Over the last two years of immersing myself in the cold environment expedition world I have tried a number of outdoor meal offerings, and primarily used the ‘Be Well Expedition Foods’, and ‘Expeditions Foods’ range. Both are good, and they are not the only companies making high quality outdoor meals – see Tim Moss’ umbrella review here. I am however always keen to continually test and refine my nutritional options. Therefore after reading a number of positive reviews I decided to get my hands on some Firepot meals to sample. Here are my thoughts, but first some basic facts.
- Firepot meals are made via hand and then dehydrated, they are not freeze-dried (unlike most other outdoor meal offerings)
- Ingredients are sourced locally in West Dorset (Outdoorfood are based in Chideock near Bridport)
- Dehydration means no need for artificial preservatives, chemicals or high salt levels
- Standard portion sizes are 135g, with extra large meals coming in at 200g
- They currently offer 4 main meals (Chile con carne, Dal and rice with spinach, Orzo pasta bolognese, and Porcini mushroom risotto) and 1 breakfast option (Posh pork and beans)
- Instructions suggest rehydrating in the pouch or cooking in a pan
I tried the orzo bolognese and the posh pork. First impressions of the packaging are good, it is visually appealing and I like the matte finish and how it feels – it gives the sense of a premium product (which I very much feel it is). I did notice that the packaging was a little difficult to open from one direction, but perhaps that was just me. I also noted that the preparation time listed on the front label for cooking in the pan did not match with the ‘in the bag’ time printed on the back of the packaging (after sending this feedback I believe it is in the process of being altered). I felt that the ‘in the bag’ time is probably going to be more useful for the average user who will want to simply pour water in the bag and be done with it (but I am making an assumption there).
Whilst in Norway, and using another product, I found the water fill marks printed on the inside of the bag hard to see inside the tent even in good daylight. Therefore in the case of Firepot I really like the highly visible fill marks printed on the outside of the bag. The only limitation as pointed out in another review, is that if you want to transfer the meals to zip-lock bags to save weight, a fill estimate in mL listed on the packaging would also be required.
How the food looks as soon as you open the packet is really important and I felt both meals looked very appetising. In particular the posh pork and beans kind of reminded me of some of the premium dried food products you get in the world food section (e.g. Porcini mushrooms) at various supermarkets. A tenous example maybe, but it ties in with the presentation of the product as being very close to ‘real’ food.
The flavour and texture were great. I had the Orzo Bolognese in place of my regular dinner at home and felt it stood up in comparison to a usual home cooked meal. I think a large part of this was due to the selection of interesting additional spice i.e. Star Anise, and the selection of Orzo over pasta, which I feel often get’s a bit gloopy when rehydrating.
I’ve read some comments in reviews/on twitter calling for Outdoorfoods to increase the number of lines they offer. Obviously I only sampled two, but what stood out about both meals was the choice of carbs that could retain texture after sitting for some time in water. I notice that the other lines (for example Arborio rice in the Risotto) would do similar, and I think that’s a real positive. I’ve tried lots of other foodstuff like dumplings, fish, mash, pasta etc from other outdoor food brands that just turn to mush. So I would be wary of expanding to offer everything at the expense of losing texture and potentially taste.
Finally I liked the fact that the Bolognese delivered approximately 1000kcal in a relatively small serving (200g), so the extra large Firepot meals seem to have a good calorie to weight/bulk ratio (which is a great obsession of any cold environment traveller).
In sum these are by far the best outdoor food meals I have tasted, and I will certainly be using them in future. They are marginally more expensive (around £1) than other offerings, but the added pleasure of a good meal out on the trail or out on the ice should not be underestimated.
Next Review: I’ve tested a whole range of gear and food over the past two years and so I will be trying to publish more reviews in future. Next up will be Oompf energy bars, also manufactured by hand by another small West Dorset based company.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer sent me a free sample on my request and did not ask for a review.