Sometime back I posted some "eating out while stalking" food solutions.
Recently I've been trying another one in the shape of freeze dried food and here are my thoughts, hopefully this might help someone. I've been giving Mountain House and Expedition Foods branded freeze dried food a try in a range of menus and the results have been fairly positive with most of the meals being pretty tasty and working out well. I think the Expedition Foods chicken korma was my favorite so far but both Mountain House and Expedition Foods get good reputations and I don't think that I could say that one brand was consistently better than the other.
The freeze dried food comes in a plastic pouch to which you add boiling water. The pouch is like a robust version of one of those "space blankets" and so holds the heat of the water while the food hydrates:
Clearly some types of food are more suited to this process than others and you can't have large chunks of anything as it would take too long to re-hydrate. In general the process is simple and it takes the food somewhere between 5 - 9 minutes to re-hydrate depending on the menu and the instructions. So, all you need to do is boil up the water:
Then you tip it in on top of the food, having removed an oxygen absorber packet which is in along with the food to keep it fresh, and wait. Now even after around 10 minutes my meals have always been very hot but I always take care to set the packet out of the wind and I wrap it in a towel, or spare clothing, or whatever is handy. In the end applying a bit of common sense is useful in these situations. Leave it lying in the wind on the snow and things might work out differently.
The meals state that they require between about 380 and 550ml of water to re-hydrate and in all cases I've found this to be a significant under statement of the amount of water required with something over 600ml required in almost every case. The meals that I've been using are, as you can see, marketed as being for those with big appetites or as having a high calorie count as a lot of pre-packed type meals would hardly feed a sparrow. I would say that these offer a decent feed for one person. The down side is that they are expensive and so probably not sustainable for "everyday" use at something around £6.50 - £7.50 for a main meal with the rice pudding type dessert about £4.50.
The huge advantage with these meals comes when you don't have to carry your water - when fishing on Lewis for example I take my water from the lochs and there is a loch every few hundred yards so there is simply no need to carry water - as the meals are dry and so you save a lot of weight. If you have to carry your water, and I guess that is the case in most places, then that will be a problem for anything more than one or two meals as you need in excess of 1lb of water for one of these bigger meals. They are also simple to prepare as all you need is the facility to boil water and so the basic Crusader stove, which has nothing at all to break or go wrong, is all you need to prepare a tasty meal in the middle of nowhere so this makes these meals ideal to "backstop" other plans in case it all goes wrong:
In summary the big plus is a long shelf life and low weight if you don't have to carry water. The downside is that they are expensive and so simply not sustainable as the primary source of food for someone like myself who is out 100+ days per year.