Freeze Dried Food Product Review:
By Doctor Jared Vagy PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Physical Therapist and Biokinesiologist
Mountain House provided the product free of charge to me after I contacted them about helping support my climbing expeditions in South America. Mountain House provided me with 16 freeze dried meals.
I spent some time before my expedition contacting different food and equipment companies to see if they had an interest in supporting my trip. I had contacted both Mountain House and Backpackers Pantry about potential sponsorship and they both agreed to sponsor me. Out of moral and ethical issues, I knew had I had to choose only one brand, so I decided to go with Mountain House since they are locally from Portland (where I grew up) and I truly believe that the majority of their products taste better.
|Pre Expedition Packing|
|My nutrition for the next two weeks|
I have decided to review four of the products that they have supplied for me on the trip. More reviews to come as I continue my expeditions.
Mountain House Granola With Milk and Blueberries
Used on Iliniza Norte and Sur for breakfast
Tastes really good! I am not accustomed to fruits or vegetables after several days in the mountains, so the addition of blueberries really makes this product superior to standard granola and milk. The blueberries are huge compared to the ones that you get in oatmeal packets. It is also very easy to prepare, no need to boil water in the morning.
This product is great for breakfast for almost any sport but it has some downsides for use when high altitude mountaineering. The higher fat content (10grams) makes it more difficult to digest at higher elevations for people with sensitive stomachs. I have used this product in the past when I hiked the John Muir Trail and the higher fat content was actually a bonus because it provided more calories for hiking. So it just depends on your activity.
I use mountain house products primarily on expeditions and the packaging can get quite bulky. There is one trick that I have done in the past, especially for products that need cold water. I choose to take the product from the package and put it in a zip lock bag before my trip which makes it lighter and less bulky. I then just add the product and cold water to my bowl in the morning.
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 3/5
Overall Rating: 8/10
Mountain House Chicken Salad Wraps
Used on Illiniza Norte and Sur as a post climb meal
This was the first time I have had a Mountain House Wrap Meal and this one blew me away. At first I was a little concerned. I opened the package and it was filled with a uniform colored white paste. I was a little hesitant to have this after my climb at the hut which is stationed at 15,500 feet. But once I tried it, it became my favorite high altitude recovery food by far. It's carbohydrates, fat and protein ratio is 1:1:3 which means it is packed with protein. This makes it perfect for a recovery dish. Roasted pumpkin seeds and cranberries added to the comsitency and flavor as well.
You need to supply your own bread or tortilla. Also, although the fat content is proportionally low compared to sodium content, it still tastes heavy and is best to eat when you are hungry and for two people since it supplies a lot.
I would use this for shorter high altitude days that require a lot of power, likely more technical mountains, as the higher protein ratio will improve muscle recovery.
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Used on Cotopaxi as a pre climb dinner
A good distribution of carbohydrates, fat and protein at 3:1:1 makes this perfect to replenish the body after a hard climb. This is a mountain house staple, it tastes good and I am pretty sure the recipe hasn't changed since I first tried it 2009. There is probably a reason for that.
The sodium content is 2050 mg per package. This is 85 percent of a 2000 calorie diet sodium intake. This makes the product ideal as a post climb meal and not a pre climb meal at altitude. If used it as a pre climb meal, the water that you drink binds with the sodium and is easier to become dehydrated. Although the good news is that I never had to get up to use the bathroom that night. This is because the high sodium binds to the excess water in your system. This is much the same thing that happens when you are given salty salty snacks on an airplane. The water sodium bonding keeps you from getting into the aisle to use the bathroom
In retrospect, the ideal combination would have been to have the low sodium chicken alfredo for dinner and then to supplement the lost sodium from the tough climbing by having the stroganoff as a post recovery meal.
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 4/5
Overall Rating: 8/10
Chicken Alfredo Low Sodium
Used on Cotopaxi as a recovery meal
The taste was much better than expected for a low sodium product. This is my new favorite entree dish. It is packed with nutrition. A carbohydrate, fat and protein ratio of 2:2:1 with a low sodium content of 33 percent of a 2000 calorie diet makes this my number one choice for pre climb meal at high altitude, especially if you can sneak in some fresh veggies!
The meal would lack varied consistency without adding something to it. This is very important when high altitude mountaineering. When you gain elevation, one of the main body responses is hunger suppression and nausea. Eating foods with different consistencies gives your body something different to look forward to each bite.
We had the luxury of being able to mix in some vegetables to this meal after the climb at the climbers hut, so the mixed vegetables gave it a varied consistency
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 5/5
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Overall Opinion So Far:
So far I spent ten days in Ecuador. I have either climbed or attempted to climb Pinchinca, Illinza Norte, Illiniza Sur, Cotopaxi and Cayambe. I have sampled 12 of the 16 products so far in the mountains. Overall I am very pleased with the mountain house meals. They have a good natural taste and are very easy to prepare. I was especially surprised how good the low sodium meals were as well as how easy the cold water meals were to prepare. After these 10 days it is apparent why freeze dried food is the preferred food for high camps in the mountains. The complete ease of cooking, the light weight and the taste. After trying the majority of the products, the main thing that stands out is the lack of variety in the texture. Some of the products such as the granola with blueberries and chicken salad did a good job of varying this. For the products that were more uniform, we used our own mixture of nuts, cheese and crackers added to meal. Overall I was happy to product test and review this brand and I was glad to try different meals that I have not had before. Weather dependent, we may get on one or two more mountains, then I head to Argentina for Aconcagua.