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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Hillside Self-Heating Hot Cocoa > Owner Review by John Waters

February 03, 2009


NAME: John R. Waters
AGE: 59
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, with other day-long hikes on various SE Michigan trails. I also hike in Colorado and am relocating there, which will increase my hiking time and trail variety tremendously. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


Manufacturer: OnTech Operations, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Varieties Available: Rich Chocolate & Rich Chocolate with Marshmallows
Variety Tested: Rich Chocolate
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed Volume: 9.5 fl oz (2.81 mL) - as reported on container
Measured Weight of full container: 18.5 oz (524 g)
Measured Weight of empty container: 8 oz (227 g)
Measured Height of container: 6.5 in (16.5 cm)
Hillside Rich Chocolate
Picture Courtesy

Other details:

*** Other drinks are available including Green and Chai Teas, Mocha Latte, Hazelnut Latte, French Vanilla Latte and Double Shot Latte. Two varieties of soups are also available: Chicken Soup and Tomato Vegetable Soup.

Rich Chocolate Ingredients (as reported on container) : Reduced Fat Milk, Water, Sugar, Cocoa Powder, processed with alkali, Natural Flavor, Salt, Pectin Carr***
Rich Chocolate Nutritional Values (as reported on container) :
210 Calories
Calories from Fat - 34
Total Fat - 4 g
Saturated Fat - 2 g
Trans Fat - 0 g
Cholesterol - 15 mg
Sodium - 180 mg
Total Carbohydrate - 40 g
Dietary Fiber - 0 g
Sugars - 40 g
Protein - 6 g


I discovered the Hillside Rich Chocolate (and Rich Chocolate with Marshmallows) last winter in my local grocery store in Canon City, Colorado. Never having seen such a product and being intrigued with the self-heating technology , despite the rather high price tag, I had to try them out. Basically, the hot chocolate is packaged in sealed cans covered with a thin foam sort of label and fitted out with a self-heating mechanism in the bottom of the can.

Since then, my wife and I have used the Hillside products on many occasions - at least 10-15 times - while hiking in Colorado and in Michigan. All hikes were day hikes, varying in length from 5-8 hours. Many of those hikes were on snowshoes. The terrain ranged from snowy valleys to bare mountain tops. Since these were day hikes, we waited until the weather was mostly sunny, but cold. However, there was one trip in particular to Mt. Evans in Colorado that was down-right bitter cold, windy and blowing snow. Temperatures were as low as 1 F (-17 C).
Jillian waiting for Cocoa
Jillian waiting for cocoa

The most recent snowshoe hike was in a valley bordering the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliff, Colorado. We introduced our 7 year old granddaughter to snowshoeing this year and her "half-way-there" treat was Hillside's Rich Chocolate. She loved it, too!

The size of the containers makes it easy to pack them into a standard water bottle-carrying pouch on all of my backpacks. I found it best to balance the weight by putting one container on either side of my pack. Since they are not lightweight, when more than two are needed, I "delegate" extras to hiking partners. "Sloshing" can be heard while hiking.

Once refreshment is needed, I find a resting spot and break out the containers. Then the fun begins...

To follow the manufacturer's instructions I just:

Bottom of container
Turn container upside down.
Pull off metal, tamper-proof bottom.
Place on flat surface.
Button to be pushed
With thumb, firmly push button downward
until green water drains.
Bottom of cocoa container
After 10 seconds, turn container right side up.
Place on heat-proof surface.
It's hot!
When hot, the spot changes color from
About 5-8 minutes at 65-75 F (18-25 C).
Bottom of cocoa container
After spot is white, twist lid to align opening.
Enjoying a hot cocoa
Shake, Open and Enjoy!

The Chocolate (and the other self-heating beverages I've tried) takes longer to heat up when the temperatures are colder than "room" temperature. I have found it takes on average a good 3-7 minutes longer than the stated 5-7 minutes when the thermometer dips below 50 F (10 C). I don't pay much attention to my watch, I just go by the changing color indicator on the container. When the pink turns completely to white, the Chocolate is ready.

Hot Chocolate is great on a cold day, but not if I can't taste it because I've burnt my mouth on a first scalding sip. I don't know how they did it, but the Chocolate heats to just the right degree of warmth - not too hot and not too cold - just right. And it tastes great! There is no grit from not quite mixed powders, nor is there any inconsistency in the flavor. It's a rich chocolate flavor all the way through the container from the first sip to the last.

Despite the size of the container, there isn't a lot of chocolate, but there is enough to warm me up on a brisk hike.


1.) Great tasting.
2.) Easy to use.
3.) No mess to clean-up.


1.) Heavy to carry.
2.) Have to pack out the container.
3.) Not inexpensive.


It's a real treat to have a tasty hot drink when I'm out hiking or snowshoeing in the cold, snowy mountains of Colorado (or any other state). I've never been a fan of powdered cocoas and fussing with mixes on the trail can be a chore. With the Hillside beverages, I can enjoy a rich hot chocolate without any trouble at all, no measuring, lighting the stove or mixing required. Basically, I just push a button and wait. In minutes I can enjoy a hot chocolate.

The weight of the containers will keep the Hillside Hot Chocolate from becoming a drink of choice on overnight backpacks. The containers are just too heavy and bulky and require I cart them back home, too. But for a day hike where I don't have a ton of other gear to tote, I will continue to carry this self-heating Chocolate as a treat at mid-day or the end of the trail. They are that good!

John R. Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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Reviews > Food > Energy Bars and Drinks > Hillside Self-Heating Hot Cocoa > Owner Review by John Waters

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