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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Cache Lake Foods Cold Prep Foods > Test Report by Matthew Mioduszewski

CACHE LAKE - COLD PREP FOODS
TEST SERIES BY MATT MIODUSZEWSKI
LONG-TERM REPORT
August 04, 2009

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Matt Mioduszewski
EMAIL: Mattanuska AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 27
LOCATION: Portland, Oregon
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 140 lb (63.50 kg)

I have done small weekend trips in Michigan, in addition to a 5 month section hike on the AT in 2007. After this I moved to Portland, OR and frequently hike in the Columbia River Gorge and OR and WA, Cascades. I generally do day hikes, and weekend over nighters, with 5-15 lbs (2.3 - 6.8 kg), but carry 25-30 lbs (11.3 - 13.6 kg) on multi-day trips. I enjoy doing steep climbs, 2000-5000 ft (610 - 1524 m) over 1 to 4 miles (1.6 to 6.4 km) of distance. I have begun to do winter hiking with traction devices, snowshoeing, snow camping, and mountaineering in 2009.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Cache Lake
Year of Manufacture: Unavailable
Manufacturer's Website: Cache Lake

Beans with Nacho Cheese
MSRP: US$2.99
Listed Weight: 3.0 oz (85 g)
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz (95 g)

Cheese with Beans
MSRP: US$4.05
Listed Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g)
Measured Weight: 5.0 oz (140 g)

Beans with Salsa Spices
MSRP: US$2.89
Listed Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g)
Measured Weight: 3.0 oz (85 g)

Beans with Taco Flavored Bits
MSRP: US$2.89
Listed Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g)
Measured Weight: 3.6 oz (100 g)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Cache Lake Cold Prep meals arrived in a simple, small box with styrofoam peanuts. There was no excess packaging which I appreciated. Upon opening the box I was met with a powerful and appetizing scent of Mexican spices.

In the box was a packing slip with cost and quantity details, and each of the following Cold Prep meals individually packaged in quantities of 3 (totaling 12 meals).
Beans with Nacho Cheese
Cheese with Beans
Beans with Salsa Spices
Beans with Taco Flavored Bits
IMAGE 2
4 sets of 3



This seems like an ample testing amount, to hone in any technique in preparation. The packaging is great in that it is compact and feels strong enough that it does not need to be repackaged to reduce packaging weight, volume, or to better protect the contents. Unexpectedly, these are meal "fillings", to be used with soft tortillas. No caloric information is available, which is disappointing.

I am happy to have Mexican themed foods, as I have previous experience eating dehydrated refried beans and dehydrated, vegetarian taco filling. Beans with Salsa Spices is the only food package that has very simple and understandable ingredients (beans, salt, onion, spices, garlic, peppers). The other meals have a multitude of ingredients that are not easily understood.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

All meals have option of using hot water. Each individual package has instructions, ingredients, and company information printed on it.

The following meals require (177 ml) cup of water:
Beans with Nacho Cheese
Beans with Salsa Spices
Beans with Taco Flavored Bits
1) Put dry mix in bowl and mix well. 2) Add cup (177 ml) cold water. Stir. 3) Let set 2-3 minutes. (To serve hot, use hot water.) Fills 4, 8 inch (20 cm) Tortillas.


This meal requires 1 cup (237 ml):
Cheese with Beans
1) Put dry mix in bowl and mix well. 2) Add 1 cup (237 ml) cold water. Stir. 3) Let set 2-3 minutes. (To serve hot, use hot water.) Fills 4, 8 inch (20 cm).

TRYING IT OUT

Used one of these already on a quick day hike to a local falls by Mt. Hood, Oregon. Made Beans with Nacho Cheese in a small Tupperware. cup (177 ml) cold water seemed slightly inadequate as there was still a few gritty, dry areas after very thorough mixing. Adding a bit more water seemed to do the trick. The Tupperware was adequate in size and I wondered about the viability of using a freezer Ziploc like I have used for many dehydrated meals during previous backpacking trips. The look was fairly unappetizing, being a flat brownish yellow, chunky, pasty substance.

This smeared onto a tortilla well and was not bad for a backcountry lunch by a waterfall. While I would not jump to suggest eating it for multiple meals on concurrent days, the initial impression is that this has it's merits and as a base food stuff is sufficient. With some creativity it could be used as a foundation for a more delicious meal.
IMAGE 3
watery
IMAGE 4
still dry
IMAGE 5
spreading

TESTING STRATEGY

1) Transferring package contents to freezer bags to have a system that only requires the addition of water, reducing potential mess and packaging, and eliminating the need for Tupperware or pot.
2) Determine if required water amounts are truly exact or simply approximate.
3) Evaluate taste and determine if any creative additions such as avocado, lettuce, or onion create a better meal.
4) Evaluate taste and preparation differences when using hot water to prepare.
5) See if meal can be used as a dip with tortilla chips.
6) Pay attention for any digestive feedback when eating this food.

SUMMARY

This seems like a promising, inexpensive, and potentially appetizing meal system that can be used to expand one's backpacking meal array, allowing for more variety, which can be really appreciated on multi-day trips. I look forward to testing these meals and finding a favorite.

Like:
small packaging
unique product
simple to prepare
product will not easily spoil

Dislike:
high likelihood of requiring lots of cleanup effort if prepared in a pot or Tupperware
potential to tire of taste or find it difficult to eat entire serving

Thank you to BGT and Cache Lake foods for providing me these Cold Prep Meals to test, and please check back in 2 months to read my Long-Term Report which will detail a more thorough evaluation of the Cache Lake Cold Prep foods.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I tested the Cache Lake Cold Prep Meals in the Mt. Hood National Forest about 60 miles (100km) outside of Portland, Oregon. These meals were tested during two day hikes and two over-night trips. The terrain varied from a relatively flat hike along a stream to a large waterfall, to a fairly strenuous backpacking trip through the Badger Creek Wilderness. Weather in all cases was fair and mild, if not a bit hot. Mosquitoes and biting flies were bad for one of the final tests, but I managed to fend them off. Temperatures ranged from 63 F (17.22 C) to 88 F (31.11 C) based on my little backpack thermometer.

LONG-TERM PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Cache Lake Cold Prep Meals were used in a variety of ways during long-term field testing. Jumping right in, my first testing strategy point was put to use on the middle two tests when I put the Beans with Salsa spices and Cheese with Beans mixes into Ziploc freezer bags. This eliminated the need for Tupperware or a pot and was just as easy for preparation as a pot, but with the caveat that there was no clean-up when finished other than sealing the bag.

The first test, using the Beans with Nacho cheese was a bit of a let-down. Preparation was easy and straight forward. While the taste was tolerable, I found the color and consistency of the meal to be unappealing, and lastly, did not find that smearing it on a soft tortilla made it any more appetizing. The taste of the Beans with Nacho cheese left something to be desired, and I hoped that the next meals would be more appealing. My Tupperware was also very dirty and would have taken a while to clean if I were on a multi-day trip.

On another occasion at the top of Lookout Mountain in the Badger Creek Wilderness of Mt. Hood National Forest, I experimented with adding hot water to the Beans with Salsa Spices. The water was boiling right before I poured it into the Ziploc freezer bag and the Beans and Salsa Spices seemed to mix a lot easier than with cold water. With this meal I also packed in a Tupperware of small round tortilla chips to dip into the Beans and Salsa Spices and eat as a dip, instead of as a spread on a soft tortilla. I personally found this to be much more gratifying, as the softness of the spread contrasted nicely with the crunch of the hard tortilla chips. I shared bites with 3 of my companions and all agreed that it was a tasty snack to have during an outing on the trail.
IMAGE 1
Beans with Salsa Spices

IMAGE 2
Using Chips to Dip

IMAGE 3
Enjoying the food


My next test had me trying another meal with cheese in it, the Cheese with Beans. With hot water and with crunchy tortilla chips, the dehydrated cheese taste was slightly improved upon, but none the less my preference for the Cold Prep Meals without cheese was solidified. Once again more water than directed was necessary to fully hydrate the meal. I would estimate that all meals required from 1 oz (30 ml) to 3 oz (89 ml) more water. I would personally err on the side of too little, as opposed to too much extra, as eating a slightly dry paste is easier and more palatable than eating a runny, watery with chunks spread.

On my final test, as a late-night snack on an afternoon-night day hike, I brought some lettuce, chopped onion, and a small amount of salt and pepper seasoning in a small Tupperware. I also had a full avocado and some tortilla chips in another Tupperware. When ready to eat, I emptied the Beans with Taco Bits into the chips Tupperware and put the chips into the freezer Baggie. I did this because I thought it would be easier to dip the chips into a Tupperware of the Beans with Taco Bits instead of dipping into a Ziploc baggie. Then I cut the avocado and added it to the lettuce and onion. After adding the recommended water to the Beans with Taco bits, stirring, adding more water, and stirring more, and just a bit more water and more stirring, I was finished. This proved to be the most delicious meal of the group. This meal was nearly identical to that of vegetarian taco salad that we have at home for dinner some times. The flavor was nearly indistinguishable from regular re-fried beans. It is obvious to me that the addition of a contrasting texture (the crunchy tortilla chips) along with fresh vegetables really allows these spreads to play a cohesive role at the center of a more balanced meal, instead of as a focal point that must be eaten.
IMAGE 4
Vegetable medley

IMAGE 5
Hydrated Filling


It was difficult to gauge the energy factor of this food, however, I can estimate that it was much more hardy and filling to eat than energy or granola bars for a lunch, but perhaps not quite as robust as an everything bagel with dried meat and cheese, which are two meals I would commonly have for a lunch.

On the gastronomic side of things, I do believe there was some gas and stomach discomfort the day after eating these meals. I have noticed this effect when eating Chili Mac or other brands of dehydrated re-fried beans or taco filling. This could be unique to me, and thus others' results may vary.

SUMMARY

The Cache Lake Cold Prep meals are a lightweight, relatively simple meal to take when on a day hike or on a backpacking trip.

The flavor of these meals was better when a dehydrated cheese was not used. Adding something crunchy helped to contrast the soft, amorphous filling. For an easy, unique meal to have in the woods on a day trip or backpacking adventure, they are relatively cheap, light, and filling enough for one or two people to be adequate.


Like:
small package
filling
does not spoil, does not require vacuum sealed bag
can be cooked with hot or cold water


Dislike:
can be visually unappealing
dehydrated cheese does not seem to reconstitute well


I want to thank Backpackgeartest.org and Cache Lake Foods for allowing me the opportunity to test this product. Thank you very much!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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