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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > AlpineAire Assorted Meals 2007 > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey

ALPINEAIRE FOODS
Initial Report - May 2, 2007
Long-Term Report - August 6, 2007

AlpineAire Foods AlpineAire Foods

Initial Report: May 2, 2007

TESTER BIOGRAPHY
Name: Sheila Morrissey
Age: 26
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email Address: geosheila(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Goleta, California, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
I have been hiking and camping since I was born, but only started backpacking in 2005. I usually hike with friends and my dog, Patch, in the eastern Sierra or Los Padres National Forest. My pack is usually around 25 pounds (11 kg), including consumables. While on the trail, I nearly always eat a hot meal for dinner and occasionally also for breakfast.

PRODUCT INFORMATION
Manufacturer: TyRy, Inc.
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tyry.com

MEAL COOK/NO COOK
INSTRUCTIONS
LISTED WEIGHT MEASURED WEIGHT MSRP Servings
Mountain Chili No cook: add boiling water, stir, let stand 6 oz (170 g) 6.9 oz (195 g)
US$ 8.99 2
Pepper Steak w/ Rice No cook: add boiling water, stir, let stand 6 oz (172 g) 7.1 oz (201 g) US$ 6.75 2
Chicken Dijon No cook: add boiling water, stir, let stand 7.25 oz (206 g) 8.25 oz (234 g) US$ 6.75 2
Bandito Scramble Cooking required: add cook water, stir, let stand, cook "as you would fresh eggs" 3.25 oz (99 g) 4.4 oz (125 g) US$ 5.23 2
Chocolate Mudslide Pie (labeled "Chocolate Mud Slide Pie" on website) No cook: add cold water, let stand 5.75 oz (162 g) 6.9 oz (196 g) US$ 4.50 2

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
AlpineAire Foods packaged meals are claimed to be easy to prepare, to have a long shelf life, and to have no added preservatives, colors, flavors or MSG. Most of the meals are prepared by adding boiling water directly into the resealable foil pouch. A label on the front of each package indicates whether cooking is required, the number of servings, the type of meal and the weight. The Chicken Dijon and Pepper Steak meals also have a US Department of Agriculture "inspected" seal. Each of the meals has the same generalized instructions on the back of its pouch. They also each have a sticker with the meal type, nutrition facts, meal-specific cooking instructions and ingredients. Three of the meals also have a "best by" and "lot #" stamp. The other two meals have this information imprinted at the top of the packaging.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS
Since all of the packages are essentially the same and without a photo of the meal, I have no idea what these meals will look like. The ingredients lists (photographs below) seem neither appealing nor unappealing to me. They do seem to be rather generous portions, which means my dog might get special treat leftovers if I backpack with a vegan friend. I figured the AlpineAire meals that I am testing would all be pouched meals, but from the AlpineAire Website, it wasn't clear to me whether they would be no-cook meals that just need to be heated up or meals requiring a little more cooking time. The instructions are clear, however, on the individual packages. I'm glad that they can all be cooked in their pouches. I will try to remember their suggested long-handled spoon when I bring these meals backpacking. I'm also quite pleased to see that they are all in resealable pouches. That will create less mess in my pack, though just to be safe, I will put my sealed, used pouches in a plastic bag to make sure nothing spills on my gear.

AlpineAire Foods AlpineAire Foods AlpineAire Foods AlpineAire FoodsAlpineAire Foods


Field Report: August 6, 2007

MOUNTAIN CHILI
For my first AlpineAire meal, I shared the Mountain Chili with a friend on a short overnight backpacking trip in Los Padres National Forest at an elevation near 7,000 ft (2,100 m). It was our first time using a soda can stove, so it took a while to get the water boiled. Once the water was boiled, I
wasn't quite certain we'd added the right amount of boiling water to the foil pouch and wished there was an easy "fill to here" line on the packaging. It would take another 12-15 minutes of wait time before dinner was ready, so we set up the tent and fed the dog to distract ourselves. After 15 minutes, the Mountain Chili had cooled somewhat (outside temperature was about 40 F, 4 C), so it didn't fully rehydrate and some of the ingredients were a little dry. Still, the Mountain Chili smelled really good. My hiking partner liked the taste, but I was indifferent. The texturized vegetable protein may have been more palatable for my vegetarian hiking partner, but I found it too gritty. A sliced up avocado and some tortillas saved the meal for me. The serving sizes were more than enough. Between the two of us, we finished about 3/4 of the Mountain Chili and I was glad we didn't try for the Chocolate Mudslide Pie that night.

CHICKEN DIJON
I shared the Chicken Dijon with another friend after a long day of backpacking along a hot trail in Los Padres National Forest. We cooked the meal at an elevation of 5,200 ft (1,600 m) and a temperature of 70 F (21 C). We boiled water on a canister stove, 
guestimated how much water to pour into the meal pouch, and griped about the 12 to 15 minute wait time. In the meantime, we ate trailmix. We were still quite hungry and the Chicken Dijon provided sustenance, but I don't have much good to say about the taste. The taste and consistency reminded me of oatmeal, except with chunks of chicken, vegetables, and a lot of cheese thrown in. The meal tasted rather bland, with a the rare hint of dijon flavor in a few random bites. My hiking partner and I finished all of the Chicken Dijon and still had room for dessert. The meal size was about the same as the Mountain Chili, but this hike had been a lot tougher than the Mountain Chili hike so my hiking partner and I were hungrier for the Chicken Dijon.

Chicken Dijon    Chicken Dijon
The Chicken Dijon meal, ready to eat out of the pouch.

CHOCOLATE MUDSLIDE PIE
After the Chicken Dijon, my hiking partner and I made the Chocolate Mudslide Pie.
The name itself seems a little strange. It's not a pie at all. It's instant chocolate pudding with crunchy candy bits mixed in. We were supposed to pour in cold water gradually and then let the dessert stand for 5 to 7 minutes. Instead, we dumped in the water to make the instant pudding, poured on all the sugary crunchy goodness and dug in immediately. We both agreed this was a fantastic dessert. We were able to get through it all eventually, but it was quite a feat after polishing off the Chicken Dijon meal plus some trail mix.

Mudslide Pie
Pouring Oreo crumbs into the Chocolate Mudslide Pie.

Mudslide Pie
The set-up of this photo of the Chocolate Mudslide Pie in front of my dog's rear end is just an unfortunate coincidence; the dessert is excellent!

BANDITO SCRAMBLE
The morning after the Chicken Dijon and Chocolate Mudslide Pie, we ate the Bandito Scramble. This meal kind of scared me since I had never prepared dried eggs before. After pouring in some cold water, it didn't look a thing like eggs, but more like one of the dinner meals. My hiking partner cooked it all up in a pot over a canister stove, stirring the entire time. This was the only meal where we had to use a pot. The resulting meal appeared reminiscent of scrambled eggs, but it seemed more than half of the meal was onions and peppers. I wasn't too fond of it, but did like that this meal wasn't as bland as the other two dinner meals I'd eaten. At the start of our hike back to the car, my hiking partner and I both complained of "bandito breath". Hours later, as we somehow emerged at the wrong trailhead in the heat of the day and had to hike up the road to our car, we were very glad to have eaten such a hearty breakfast.

PEPPER STEAK W/RICE
I shared the Pepper Steak w/Rice meal with another hiking partner while backpacking in the Jennie Lakes Wilderness, Sequoia National Forest in California's western Sierra Nevada. We were at an elevation of 9,000 ft (2,750 m) and the temperature was about 65 F (18 C). After a series of mishaps on my Esbit stove (with flying pots of boiling water and extinguished solid fuel tablets), I poured two cups of nearly-boiling water into the meal pouch. As with the Mountain Chili, the dinner didn't quite rehydrate completely because the water cooled too quickly. But unlike the other meals, this one was truly awful. I knew this meal would have a lot of peppers, but I wasn't expecting the black pepper to overpower the tiny (1/8-in cubes, 0.3-cm cubes) of beef, and red and green bell peppers. My hiking partner and I were very hungry, so we tried to tone down the flavor with tortillas, but after forcing down about half of this meal, we gave the rest to the dogs. The dogs seemed to enjoy it, but I really wished this meal tasted better because it was by far easier and packed lighter than the other meals we made on this backpacking trip.

SUMMARY
The meals that I ate during this test were my first introduction to prepared backpacking meals and I just loved the convenience of them. Having a few of these meals stuffed in my closet with my backpacking gear meant I didn't have to run to the grocery store before an impromptu trip. The rehydration wait time was frustrating, but it was still much faster than when I prepare and have to clean up after a meal of noodles or rice in the backcountry. With the exception of the Bandito Scramble, which required cooking in a pot, I liked being able to eat these meals right out of the pouch. My hiking partners and I only had to lick clean our own spoons, then reseal the used pouch to pack it out.

I really disliked the Pepper Steak w/Rice meal, but the other mediocre dinners were easy enough to be worthwhile after a long hike. I would definitely consider trying the Mountain Chili again and, of course, I would also get more of the Chocolate Mudslide Pie.
I probably won't switch entirely to prepared backpacking meals now that I've tried these AlpineAire meals, but I think I might pick up a few more to try to find my favorite. I didn't overdose on these meals, even after consecutive meals of rehydrated dinner, dessert and breakfast, but I did like my meal better when I brought along an avocado and tortillas. They seem to be reasonably priced for two-person meals.

REMARKS
This concludes my Test Series. Thank you to TyRy, Inc. and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test these backpacking meals. 


Read more reviews of AlpineAire gear
Read more gear reviews by Sheila Morrissey

Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > AlpineAire Assorted Meals 2007 > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey



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