In my time with the Royal Marines the term “ration pack” conjures memories of pushing and shoving in the stores to get the best menu box from the pallet. If you didn’t, we’d play spoof to swap individual elements, deconstructing our original pack and forging completely different menus. Other than sleep and shelter, solid nutrition was and is an integral part of a life spent outdoors. Just as a power station requires gas or coal to power its turbines and generate energy, so we need fuel – to power our journeys and expeditions, no matter how big or small.
The outdoor/expedition food market falls into 2 categories, wet and dry. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Wet, albeit heavy can be eaten cold reducing the need for stoves and extra water, dry is lightweight but needs warm or cold hydration to be consumed. Since the military I’ve never opted for wet, purely from a weight reduction perspective, which means dry is always the preferred option. Until my recent discovery of Outdoorfood, only a couple of brands had made the podium when taste and nutrition is at stake. In this quest lays the eternal challenge: Making dehydrated meals that are nutritious, ethically sourced with deep authentic flavours.
I’d heard of Outdoorfood from a friend when he’d raved about a new “Firepot” menu. With some interest I checked the website and read the back-story about how the meals were passionately put together. I was also impressed and intrigued to see how these elements would shine though in the final product. At this serendipitous moment I was in the planning stages of an expedition to northern Norway and decided to contact founder John. In the weeks that followed a friendship was formed and we ended up partnering with Outdoorfood, selecting a large number of the 5 different meals to support the journey.
Opening the postal box the first thing I noticed was the quality of the meal packaging. Other than great design and informative instructions on how to rehydrate the meals the actual packaging feels strong and superior. There’s a nice head nod to the “local” element of the brands origins and production in the way of a front of packet map to where Outdoorfoods natural ingredients are locally sourced. What I found special is that the beef comes from a local Dorset butcher and the vegetables come from a greengrocer in Chideock. This ethical and locally supported approach is a beautiful and thoughtful touch.
The sachets come in two sizes, a 135g (500 to 700 Cal) serving and a larger sachet that packs a whopping 200g (800 - 1000 Cal) serving. Flavours include a rich and beautiful Orzo Pasta Bolognese, a zingy Dal and Rice with Spinach, a deep Chilli Con Carne, an earthy Porcini Mushroom Risotto and sweet and plush Posh Pork and Beans. Within each meal is a cacophony of flavours with each real ingredient noticeable and subtle. Most dehydrated meal producers mix their ingredients after they have been separately freeze-dried, not so here. Outdoorfood cooks the complete one-pot meal like you would at home, and then dehydrates the whole meal. This means that Firepot meals have a deeper original and more authentic flavour. This is one element of many as to why they are unique in the marketplace.
With the time involved and the thoughtful process from start to finish their individual meal price start at £6.50, coming in slightly higher than most brands. To counter-act the increase they offer the taster pack for £10 bringing each meal perfectly inline with the market value of £5 per outdoor meal. I however am of the mind that you’re not only paying £6.50 for the food inside the sachet, but the effort, sustainable production and support for local producers as well, also the years of planning and research to get it to this stage. This effort is worth more than the extra £1.50, its piece of mind. This approach of the Firepot meals goes along way in a world where brands are placing more and more focus towards “local and environmental” production methods. Outdoorfoods are already here and setting the industry standard.
In summary, it’s not often you find these handful of positive elements packaged and executed in such a complete fashion. Usually there’s battle between compromising flavor to weight with the consumer losing out somewhere along the line. Not here, not in this barn, not with Firepot. These meals are now my expedition go to.
Find out more at: www.outdoorfood.com
Images 2 and 3 by Jamie Barnes - Instagram @jamiebarnesuk