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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Cache Lake Foods Egg Meals > Test Report by Gail Staisil

Cache Lake
Egg Meals

Test Series by: Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
 
Page Contents:
 

Initial Report:

May 26, 2009

Tester Information

Name:
Gail Staisil
Age: 56
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lb (66 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
Email: woodswoman 2001 AT yahoo DOT com

For the last 19 years, backpacking has become a passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow and sub-zero temps.


Product Information

Cache Lake (Egg Meals)
http://www.cachelake.com
MSRP
Calories per serving
Manufacturer's Net Weight (contents only)
Measured Weight (contents and packaging)
Western Omelet
$3.40
150
2.3 oz (64 g)
2.2 oz
(62 g)
Tex Mex Egg Scramble
$3.85
265
3.4 oz (94 g)
3.3 oz
(94 g)
Scrambled Eggs with Sausage Flavored Bits
$3.30
265
3.0 oz (88 g)
3.3 oz
(94 g)
Scrambled Eggs
$3.00
148
2.0 oz (54 g)
2.2 oz
(62 g)





Initial Impressions and Product Description

Cache Lake Egg Meals
The Cache Lake Egg Meals are packaged powdered egg meals that are handy for backpacking or other endeavors. Upon their arrival I received thirteen individual packages with each providing two servings. The serving size varies with the product. The meals included four packages of Scrambled Eggs, and three each of the following: Western Omelet, Tex Mex Egg Scramble, and Scrambled Eggs with Sausage Flavored Bits. All of the meals were labeled "Cache Lake's Outfitter's Choice" as the company supplies many outfitters with meals.

Each Cache Lake Egg Meal was packaged in a simple heat-sealed flat plastic bag. Each bag had a tab on the top so that they could be hung on a peg (at the retailers). I usually re-package my food into smaller bags but they are already in very minimalistic packaging. Each package measures approximately 5 in (13 cm) in width and 5.5 in (14 cm) in length.

The front of each bag has a variety of information including the name of the product, nutrition facts, an ingredient list, weight and serving size and quick and easy cooking instructions. As noted, the manufacturer listed the net weight (contents only) of each package on the front of the bag. I measured the packaged weight of each item and found some of the packages to be heavier than the net weight and some lighter. I don't find this to be a significant detail but it may be of interest to others. The back of each bag is devoid of any printing other than an expiration or "sell by" date. The heat-sealed bags would most likely require a knife to open them.

Each of the products are similar in that the main ingredient is powdered eggs. The Scrambled Egg Meal consists of a blend of homogenized and pasteurized whole egg, non fat milk, vegetable oil and salt. The Western Omelet contains the same ingredients with the addition of onion and peppers. Each of these products has a tag line that indicates that they include dairy.

The Scrambled Eggs with Sausage Bits and the Tex Mex Egg Scramble contain TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). Their ingredient lists are also more complex as they contain wheat and soy as well as dairy.

 

Checking out the directions


Quick and Easy Directions on package

All of the Cache Lake Egg Meals that I received have similar cooking instructions. Basically a small amount of water has to be added to the dry mix (usually 0.5 to 0.75 cup (4 fl oz/118 ml to 6 fl oz/177 ml) and then the mixture needs to be stirred briskly.

All of the meals require 1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz/14 g) of butter or oil and a fry pan. Neither item are things I normally carry on my backpacking trips but I am prepared. I already purchased a small fry pan to use with my stove of choice so that I could test these items. The oil or butter needs to be heated in the fry pan and then the egg mixture is added and cooked 1 to 2 minutes while stirring frequently.

The food then can be seasoned to taste with my own seasoning. Sounds easy enough so I can't wait to try it on my next trip.

Although the Egg Meals are mostly considered breakfast food I will sometimes use them as my dinner meal. Depending on the calorie count for each serving I may eat up to two servings for dinner. I am looking forward to testing the Egg Meals during the next few months full of backpacking trips.



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Long Term Report:

August 20, 2009

USA and Canada Locations and Conditions

During the testing period, I have prepared the Cache Lake Egg Meals during numerous backpacking trips. They included a two-day trip to the Craig Lake Wilderness in Michigan, USA, a nine-day trip to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, USA, a four-day trip to Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, a five-day trip to Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, Canada and a two-day trip to Grand Island in Michigan, USA. Besides twenty-two days of backpacking they were also used during seven days of base camping in the Canadian Rockies. Locations ranged from and included sub-alpine and boreal forest communities, backcountry lakes and more. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (183 m) to 8235 ft (2510 m). 


Early June Backpacking Trip:

Location: Craig Lake Wilderness/North Country Trail - Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Trail, bushwhack
Distance: 6 mi (10 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/1 night
Pack Weight: 26.5 lb (12 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Cloudy, rain
Precipitation: 0.52 in (1.35 cm)
Temperature Range: 31 F (-1 C) to 58 F (14 C)


Late June Solo Backpacking Trip 

Location: Isle Royale National Park, an island in Lake Superior - Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 75 mi (121 km)
Length of Trip: 9 days/8 nights
Pack Weight: 39 lb (17.69 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Fog, light rain, mostly sunny, cloudy
Precipitation: 0.14 in (0.36 cm)
Temperature Range: 44 F (7 C) to 86 F (30 C)   

 
Mid-July Backpacking Trip:

Location: Skyline Trail - Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 27.3 mi (44 km)
Length of Trip: 4 days/3 nights
Pack Weight: 38 lb (17 kg), Carried common gear for two people
Sky and Air Conditions: Mostly sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: (45 F to 91 F) 7 C to 33 C


Late July Backpacking Trip:

Location: Rockwall Trail - Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Type of Trip: Steep trail (vertical gain 8530 ft/2600 m, vertical loss 7382 ft/2250 m)
Distance: 34.2 mi (55 km)
Length of Trip: 5 days/4 nights
Pack Weight: 41 lb (18.6 kg), Carried common gear for two people
Sky and Air Conditions: Sun, clouds and thunderstorms
Precipitation: Rain 0.89 in (22.5 ml)
Temperature Range: 43 F to 81 F (27 C to 6 C)


August Solo Backpacking Trip:

Location: Grand Island National Recreation Area - Michigan, USA
Type of Trip: Trail
Distance: 10.4 mi (17 km)
Length of Trip: 2 days/1 night
Pack Weight: 21 lb (9.5 kg)
Sky and Air Conditions: Sunny
Precipitation: None
Temperature Range: 59 F (33 C) to 82 F (46 C) 



Performance in the Field

Out in the Field Right Away
Egg and sausage bits mixed with tiny whisk
My first attempt at making an egg meal occurred on a short backpacking trip of two days. Although I had intended to make the Scrambled Egg with Sausage Bits Meal for breakfast, I decided instead to make it for dinner. I set up my cooking equipment on an exposed outcropping surrounded on three sides by a lake. It was windy and because I was using a small alcohol stove with an inadequate windscreen, I wondered if I would be able to direct the heat under the surface of the fry pan that I brought.

I used a bowl and small whisk to blend the contents of the package with water. I placed one tablespoon (0.5 oz/13 g) of oil in my new non-stick fry pan and then poured in the contents. Unfortunately the flame went out after a few minutes so I had to take the fry pan away from the heat source and refuel and relight. Fortunately it didn't seem to affect the egg mixture. I kept stirring the mixture while it was frying and when it looked cooked enough to eat I'm sure at least 5-to-6 minutes went by. This certainly was likely due to the uneven heat produced by the wind.

I had cooked the entire package and was able to easily eat 2/3 of it by myself. I asked my trail partner to test a bit of the remainder. Since she doesn't eat meat she was very interested in the product that contained TVP sausage. I thought the product was plenty tasty for me and liked the flavor. My friend said she thought it could use more spices but she normally add spices to many meals so this wasn't unusual.

The package said that the sausage bits might be chewy but I think with all the extra cooking it wasn't an issue. The only downside to preparing the meal is that I was left with more dirty dishes than I normally have while backpacking. Since I was going home the next morning I just put the dirty dishes inside a large zip bag and dealt with it when I got home. Next time I will try to blend the egg mixture right in the bag so that I don't have to dirty a bowl. I am sincerely into no-mess cooking. On the other hand the meal was much more like a real meal and was worth the extra messing around.

I felt perfectly full and replenished after an interesting but frustrating afternoon bushwhacking. I was fine until morning and didn't get hungry during the night. I often use breakfast foods for dinner meals at home so I was thrilled with the choice.


Next Adventure of Nine Days

During my next adventure totaling nine days, I decided to forgo the fry pan to save weight and brought only my 0.8 L (0.85 qt) titanium pot. I also used an alcohol stove on this trip for cooking purposes. Although I was careful to keep the pot well above the stove some of the egg mixture still stuck to the pan each time. It made clean-up more difficult but I only chastised myself for attempting this without a non-stick fry pan. By the end of the trip, the pan was mostly blackened on the inner bottom surface but it did not really alter my other cooking (which just involved boiling water). I had previously mixed the egg meal ingredients with water right in the bag with a spoon and this worked fine with little mess (I also left the tiny whisk at home to save weight). I continued to do this for every meal prepared after that.
Yummy Western Omelet (two servings in bowl)
On the long trip to the Canadian Rockies (16 days of cooking outdoors) I prepared many egg meals again with the alcohol stove but I did pack the extra non-stick fry pan. All of the meals cooked very well with me holding the fry pan with a pot gripper several inches above the top surface of the alcohol stove. The stove only goes one speed so this was necessary to do. Again this method has its shortcomings but after several minutes the egg mixture was ready to eat. Although this trip was at much higher altitude it didn't seem to lengthen the cooking time required.

My last backpacking trip was a short trip of two days. I cooked an egg meal for dinner the first night and an egg meal for breakfast the next morning. Even though that seems like a lot of eggs, they were both different types of meals and my appetite was still there as I ate every drop!

I found all of the meals to be hearty but found that I needed at least one-and-a-half servings to complete a meal. I'm sure this would not have been necessary if I had other side dishes to complement the meals but I didn't except for chocolate for dessert if the meal was for dinner or dried fruit and nuts for the breakfast meals. On some occasions, I added part of a plain scrambled egg meal to one serving of another meal to make the meal go further.

I have found that all of the meals have taken longer to cook than stated on the package but I feel this is primarily due to my method of cooking.


Taste Results:

All of the egg meals were quite tasty for my food preferences. Occasionally I would offer a few bites to a companion for their comments on taste and one thought they tasted just right and the other would have preferred more spices. With that said, I love the fact that the meals aren't overly spicy as extra spices/salt could always be added to the meal after the fact, but can't be taken out if they are already in there.

As far as the meals tasting like real eggs, they mostly do. The eggs are packaged mixed with powdered milk and such so it does make them a little lighter in taste than for instance having plain cooked eggs.

Tex Mex Egg Scramble - This scramble is very colorful with the addition of many peppers, onions and taco-flavored TVP that add a bit of texture to the otherwise plain eggs. The serving size is also one of the larger egg meals. When I have prepared this for my dinner meal I have used both servings but otherwise one to one-and-a-half serving is fine if I have additional food for breakfast meals.

Scrambled Eggs with Sausage - I like this meal probably more than all the others. It has not only texture with the plentiful amount of sausage but the latter also has a maple flavor to the TVP bits. This meal seems very hearty to me and I stay full for hours after eating it.

Western Omelet - The omelet meal (shown above) is a smaller meal in weight, volume, and calories and I can easily eat two servings for any meal without question. The egg mixture includes tasty and colorful red and green bell peppers and onions but it is light in calories and similar to the plain Scrambled Egg Meal.

Scrambled Eggs -
This is a plain mixture of mostly eggs and milk. The calorie count for it is rather low (148 per serving) so I normally ate the whole package of two servings by myself. Other times I added one serving of the scrambled eggs to a serving of another meal to add a few more calories to them. This worked real well as I just mixed them together before cooking. The scrambled eggs have a great consistency to them. Sometimes I cooked them a bit too fast and the mixture would brown or crisp but it didn't alter the taste. I prefer to have eggs well done anyway.


Summary

I completely enjoyed eating the Cache Lake Egg Meals as part of my backpacking nutrition. They added variety and taste to my camp food. I have tried a lot of packaged foods and these are some of the best I've eaten. I love the simplistic non-bulky but strong packaging (they do have to be opened with a knife). I felt that the meals were complete and I didn't get hungry for many hours after I ate them even though some of my trips were very difficult. I plan to continue using them in the future for not only my backpacking needs but have suggested them to others. Even though it has altered my simplistic style somewhat with the need to bring olive oil and a fry pan the benefits are well worth it.

Pros:

  • Minimalistic packaging
  • Lightweight
  • Variety of breakfast (dinner) foods 
  • Easy preparation or cooking instructions 

Cons:

  • Takes a bit more equipment to prepare than I normally carry (fry pan, olive oil)

Thanks to Cache Lake and BackpackGearTest for this fun opportunity to test the Egg Meals. This concludes my testing for the series.

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