunks of seasonal mushrooms, pillowy, gluten-free potato dumplings and a garlicky, rich coconut sauce. We’d eat this at home, sans nature, any day. 

You can buy Fernweh's meals in pre-measured one or five-ounce portions, or order in bulk for customizable amounts. At $2.50 per ounce. ($12.50 for a typical five-ounce portion) it’s on par with most high-end companies, but more expensive than Mountain House, the Oregon-based industry titan.

Order online, or visit the Montavilla and Mississippi street fairs for a taste.

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