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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Peak Campn Trail Foods > Test Report by Erich Roetz

PEAK CAMP 'N TRAIL FOODS
TEST SERIES BY ERICH ROETZ
FIELD REPORT
May 06, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Erich Roetz
EMAIL: gerbil93 AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 40
LOCATION: Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)

Backpacking Background: I started backpacking when I was Boy Scout over 27 years ago. I do mostly medium weight backpacking but I am doing more lightweight backpacking now that my son is a Scout. We camp one weekend a month all year round in temperatures from very hot (Virginia summers of 100 F/38 C) to very cold (Pennsylvania winters - below freezing) from sea level to about 2000 ft (610 meters) elevations.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Camp 'n Trail
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.campntrail.com
Camp n Trail
Courtsey of Camp 'n Trail

MSRP: In US $:
Backcountry Beans: $2.99
Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole: $3.99
Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice: $3.99
Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki w. Rice & Vegetables: $3.99
Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup: $2.99
Campfire Chili: $2.99

Listed Weight:
All Meals Listed at 4 oz (113 g)

Actual Weight: (including packaging)
Backcountry Beans: 4.4 oz (125 g)
Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole: 4.1 oz (116 g)
Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice: 4 oz (113 g)
Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki w. Rice & Vegetables: 4.4 oz (125 g)
Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup: 4 oz (113 g)
Campfire Chili: 4.2 oz (119 g)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My package from Peak Camp 'n Trail came in a nicely packaged box that contained one pouch of each of the following foods:
Backcountry Beans
Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole
Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice
Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki w. Rice & Vegetables
Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
Campfire Chili

Each of the meals comes in a generic Camp 'n Trail pouch with individual stickers on the front indicating the meal and an additional sticker on the back, listing the meal name, the Nutritional Facts, Ingredients, and Directions.

Nutritional Facts
Nutritional Facts



The calories appear to be a bit light, with the exception of the Campfire Chili. The servings per container seem a bit generous, but I will test that in the field.

The packaging seems to be just about right for the food inside. There appears to be plenty of room for expansion with the addition of water. Each pouch measures 7 in high (17.8 cm) x 6 in wide (15.2 cm) and they vary between 0.5 in (1.3 cm) and 1.5 in (3.9 cm) deep. There does not appear to be much trapped air in the pouches.

The chicken entrees contain Wheatex to create the vegetarian meals. I am curious on how the meals will taste.

From the Camp 'n Trail web site:
"What is Wheatex? We here at Peak Camp 'n Trail use Wheatex as a meat substitute in several of our entree items. Wheatex is made from wheat gluten and takes the place of meat in our products. Wheatex makes it possible for us to create meals for outdoor enthusiasts that are healthy, nutritious and vegetarian."

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The Nutritional Facts portion also includes the vitamin and mineral details compared to a 2000 calorie per day diet. The directions are listed on the label, but the preparation times are contradicted by additional instructions located on the bottom of the pouch. For example, the Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup directions from the label are: let stand for 10-15 minutes. The directions from the bottom of the pouch are: let sit for 5-10 minutes.
Zoom of Directions
Contradiction in Directions

This appears to be a bit of a difference. I will try preparing half of the pouch using each set of directions. Other than the two sets of directions, the instructions seem pretty straight forward. I did not see a warning about removing the oxygen absorber like I have seen in other prepackaged meals, but I will look for it when I prepare the food.

TESTING STRATEGY

During the test plan, I am looking for taste, calorie count, weight, and packaging.

Taste: Is the vegetarian based meal tasty enough to get enough calories, especially in the cold weather? I have tried other dehydrated meals with mixed results. Is there an after taste? Of the products, which do I prefer and why? Is there enough variation to keep my taste buds from being bored? I will share these with my son to get the reaction of an 11 year old and to test the serving size.

Calorie count: Is there enough energy to sustain for a weekend of backpacking?

Weight and Packaging: How much will this add to my pack? How easy is it to pack in and out
(Leave No Trace)?

Finally: Would I buy these on my own for my future backpacking trips?

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.

I would like to thank Peak Camp 'n Trail and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the opportunity to test these meals.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I used the Peak CampNTrail meals during the following five trips:

-Surry County, Virginia: camping and 5 mi (8.1 km) day hike, High 43 F Low 27 F (6 C to -3 C) Wind 10 mph (16.1 kph), Elevation 91 ft (28 m). I ate the "Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki with Rice & Vegetables" for dinner.

-Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Encampment and 11 mi (17.7 km) day hike, High 35 F Low 22 F (2 C to -6 C) Wind up to 25 mph (40 kph), Elevation 207 ft (63 m). I had "Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole" for lunch during the hike.

- Moyock, Virginia: overnight camping trip, High 55 F Low 34 F (13 C to 1 C), Wind up to 35 mph (56 kph) and between 1 and 1 inches of rain (2.5 cm to 3.8 cm), Elevation 26 ft (8 m). During this trip, I had the "Backcountry Beans" for dinner.

-Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania: 10 mi (16.1 km) day hike, 30 F (-1 C), Wind 10 mph (16 kph), Elevation 1132 ft (345 m). During this day hike, we stopped at about half way and I had the "Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup" for lunch.

-Crabtree Falls, Virginia: 5 mi (8.1 km), High 78 F, Low 38 F (25.6 C to 3.3 C), Wind 10 mph with to gusts of 25 mph (16 to 40 kph). During the trek up Crabtree Falls, we started out at 1600 ft (488 m). I had the "Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice" for lunch at an elevation of 2500 ft (762 m), and had the "Campfire Chili" for dinner at an elevation of 3520 ft (1073 m). That night we had about 2 in (5.1 cm) of rain with a front passing, which explains the huge drop in temperature.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I'm going to give a review of the overall preparation of the meals, a review of each meal and then I'll summarize the products.

For all of the meals, I boiled water, opened the pouch and expanded the bottom so it would not fall over. I poured the required amount of water into the bag, sealed the bag, and waited 5 to 10 minutes. For the meals where there was a contradiction between the directions on the bag and the directions on the adhesive label, I tasted some of it after 10 minutes and then again after 15 minutes. With the meals prepared both ways, I found that the meals tasted the same and the texture was about the same. More steeping time lead to softer noodles and rice. All of the packaging was plastic, so I packed out the trash instead of burning it in a fire.

-Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki w. Rice & Vegetables
I liked the texture of the rice and vegetables. The chicken substitute looked like pulled (or shredded) chicken. I found the consistency was almost like real chicken, but just a little softer. I did find this a little distracting, but the taste was good.

-Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole
The chicken substitute was the same as in the test above. I did find the rice tasty but it was a bit crunchy, even after the full 15 minutes of steeping elapsed. I have experienced the same with other prepackaged meals, so I was not surprised. I liked this meal and found it filling.

-Backcountry Beans
Generally, I don't eat beans unless I am having some barbecue. But, for the interest of the test, I pushed on. Directions were easy to understand and I had no problems getting the water into the pouch. After the 10 minutes listed on the label, I open the pouch to a delicious smell. The beans were very tasty and the texture was only slightly crunchy. I found that all of the meals had a slightly crunchy texture. I did find the meal filling, but the hikes in and out were about 1 mi (1.6 km) each. Not that strenuous.

-Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
When I added the required amount of water, I found it to be the same consistency as the Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole, not really a soup. I had a quick and tasty lunch.

-Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice
This was my favorite meal of the group. The smell and flavor was very appealing to me. I had it during an ascent up at about 2500 ft (762 m), so I kept it simmering a couple of minutes longer than I did for the meals at near sea level. I found it filling and had plenty of energy during the rest of the hike. Overall, this was a great lunch.

-Campfire Chili
Unfortunately, this was my least favorite meal. I am a big fan of chili, but this did not appeal to me. I found the texture about the same as the rest of the meals, but the taste was lacking. I also did not find it very spicy, but I could have added my own hot sauce.

SUMMARY

Overall, I found the meals tasty (except the chili). I had plenty of energy to finish my activities without raiding everyone else's stores. I did find that during the backpacking events, I consumed the entire pouch of food, which was enough for three servings (except for the chili, which is two servings). I found that one pouch per meal was the right amount of calories for me. If I ever use these meals again, I will have to take that into account. With the average weight of the meals at 4.2 oz (119 g), I did not find that to be an issue, but I would have to plan for it in the future. I still do not know exactly what Wheatex is, but I liked the taste of the chicken substitute. I wouldn't purchase them for myself, but if I was backpacking with a vegetarian, I would definitely recommend the meals and eat them if we were sharing.

What I liked:
Lightweight
Plenty of food
Good taste (with the exception of the chili)

What I disliked:
Contradiction in the directions
Chili meal
Vegetarian aspect of the meals (not my first choice)

This concludes my testing of the Peak Camp 'N Trail Meals.

I enjoyed this test series and would like to thank both Peak and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to partake in this test.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Peak Campn Trail Foods gear
Read more gear reviews by Erich Roetz

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