Sunday, 23 June 2013

Expedition food

Expedition Food
Over the last few years the amount of expedition food available on the market has increased from only having fresh food to take, to boil in the bag, to dehydrated food and of course taking a mixture of all three. in this blog I`m not going to tell you what to take on expeditions, that is of course entirely your decision, what I will be doing is making you aware of the options available as well as the foodstuffs I take with me on an expedition.

          Perhaps the oldest type of specific expedition is the boil in the bag, frequently from army surplus ration packs, many people have tasted that heady mixture of refried beans and rubbery sausage with slight aftertaste of aluminium oxide from the pack itself and probably thought at the time "this is a hell of a lot easier than trying to cook fresh ingredients"
          as I mentioned above the boil in the bag meals originated in the army and have slowly filtered down through to civilian use and while these were and still are welcome in expeditions they do have drawbacks, they are comparatively heavier than most other types of food packs, the stoves must be able to take the pack fully, the high cost of civilian versions is also a disadvantage with each pack costing between £3-£4.50, the cost goes even higher if you want the self heating packs, making the cost of food for an expedition at least £39 (13 meals at £3 each not including breakfast of the first day or the evening meal of the last, nor does this figure include the most vital part of any evening meal, dessert) further disadvantages lay in the possibility of aluminium oxide poisoning from cooking food in aluminium bag, it must be stressed however that this is a very low possibility. Another disadvantage to these meals is the comparative lack of vegetarian or vegan alternatives, the only option I could find was the vegetable curry and rice, I don't know however is this suitable for vegans though, a final (although personal) observation is the taste of the food, with the exception of the chocolate and treacle pudding, none of the boil in a bag food tastes that good and I have tasted every flavour from, metal through rubber, to what tastes like dirt.
          the major advantages to these meals are the exceptional shelf life, in some cases up to ten years, the ease of use, the high calorie content and the amount of water that is used in there preparation in comparison with other meal types (as well as not having much washing up to do afterwards), the same pot and the same water can be used to prepare many meals, thereby reducing the water consumption of the whole group.

Dehydrated food is gaining in popularity as an alternative to boil in the bag, primarily down to wider choice of food (although again very little vegetarian or vegan choices) and being lighter in weight as well as tasting much better and having no aftertaste of aluminium, another advantage to dehydrated food is the ability to create your own, particularly advantageous for vegetarians and vegans, dehydrators don't cost a huge amount of money and when compared to the cost of a weeks expedition food from shops they work out about the same price. the cheapest dehydrator on amazon is £34.95,
          as with every advantage there are disadvantages, in the case of dehydrated food its the amount of water they use, each pouch can take up to 1/2 a litre of water to prepare which over the course of a day can mean a litre and a half being used just for food and seeing that clean water is required for the preparation extra will need to be collected, sterilized and used for these pouches, the relative cost of each pouch is also high, on par with boil in the bag food.
          of course there is the alternative option of taking fresh or packet foods and creating your own, the first thing I remember "creating" on a camping trip was peaches and custard! really simple but I made it and it didn't come from a ration pack (the fact it was dried peaches and powdered custard was lost on me at the time) over the course of time I have seen many things cooked on camping trips, including sausages, bacon, eggs, rice, pasta, fresh cherry tomatoes, dried chicken and one Duke of Edinburgh group attempting to cook potatoes on a Trangia! (it actually worked), of course the disadvantage is keeping the food fresh, not so difficult with packet food but fresh fruit and veg of course require careful handling.
            when I go on expedition I take a variety of food, I take one self heating boil in the bag kit for my emergency rations, before I'm criticized for being a hypocrite there is a very good reason, being an emergency ration I don't want to tempted into eating it too quickly and as I don't like the taste this wont happen, secondly with the self heating kit no cooker is required to be set up, it also helps that the meal can be eaten cold, for my breakfasts I take packet porridge or musili as well as squeezable honey to add flavour, for my lunches I have a variety of snacks usually consisting malt loafs, beef jerky, fruit and nuts, chocolate and dried fruit, for evening meals I usually have rice or pasta, slightly boring but I also add a variety of sauces and precooked, dried or dehydrated meats or veg to the mix, the one food I have not mentioned and actually avoid is couscous, this is not because I`m allergic to it or find it tasteless, it because whilst on expedition in Morocco for a month I had to eat couscous morning noon and night every day and I just cannot stomach the stuff anymore.
           as can be seen there are plenty of options to choose from when picking expedition foods and as I said at the beginning the choice is entirely up to you.  

Follow the link below to go to the Lone Wolf Mobile Bushcraft website.

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