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.
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.
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.