In preparation for my next big walk early next week, I have been sampling a number of freeze dried meals from different companies.
Normally, my meals of choice come from Mountain House. Their meals taste natural, are available in large portion sizes and with the odd exception are very, very good.
Given that I’m happy with Mountain House, why am I looking at other manufacturers?
The reason is that in my 18 months of hiking, I have been around the entire Mountain House European menu several times! So I have decided to sample the competition to see if I could widen the variety of my outdoor menu. After all variety is the spice of life!
Now I will say before I start, that of all reviews, food ones are probably the most subjective. What one person finds delicious, another might find unpalatable. So one must bear in mind that this review is based on my own personal tastes, which are almost certainly not the same as yours!
Another thing to take into account is that this is not a field test, so I have no real way of knowing how they compare with Mountain House meals in terms of providing energy and nourishment.
So bring on the meals!
The first meal I’m going to review is the Mince Beef Hotpot by Adventure Food.
This was by far the cheapest meal and I had real concerns about it even before I opened the package! Namely, that the package seemed quite flat. I thought it couldn’t possibly have enough food in it. However, I was to be pleasantly surprised once the water got added.
One of the things I liked about this package, and indeed all the packages on this test, is that they all had water fill markings. This is in contrast to the Mountain House meals which seem to lack these.
Once the water was added, one has to wait around 10 minutes. The photo below shows the results:
I found this meal to be tasty, but also quite artificial. I suspect some of the artificiality might have been down to the mash potato used in the recipe? Not too sure. There was also a lot of meat pieces in it too, which for the price was quite unexpected.
The meal was enjoyable if a little gloopy. I would certainly consider taking these on the trail with me, but would probably buy two of them for one meal.
Next up is the Real Turmat Beef Stew.
This meal was by far the most expensive that I tested and also one of the bulkier ones in terms of packaging.
On adding the water I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one only has to wait around 5 minutes for the meal to reconstitute. This is in contrast to the standard 10 minutes of most other meals.
The photo below shows what it looks like when ready to eat:
This meal surprised me. It was extremely tasty, but also very natural. As with the Adventure Food product there were a lot of real meat pieces in this one too, although these did taste a little artificial – unlike the meal taken as a whole.
I really enjoyed the Beef Stew as witnessed by my varied attempts to get every morsel out of the pouch!
Speaking of which, I found the pouch design to be a little awkward…
Unlike other companies, the pouch is quite narrow and tall. Even with a standard fork I found it quite hard to get at the food. I’d imagine that if I had been in the field armed with only my trusty spork, it would have been even harder!
To my palate, the taste of this meal is right up there with the best that Mountain House can offer. The only downside being the relative price. For a saving of around 3GBP, I can get a ‘Large’ Mountain House meal with a lot more food and calories in it.
Finally, I get to test the Expedition Meal Thai Chicken with Rice and Vegetables.
I was really looking forward to this one as I adore Thai Food – but alas it was to prove to be a disappointment.
The package is extremely well designed – it is low and wide, plus has fill markings that are on the inside of the pouch rather than the outside.
I found the taste of this one to be quite bland, though it was also by far the most natural tasting of the three tested.
In addition to the lack of taste, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of meat either. Overall the meal proved to be the disappointment of the test.
The final nail in the coffin, is that for another 1 pound GBP I could have bought a Mountain House ‘Large’ portioned meal, with a better taste and more food.
In its defence, it could be that I have simply picked one of Expedition Food’s weaker meals and that perhaps their other meals are better. But without buying more of their meals to test it is hard to say.
In terms of an overall winner it has to be the Real Turmat Beef Stew. I really enjoyed this one, and it is likely to accompany me on some of my future walks. The only real downside to this meal is the cost, a lot more than the competitors’ meals.
Have these tests affected my decision over the menu choice of my next walk?
The short answer is no.
Mountain House seem to produce meals that are competitively priced, natural tasting with decent textures and available in ‘Large’ portion sizes. So on balance, I still consider Mountain House to be the best provider of Freeze Dried meals.
I will most certainly mix things up in the future with the odd Real Turmat meal, but on the whole I think I will be sticking with Mountain House as my main provider.
All I need to do now is convince them to make more meal varieties! 🙂