'Cold-Prep' Camp Food: Instant Meal, No Hot Water Required

The quest for camping food that is simple to make just moved a notch. With its new Chicken Salad product, Mountain House offers campers and backpackers a freeze-dried meal that requires nothing more than cold water and a short wait.

Until now, most all freeze-dried food companies recommended hot or boiling water for the reconstitution of “instant” camp food. But with its Chicken Salad product, which costs $6.50 a pack, Mountain House has formulated a mixture that necessitates no heat — add a small dose of cold water to the powdery mix and stir; let it sit for about 10 minutes; presto!, your meal is ready to eat.

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Cold water is all that’s required to reconstitute chicken salad meal

I tried out the Chicken Salad on flat bread. It is for sale at outdoor stores like REI (but not yet on the Mountain House web site). The company uses white chicken meat and a mix of ingredients including cranberries, pumpkin seeds, corn starch, onion bits, vinegar, chives, and sugar. The result is a chicken salad that’s good, though not delicious.

Honestly, I like other Mountain House meals much more than its chicken salad. The company’s Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Teriyaki with Rice meals are almost eat-at-home good. In the wilderness, they are simple to make, though you do usually need to heat water to pour into the bags. (See below about the “usually” clause.)

When you’re on the move and not wanting to stop and fire up a stove, the Chicken Salad mix is a good alternative. With about 500 calories per pack, the chicken is enough to split between two adults on a hike.

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Mountain House Pro-Pak meals — hot water recommended, thought not required

As an aside, even though freeze-dried food companies often recommend against it, I have used cold water for years on “hot water” foods. The process is longer — you often need to wait 45 minutes or more for the water to soak in and make the food palatable. But as a shortcut, the cold-water method can work in a jam or when hot water is not an option.

Overall, Mountain House makes great camp-meal products. Take the cold-prep Chicken Salad if you’re going fast and need to refuel without a fuss. Many of the Pro-Pak meals work cold, too, but you need to wait a while.

Otherwise, heat some water and take a few minutes to let the instant meal “cook.” In the backcountry, with a warm spoonful of stew or soup in your hand, you’ll be happy you took the extra time.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. Connect with Regenold at Facebook.com/TheGearJunkie or on Twitter via @TheGearJunkie.

Posted by T.C. Worley - 09/07/2011 05:14 PM

These meals are so amazing in the woods. They’re just the ticket when you’re sick of bars, gels and nuts. I’m a big fan.

Posted by foxtrot - 09/07/2011 05:43 PM

is this meal about 200% of the salt your body needs like most mountain house entrees?

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 09/08/2011 08:02 AM

Salt/sodium is high on some of these meals, but I love it out there! For car camping it’d be overkill, but when backpacking or climbing or adventure racing the salt is needed and your body just craves it, too.

Posted by Al K - 09/09/2011 12:58 PM

Chicken and tuna are available in foil pouches at grocery stores. Add a squeeze packet or two of mayo (usually a freely-available condiment) and I think that tops the freeze dried version, albeit, at a slight weight penalty. Agree that the MH sodium is over-the-top, but I’ve noticed that some of my favorites like Pasta Primavera are coming down in sodium.

Posted by grrlpup - 09/09/2011 12:59 PM

For a long day hike or backpacking, 250 calories is a drop in the bucket! It’s only a snack, if shared.

Minute rice is fully reconstituted by lunchtime if you add cold water at breakfast. I prefer it to rice noodles, but either can be the base for an inexpensive alternative to backpacking-branded food.

Posted by lindsey clark - 09/11/2011 06:38 PM

I tried their cold water potato salad and pasta salad recently. The pasta salad didn’t wow me, but the potato salad did! So good! I’ll have to track it down and bring some on my next adventure.

Posted by Brows - 09/16/2011 08:08 AM

Some of the Mountain House products may taste good, but they have way too much sodium. Due to blood pressure concerns, my doctor recommends I limit my daily sodium intake to 1500mg. Check the label, some of these meals exceed that in one serving. Why do they put so much sodium in them?

Posted by Mountain House - 05/07/2012 05:18 PM

Thanks for your concern. Mountain House wants to help you live a long, healthy and adventurous life. Our new freeze-dried meals have less than 300mg of sodium & we think you’d love them. Send ashleya@r-west.com an email for a sample w/ your name, email and address. Feel free to out check us out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MountainHouse and Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/mtnhouse (@mtnhouse).

Posted by Tim - 03/24/2013 04:29 PM

A plethora of Mountain House items from OutdoorShopping.com. Everything from scrambled eggs, to chicken and rice, etc!

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