Food is heavy. And I eat a lot of it. So, on a recent two-day hike, I chose to make use of the adventurer’s friend and pack some freeze-dried meal pouches to keep me going. I knew my overnight spot wasn’t near enough a pub, and while the weather was looking sunny, it was going to be cold – my Jetboil and these bright yellow Summit to Eat pouches were therefore my ticket to hot meals and good nutrition during my 36-hour mini expedition.
In the interests of being upfront, Summit to Eat kindly sent me a selection of their freeze-dried meal pouches to fuel me on an adventure of my choice – I thought it only right to share my thoughts with you. I packed four, to cover dinner, breakfast and lunch. I also packed a not-freeze-dried lunch and numerous sweet and savoury snacks to keep me fuelled during my two-day, 34 mile hike.
If you’ve not had freeze-dried meals before, these are the “just add water” expedition pouches you see on the shelves of every outdoors shop. They are small and light to carry, don’t ruin if they get a bit squashed at the bottom of your bag, and only take a few minutes to “cook”. If you get good quality pouches you can expect proper food, that is, meals where you can see what you are eating and aren’t just full of flavour-enhancing-chemicals. You’ll also have all the numbers to hand so if you are on an endurance event and know you need a certain number of calories, you can plan ahead. Naturally, real food is always better (and normally cheaper), but when hiking or camping or heading off into the wilderness, these pouches offer a level of convenience that is hard to beat. This way you get an easy hot meal at the end – or in the middle of – a hard day outside.
Dinner | Chicken Tikka with Rice
I arrived at my camping hut tired and ready for dinner. Yes, camping hut, you know, one of those cute hobbit hut things you see dotted about – I didn’t fancy carrying my tent and the promise of a heater in my more-than-just-a-shed was too much to resist. I grabbed my Jetboil and my selection of meal options and chose the Chicken Tikka with Rice pouch.
Curry is always a good choice for a cold autumn evening spent outdoors, and I had high hopes for this one. This isn’t the first time I’ve eaten Summit to Eat food – I’ve had one or two of them previously and so already know that I would be getting good quality cooked-then-freeze-dried meals made with real ingredients that take less than ten minutes to prepare. I poured the boiling water to the designated fill line, gave the whole thing a good stir, sealed up the pouch and set a timer for eight minutes – just enough time to set up my bed and make sure that heater was on.
Once rehydrated fully, I found the texture of the tikka to be a little on the sloppy side, I had clearly added too much water. Bother. Despite that, it was a decent meal for a Monday evening; it smelt and tasted good and did the trick of warming and filling me up. I ate it alongside a packet of cracker crisps, which is something I’d always recommend if you can – crisps add much needed texture to meals like this.
Dessert | Custard Apple Crunch
Dessert? Hot dessert? Oh yes, a real luxury. I chose the Custard Apple Crunch, which is exactly what it sounds like – custard with tangy apple pieces and crunchy oaty bits – all the flavours of apple crumble (the king of all desserts) in a pouch. I would normally munch on a few sweets or a snickers (or both) for my sweet fix when hiking, and so I was way too excited about boiling up another batch of water for my pudding.
It might have looked less than appetising (I heard myself say “this better taste good” out loud), but it was exactly what I hoped it would be in the taste department. The oats provided texture, the apple provided sharp sweetness, and the custard was, well, just as custard should be. It was such a pleasure to have a hot fruity dessert, a real pick-me-up after a long day on my feet.
If you’re going properly lightweight then you probably aren’t going to pack dessert pouches, but I can definitely see me doing this again for one-night adventures. It just made me so happy! Summit to Eat also do a Rice Pudding with Strawberry, which I think I need to try too.
Breakfast | Scrambled Eggs with Cheese
Okay, I’ll say it… no, no, and no. I’m sorry Summit to Eat, but I just, well, couldn’t eat it. I tried. I just couldn’t face the strong smelling cheesy sloppy mixture that was these eggs first thing in the morning. Thinking about it, I’d never choose a cheese-based breakfast so I’m not really sure why I chose this one at all. I have tried Summit to Eat’s Morning Oats with Raspberry on a previous camp out, and that was so much better – much more my thing. Maybe you’d love this meal pouch on your next trip; I will probably just stick with something cold.
Lunch | Chicken Fried Rice
I’ve never actually carried a meal pouch for a hiking lunch before, I’ve had them with me but have always waited until the end of the day for my hot meal. But it was such a good call, I’ll certainly be doing it again. When I hike alone I’m really bad at taking a proper break – the fact that I had to boil water and wait for my food to “cook” forced me to sit down and relax for a few moments, which was very much needed and enjoyable. I even took my boots off! Admittedly, if the weather had been poor this would have been a problem, but on a dry day – especially on a cold, dry day – a hot meal in the middle of a day hike is just spot on. My Chicken Fried Rice was just the right amount of food, used just 350ml of water, and was ready in 10 minutes including boiling time.
The thing I liked the most about the Chicken Fried Rice is that I could see exactly what I was eating. There was chunks of chicken, sweetcorn, pepper, green beans and onion with egg and rice, finished with a tasty teriyaki sauce. There were actual ingredients that I had to chew before I needed to swallow them, and it wasn’t a big gloopy one-texture mess like the tikka. All in all, an excellent choice, the best of the day.
After making up four packets of Summit to Eat food I would say the fill lines should definitely be seen as “approximate”. I filled to the suggested line each time and found my Chicken Tikka with Rice and Scrambled Eggs with Cheese sloppy, my Custard Apple Crunch too thick, and my Chicken Fried Rice just right. It really is down to personal preference, of course, which is difficult for a company to mark on the packaging. The tikka slop still tasted good and I just added a little more water to my apple crunch before eating, so no harm done, just something to bear in mind when you’re making up your meals.
If I was buying Summit to Eat food pouches again I would choose the Chicken Fried Rice and Custard Apple Crunch hands down. Both had me chomping away very happily, and definitely did the trick of refuelling me ready for the rest of my adventure.
At £5.50 each it is certainly cheaper to prepare your own food and take that (my day of food would cost £21 as the desserts are £4.50), but the convenience factor does mean that Summit to Eat is a good option for day hikes, through hikes, and other adventures where a hot meal is important. All in all, an excellent day of food on the trail.
For the full range of Summit to Eat meals, visit their website.
Thanks to Summit to Eat for sending me a day of food for my adventure. As always, product-in-return-for-review posts are always opinion based on my own testing.