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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Peak Campn Trail Foods > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey


PEAK CAMP'N TRAIL
BACKPACKING MEALS

CampnTrail

Initial Report - January 22, 2008
Long-Term Report - June 23, 2008


Initial Report: January 22, 2008

TESTER BIOGRAPHY
Name: Sheila Morrissey
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.7 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Email Address: geosheila(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Goleta, California, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
I have been backpacking since 2005. Most of my trips have been from one to three nights in length on trails in the Sierra Nevada or Los Padres National Forest. My pack typically weighs around 25 lb (11 kg), including consumables.

PRODUCT INFORMATION
Manufacturer: Peak Camp'n Trail
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer’s Website: http://www.campntrail.com

Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.0 oz (113 g)
MSRP: US$ 3.99
Servings: 3
Listed Ingredients: Pre-cooked enriched long grain rice, seasoning: (maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, dehydrated vegetables [onion, parsley], salt, spices, torula yeast, natural flavors, and no more than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking), dehydrated vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots, celery, tomatoes, onions, garlic), textured wheat protein (wheat gluten, wheat starch, phosphate, soybean oil, caramel, antioxidant).
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve.

Back Country Beans
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.4 oz (125 g)
MSRP: US$ 2.99
Servings: 3
Listed Ingredients: Pinto beans, partially hydrogenated corn oil (with TBHQ to preserve freshness), salt.
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve.

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.0 oz (113 g)
MSRP: US$ 2.99
Servings: 3
Listed Ingredients: Egg noodles (enriched durum flour, whole egg solids), seasoning [maltodextrin, salt, vegetarian chicken flavor (autolyzed yeast extract, dried onion, natural flavor, turmuric), dehydrated vegetables (onion, mushrooms, garlic, parsley), spices, turmeric, and no more than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking], textured soy flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed corn protein, natural flavoring, thiamine hydrochloride, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate.
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Stir and serve.

Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.1 oz (116 g)
MSRP: US$ 3.99
Servings: 3
Listed Ingredients: Pre-cooked enriched long grain rice, seasoning: (maltodextrin, autolyzed yeast extract, dehydrated vegetables [onion, parsley, muchroom, garlic, celery], salt, spices, torula yeast, oil [soybean, sunflower], turmeric, natural flavors, and no more than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking), dehydrated vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots, celery, tomatoes, onions, garlic), textured wheat protein (wheat gluten, wheat starch, phosphate, soybean oil, caramel, antioxidant).
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve.

Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki with Rice & Vegetables
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.4 oz (115 g)
MSRP: US$ 3.99
Servings: 3
Listed Ingredients: Pre-cooked enriched long grain rice, seasoning: (honey*, [refinery syrup, honey], fructose, salt, soy sauce* [(wheat, soybeans, salt), maltodextrine, salt], dextrose, natural and artificial flavors, spices, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and no more than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking, dehydrated vegetables (broccoli, peas, carrots, celery, tomatoes, onions, garlic), textured wheat protein (wheat gluten, wheat starch, phosphate, soybean oil, caramel, antioxidant). *Dehydrated
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve.

Campfire Chili

Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: 4.1 oz (116 g)
MSRP: US$ 2.99
Servings: 2
Listed Ingredients: Dehydrated pinto beans (pinto beans, partially hydrogenated corn oil [with tbhq to preserve freshness], salt); seasoning (spices, maltodextrin, salt, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, yeast extract, sugar, flavor [corn oil, spices, paprika], partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and spice extractive).
Directions: Add 1 cup of boiling water to the ingredients. Stir. Seal bag and let stand for 15-20 minutes. Stir and serve.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
Peak Camp'n Trail packaged meals are advertised to be nutritious, convenient and lightweight. The meals are all vegetarian, even the ones with "chicken" in the name. Each meal has two to three servings and is prepared by adding boiling water to the pouch. All of the meals come in identical sealable and standing foil pouches that have written on them, "Prepare in pouch instructions: 1. Tear open pouch at tear notch. 2. Carefully add boiling water as directed to ingredients. 3. Stir and seal. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Stir and serve." There is also a reminder to "please keep our environment clean and pack out any trash." The name of each meal is printed on stickers on the front and back of the pouch. The sticker on the back also has nutrition facts, ingredients and directions.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS
From my first peek at the Camp'n Trail website, I didn't actually realize these were going to all be vegetarian meals. I did realize it before I received these meals though and am actually glad to be testing vegetarian meals because, even though I'm not a vegetarian, rehydrated chunks of meat can sometimes be unappealling for me. Reading through the ingredients lists on these meals, I imagine I'll like them. Three of the meals (Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner, Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole, and Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki with Rice & Vegetables) seem to have very similar ingredients lists, so I wonder how similar these meals will taste. I'm most looking forward to trying the Campfire Chili.

Though I don't have a problem with this, I was a little surprised to see so many ingredients that I don't recognize, added flavors and preservatives in the ingredients lists just because I've seen other companies moving toward using more natural ingredients and forgoing the preservatives.

I noticed that although all of the bags say to let boiling water sit in the pouch for 5-10 minutes, the directions on the stickers don't all repeat this same cook time. The Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup is supposed to stand for 10-15 minutes and the Campfire Chili is supposed to stand for 15-20 minutes. I'm concerned that my boiling water might cool too quickly for these two meals and I hope that doesn't result in dinners that aren't entirely rehydrated.

The pouches that the meals came in seem to stand well on their own, so I hope that holds true when I add the boiling water and leave them to stand. I was really glad to see that these pouches are just big enough for the food they contain and the boiling water that I will add. It seems many other companies' dehydrated meals come in oversized pouches that result in a lot of unnecessary waste. I'm guessing these short pouches will also be pretty easy to eat from.


Long-Term Report: June 23, 2008

FIELD CONDITIONS
I ate the Peak Camp'n Trail meals over three backpacking trips and one car-camping trip. I went on a three-day,
26-mi (42-km) hike in Coyote Gulch, starting in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. The elevation on this trip was near 4,500 ft (1,400 m).  Next was a two-day, 21-mi (34-km) hike in Buckskin Gulch and Paria River, Utah. The elevation on this trip was also near 4,500 ft (1,400 m). I went on one overnight car-camping trip near Parkfield, California. The elevation was about 1,000 ft (300 m) and temperatures ranged from 50 to 65 F (10 to 18 C). The final trip was an eight-day, volunteer trail maintenance backpacking trip in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in Sierra National Forest, California, at around 7,000 ft (2,100 m) in clear weather with temperatures ranging from 50 to 85 F (10 to 29 C).

TEST RESULTS
I ate each of these meals in the late afternoon or evening when temperatures were moderate and never freezing. In each case, I ate about half of the meal (1.5 servings) by myself. The gusseted bases kept the packages standing while I poured in boiling water and while waiting the required time for the meals to rehydrate. The zippered closer on the bags held a tight seal and all of the ingredients were sufficiently rehydrated after the required wait time and the meals were still hot.

Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner
It was nice having a hot meal to break up the day, but it wasn't exactly a large meal. I had an energy bar shortly before heating up the meal, but I was still able to eat my 1.5 servings of fake chicken and rice because the meal was not very filling at all. I could see the pieces of fake chicken, but they didn't add much to the taste or texture of the meal. What I did like was how I could actually taste the vegetables. The peas and broccoli weren't masked by a cheese sauce or piles of seasoning like I've tasted in other meals. The meal was a bit too salty for my palate, but it still tasted just fine for a backpacking meal. I probably wouldn't purchase this meal again, but I wouldn't necessarily object if someone else brought it along to share on a trip.

Campfire Chili
I had high hopes for this meal, seeing as chili is generally pretty great, but was severely disappointed. I was pretty sure I only put in 1 cup (0.25 L) of boiling water, but the chili seemed really runny. My hiking partner and I dug our spoons into the bag before ever reading about the 1170 mg of sodium in each serving (49% daily recommended value). Blech! It was like liquid brown salt. I tried so hard to like it, especially since it was actually a bit spicy (a positive thing), which I've found is unusual in backpacking meals, but it was inedible. After a couple of spoonfuls each, my hiking partner and I both felt sick. We went to bed a little bit hungry rather than risk being sick with another Peak meal. I ended up having to waste a plastic bag and pack out this rehydrated meal. The seal on the meal itself didn't hold in my pack, but thankfully my zippered plastic bag did stay sealed. What a disappointment this meal was. Unfortunately, this bad experience turned me off of the Peak meals and I didn't have any more on this trip even though I'd planned on eating most or all of them on this trip. The thought of a repeat experience had me holding my stomach, so I put the remainder of these meals away for a while. I most definitely would not recommend this meal.

Vegetarian Sweet Chicken Teriyaki with Rice & Vegetables
Another rice and fake chicken dinner, but this one was a little more bland. I had some other snacks to go along with this meal, but could only eat about half of it. I could barely find the fake chicken in this meal and was pretty sure the vegetables didn't exist. Rather, it tasted like rice with some honey thrown on top. It was definitely a weird flavor, but wasn't terrible. Again, I probably wouldn't purchase this meal, but wouldn't object to eating it so long as there was something else to go with it.

Back Country Beans
What a pleasant surprise! I like beans and I'm a bit snooty about how they're cooked, but these beans weren't half bad. When I opened the package, I was certain I'd hate them because they looked really weird as just flakes of beans. It turns out they're actually refried beans. I ate about half of the package with tortillas and a grilled chicken breast. Really, the beans are not that great, they're nothing like beans from the pot, but I think they're at least as good as canned refried beans, which is something I would never touch at home. Still, I was missing beans after a week outside, so this is definitely something I'd try again for backpacking.

Vegetarian Chicken & Rice Casserole
Again with the rice and fake chicken dinner. I tried adding a little less water this time since the other meals have ended up with a little too much, but I just ended up making this meal a little bit crunchy. Otherwise, this one tasted exactly like the Vegetarian Savory Chicken & Brown Rice Dinner, but with white rice. It was fine -- not great and not terrible. The fake chicken added some good texture and I liked that I could taste the vegetables, even if it was mostly just onion and parsley with just a couple of dots of peas and carrots and other unrecognizable vegetables. I wasn't thrilled about this meal, but I'd eat it again on a backpacking trip.

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup
Blech. Eww. Again, I had no desire to eat more than two spoonfuls of this meal. It tasted like slimy noodles with artificial bacon bits. I know that's not a part of the ingredients, but that's what it tasted like to me. And I hate bacon, real or fake, even unintentional fake bacon flavor. This meal was definitely the least tasty of all of the Peak meals and I couldn't recommend it.

SUMMARY
The meals were all about the right size for two people to share so long as I had other snacks, meat or bread to go with it. The amount of water required seemed to be a bit much in some meals, but it was necessary to rehydrate them. The bags stayed upright and sealed during rehydration.

The Back Country Beans were surprisingly decent and I would buy them again. The chicken and rice meals weren't terribly different from one another and each tasted just okay. I wouldn't buy them, but I'd eat them if someone else brought them. The Campfire Chili was disappointingly salty to the point that it made me ill. The Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup was just plain disgusting.


REMARKS

This concludes my Test Series. Thank you to Peak Camp'n Trail and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test these backpacking meals.


Read more reviews of Peak Campn Trail Foods gear
Read more gear reviews by Sheila Morrissey

Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Peak Campn Trail Foods > Test Report by Sheila Morrissey



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