Natural High Foods
By Raymond Estrella
July 10, 2006
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Richmoor Corporation
Web site: www.richmoor.com
Product: Natural High Gourmet Camping Foods (Entrees)
Year manufactured: varies
MSRP: $5.75 – $7.00 (US)
Net weight listed (Tequila Chicken): 5.25 oz (149 g)
Actual gross weight (incl. packaging): 6.7 oz (190 g)
Natural High Gourmet Camping Foods are the premier line of camping and backpacking foods made by the Richmoor Corporation. They also produce the Richmoor Homestyle Camping Foods line.
The meals come in a plasticized foil bag. On each side of the bag is a notch to facilitate tearing the top off to get to the contents. A half inch (1.2 cm) below the tear notch is a press-to-seal strip inside of the bag. On the top of the bag a “best when used by” date is stamped into the material. The bottom of the bag is pleated, which when spread open creates a stable base for the bag to stand on.
The front of the package has the Natural High name and logo along with the name of the entrée itself. The net weight is listed at the bottom. On the back is some marketing hype, cooking instructions, the ingredient list and nutritional information. (The company has an awesome Excel file with all of their nutritional information on their web site. Rather than list it all, it can be found here; http://www.richmoor.com/download/)
When opened the bag reveals the main ingredients along with a small oxygen absorber packet. Many of the meals also contain small plastic pouches of secondary ingredients. These are opened and added to the main batch before adding the boiling water. Most of the ingredients are freeze-dried but some are dehydrated instead.
All of their entrees are no-cook. They say to add the boiling water, stir and let sit for seven to ten minutes before eating. A recommendation is given to simmer in a pot for an additional three to four minutes when preparing at higher elevations.
This is quoted from Richmoor’s website. I will comment on it below.
“Our Natural High brand is an all natural, gourmet brand for the upscale and discriminating customer. We use ingredients like asparagus, snow peas, and wild rice, and combine them with spicy seasonings and unique sauces. Natural High contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors - no artificial anything. Also, no MSG has been added, and no more added salt than is absolutely necessary for flavor.”
Over the past 15 years I have used these meals on hikes the entire length of California. They have been prepared as high as 13,200' (4,023 m) twice, near White Mountain. And since my favorite hiking area is the Sierra Nevada range, I have made many more at elevations nearly as high.
They have been used in the desert at Joshua Tree (JT) National Monument (now Park) and Death Valley. I have eaten them in every month of the calendar and in every kind of weather. The coldest trip I ate them was in 2003 where lows reached 10 F (-12 C).
A little history is in order here. I started backpacking in 1974. As I lived in Twentynine Palms California at the time that meant a lot of desert hiking in JT and carrying plenty of water and a lot of canned foods. This made for heavy packs and a limited number of days I could stay out. In 1979 I moved to Idyllwild CA and became hooked on mountains. From there I branched out to the San Bernardino Mountains (Big Bear area) and then the Sierra Nevada to experience them even more. In a little backpacking store in Big Bear I saw my first dehydrated food. I loved the concept and adopted it whole-heartedly. Unfortunately a lot of it was horrible. Plus quality control was not all that great. I got sick from what I am sure were bad meals on a couple of trips. When Mountain House started hitting our area things took a turn for the better.
In 1978 I did an investigative report on food additives. After doing the research for the paper I was so disgusted by what I found (and wrote up) that I cut out as many additives as I could from my diet, stopped eating refined sugar and became an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I stayed one for the next ten years, then over the next six slowly added poultry and finally beef back into my diet. With the backpacking foods meatless was not a problem as there is a lot of pasta based stuff (spaghetti, macaroni & cheese, etc.) out there. But a lot of the better tasting brands were not the healthiest. And they were all so bland that I started carrying a lot of spices to perk them up.
I think it was 1990 that I tried my first Natural High meal. It was a meatless entrée called Cheese Enchilada Ranchero. I loved it and it became my favorite evening meal. There were trips that I would have it two out of three nights. In 1991 I shared some with my brother-in-law who did not ever take freeze-dried food. He became a convert. (In fact that meal is still his favorite today.)
The Natural High line has become my favorite because of the taste and the fact that they do not use any additives. The sodium content in them is half (or less) what is found in other brands. Here is the sodium contained in a single serving of the Tequila Chicken: 560 mg. Here it is for three similar chicken entrees I have in our gear room: example 1 -1360 mg; example 2 -1080 mg; and example 3 -1480 mg. As can be seen Natural High is way below the norm.
(Note: there are other brands that are natural and contain no additives. I do use them. But they are not as flavorful, nor do they have the variety.)
My new favorite flavor is the Tequila Chicken pictured above. I have about five of them in the gear room right now. Other stand outs are the Beef Enchilada, Three Cheese Lasagna, Honey Lime Chicken and Chicken Fajitas. I have had about 15 other entrees besides the ones mentioned. All have been very good (Disclaimer: I have not tried any shrimp entrees. Even though I eat fresh shrimp the thought of it dried in a bag bugs me.)
Preparation is a breeze. Even when I am at high altitude (most of the time) I never put it in a pot for extra simmering. For the past two years, even in January in the snow, here is what I do:
I prep the meal as needed while I start the water boiling, opening any secondary pouches and pulling out the oxygen absorber. I spread open the pleat at the bottom of the bag and put it into my balaclava so as not to burn my hand. When the water is at a full rolling boil I pour it into the bag, give it a quick stir, then seal the bag with the zip-strip. I then place it, still in my balaclava, on my -20 F (-29 C) sleeping bag and fold the sleeping bag over the meal, creating the worlds biggest (and most expensive) cozy. I let it sit for about 15 minutes instead of the suggested 7 to 10. It turns out great and is still too hot to eat. I eat it right out of the pouch and when I am done the little secondary bags, oxygen absorber and the top strip of the main bag all go inside it. I press any trapped air out, zip it closed and my meal is all cleaned up.
I eat the whole thing as a single serving. Sometimes in the warmer months it is a stretch to finish it, but in the winter it is no problem. In fact I even supplement them at times. I will take a package of freeze-dried chicken and add it to the water as I start it boiling. (Having increased its amount as necessary.) Then I dump it into a Three Cheese Lasagna and I have Chicken Alfredo, hiker style. I do the same thing by adding beef to the Three Bean Chili. I have found that the Chili needs to sit for at least 20 minutes in the “cozy” to properly hydrate the beans. Otherwise some will still be crunchy. Same thing goes for the Red Beans and Rice.
I do not take their breakfast items hiking anymore but I used to a lot. They are very good but take more work and clean-up than I want to spend anymore. I do still use them when camping.
I have been very pleased with this line of meals and will undoubtedly be eating them for some time to come. This picture was taken in May of this year. Look what Ray is going to eat tonight! (Right side of the door.)
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
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