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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Peak Campn Trail Foods > Test Report by Tim Tessier

PEAK CAMP-N-TRAIL FOOD
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
INITIAL REPORT
January 19, 2008

FIELD REPORT ADDED MAY 15, 2008

 

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME:

Tim Tessier

EMAIL:

timothy_tessier@yahoo.com

AGE:

51

LOCATION:

Greensboro North Carolina

GENDER:

M

HEIGHT:

6' 2" (1.88 m)

WEIGHT:

200 lb (90.70 kg)

Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 16 year old son 8 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile (32 km) weekend hikes (2 nights) approximately once a month year round. Additionally, we take one, 5 - 7 day extended trip each summer. Most of our hiking is done in North Carolina, southern Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia. We go regardless of weather so we have experience in all types of conditions. We do not tend to travel very light, my typical pack weight is 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Trinidad Benham Corporation
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.campntrail.com
MSRP: US$2.99 - $3.99
Listed Weight: 4 oz (113 g)
Measured Weight: Varies by product, see below
Other details:
I received a package of six individual packaged meals. These meals are the dehydrated, prepackaged type that provides the user with a lightweight, mess free, easy to prepare meal at the end of a long day of hiking. The selection provided includes 3 entre's, 1 soup, 1 chili, and 1 pack of backcountry beans. Each of these meals are listed as vegetarian meals, though several are "chicken" something.

IMAGE 1



For reference, as I list the items below I will list the Item Price (IP) and Measured Weight (MW), and a brief description of the contents and nutrition information.

Sweet Chicken Teriyaki with Rice and Vegetables - IP - $3.99, MW - 4.4 oz (125 g)
Description from website: "This unique blend of ginger honey teriyaki seasoning, rice, vegetable medley and Wheatex makes a satisfying meal to enjoy next to the campfire."

Features long grain rice, soy sauce (dehydrated), chicken substitute, dehydrated vegetables including broccoli, peas, celery, carrots, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/3 cup (38 g)(dry), 3 servings per package, 130 calories per serving, 28 g carbohydrates.

Savory Chicken with Brown Rice - IP - $3.99, MW - 4.1 oz (116 g)
Description from website: "We mix a seasoned, hearty brown rice with vegetables and Wheatex to create a healthy, hearty meal to have while enjoying your favorite outdoor activity."

Features long grain brown rice, spices, chicken substitute, dehydrated vegetables including broccoli, peas, celery, carrots, tomatoes, onion, and garlic
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/3 cup (38 g) (dry), 3 servings per package, 130 calories per serving, 28 g carbohydrates

Vegetarian Chicken and Rice Casserole - IP - $3.99, MW - 4.2 oz (119 g)
Description from website: "A wonderful medley of white rice, vegetables, and Wheatex to create a delicious vegetarian meal while out on the trail."

Features long grain pre-cooked rice, onion, parsley, mushroom, garlic, spices, textured wheat protein, and other vegetables including broccoli, peas, celery, carrots, tomatoes.
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/3 cup (38 g) (dry), 3 servings per package, 130 calories per serving, 28 g carbohydrates

Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup - IP - $2.99, MW - 4.1 oz (116 g)
Description from website: "Just like mom use to make, except especially for vegetarians. We have substituted flavored soy products in place of the chicken in this hearty soup."

Features egg noodles, chicken seasoning, dried onion, spices, dehydrated vegetables including onion, mushrooms, garlic, parsley
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/2 cup (36 g) (dry), 3 servings per package, 130 calories per serving, 21 g carbohydrates

Campfire Chili - IP - $2.99, MW - 4.2 oz (119 g)
Description from website: "So meaty and hearty, you'll never believe it's vegetarian.
We have replaced beef with a flavored soy product to make this the perfect meal. All the meaty, hearty taste of chili without the beef."

Features pinto beans, seasoning, dehydrated onion, garlic, salt, sugar
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/3 cup (57 g) (dry), 2 servings per package, 210 calories per serving, 36 g carbohydrates

Back Country Beans - IP - $2.99, MW - 4.4 oz (125 g)
Description from website: "This versatile product is one of our most popular items in the Camp 'n Trail line. Because these beans come unseasoned you can add your own to give it a personal touch. These refried beans are great for backpacking, camping, college dorms, or to use for a quick and easy Mexican dish or nacho dip."

Contains dehydrated pinto beans
Nutrition Information - Serving size, 1/3 cup (38 g) (dry), 2 servings per package, 150 calories per serving, 22 g carbohydrates

IMAGE 2

Front of typical package

 

IMAGE 3

Back of same package



The dishes are dehydrated food products. These products are designed for the user to stir in boiling water, wait the specified amount of time, stir again, and eat directly from the pouch, or from a plate or bowl. If these dishes do perform as advertised they offer a number of advantages for the backpacker inherent in this type of meal. The greatest advantage is that after a long day of hiking the user can heat and eat, lick off the spork, and the dishes and cleanup are complete. The second is that there is no need to carry more than one pan (to heat water). This combined with the light weight of the food packages can save considerable pack weight. Third, the sealed packages and dehydrated food minimize the scent released to attract woodland critters to your campsite. In my field report I will detail whether these particular products live up to this promise.

In examining the ingredient list of these products I see that they are all vegetarian. I find, however, that each product's ingredient list includes a number of preservatives and other ingredients with long, complicated, chemical names. This does not particularly bother me personally, as many times I find that "natural" ingredients don't necessarily translate into improved taste or texture.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Each item comes packaged in a four-color plastic pouch. The packages are approximately 6" (15.2 cm) X 7" (17.8 cm) (W X H). They vary in thickness from 3" (7.6 cm). The plastic packages seem smaller and lighter than similar products from other manufacturers that come in foil packages.

Each package is sealed at the top and has a notch approximately 3/4" (1.9 cm) from the top to facilitate easy opening. Beneath the notch is an interlocking seal that allows you to reseal the bag. The general use is to open the top, add the prescribed amount of boiling water, stir thoroughly, reseal, and let it cook for a few minutes per the individual instructions.

The packages are attractive and well marked. The nutrition information, ingredients, and directions are printed on the back in black type on a white background. The directions appear to be a sufficiently bold and large enough font to be easily readable in any light conditions.

One thing lacking on the packages is ANY description of the contents other than the name. Above, I reprinted the information on the website describing each product. I did this because there is no information printed on the package other than the name of the product. There is a one paragraph generic blurb about Peak Foods printed on each package, however there is NO descriptive information on the product. Personally, since I don't have access to the internet while standing in a store, to help decide between three vegetarian chicken dishes, I would rather have information on that particular product than a generic blurb about Peak Foods.

This would have been particularly irritating with the beans as I may well have gotten in to camp only to notice then that these particular beans are just that: beans. They don't appear to have any seasoning at all, though the website does give a couple of seemingly good ideas for spicing them up. This is not meant as a criticism of the food, rather a comment on why it is important to have a description on each package.

Reading the Instructions

The instructions are all relatively straight-forward. Simply add boiling water, stir, wait a certain amount of time, stir again, and serve.

There is no mention of oxygen absorbers in the bag, though these are common in this type of product. I will report whether this is a problem or not. I will also report on how closely the cooking times on the packages approximate the necessary cooking time.

TESTING STRATEGY

As I normally hike with my son Greg we will be testing whether a serving for two ( as stated on the nutrition label) is truly a serving for two, or if a serving for 3 is even enough for two guys who have been hiking all day. Additionally, I will be reporting on the taste (subjective I know), texture, ease of cooking, accuracy of instructions, and any other relevant data on these products.

We will be testing at altitudes that are typically in the 3,000 - 6,000 ft. (914 m - 1829 m) range, in a wide variety of temperatures. We will be using the entre's as our primary meal and some of the others (beans, soup) as side dishes or late-night snacks. In all cases we will follow the printed package directions as closely as possible.

SUMMARY

I am anxious to try these products, and I wish to extend my thanks to Peak Camp-n-Trail and to Backpackgeartest for the opportunity to do so.

Please check back in mid-March for my review of these products. Bon Appetit!

Field Report - May 15, 2008

I have used the products on a variety of back-country adventures. I will be grading each meal on a scale of 5 (Oh Baby, I love this stuff!) - 1 (If I throw this out on the ground will it kill the animals?) The areas that will be graded are Taste, Texture, Ease of cooking, accuracy of instructions, and I will provide a comment on each.

One follow up note, I commented on the lack of any mention of oxygen absorbers. There are none that I can find in any of the products.

SWEET CHICKEN TERIYAKI WITH RICE AND VEGETABLES - I enjoyed this meal in the Cumberland Gap National Recreation Area in Kentucky. This was on a cool evening after about 10 miles (16.1 km).
Taste - 4 - Savory, tasty, enjoyable
Texture - 3 - The rice was a bit crunchy.
Ease of cooking - 5 - Simply measure a cup of boiling water and pour it in
Accuracy of instructions - 4 - I wonder if the rice would have been done if it had cooked a little longer
Overall - 4 - This is a tasty entre'. It was not enough for two as I was by myself and polished it all off along with a bagel. It was quite tasty and satisfying.

SAVORY CHICKEN WITH BROWN RICE - I enjoyed this meal in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a 50F (10C) evening. This was after 8.5 miles (13.7 km).
Taste - 4 - Also quite tasty. Probably my favorite of the lot.
Texture - 3 - As brown rice tends to be, this was also quite crunchy.
Ease of cooking - 5 - Measure, pour, and watch the time.
Accuracy of instructions - 4 - Again, I wonder if the time is correct due to the crunchiness.
Overall - 4 - This is a tasty entre'. Again, I polished the whole thing off by myself. There is no way it would have also satisfied my son.


VEGETARIAN CHICKEN AND RICE CASSEROLE - I ate this meal as lunch on a day hike in Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina. This was on a warm sunny day, next to a pleasant stream.
Taste - 3 - This was fairly bland but not objectionable in any way.
Texture - 3 - Again the rice was a little crunchy.
Ease of cooking - 5 - Again, there is nothing to it.
Accuracy of instructions - 3 - This meal could definitely have done with a little more time cooking.
Overall - 3 - This meal just did not do it for me. The portion was smallish and the taste was fairly bland. I was not impressed by it at all.

HOMESTYLE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP - I ate this meal for lunch on a foggy, rainy day in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in Virginia. Hot chicken soup on a cold rainy day... should be a natural.
Taste - 1 - I managed to choke down about 5 bites of this. There is no polite way to say it, this was awful.
Texture - 2 - This was not soup at all, it was noodles that got slimy when mixed with boiling water.
Ease of cooking - 4 - I have to wonder if I did something wrong but I followed the instructions carefully.
Accuracy of instructions - 3 - Again, I have to wonder if there is some mistake in the directions
Overall - 2 - I settled down inside a shelter on a cold rainy day and thought, "this will be great, chicken soup on a cold rainy day". Instead, I had a pouchful of slimy noodles with a flavor that was just awful. It was the most disappointing of all the meals I had. I choked down about half of it, went outside, dug a hole, and buried it!

CAMPFIRE CHILI - I fixed this for dinner the night after I had the chicken soup for lunch. I fixed it carefully and tasted it with great trepidation after the soup for lunch.
Taste - 5 - This was absolutely delicious. I believe it to be the best tasting pouch meal I have ever had in any brand. The chili was just spicy enough with a very satisfying beefy, spicy, chili flavor.
Texture - 5 - The meal cooked thoroughly with only a little crunchiness in the beans, and that mostly due to inadequate stirring on my part.
Ease of cooking - 4 - Again, heat it up and eat it up.
Accuracy of Instructions - 5 - I cooked it the full 15 minutes that the package recommended and the meal was great.
Overall - 5 - While not enough for two this was a great meal for one. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of it.

BACKCOUNTRY BEANS - I fixed these beans in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area in western North Carolina. It was a cold night after a 12 mile (19.3 km) day.
Taste - 3 - The beans were okay but quite bland by themselves. I then added grated cheddar cheese and they got better, then I added Tabasco sauce and they became pretty good.
Texture - 4 - They cooked up thoroughly and did not suffer from the crunchiness that some of the other dishes did.
Ease of cooking - 4 - The beans themselves were easy to fix, per the directions on the package.
Accuracy of instructions - 3 - I graded down the instructions because these are bland beans when eaten by themselves. Had I not seen on the website that these were "just beans" and read their suggestions about adding cheese, etc. I might not have had anything to add to them. I feel the bag should offer some suggestions along these lines.
Overall - 3 - The beans were good as a base layer. For my taste I found it necessary to doll them up with cheese and Tabasco. That done, however, they made a tasty dinner with some tortillas.

Final Summary

The Peak products seem quite well made and healthy and are adequate meals for one. Somewhat in their defense, the packages don't state that they "Feed 2". However, if you look at the nutrition information it says that each package contains two servings. I would rather the company just be honest and state the total number of calories etc. in a package as they clearly feed only one hungry hiker.

Some of the meals (the chili) are quite tasty. Others (the "soup") are dreadful. Most are somewhat bland but not objectionable in any way. The product could be improved by better information on the packages, especially since they have a number of varieties that sound quite similar (chicken and rice, chicken and brown rice, chicken and rice casserole etc.).

I would like to thank Peak Camp-n-Trail Foods and Backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test these products.

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



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