No matter how prepared, we are all subject to life's little mishaps and emergencies. Sometimes these occur in the outdoors, and sometimes nature brings them to our back yard. Having a food supply available, with good nutrition and a long shelf life can help pull us out of those little glitches.
Whether for use on a casual camping trip with the family, or for storage in the emergency kit, there are several options on the market today. In this article, Woods Monkey takes a look at a selection of emergency and long-term storage food options available through the Camping Survival store.
While I have no desire to have a shelf piled high with cans of beenie-weenies, I do enjoy the peace of mind afforded by a well-stocked pantry. Being in the outdoors is no different, and one of the most enjoyable parts to any camping trip is a great dinner around the campfire. But every so often we are not prepared for that stay in the out-of-doors, or the rainy day arrives, and we find ourselves wishing we had a little food stored away. The folks over at Camping Survival have generously donated a box of food suitable for long-term storage, and designed to get you out of just such a predicament. Although an unexpected stay is always possible for those of us that venture into the back country, these food items are also viable for a hurricane kit, earthquake kit, emergency stash, and bug-out-bag. Most of these items will serve nicely in a vehicle kit as well, which can always be with you in your travels.
The first type of food we'll take a look at is the prepackaged sandwich meals from Bridgford. Bridgford has been making prepackaged meals for years in their Statesville, NC factory. Among the styles of sandwiches offered include the Italian style (tested), bacon and cheese, BBQ, and chicken. Bridgford also make a cinnamon bun sandwich suitable to join the cup of coffee in the morning. The Bridgford sandwiches come sealed individually in a waterproof package, very similar to the main courses in an MRE. I had the Italian style sandwich straight out of the package, without any heating. The taste was good, albeit a little plain. The meat and sauce was in the center, much like a Hot Pocket. The bread was not soggy at all, a problem I half expected. The cinnamon bun was very similar to a toaster pastry, and I quite liked it. The pros of the Italian sandwich are 11g of protein, and 320 calories. But the con is having 30% of your sodium in one sandwich. That’s a little high, but if you're working hard around camp or home, not a serious issue.
Camping Survival also sent along a selection of canned food from Yoder and canned butter from Red Feather. The canned food from Yoder is suitable for long term storage on a shelf in your home, hunting or fishing camp, or cabin. The Yoder products need no refrigeration during storage, and a lot of the meats are pre-cooked, or are able to be quickly prepared with a small camp stove. For review I received the canned bacon, “Grill Delights” hot dogs, and canned pork sausage. The canned butter from Red Feather also rounded out my canned food experiences.
The first canned food I tried was the canned bacon and butter. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened the canned bacon, but once I cracked into it, I was very surprised. Inside the can is 9oz of thin-sliced bacon, pre-cooked, wrapped in wax paper. I opened the can with my Swiss Army Knife and pulled the paper wrapped bacon out. Being excited about bacon in a can, I had some right away. It was darn tasty! I was very surprised with how good it was. I was half expecting bland and soggy, but I got sweet and tasty. After the initial test, I decided a little bacon, with buttery toast was in order. I opened up the Red Feather Canned Butter, and headed to the kitchen. I toasted a couple slices of bread, and immediately spread on the butter. The Red Feather butter spread easily and quickly, and smelled fantastic!
While I was at it, I heated up a few slices of bacon in the microwave. Once the toast was all buttered up, I sat down to a fine dining experience. Both were fantastic, and far surpassed what I expected to come out of a can. The butter was smooth and creamy, and tasted excellent. The bacon crisped up a little in the microwave and it was easy to remove any unwanted grease by dabbing a napkin over it. Overall, both of these are real winners. Being able to store butter, unrefrigerated, for the long-term is really pretty impressive. The bacon came in with a modest 8% of sodium per serving, which I find very acceptable. The butter has 11g of fat, with only 100 calories per serving and 3% of your daily sodium. In a scenario where you're exerting yourself, the fat and calories are a good thing. The area I'm most concerned about is sodium, and both of these items came in well below my personal limits. Sodium, while also unhealthy, absorbs moisture. This requires more water intake to maintain hydration, a critical component to success while outdoors.
The other two canned items were Yoder's “Grill Delights” hot dogs, and the Pork Sausage. The Grill Delights are 8 hotdogs, canned in brine and pre-cooked. The instructions on the can say to 'heat and serve', but I couldn't resist biting into one fresh out of the brine. No surprises, the hot dogs were just like the ones you had when you were a little kid. They're simple and straight forward, and made with very plain ingredients. If you have kids, or if you're in a neighborhood that may need to come together to get past a hurricane one day, these are familiar and simple hot dogs. Yoder's hot dogs are cooked in the can, but heating them up does make them more palatable. These could be heated in either a microwave, frying pan over a camp stove, or just poke a couple holes in the lid and set them on your campfire coals. The hot dogs are 100% chicken and pork, and do come a slight bit shorter than normal so they can fit in the can. They have 6g of protein and 7g of fat per hot dog, but do come with 25% of your daily sodium. This is a great way to store simple meat for the long term, and will be a sure fire crowd pleaser when they're called into service.
The Pork Sausage was next for testing, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I opened the can. The sausage is essentially patty-style sausage, but uncut and uncooked. The tough part was that there were no instructions on the can to tell the consumer how to prepare it. And, it smelled... bad. It smelled so bad my wife staunchly refused to test it with me. I'm not sure if it was the brine solution, or the fat in the can, but the smell was rough. I decided to go ahead with the test, and I sliced off a 1/2” thick patty and got out a frying pan. I pan fried the sausage patty, with nothing to grease or oil the pan, just as you might do over your camp stove. Once cooked, the Pork Sausage tasted pretty good. I'll admit that it was the least appetizing of everything I tasted, especially after the smell, but it wasn't bad once it was cooked. Mixed with rice, noodles, or beans, the sausage would be an excellent way to add meat to a meal. If you purchase the Pork Sausage, I'd advise you plan to cook the entire 1 ¾ pounds in one shot. The Pork Sausage, also known as Sausage Crumbles since it breaks apart easily, can store for 10 years. Once opened, though, it needs to be either cooked or refrigerated.
The last group of foods sent for review are packaged “emergency food rations” from three companies: Mainstay, MayDay, and Datrex. These emergency food packages are all very similar, differing in taste and some ingredients. All three that I received were vacuum packed and boasted 3600 calories per package. The Mainstay food bars are lemon flavored, MayDay is apple cinnamon, and Datrex is coconut, although the Datrex flavor was very feint. The Mainstay and MayDay bars both come in one flat piece, and both are scored to aid in separation of the pieces. The Mainstay bars easily separated by hand into the 400 calorie subsections. The MayDay bars were only lightly scored, and had to be cut apart, although that was not very successful. The MayDay bar crumbled significantly when I tried to cut a piece off, and it was difficult to proportion out the 400 calorie subsections. Other than that minor complaint, the flavors of the Mainstay and MayDay bars were both pleasant. They reminded me of a sugar cookie. With the main ingredients of enriched flour and shortening, they're not far off from a sugar cookie.
For me, though, the Datrex bar was the clear winner of the three. The package was very easy to open by hand, not requiring a knife or difficult tearing like the other two. Once opened, I was surprised to find 18, individually wrapped, 200 calorie bars. After opening the main package, each individually wrapped bar was stacked neatly on the one below it. In an emergency, this would make distribution of the rations quick, easy, and much cleaner since no one would ever touch the food with their hands. This would also keep the rations fresh, clean, and importantly, dry. The taste of the Datrex was also the best for both my wife and I. While Datrex says its coconut, I could barely taste the coconut flavor. I consider this a good thing, since I don't like coconut. I'd prefer just about any other flavor of ice cream or cookie topping over coconut, but the Datrex flavor was the best. My wife commented that she'd eat the Datrex bars 'just cause'. That's a pretty good endorsement.
I'm glad I had a chance to review these food products, and I know what I'll be adding to my personal supplies in the future. The canned bacon and butter was a real surprise with how good they were. The Datrex coconut was my favorite, but the others weren't far behind. I think a variety would be best if you're planning on storing a significant amount of these foods, as you'd get burned out over time no matter how good they were. For a location based kit such as your home or cabin, the canned foods would serve you well. For mobile kits, such as a 4x4 truck in hunting season, or your fishing boat, the vacuum packed ration bars would likely be the best choice.
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