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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Richmoor Natural High Camping Food > Test Report by Jennifer Pope
Initial Impressions & Product Description(back to top) These meals are exactly as expected. These are freeze-dried meals in re-sealable foil packaging.
Two items are labeled differently on the packaging and the website. The "Spicy Thai Chicken" is just listed as "Thai Chicken" on the website and the "Granola" is given the more descriptive name of "Raspberry Granola with Milk". The Thai Chicken product names aren't drastically different except that I would expect the "Spicy Thai Chicken" to be spicier (clearly). Initially I thought the "Granola" was more like a trail mix rather than a breakfast. Neither the website nor the product packaging consistently has the more precise product title. But where one is lacking, the other provides the detailed product name.
These are all two-person meals. This is prominently displayed on the front of each package. None of the items require cooking except the "I Can't Believe it's Cheese Pizza". The cheese pizza requires the sauce to be cooked like a regular freeze-dried meal; just add hot water. The crust requires the addition of water and then cooking on a skillet for several minutes; then the two components are combined. All of the other items just require the addition of hot (or cold) water.
All of the bags are the same size despite the contents inside each of the bags being different sizes. I found this odd and it seems to be a waste of materials and precious backpack space. Quite a bit of the bag is torn off when the bag is opened. This seems to be more wasted materials. The re-sealable zipper is located at least two inches (5 cm) from the top of the bag.
Cooking instructions and nutritional information are found on the back of each bag. Since the nutritional information for each item is printed on the website I will not reiterate that here. The cooking ranges from adding cold water, stirring, and eating to adding boiling water and waiting 10-12 minutes. Each meal that requires the addition of boiling water requires several minutes of cooking time in addition to the regular cooking (waiting) time when prepared at high elevations.
I'm not a nutritionist, but the total calories per serving seem pretty low for a meal while backpacking. Since these meals are all two servings I will be splitting them with my husband. We will likely be supplementing the meals by either eating two or bringing something else along to eat. The entrees range from 290 to 420 calories.
Sodium is often a problem in processed foods (there's usually too much of it). The sodium content in these meals seems to be a little on the high side but pretty reasonable. The entrees range from 23% to 44% of the Daily Recommended Value (which is based on a 2,000 calorie diet).
Field Conditions (back to top)
I ate all of these meals on two trips. The first was on an overnight car camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California. There were very heavy winds while I was cooking. Temperatures at night dropped into the 30s F (0 C) while I was cooking the temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s F (15 C). Joshua Tree National Park is located at about 4,000 ft (1,200 m) above sea level. The bulk of the meals were used on an overnight backpacking trip in the San Gorgonio area (the highest peak in Southern California). The nighttime cold temperature was in the 40s F (5 C) and it was in the 60s F while I cooked in the morning and evening and in the 70s F (22 C) when I cooked lunch. Our campsite (dinner and breakfast) was located at a little over 9,000 ft (2,750 m) and our lunch location was probably around 7,500 ft (2,300 m) approximately.
All of the meals were prepared on an MSR PocketRocket stove using my GSI hard anodized non-stick Extreme cook set (my review is available on this site).
I'm going to give a summary of my experience based on each meal and then some overall observations that apply to all the meals.
I can't believe it's cheese pizza
This was my least favorite meal. It didn't really taste like cheese pizza to me at all. It was basically a pancake with marinara dipping sauce. There was very little actual cheese in the sauce (see the picture below). Plus it involved a lot more prep work than the other meals. Cooking the crust wasn't too complicated. It required mixing the flour mixture with cold water (a separate bowl was necessary because the package was needed to cook the sauce) then cooking that in a fry pan with a little oil. I used olive oil in a non-stick fry pan (the lid to my cook pot). This worked perfectly fine. I didn't have any sticking issues at all. I was able to flip the crust (just like a pancake) with a fork without too much trouble. I set the crusts aside (there was enough dough for 2) and then cooked the sauce. I had to heat the sauce up in the fry pan as well because it just wasn't thick enough for me. Then my husband and I ate the crust like breadsticks and scooped the sauce out of the fry pan. The taste was not very good. Since the crust basically tasted like a pancake it was difficult to eat with the sauce because it just didn't seem right. The sauce was more like spaghetti sauce consistency rather than the thin layer of sauce that's usually on a pizza. I would have preferred 1/4 the amount of sauce and a lot more cheese.
Spicy Thai Chicken
This entree was alright. My husband actually liked it more than I did (he thought this was the best dinner entree we tried). The front of the package says this item is "with broccoli and noodles", actually it's substantially comprised of spinach. I'm not a huge fan of spinach in this form and I wasn't a huge fan of this meal. My husband and I pretty much ate the whole thing but it was probably more due to our exhaustion and hunger after hiking over 7 miles (11 km) with a lot of elevation gain. The cooking preparation was easy and didn't require that much thought. My husband and I each ate half of the package along with hot chocolate and the apple crisp dessert and were both plenty full until morning. I would not purchase this dish again--though my husband might.
Cheese Enchilada Ranchero
This was an interesting dish. It was basically tortilla chips with a sauce in it and then a cheese topping. I highly recommend just stirring the cheese in because when I just sprinkled it on the top some of the cheese was still hard and crunchy when I started eating. I liked this dish. I thought it tasted pretty normal and almost not like a backpacking meal (of course I had to get past what it looked like). The only complaint I had was the pumpkin seeds. Initially my husband thought that there was rice in the meal that hadn't re-hydrated properly, but after looking at the ingredient list we found that it was the pumpkin seeds. They were still a bit crunchy and seemed sort of out of place. We would have preferred this dish without them. Overall I liked this dish very much and I would eat it again.
Cinnamon Apple Crisp
This dish was sort of a let down for me. I ate it for dessert after the Spicy Thai Chicken and I had been forcing down that meal to get to this one and it didn't live up to my hype. It was fine it just wasn't really anything to look forward to. It was basically apples and cinnamon. I would have liked more of the crumb topping. The topping also didn't taste anything like butter to me and a buttery flavor would have been welcome. I don't think I'd buy it in the future.
This was a little ray of sunshine on a beautiful morning in the mountains. My husband is super picky about breakfast items so he ate his little oatmeal envelope (which he also didn't particularly enjoy) and I ate the granola. It is supposed to be two servings but I ended up eating pretty much the whole thing on my own (just because it was so good). I was a little hesitant about this item because I envisioned it as basically granola and powdered milk--it was so much more than that. In addition to the granola it also had bits that were more like cereal, like puffed wheat or something. It was also more sugary than I expected. I really enjoyed. I would buy this and eat it at home, dehydrated milk and all, it was that good. In addition it required absolutely no preparation. Add cold water, stir and eat. I will most definitely buy this again in the future even though it's so easy to purchase regular grocery store breakfast food that can be eaten backpacking (which for me is usually envelopes of instant oatmeal).
Preparation, eating, etc
For each of the items that were "cooked" directly in the package my husband and I both ate right out of the pouch. We figured that the pouch provided some insulation plus we could handle sharing just so we wouldn't have to dirty something else. This worked fine for us. The package was a little deep and occasionally gave us dirty knuckles when we were digging in to get the last bit of food out--a minor annoyance.
Pour, squish, stuff.
There's a small oxygen absorber in each pouch. I guess my memory isn't the greatest on backpacking trips because each time I prepared a meal I forgot to take out the packet until I started eating. Thankfully the packet is too big to eat by accident and the instructions state that it isn't harmful if the meal is prepared with the packet left inside.
It was only after I was eating the Spicy Thai Chicken that I noticed that there were special "high altitude" instructions. These instructions require actually cooking in a pot. I wasn't that excited about doing that and the meal I was eating seemed fine, so the extra cooking seemed unnecessary for me. I'm also not exactly sure what the cutoff is for "high" and the package didn't say. There may be some standard cutoff that I'm unaware of since I've always lived near sea level. I can only assume 9,000 ft (2,750 m) was over the cutoff and the meal turned out fine despite that. The Apple Crisp also turned out fine and it was also cooked at the same elevation. I cooked the Cheese Enchilada at about 7,500 ft (2,300 m) without extra in-pot cooking to no ill effects. The cooking (i.e. waiting) times listed on each of the packages are ranges. I always waited towards the longer end of that range to make sure everything was hydrated fully; this could be why I didn't have any problems with uncooked meals.
Another drawback is that these meals don't pack very well. They held up great inside my pack and I was never worried about them opening unexpectedly, but they are pretty bulky. The food only takes up about a third of the space inside each of the packages so there seems to be some extra material. To open the package there's a tear strip across the top of the bag. This also seems bigger than necessary and just adds to wasted space and weight (and I'm no ultralighter). Once consumed the package is almost the same size as before. Granted these criticisms might be more related to freeze-dried food in general and not specific to this brand. I would also rather the package be shorter and wider rather than tall so that it could stand up better without being as top heavy (especially with a spoon in it).
But as a whole I think I have very positive opinions about the brand. Some items that I didn't expect to be good were quite tasty. It's definitely worth exploring other meals to find the good ones. I'll definitely be looking out for more items to try.
Thank you to Richmoor and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this item.
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Reviews > Food > Packaged Meals > Richmoor Natural High Camping Food > Test Report by Jennifer Pope