Hot gels and drinks: classic backpack recipe or boiled nightmare?

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Surely, you ate gel-o with a spoon, just as the universe and the craft intended. But have you ever drank a cup?

In our Beck Packer Fall 1974 issue, a reader named George Williams of Kyokuk, Iowa, presented a classic mountaineering technique he called an “instant hit.” Our staff enchanted him. Could this sweet, hacked version possibly be good?

For a few months, we filed it and mostly forgot about it. Then, Patricia “Black Packer” Cameron, our Pacific Crest Trail correspondent, took the initiative to try it out for herself. To our surprise, he agreed with recipe-submitter George: It was a hit.

My fellow backpacker editors and I were amazed. With her voice, the hot gel-o drink doesn’t necessarily make me spit. I assumed it would taste like boiled ghetto and then somehow solidify in your stomach. But another part of me was curious to know if there was really anything in this underdog recipe, like cheesy s’mores. I bought some different flavors and started working in the kitchen.

Put the gel and drink in the mug. (Photo: Emma Widdet)

Surprisingly, it’s actually great, assuming you get the right flavors. My favorites were berry blue, strawberry and raspberry. They brought me back to my childhood, when Jail-O was the hot spot of summer. It all makes you feel like sugar, of course: although the tastes were sweet and reminiscent, this drink is so soft and sweet that I felt like writing an apology to my dentist after two hours. Need Berry Blue tasted a few degrees lower than Cling, but those strawberries and raspberries weren’t so bad. George’s prescription does not indicate a serving number, but three cups is a ridiculous amount for one or two people. It was so sweet that I wouldn’t want more than one cup.

It’s not a deal breaker, though; You can adjust the gel-o mix ratio in water and find a solution for your palate. After two rounds of very sweet flavors left a scar on my cheeks, I realized that you could take out a quarter or half of the gel and powder and still drink a delicious drink.

If alcohol is your thing, then the flavors of Berry Blue and Strawberry were delicious with a fireball nap. Patricia also recommended berry blue flavors with apple whiskey (see recipe below). If you have a dehydrator, I would recommend adding dehydrated berries to make fruit gel-o sangria.

There are some warnings. Never, to love everything gelatin, use its fruit mix instead of gel OK vanilla pudding mix. Just because it’s the same brand doesn’t mean you get the same results. For some reason, I thought it would be like a creamy back country country shake or agnag. Instead, I found myself underestimating one of the worst things I’ve ever eaten. It didn’t blend well, and the vanilla was so thin that it was less like pudding and smelled like an air freshener when smelling wallpaper paste. There is no one to save him.

Overall, this is something I would love to try again. When I’m packing, I usually drink a little soup, hot chocolate, or hot non-alcoholic tea before dinner as non-alcoholic. I thought my weapon was well-decorated, but it turned out that there was always room for a little jail-o. Not just vanilla pudding. Never like that

Prescription: Patricia’s PCT Punch

Patricia “Black Packer” Cameron, a spokeswoman for Backpacker’s Pacific Crest Trail, recommends this sweet sapper for cool nights. Makes 3 servings.


  • 1 box Blue Raspberry Jello Mix
  • 3 oz Jack Daniels Tennessee Apple Whiskey


  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the jello mix and stir until combined.
  2. Divide the jello mixture into three cups, add 1 ounce of whiskey to each and enjoy.

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