Trail camping meal test

Best tasting dehydrated camping meal?
We know you deserve a meal that tastes way better than cardboard after a long, tough day in the mountains. That's why we've got nutritionist and mountain enthusiast Louise Sutton and colleagues to perform a taste test on six of the most popular campsite dinners at Leeds University's Carnegie Centre for Sports Performance and Wellbeing. We couldn't fit all of the research into the May 09 edition of Trail, where you can find pics of all the meals, so here is the definitive low down on each.

Each meal was prepared individually using manufacturer guidelines and then tasted and scrutinised by ten tasters. Questionnaires were completed as each of the meals consumed was rated for palatability and ease of preparation. Two of the tasters then analysed the products for nutritional adequacy.
Here is how they were rated by the team for palatability and preparation (1 = very unpalatable or very hard to prepare and 5 = very palatable or very easy to prepare).
Graph showing scores for palatability and preparation

Overall meal analysis
For most of the meals, when scoring low for preparation, this was due to the lack of an obvious fill line. We thought that it may be hard to estimate the volume of water needed unless you carry a measuring jug. Watch out for the oxygen absorbers in the mince hotpot and lamb with pilaf rice, as these are not very visible and would benefit from being brightly coloured so that they are more obvious to locate.

Graph showing meal energy composition

Be Well Pack and Go  - Thai vegetables with rice
The Thai vegetable noodles were the cheapest meal at �3.45, the easiest to prepare with pictured instructions and the tastiest!  However, they may benefit from adding a pepperoni sausage or tuna sachet for those who would like a bit more texture in their meal. This addition to the meal would also provide more energy from the extra calories. Overall this was the most nutritionally balanced meal.
Real Expedition Meal - Beef stew
Although the beef stew was the most expensive costing �7.99 per meal, it was not at the top of our list due to its salty taste with 4g of salt per meal. This is two-thirds of the recommended daily intake. Alongside the pasta with lasagne sauce and mince hotpot, beef stew provided the most energy in terms of calorie content. However this extra energy was from the high fat content when compared to the other meals.

Reiter Travel Lunch - Hungarian beef
Although the Hungarian beef meal scored lowest for most of the tasters due to an oily after taste, the most experienced user of dehydrated meals thoroughly enjoyed this product. He commented that he would love nothing more than a filling meal at the end of a hard day�s walking. In addition, the preparation score was poor compared to the other products due to no fill lines or a zipper to seal the pouch whilst waiting for it to rehydrate.
Mountain House - Pasta lasagne
The majority of the tasters commented that the pasta with lasagne sauce tasted more like �real� food rather than the manufactured taste in some of the others such as lamb with pilaf. Its nutritional content was clearly displayed, although this product may be more beneficial with a higher carbohydrate content to quickly re-fuel the muscle glycogen stores from a hard day�s walking. This product also had the best calorie to weight ratio, therefore meaning that for every gram you carry it provides more calories. 

Expedition Foods  - Lamb with pilau rice
Lamb with pilau rice was thought to be watery and the texture of the rice quite hard.  Tasters commented that it would probably need a longer rehydrating time than instructed. Although the product did not have the best taste, many of the tasters commented that the spices would be a good addition to add more flavour to other meals. Suggesting it might be useful to carry your own condiments to spice up meals if you are intending to use these products for a prolonged trip.
Adventure Foods - Mince hot pot
The mince hotpot tasted quite bland as a result of the high mashed potato content in comparison to other ingredients. The packaging suggests that the product is stored optimally when the temperature is below 23 deg C. Therefore this would not be suitable for those walking in hot environments.

Table to show calories per gram


Food weight without packaging (g)

Energy (Kcal)

Kcals per g

Mountain House -  Pasta lasagne




Real Expedition Meal - Beef stew




Adventure Foods - Mince hot pot




Be Well Pack and Go  - Thai vegetables with rice




Reiter Travel Lunch - Hungarian beef




Expedition Foods  - Lamb and pilau rice




Overall ranking:
Be Well Pack and Go  - Thai vegetables with rice � 5 stars
Mountain House - Pasta lasagne � 4 stars
Drytech Real Expedition Meal - Beef stew � 3 stars
Expedition Foods  - Lamb with pilaf � 2 stars
Adventure Foods - Mince hot pot � 1 star
Reiter Travel Lunch - Hungarian beef � 0 stars