I have been toying for a while now with the idea of using US army MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) rations for overnight camping/ hiking. I have always up until now used the tried and tested combo of gas cooker + dehydrated food, but the idea of having a complete meal, with side and desert ready to go seemed like a great alternative!
What is an MRE
This is how each MRE comes packed. Its a tough durable plastic pouch which is sealed at the top an opens a bit like a crisp packet. They don't re-seal themselves, but the bag makes for a fantastic way to pack up any rubbish generated.
Inside, each MRE you get:
A set meal, there is a huge range of options here, including vegetarian and religious options
A side disch
An energy drink mix
Flameless heating pack
An accessory pack, which includes matches, gum, salt, sugar, toilet paper
Weight and practicality
You have literally everything you need to eat including cutlery included
Very filling and nice to have a complete meal in the evening
Meets the calorie requirement for hikers who have spent a long day climbing and walking
They are very reasonably priced, even more so if you can buy in bulk with a friend.
You can cook inside your tent as there is no fire needed
Minimal water usage required
Produces a fair amount of rubbish, including the heating pouch, although each MRE bag is very well suited to being used a rubbish bag
There is a bit of dead weight. The spoon and a lot of the accessories pack is not really needed.
I may end up taking a small gas cooker anyway if I would like to be able to make a morning coffee
Heating system can be a bit sub-par occasionally
The taste may be subjective, although there are so many options available that there will surely be something you will like
Cooking is a very simple process that takes around 15 mins or so. Not having to use a gas burner is a nice change
Put your food pouches into the heater bag
Add a small amount of water, (20mls or so)
Make sure the water contacts the hearing element
Place the packet into the cardboard sleve
let stand for 15 mins
Cost and Purchase
US army MREs are a little more difficult to come by in the UK than in the US, but ebay and Amazon seem like the best spots to pick them up. Its easy enough to find a seller with good sales history to make sure you are getting the real deal.
As for cost, £14-15 including delivery seems to be the going rate per unit. This can be brought down significantly to £10-11 per unit if you buy a case of 12.
It is worth checking the date of production of you can. Although there is a "best by" date of roughly two years after the unit is produced, in theory these are good almost indefinitely as long as they are stored correctly.
Taste and Nutrition
Honestly, these really do taste good! Of course the culinary standard is a little lower when camped out on a mountain side, but settling in for the night after a long days hike to a full meal is a real treat. These things taste really good as well, and are very filling. They are fairly salty but I can only imagine that this is by design.
My Meal Included:
A bowl of beef and bean chili
A bowl of spicy mexican rice
Cheese spread (its a really weird and salty cheese, I wasn't a massive fan)
Nut, raisin and chocolate trail mix
My Friends Meal Included:
A bowl of meatballs in marinara sauce
Garlic mashed potato
Jalapeno cheese spread (a significant improvement over mine)
A chocolate chip cookie
A beef jerky stick
These things are filling as well, they are designed to cater to military personnel so you definitely wont be going hungry. One full MRE contains well over 2000 calories. Given that there are sides included as well, in theory you could use one of these things to cover a full days worth of food!
The heating system, I have read that sometimes these can be a bit faulty. Perhaps it was because I cooked mine on cold ground, but my meal was warm and by no means hot.
It was pointed out by my camping buddy, that these things have absolutely no smell. Its very odd once you notice it but even my spicy beef taco had no smell even if I put my nose right up to the bag. The positive of course is that on a hot day, your rubbish wont get stinky. I'm sure this design was deliberate.
I am a total convert, and I am going to invest in a whole case of these!
Until next time
IF you want to buy a case of MRE's: