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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > CampFare Premium Meals > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

CAMPFARE PREMIUM MEALS
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
September 5, 2020
Addendum January 26, 2021

PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

Male, 74 years old  
Height: 6' 3" [1.91 m]
Weight: 205 lb [(91 kg])
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains

I've been backpacking for half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp.  Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Backcountry trips are often planned around skiing or ski touring in the winter or fishing opportunities in warmer weather.

THE PRODUCTS

campfare1campfare2

I discovered these camp meals at the manufacturer's booth at an Outdoor Retailer Show. CampFare's executive chef, Andrew Sarda, has developed a method of preparing trail meals that are, in the company's words, "fully hydrated. ready to eat. delicious. chef crafted." Each meat and fish portion is intended as a single serving for one person, and is packaged in a foil pouch. Preparation in camp is as simple as it gets - just insert the pouch in hot water and when ready [see below] tear open the pouch and eat with a spoon or fork.


Camp Fare offers four meals -

  • Wild Alaskan Salmon, alder smoked with garlic and pepper. 4 oz/113 g. This comes in a single piece.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala with French green lentils.10 oz/283 g. In a rich tomato-curry-olive oil sauce.
  • Beef Burgundy with field vegetables. 10 oz/283 g. The burgundy sauce comes from wine powder and solids plus garlic. Vegetables are peas, carrots, pearl onions, potatoes, and vegetable base with celery, cabbage, onion, and parsley.
  • For vegetarians, Brown Rice and Red Quinoa with pink beans. 6.88 oz/195 g for 1.5 servings. In a sauce of canola oil with onion and garlic.

Manufacturer: CampFare, Inc., campfare.com
Listed weights above; each is the weight of the contents, not the packet. Measured weight for Beef in the packet [but not the cardboard packaging] is 10.4 oz/294 g; for Chicken, 11.25 oz/319 g.
MSRP: Beef, Chicken, and Salmon, $11.99 US, with Salmon offered in a three-pack for $30. Rice/Quinoa $8.99 US, or three-pack for $20.
Size, measured: 5.6 x 7.9 in/14 x 20 cm

FIELD CONDITIONS

I have enjoyed each of these meals as dinner while backpacking in Montana and Wyoming this summer. On an overnight trip in early July, fine weather throughout, a friend and I shared a packet of Salmon mixed with a packet of Rice/Quinoa. Later in July, on a solo overnighter, also good weather, I ate a packet of Beef Burgundy. Recently a friend and I undertook a five-night, six-day traverse of the Slough Creek Divide trail, starting at the Box Canyon near Big Timber, Montana and ending 39 miles [63 km] later at the Slough Creek trailhead in Yellowstone National Park, crossing into Wyoming on the fifth day. Weather at dinnertime on three days was clear. On day 2 we advanced dinner somewhat in anticipation of a forecasted thunderstorm and the following day delayed dinner until a hailstorm passed through. On this trip I packed one Salmon, two Beef, and two Chicken.

All meals were heated in a Jetboil Flash or Mini-Mo.

OBSERVATIONS

My comments on these meals are straightforward - easy to prepare, easy to eat, easy to dispose of, and all delicious.

Preparation is even simpler than a freeze-dried or dehydrated packet, though I believe it takes somewhat more time to heat than the two to three minutes stated on the packaging. Double that time after the water comes to a boil is more accurate, though I can turn off the stove when a boil occurs. My only hiccup is that not all the packets had a tab for tearing off the top of the pouch; a few required a scissors or knife. After eating the contents [with a spoon], the used packet folds up for packing out in my trash bag, just like a packet containing a freeze-dried meal.

Portion size is about right for this big guy's dinner service, though I can always find room for more. Another advantage of heating the packet rather than pouring in boiling water is that if I keep the packet free of dirt or grass I can then use the hot water in the pot for another course or, as I often do, for postprandial decaffeinated tea. The tea bag goes into the used meal packet before that reaches the trash bag.

I found each of the meat or fish meals to be delicious, with a natural consistency and none of the tough not-fully-rehydrated food bits that often mar an otherwise decent freeze-dried dinner. The Chicken has a thick, rich, creamy sauce, with the consistency of gravy, thanks to inclusion of dried buttermilk. Beef's sauce is not as thick but just as tasty, with the garlic and vegetables giving a wonderful tang. Salmon is moist but not messy, with a woody flavor from light smoking.

The Rice/Quinoa is excellent as well, moist and tender. It's just that I like meat or fish with my evening meal. The Rice/Quinoa meal makes an excellent base for added protein, whether it be CampFare's Salmon or one of the Patagonia salmon products that I recently reviewed on this site.

All in all, an excellent addition to my backcountry pantry.

WHAT I LIKE

Ease of use and disposal - it doesn't get much simpler than this.

Really tasty - among the best store-bought prepackaged food I've eaten on the trail.

WHAT I DON'T

Because it's not dehydrated, even without the cardboard packaging it's noticeably heavier than a freeze-dried or dehydrated meal. I felt the extra weight at the start of the six-day trip.

Pricey - they're sold as "premium" meals, after all. But in my opinion definitely worth it for a quality dinner.

ADDENDUM - January 26, 2021
CampFare3

A product on CampFare's website but out of stock when I purchased the meals listed above is now available [or was at the date of this Addendum]. That product is Ventresca Tuna Belly in Olive Oil, which CampFare asserts is "the best tin of Yellowfin Tuna you can put into your mouth." After consuming several cans this winter, I can't disagree with that assessment. This tuna is among the best canned fish I have ever eaten.

CampFare4Product: Ventresca Tuna Belly in Olive Oil. [Ventresca describes the product - tuna from the belly of the fish, called toro in sushi bars.   CampFare is listed on the packaging as distributor.]
Contents, listed: Yellowfin light tuna, olive oil, salt.
Net weight, listed and measured: 4 oz [113 g]
Source: Per CampFare's website, the tuna comes from the Bay of Biscay, Spain and the olive oil from somewhere in Spain. Sustainably harvested.
Calories per serving, listed: 130
MSRP: Somewhat confusing. The website lists $10.99 US for Limited Batch but  $36.00 US for a three-pack, currently discounted to $30 US. This product is also available in combination with CampFare's Rice/Quinoa and Salmon dinners [reviewed above] as Pescatarian Prepper [10 R/Q, six each of Salmon and Tuna, $263 US] or Super Pescatarian Prepper [12 of each, $414 US, with a folding kitchen knife included].

Once upon a time, long ago, it was easy to purchase at my local grocery or supermarket tins of tuna packed in olive oil. But for the past couple of decades that has meant searching specialty stores and online sources and paying premium prices, especially if high-quality olive oil is used. At those prices - CampFare's are representative - the buyer gets not only good olive oil but tuna pieces cut from the fish's belly. [In the case of Ventresca, hand-filleted.] The combination is in my opinion an epicurean product entirely different than what's today available in quantity on supermarket shelves - moist, oily, delicately flavored, and utterly delicious. Those adjectives describe the Ventresca tuna perfectly. I have eaten the tuna at lunch on the trail straight out of the tin, on crusty fresh French bread with a squirt of lemon, dusted with smoked paprika, and in a dish on a bed of wild mint. The tuna and oil make any of these a gourmet treat. I haven't tried it mixed with CampFare's Rice/Quinoa or in tuna salad. It's too good to dilute. At home I have served it as a cocktail snack, again mostly on its own. It's a perfect complement to a glass of cold white wine or artisanal beer.

As shown, each tin is easily opened with a tab. As is true of the other CampFare meals the tuna is not finger food; a napkin and utensil are strongly advised. It's deliciously gooey and messy. For that reason I need to pack a plastic bag for the empty tin.

Next time you want to pamper yourself on the trail, give this product a try. For this tuna lover it made me forget the price.




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