How to choose the right food for your adventures - Dehydrated and Freeze dried meals explained

How to choose the right food for your adventures - Dehydrated and Freeze dried meals explained

Adventure is on the cards! You've sorted out your clothing, maps, routes, water and/or filter, packed the sun screen (there's always hope you may need it!) first aid kit, tent, sleep system, stove, gas, rubbish bag and have a plan B in mind just in case. The only thing that's left to sort out is the food. Freeze Dried, Dehydrated, Self Heating or Wet Meal Pouch/ Boil In The Bag/ MRE? How do I use them? How long will they last? Do I need to keep them cold? Hopefully we will answer all of these questions for you so the only thing you need to work out is which dishes and brands you prefer!

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Let's start with the basics. All these meals are non perishable and therefore do not need to be kept cold (as you would with food for a picnic with ice packs and a cool box for example) They have been processed in a way which means you can store them at home or work in the cupboard, car, or rucksack and will keep perfectly well, sometimes for years depending on the date of manufacture. 
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Wet Meal Pouch/ Boil In The Bag/MRE
MRE stands for ‘Meal Ready to Eat’ and it is a term used to describe pre-cooked food suitable for use outdoors. Typically associated with expedition, military and camping food. Unlike ‘dry’ rations MRE’s are ready to serve hot or cold.
Wet Meal Pouches are gently cooked in large pressure cookers (called a retorts) that use a combination of high pressure and steam to sterilise the food inside the hermetically sealed (completely airtight and protected from outside influences) pouch. Each meal is cooked inside sealed packaging, which helps ‘lock in’ the flavour and keep the food fresh. The food in the pouch then remains sterile for the shelf life of the product or until opened. 
Using this method keeps larger ingredients such as sausages and burgers in their whole form without the need to break them down into smaller chunks first.
To use these meals you need to boil them in a pot of water for the allotted time stated on pouch, tear open and enjoy.
The fell store MRE meals
PROS
These can be eaten cold straight out of the pouch and you do not need to find any extra water if you needed to eat them in an emergency. Also the water you are boiling them in does not need to be safe to drink as it will not touch the contents at any point. These meals are also a tad cheaper as a rule of thumb.
CONS
These meals are heavier as they already hold the moisture that you would later add if you were using a dehydrated or freeze dried meal. There is a slim chance these could be punctured and they also take longer to thoroughly heat meaning you could be using your stove for longer leading to more gas being used.
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Dehydrated Meals.
Dehydrating removes about 90-95% of the moisture content and who better to explain this than the founder of Firepot Food, John Fisher (click here for the full interview we had with John back in Sept 2020)
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"Freeze-drying and dehydration - effectively they are two methods of doing the same thing. We find dehydration to be a gentler process and we believe it maintains the texture of the food: it involves blowing warm air over trays of food for 12-16 hours to remove the moisture content, rather than reducing the temperature to sub-zero inside a vacuum.  
What really makes the biggest difference though is that most freeze-dried meals just assemble pre-dried ingredients (freeze-dried meat, potato flakes, freeze-dried rice etc.) without cooking them. Not only do we use local ingredients, we choose not to use anything artificial in our kitchen, and we also cook our meals like you would at home: in stages. This means the flavours have time to develop properly while the meal is cooking, before it goes into the drier." - John Fisher, Founder of Firepot Food
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To prepare these meals you simply add hot water (this amount will be stated on the pouch. Some brands have a scale on the outside where you pinch at the level instructed so when you pour in the water you can see the level you need to fill to from inside the pouch), stir, seal and wait for the time instructed on the pouch, stir again and enjoy.
The fell store dehydrated meals Firepot food
Firepot also do compostable pouches. These need to be decanted into a bowl/pot before adding the water as these pouches are not designed to hold the hot water. TentMeals also need to be prepared in this way.
PROS
These meals often take up less space, so if you are looking to save space these may be for you. These meals are processed after the final stage of preparing the meal, giving time for the favours to really embed themselves. Anyone who has made a curry, stew or bolognese from scratch knows they taste better the following day once they flavours have really infused. 
CONS
These meals tend to take longer to rehydrate, which would only really be an issue if it was an emergency that you needed to eat ASAP, and even then we are talking 15 minutes as apposed to around 8 minutes for freeze dried as an example (please note each meal and brand varies in time it takes to prepare - see item description and pack for more details) 
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Freeze Dried Meals
'Freeze-drying' is a relatively modern process. Food is placed on large racks inside a vacuum chamber where the temperature is lowered to below freezing, and then slowly raised. The water in the food transforms from a solid state to a gas, thereby maintaining the food's structure and preserving its all-important nutrients.
Freeze-drying removes about 98-99% of the moisture content which results in a longer shelf life. Freeze-drying is akin to keeping the food in a state of suspended animation and so once rehydrated the food is as fresh and nutritious as it was the moment it was frozen.
The fell store feeeze dried meals expedition foods
PROS
These meals are usually lighter in weight, faster to prepare and holds slightly more colour and nutritional value.
CONS
These meals can sometimes take up more space and the process of freeze drying is more expensive than the other methods of preserving food.
To prepare these meals you simply add hot water (this amount will be stated on the pouch. Some brands have a scale on the outside where you pinch at the level instructed so when you pour in the water you can see the level you need to fill to from inside the pouch), stir, seal and wait for the time instructed on the pouch, stir again and enjoy.
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Self Heating Meals
Could you imagine heating your food in under 12 minutes without a stove?
Forestia use an original heating system that allows you to heat your food using just a dash of water. Dangerous fires, camping stoves and traditional heating systems are now a thing of the past. With the Heater Bag, you’ll be able to heat your meals wherever and whenever you like.
You simply need to choose the recipe that most appeals to you, add 60ml of water to the main pouch (as with the boil in the bag pouches, this doesn't need to be drinkable as it will not come into contact with the meal itself) fold the top, place on a slight angle, wait for around 12 minutes and enjoy an authentic meal wherever you are.
 The fell store self heating meals
Turn your walks into an adventure by trying these tasty meals next time you are out for a lunch time hike. Maybe treat the family to an alfresco dinning experience at your local woodland or park. These are also a must have for anyone who spends a lot of time on the road to keep in your breakdown emergency box and are ideal for HGV Drivers. 
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So why not try these for yourself and let us know what you think, we love to hear from you.
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Enjoy your meals!
 The fell store dehydrated meals

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