Over the years the topic of outdoor food has been well aired, and not without good reason. When out for a day, most of us just take some form of packed lunch; a weekend sometimes being much the same but with a few extras. Our problems begin on trips exceeding two days that are in particularly remote areas; this is not limited to land alone, the sea is an extremely unforgiving environment and often with limited options. Our food problems are not just confined to taste; indeed, this is only one area of concern. Let’s take a look at some of the other concerns on multi-day trips.
As any adventurer will tell you, physical space when you’re carrying everything you need in a rucksack is an extremely limiting factor. With this in mind, the less space your food takes up the better. Many people tend to take too much stuff and end up either discarding it or bringing it back with them; it’s easily done. I always work my meals out individually, putting each complete meal in a polythene zip-lock bag and writing on it either breakfast, lunch or dinner; my daily snack allowance (nuts, chocolate bar, boiled sweets etc.) also has its own bag. This way there is no waste, no excess and you can plan a balanced daily food intake to suit your needs.
This is obviously linked to the space available to some extent; however, we do have a few options to ease the situation somewhat. Many outdoor meals, including the British Army 24 Hour Ration Pack main meals are fully hydrated and ready to eat, either hot or cold. As these contain water they are naturally heavy; however, if water is plentiful, dehydrated food is much more sensible. It’s not only lighter and smaller; it’s also less prone to damage. The weight of the 24 Hour Ration Pack is around the 2kg mark; that makes a six day trip around 12kg, that’s just over 26 lbs in food! Any reduction on this will of course be very much appreciated by the person that has to carry it.
The All Important Taste
Now we’re getting to it! In the past, dried food was looked upon as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. It has, without doubt improved as the years have gone by, but is the taste really that important? On arduous extended trips in poor conditions, often it’s the thought of tasty food and a good night’s rest that keeps you going. Food therefore, not only plays the star role in our nutrition but also helps enormously with morale; indeed, we all feel better when we’ve had a good meal!
A while back, Alison from Fuizion Freeze Dried Foods supplied a few samples for me to try, with a view to using their products on future trips. I have, as you can imagine, had my share of ration pack meals over the years and generally speaking they have been adequate. It’s a strange thing but the more hungry that you become the better poor food tastes! With the reverse also being true, the best time to evaluate the food is under normal conditions where it’s just another mealtime and you’re not particularly hungry; of course, this part of the test only evaluates it’s suitability from a taste or enjoyment point of view. We also have to look at how the food reacts with our body. Ease of preparation is also an important factor and has to be taken into account along with ‘cleaning-up’ afterwards.
The evaluation is split into three parts: Taste, how it reacts with your body and finally, preparation and cleaning-up.
This test is largely down to personal preference but I certainly found that the quality and taste of the food did not suggest in any way that it was dried food that had been rehydrated. It was tasty, filling and very, very enjoyable. This test was done in the early evening after an afternoon checking through gear; that way my body was not craving lots of energy food as it would have been if I had just done a day in the mountains with a heavy pack. The meal tasted much more than acceptable and was very enjoyable.
How It Reacts With Your Body
A long day travelling over difficult terrain when carrying a heavy load takes its toll on your body. Over the years I have found that the best method of dealing with this is to have a good breakfast. I find porridge with a large handful of dried fruit thrown in to be excellent, followed by a pint of water while you are packing-up. Throughout the day, I find it best to graze on some dried fruit, nuts, a light lunch and the odd boiled sweet. It’s when you stop for the night that your meal is so important. It not only replaces everything that you’ve taken out during the day but helps you sleep warmer and more relaxed; these things are extremely important on hard multi-day trips. If you don’t get this right you will deteriorate over the length of the trip. For this test I used a ‘hardish’ training route with an overnight in the bivy. The terrain is exposed moorland between 1200ft-2000ft with some exposed ridges; distance is 43 miles (69km) and the pack weight is 55lbs; the weather was bright with showers but not cold. Breakfast and the days grazing as described above. I sorted my bivy out and settled-in before preparing the meal. I found the meal incredibly easy to prepare after a hard day and very, very tasty; it was followed by a flapjack (also from Fuizion and needed no preparation), probably the best I’ve ever tasted! After the meal, I felt very comfortable and not ‘bloated’ in any way; I felt full without feeling overfull and very content. I slept very well, warm and cosy; I awoke fresh and although not hungry, ready for my porridge. I had no adverse effects with wind etc. and my bowel movement was normal the following day. I was, on the whole very impressed and will certainly be using the meals on future adventures. This, of course, was only a one-day-test but my general feeling was that it would make the grade on hard extended trips. The cost is comparable with other makes and as such should not be a restrictive factor. The choice of menu is good and offers excellent scope for an extended trip.
Preparation & Cleaning-up
This really couldn’t be easier. You boil the water, open the pouch, pour-in the required amount and seal-up the pouch again; leave for the stated time and eat out of the pouch. Other than the spoon, there is no washing-up at all. If you need to keep the food warm after rehydration, just pop the closed bag into some boiling water for a few minutes; there is no need to empty it out into a cooking pot.
Of course, everyone is different so a food test like this can never be definitive; however, I certainly think that it’s good enough for serious use. Food for thought, you might say!
Check it out yourself on their website www.fuizionfreezedriedfood.com ; I suspect you’ll be as impressed as I was.