|Picture Courtesy of Fuizion|
When it comes to backpacking and wild camping in general – there’s a myriad of choices out there when it comes to food. Essentially, it comes down to two options for most folk – boil in the bag meals or freeze dried.
The former can be tasty but is bulky and heavy. Not bad for the odd night out but when space and weight is a premium or a must – then you can’t beat freeze dried food. Granted it’s not always as tasty as the boil in the bag varieties but it gets the job done. You pour in hot water, leave to soak, eat out the pouch – job done.
Of the boil in the bag type – personally, I adore Look What We Found meals. These are the top dogs in terms of flavour and variety. But you don’t tend to get large enough portions – and in turn the calories needed on your trips – often you wish for another portion.
Freeze dried food? Well, there are quite a few brands out there that cover this market and in all honesty they can be hit and miss in terms of quality, texture and taste (and that can be within the same brand!). I prefer some brands to others – some I may like and you wouldn’t, in fact. So, it can be subjective – and that’s because if us backpackers were honest – freeze dried food is crap!
But we’ve now got a new kid on the block – and this kid aims to break the rules when it comes to freeze dried food. Some words submitted below from Alison at Fuizion:
|Picture Courtesy of Fuizion|
“Freeze Dried Food – when there’s no Alternative”
When you’re sailing round the world, walking to the South Pole or climbing Mount Everest and you’re trying to pack in over 6000 calories a day, the one thing you should be able to rely on is a hot and tasty meal, which you don’t have to add chilli sauce or tomato sauce to, just to make it bearable to eat! Unfortunately over the years Freeze Dried Food, which is a necessary evil to most extreme sports people, has had a bad press and possibly rightly so. I question whether this is due to the complacency of many of its producers. When you supply to a captive market, where there is very little choice but to use Freeze Dried Food, perhaps it’s easy to become complacent.
It’s actually quite surprising how many companies there are that make freeze dried food, very few of which are based in the UK, it tends not to be something that most people would normally need to think about and up until about two years ago I count myself among those. It was only after one of the clients that our catering company supplied food to, asked if we knew of any good producers of freeze dried food, that I even knew of its existence. The client in question, Chris Sherlock, skipper of Leopard 3, was looking to break the Transatlantic sailing record at the time, which they later went on to achieve. This for me was also the start of an amazing journey!
When I started looking in to the whole question of freeze dried food and actually tried some of it for myself, both my husband and I agreed that we couldn’t possibly do any worse, as the majority of the food on the market leaves a lot to be desired. So for the last two years we have been setting up and running a small concern in, what we feel to be, the gourmet end of the freeze dried food market. It’s certainly been an amazing journey and an even bigger learning curve. Not knowing how other companies produced their food, we went about it in the same way as we would any normal catering, with the ethos of “if you use the best ingredients, you will get the best results”! So we make every dish as we would normally and only when we are happy that, as a freshly cooked meal, it could be served to a paying customer, do we even start the freeze drying process. I have since learned that this is not the normal approach, as I am told that most producers freeze dry each component within a dish individually and only when it comes to the stage of packaging, do the ingredients then get combined in the bag.
Fuizion Freeze Dried Food Limited
So, after enjoying a few meals from the range over the past weekend on a Peak District wild camp, what are my final thoughts?
First of all, the packaging is robust and when filled with the required amount of boiling water is not too hot to handle and munch away from. You can open it up and seal it completely with ease when preparing the meal – some brands I find the seal hard to close, for example.
But the packaging is currently too high/deep if you use a short spork or spoon. I got by OK thanks to a long orange spoon I got from Expedition Foods (another freeze dried food company) but others may struggle and get messy hands – unless you decant the food into a separate container. Which kind of defeats the object with these meals for me. I don’t want clutter and weight.
The food isn’t vacuum packed but this doesn’t prove to be too much of a problem and most brands don’t tend to either. The shelf-life is more than ample and the meals pack away fine in a rucksack stretch pocket etc.
However, Alison informs me that the packaging is about to be revamped and will be wider and less in height – much more agreeable for us outdoors types.
There is no water fill line anywhere on the packaging – not inside or out. So, in effect you need to measure your water on site for cooking. To get round this problem I use a sharp tool and mark my MSR Titan Kettle
with water measuring lines – by measuring and pouring the water into my kettle before heading out onto the hills.
Of course for those that know this can be a waste of time – as most freeze dried meals water fill requirements can be on the iffy side. You can often end up with not enough water – and so find your food not properly rehydrated – or too much and so be slurping on a soup!
With a little common sense, you can gauge the required amount of boiling water in the packet with incremental pours and stirs of the food.
The latter is the first time you’ll notice the difference between Fuizion food and most other brands – the aroma just hits your sense and only make your mouth water! On that initial pour the food smells as you would associate with your chosen meal. Surely a good sign, eh?
So, with those basics covered what about the food itself?
Calorie to weight ratio wise – the range is average to excellent. You can get about 600kcals of energy from approx 120g’s with some of the meals. On expeditions you’d require more, obviously (and this can be bespoked by Fuizion) but for us mere mortals on the odd long weekend or week long trip – it should do perfectly.
Granted, on long trips you may want to take along some other snack to up your calorie intake but other than that – it’s not too bad.
As for the taste, texture and quality? Personally, I’ve not come across a range of freeze dried meals as good as this. I’ve had a few in my time but these are really, really good in comparison.
Fuizion freeze dried food is what Look What We Found meals are compared to your bog standard Wayfayrers. The range of meals I’ve had the pleasure of tasting so far have been excellent.
Kung-Po Chicken – 10/10. Nice large chunks of chicken breast mixed with noodles and chunky vegetables. The chicken is flavoursome, moist and tender and the veg nice and crunchy. The sauce is not too spicy or sweet and complements the other ingredients very, very well. Picture below shows the Kung-Po Chicken meal pre-hydrated:
|Picture by terrybnd|
Chicken Jalfrezi – 8.5/10. Again the chicken was spot on and the rice tender. And the sauce itself was excellent. Not quite what you’d get in a restaurant, mind – but as good as the high quality sauce jars you find in supermarkets. This meal was another favourite and went down very well with some wine I took along with me on my wild camp. Here’s a picture of the meal pre-hydrated I took on my phone at the weekend:
|Picture by terrybnd|
You can clearly see how different the food looks compared to other freeze dried meals. Aye, the picture is a bit dark but it was from inside my tent at 8pm.
Coq-au-Vin – 8/10. Not particularly a meal I’d go for on any given day – but the chicken was again very good but the flavours hadn’t quite absorbed as well compared to the other meals above. Nevertheless, the flavours were very good and despite my preference for the above two meals – I actually wanted to eat some more of this meal. Not out of hunger per se but because I was enjoying it.
Incidentally, the appearance of the food is as good as they taste – much better than some prepared ‘high-end’ microwave/oven meals.
Boil in the bag meals I don’t tend to rate any higher than 7/10 – they can be tasty, don’t get me wrong. But they do come across as baby food for adults at times. I’m happy to eat them or anything else on most wild camps as any of my friends will testify.
Here’s what my good friend and fellow backpacker Yuri aka Moonlightshadow had to say about one meal I gave him to try (Thai Green Curry):
“Food on the hills? I’m an unapologetic gourmet and if out for one night, carrying a kilo of food with me is not an issue. For me slumming it is a decanted can of M&S curry and Ainsley Harriott’s couscous pouches (for 2…). Fresh gnocchi and home made bolo is a realistic option (complete with big aluminium pan and colander) not forgetting grated Parmesan cheese and red wine…I guess it goes with my accent…(I’m Swiss-French)
It was with some curiosity I tried Fuizion Thai Green curry as I wanted to find a good lightweight option for longer trips. I have tried a few of those kind of meals and I guess if you are starving they’ll do a job but in this case it was to be a bit different. Despite adding too much water, it proved to be a rather surprisingly pleasing experience within the limits of freeze-dried food. The vegetables reconstituted nicely, the meat tasted rather better than the usual blobs of fibres on offer in inferior products and the rice was alright if a little inconsistent. Where the product scored highly was in the flavours and scents, quite a beautiful smell came out of the bag, rich in Thai aromas, it tasted lovely too, a good mix of coconut, chilli afteraste and the various spices came out quite well. All in all, I felt satisfied, which is important when out in the hills.
My approach to food remains unchanged but when packing lightweight food will be a necessity, Fuizion will be my first port of call. I’m quite curious to try their Spaghetti Bolognese version actually…”
So, when it comes to gourmet food out on the hill – if you don’t bring your own and all the subsequent tools and accessories and weight – then Fuizion freeze dried food really is a good alternative.
A real treat and morale booster when tired and watching the sun set over a distant horizon.
Fuizion are a small company and only too happy to take any questions or queries. They can even cater for those with allergies – just email and ask.
So, who knows – are Fuizion the new kid on the block to threaten some of the more established brands? I’d say so, yes. Just the above meals are miles better than other well-known brands and for me personally offer a better selection that I enjoy already!
Only time will tell and only you, myself and others can help in raising their profile. Many a brand has grown due to bloggers and outdoor forums in recent years. Consumer awareness and power has reached new levels where reputations are made and even destroyed.
In Fuizion’s case, I hope they succeed – because I want to keep munching on more of their food!!! And I’m sure they shall. You definitely get what you pay for with this company.
Good luck Fuizion and keep up the excellent service!