NATURAL HIGH FOODS BY RICHMOOR CORPORATION
TEST SERIES BY TIM TESSIER
March 27, 2007
6' 2" (1.88 m)
215 lb (97.50 kg)
Backpacking Background: I hiked as a child with my father and started hiking with my now 15 year old son 7 years ago. We now routinely take 20 mile 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, with a typical pack weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg) exclusive of food.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Richmoor Corporation
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.richmoor.com
MSRP: US$$4.25 - $6.75
Listed Weight: 4 - 6.5 oz (113 - 184 g)
Measured Weight: 4.25 - 6.75 oz (120 - 191g)
Other details: I received a package of five separate Natural High meals. Each of them is designed to feed two. Among these are three main courses, one breakfast meal, and one desert. The individual information on each is as follows:
For reference as I list the items below I will list: Item Price (IP), Listed Weight (LW), Measured Weight (MW)
Cheese Enchilada Ranchero IP - $6.25 LW - 6.25 oz. (177 g.) MW - 6.5 oz. (184 g.)
"A traditional Mexican cheese enchilada with soft tortillas mild seasoning and aged cheddar cheese."
Contains: Tortillas, rice, cheeses, and spices to create a saucy broth.
420 calories including 180 calories from fat
Spicy Thai Chicken IP - $6.75 LW - 5.15 oz. (146 g.) MW - 5.4 oz. (156 g.)
"Broccoli and spinach combine with chicken in a spicy peanut sauce with noodles."
Contains: Pasta, diced chicken, soy sauce powder, peanut powder, and various vegetables.
290 calories including 25 from fat
I Can't Believe it's Cheese Pizza IP - $5.25 LW - 5.75 oz. (163 g.) MW - 6.0 oz. (170 g.)
Deep dish cheese, tomato, and basil
Contains Two Parts: The crust has flour, natural butter flavor, sweet cream powder. The sauce contains tomato sauce, two types of cheese, parmesan cheese powder, various spices.
272 calories including 36 from fat.
(This is a slight departure from the others as two pans are required. An oiled skillet is required for the crust, and the sauce is made in the pouch.)
Granola with Raspberries and Milk IP - $4.25 LW - 6.5 oz. (184 g.) MW - 6.75 oz. (191 g.)
"Rolled oats, freeze dried raspberries, and sliced almonds in molasses with honey and milk for a quick and nutritious breakfast."
Contains: French Vanilla Granola, Honey, Cornstarch, Almonds, and natural flavorings.
380 calories including 90 from fat
Cinnamon Apple Crisp IP - $4.25 LW - 4.0 oz. (113 g.) MW - 4.25 oz. (120 g.)
Sliced apple, cinnamon and raisins in brown sugar with a buttery granola topping."
Filling contains: Brown Sugar, Diced Apples, Raisins, food starch, cinnamon, orange peel. Topping contains: French Vanilla Granola, crisp rice, honey, cornstarch, almonds.
230 calories including 20 from fat.
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. If these dishes do indeed perform as advertised they will offer a number of advantages for the backpacker inherent in this type of product. The largest is that after a long day of hiking (with some exceptions) one can simply heat and eat, lick off the spork, and the dishes are done. The second is that the user can carry only one pan (for heating water) and no other cookware. Another expected advantage is that this type of meal is lightweight and produces very little scent which makes it less of an attractive target for bears. In our field report we will see if these meals do offer these advantages while offering an acceptable dining experience.
There is a consistent discrepancy in weight between the posted weight and the actual measured weight on my scale. This is probably due to the company weighing the contents, not including the packaging. I will endeavor to weigh an empty package after testing the contents in order to test this theory.
In examining the contents of the meals I noticed that the ingredients seem to be a good healthy mix of real food products. According to the manufacturer there are no added chemicals in any of the products which is refreshing to see.
Each dish for two comes in a four-color foil package. The packages are appoximately 7.9" X 10.0" (201 mm X 254 mm) in size. Each package is sealed at the top and has a resealable zipper approximately 3" (76 mm) from the top. Between the two is a notch where the user can tear the pouch open.
The general use is to tear the top off the pouch, open the resealable zipper, remove the oxygen absorber, and add water per the directions. The pouch is then resealed for a period of time while the product inside cooks.
The pouches say in a number of places that there is an oxygen absorber inside. This is designed to keep the product fresh and extend shelf life. However, it has been my experience with other products of this type that the necessity of finding the small oxygen absorber in a package of food can be daunting in poor light. It also necessitates pawing through my food, prior to cooking with my bare hands. This is not always an appetizing prospect when I've been out in the woods for several days.
The packages are attractive and well marked. They are obviously designed to remain watertight and airtight even while smashed into the bottom of a backpack. This will be tested and reported in the field report.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The directions are printed on each pouch. They are quite detailed and easy to follow. Each package contains an oxygen absorber that must be removed prior to preparation. Then typically preparation is as easy as adding water, waiting a few minutes and eating. Directions on each package must be read, however, as the directions vary from dish to dish. I would like to see the directions printed in a larger font, as I believe the font size used would be difficult to read in poor light, or without my glasses. This is something I will test as this sort of accident is no problem at home but the likelihood of this happening in the backcountry is greatly increased.
One of the products (Cheese Enchilada Ranchero) has modified directions for "High Altitudes". Unfortunately, they don't define High Altitudes. I feel that this is a signficant oversight as someone from the coast may consider 6,000 ft. (1,829 m) to be high elevation, while someone from the mountains may not consider 9,000 ft. (2,743 m) to be particuarly high.
I will be using these products on some upcoming weekend outings. I will carefully follow the directions and record my impressions on the taste, texture, and appeal of each offering. As food tasting is, by definition, subjective in nature, I will be sharing these meals with my son to gain his impressions as well.
We will be paying special attention to the consistency of the finished product. Is the rice cooked thoroughly or still crunchy? Are the noodles a good consistency? Do the flavors in the sauces blend adequately?
Also we will report as to whether a serving for two is indeed that, or is it inadequate to fill two hungry hikers.
Please check back in a couple of months for a full report on these products.
July 8, 2007
My son Greg and I have taste-tested each of the Natural Harvest entrées we were provided. Generally, we have found the directions on each packet clear and easy to follow. One concern I had regarding the actual printing of the instructions was unfounded. I removed my glasses one evening, while fixing Cheese Enchilada Rancheros and found that I could still easily read the directions in order to prepare the meal.
Another important note here is that the packaging appears to be bulletproof. They have been in the bottom of packs, hung in a bear bag in the pouring rain, and generally abused but have never shown the slightest wear and tear.
Below, I will detail our impressions of each. These are a synopsis of notes taken at the time. I will rate Texture, Taste, Filling (how well did they stick to your ribs), Ease of Preparation, and Overall on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 means Not Acceptable, 5 means, I'd buy this again and again!
Cheese Enchilada Ranchero:
Texture: 2 out of 5 - The rice was crunchy, the enchilada pieces were gooey, the rest was somewhere in between. The whole effect was not pleasing.
Taste: 3 out of 5 - I was hoping for something more hardy with a little more zip to the taste. It was generally bland.
Filling: 4 out of 5 - It did, with the addition of dessert, fill us up.
Ease of Preparation: 4 out of 5 - If you can measure two cups of boiling water you are home free.
Overall: 3 out of 5 overall. Didn't taste great, not a great texture, but it was easy and it filled me up. After seven hours of carrying a pack sometimes that's all I care about.
Spicy Thai Chicken:
Texture: 3 out of 5 - It was thoroughly cooked and all ingredients seemed to be a consistent texture. It was a little soupy but I, admittedly, may have not gotten the measure exactly right.
Taste: 2 out of 5 - I'm not a big fan of spinach but I have to tell you, I had to eat so I ate. If I had been at home I would have fixed something else.
Filling: 4 out of 5 - It did stick to our ribs. We had that and a piece of bread for dinner and we were both full.
Ease of Preparation: 4 out of 5 - Again, added water and I was good to go.
Overall: 3 out of 5 - This is not a taste that I personally seek out, and Thai is not usually on my dinner list. However, it was hot and filling and easy to fix so it served its purpose.
I Can't Believe It's Cheese Pizza:
Texture: 1 out of 5 - Like a pancake with some gooey stuff on top. Not pleasing visually, or to eat.
Taste: 2 out of 5 - The product is appropriately named. Any resemblance to pizza is minimal. The dough portion, again, has the consistency of a pancake. I carefully measured the water with a measuring cup and stirred it thoroughly so I don't think there was a problem with the cook. The topping did taste of tomato and oregano with the cheese mixed in but, honestly, calling it a pizza is a stretch at best.
Filling: 2 of 5 - We had just hiked ten miles over brutal trails but, this product did not come close to filling the two of us.
Ease of Preparation: 1 of 5 - I think this is my biggest complaint about this product. The primary reason I purchase a pouch meal is so I don't have anything to clean up. I mean, let's face it, if I want to do dishes there are a lot of tastier, more filling, meals I can purchase. Fixing these pizzas according to the directions left me with a frying pan, and a bowl (to mix the dough) to wash. This, to me, violates the entire purpose of this type of prepackaged entrée.
Overall - 2 out of 5 - This was a thoroughly unsatisfying experiment.
Granola with Raspberries and milk:
Texture: 4 out of 5 - This is a cold cereal and the cereal stayed crunchy while the milk fully reconstituted. This was a very pleasant surprise.
Taste: 4 out of 5 - An excellent granola cereal with plenty of raspberries. Excellent quality. (Do they sell this by the box?)
Filling: 4 out of 5 - There was plenty to keep two of us going until lunchtime.
Ease of Preparation: 5 out of 5 - Pour in some water, stir, eat... until they make a little butler come out of the box and stir it for me this is about as easy as it can be.
Overall: 4 out of 5 - In all honesty, when preparing to do this test series this is the meal I was LEAST enthusiastic about. I normally like something warm, like oatmeal for breakfast. However, this was a delicious breakfast cereal with tart raspberries and milk that was thoroughly satisfying.
Cinnamon Apple Crisp -
Texture - 3 out of 5 - I would have been happier with the texture if the apples had been a little less chewy. I know they were dehydrated apple pieces. I guess I was just expecting them to re-hydrate a little better.
Taste: 3 out of 5 - The product was a little bland and could have done with a little more cinnamon. However, it was pleasant and satisfying.
Filling: 4 out of 5 - It was a dessert, not an entrée;. For a dessert there was plenty to satisfy two people, as advertised.
Ease of Preparation: 4 out of 5 - There was no special preparation required. We added boiling water per directions and waited the requisite time.
Overall: 3 out of 5 - While this dessert is satisfying I found the taste to be somewhat lacking.
The meals provided were a mixed bag. Some, like the Granola were excellent. Others, like the pizza, were dreadful. Most were somewhere in between. As food is a thoroughly subjective thing to judge please keep in mind that these are my personal opinions. Others, with different tastes or experiences may react differently to some of the flavors.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Personally, I will be trying other Natural High varieties as they are made from real food and seem to be of very high quality.
I appreciate Richmoor foods providing us this product to test.
This concludes my review of the Richmoor Corporation, Natural High foods.
Read more reviews of Richmoor gear
Read more gear reviews by Tim Tessier