Lifestyle & Culture

Melanie Ang Wants to Reinvent Your Mid-Adventure Meal

Backcountry Wok, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, uses zero-waste packaging for its range of dehydrated Korean, Chinese and Thai meals.

05.08.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by Backcountry Wok
Photo by Backcountry Wok

After a hard day exploring the mountains and slopes of a hiking trail, there’s nothing better than a warm and nutritious meal—something to ease the aches and pains before sleeping or share with others while relaxing and enjoying the views.

Backcountry Wok, a Canada-based startup comprised of “avid campers and environmental scientists,” said it became frustrated by the lack of eco-friendly and culinarily diverse options for lightweight, easy-to-prepare camping food.

“The dehydrated foods on the market are usually packaged in layers of plastic and aluminium waste, and often feature the same variation of pasta or chili, filled with too much salt and preservatives,” Backcountry Wok writes in a Kickstarter page.

“It’s no wonder dehydrated foods have such a bad reputation.”

So, the team created a range of dietitian-approved, dehydrated camping food, rooted in other cultures and encased in compostable packaging. These include:

  • Bibimbap (Korean fried rice with vegetables and red pepper sauce);
  • ‘Original’ fried rice, using carrots, aubergine and soya puffs
  • A sweet and spicy Thai green curry with rice.

Users simply add boiling water directly into the bag, seal it and wait for 20 minutes, then enjoy the food directly from the bag.

The products are 100 percent vegan, produced in portions large enough to be shared and made with vegetable produce from retailers that “might otherwise go to waste.”

Rising startup

Backcountry Wok was founded by Melanie Ang, a self-defined “huge outdoorsy person” who has a degree in marine biology and works for Parks Canada in the Rocky Mountains.

“Whether it would be for school, work or fun, I pretty much spend all my time in the outdoors,” Ang writes on the Kickstarter page. “I ate a lot of dehydrated meals and I was always so frustrated with all the plastic packaging waste from the meals I bought.

“On top of that, I wanted to eat nutritious and multicultural food that I regularly cooked at home in the outdoors. That was really the inspiration behind our Asian inspired recipes.”

She began cooking and dehydrating her own meals for backpacking trips in 2017, gradually growing Backcountry Wok into a fully functioning company as the food and ideas were shared with the campers, climbers, canoeists and fishers she met on the trails. The company now comprises marketer Ruya Rangara, finance lead Melvin Ang, and photographer Jan Johannus.

Leave no trace

In keeping with hiking principles, Backcountry Wok says it lives by the mantra “Leave No Trace”—designing its bags to be compostable in a variety of situations. Nevertheless, it encourages customers to take their food bags back with them after use, as they can take up to 400 days to decompose if left on the trails.

The Kickstarter campaign for $7,000 Canadian dollars ($5,300)—which is to purchase more industrial-grade dehydrators and slicing and sealing kitchen equipment—closes in mid-August. But, the company has already raised the necessary funds from 130 backers, offering rewards including a rising number of dehydrated meals, specially produced bamboo cutlery and even a zero-waste camping food guide.

“Backcountry Wok has been tested from coast to coast in Canada’s elements from coastal trails, to the Rocky Mountains, to canoe and lack country,” the company adds. “It’s kept us warm on -30C winter camping nights and lifted our spirits after a day of summer peak bagging.”

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