As seen in issue #4 of Self Reliance Illustrated!
I like to eat. I don’t however like to cook all that much. Especially in the outdoors where cleanup can sometimes be a hassle. Sure I know a lot of folks like to do campfire cooking, and I love to camp with those folks, but I’m not one of them. I like simple, lightweight and easy to clean up meals. If it involves more than boiling water I usually pass and look for something else to pack. Based on those criteria I’ve become a fan of dehydrated
meals that don’t require anything more than boiling some water and dumping it in a pouch, so when Mountain House contacted us here at the Monkey andasked us if we’d like to try out their new Wraps I jumped at the chance.
I’m no stranger to Mountain House foods and have used them a good bit over the years backpacking and car camping but the Wraps were new to me. The concept is a great one. They’re basically filling designed to be put into tortilla wraps that you purchase at your local grocery store. Now, I’d used tortillas in the field before and they’re great. They pack flat, aren’t easily smashed and the make for a great way to eat your meals without the need for silverware or dishes. As you eat the tortilla you eat your plate! No washing dishes afterwards. Just my kind of meal! Mountain House currently has four varieties of Wraps available: Buffalo Style Chicken, Barbeque Sauce with Beef, Mexican Style Beef, and Breakfast Skillet. REI actually lists a Chicken Salad Wrap as well although we didn’t get one of those for testing and I don’t see them listed on Mountain House’s website at the moment. Either way, all of those sounded pretty appealing to me. Rather than horde them all to myself I took them on a March camping trip with some of the SRI/BHK crew down the farm where the original Pout House stands in West Virginia (see the BHK story for what the Pout House was!). Despite leaving snow and ice in Pittsburgh, the short drive South provided a major temperature upswing and we ended up with a pretty balmy weekend in the 50’s and 60’s with not a lick of snow to be found. Perfect weather for some camping and some food testing!
Before leaving for the trip my wife and picked up some tortillas for me from the grocery store and she had selected large sized wraps in the 12 inch range. Basically what size you pick is up to you but we thought the big wraps would be easier to handle. To make the Wraps in the field all you need is boiling water so preparation is extremely minimal. Whatever your method of boiling water is works just fine. Over the course of the weekend we boiled water over backpacking stoves, in a billy over the fire, and in a Kelly Kettle. As long as the water comes out boiling you’re good to go. Once boiled just tear open the pouch and add the appropriate amount of water to the package. Remember to remove the oxygen absorber pouch from the meal first. It is not a seasoning packet! Stir thoroughly, reseal the pouch and then wait the recommended time period on the bag. Once finished you just dole out the filling onto a tortilla, wrap it up and eat. You can’t get much simpler than that. The large tortillas allowed us to make burrito style wraps which made for less mess when eating than simply folding smaller tortillas over soft taco style. Cleanup is super easy too. The pot only had water in it so no washing there. You can lick the spoon clean, or quickly hose it off and wipe and it down, and you’re pretty much done with the dishes. You eat the tortilla so the “plate” is gone and all you’re left with is the empty meal pouch, which is compact and easy to pack out with you when you leave. Fast easy prep, and almost no cleanup afterwards. That’s exactly my kind of hot meal in the field.
So, we know the Wraps are easy to make but how do they actually taste. That’s the key. Convenience only buys you so much, if food doesn’t taste good it isn’t going to see a return trip to the woods. As stated above we had four of the wraps to try out. By far the hands down favorite was the Buffalo Style Chicken Wrap. The Buffalo Style Chicken consisted of big, hearty chunks of chicken in a tasty and spicy Buffalo wing sauce. This wasn’t just good by camping standards, it was downright excellent. I’ve had Buffalo chicken in restaurants that wasn’t as good as this. John McQuain from BHK was so enamored with this one that he said he was going to buy a case of them just to use for lunch at work! He and I made two giant burritos with our tortilla wraps with this one and greedily devoured them before everyone else could try it. Scott Wickham, also from BHK, actually had his own package of Buffalo Style Chicken Wrap too though and he also gave it a big thumbs up when he tried it. Second place was probably a tie between the Breakfast Skillet and the Mexican Style Beef. The Breakfast Skillet is a mix of hash browns, scrambled eggs, pork sausage, peppers and onions. I’ll admit the visual appeal of this one isn’t quite what some of the others are but it has a great smell that gets the stomach grumbling in the morning. It was quite tasty as it comes from the pack but we found that when we added some Sriracha hot sauce to the wrap it really made it pop. Great stuff. It makes for a super easy breakfast that was tasty and filling. The Mexican Beef makes for a more traditional burrito style meal and was pretty good as well. It consists of a mix of beef, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in a Mexican style chili sauce. This one had a little zip to it and if you aren’t really into spicy food may be hot for you. It’s tasty as is, but for those of us more inclined to some heat, we found that once again some Sriracha balanced this out nicely. The last meal we tried was the Barbeque Sauce with Beef and this one left us with mixed opinions. It’s listed as “beef mixed with peppers and tomatoes in a tangy sweet sauce.” We discovered two things with the BBQ and Beef. First, it comes out a little soupy and is pretty messy to eat. Second, it’s more of a Sloppy Joe mix than anything else. If you like Sloppy Joe’s that’s awesome, if you don’t this probably won’t be one of your favorites. The sauce is a pretty sweet BBQ sauce too so it seems to be one that folks either like or not depending on your personal food tastes. Personally, I liked it even though it was kind of messy to eat.
As to serving size, Mountain House actually lists these as one serving which we found quite surprising. Usually when you see suggested serving sizes they’re over estimated, at least in the case of normal adult males. In this case I think Mountain House greatly underestimated how much food you get! Depending on how much of a serving you use, and what size wrap you’re using, we got anywhere from two giant burritos to five smaller ones from a pouch. Scott was using smaller tortillas with his bag of Wraps and ended up with even more using those. Personally I felt that you could easily get 4 healthy sized burritos using the large tortillas out of one Wrap package. Two of these burritos a piece make for a good meal for an adult, or one supplemented with something else if you’re doing a group meal and sharing other food. There was plenty of food in the pouch of 4 or 5 of us to try and not be hungry afterwards. If you do plan on using these as a solo meal it’s a pretty big portion and you sure won’t go hungry. If you run out of tortillas and still have food left don’t fret. The meals are tasty enough to just eat with a spoon straight out of the bag too.
Overall I have to say that the Mountain House Wraps were a big hit with our group. We had a great time trying them on that trip and a number of us have subsequently bought more for some follow up trips we made since then. They’re definitely going into regular rotation for me. The food itself was very good and the wrap concept is excellent. I’ve even taken to stuffing other Mountain House entrees into tortillas now too since it worked out so well with the actual Wrap meals! I’ve heard some folks say that dehydrated meals are expensive for camping but the MSRP on the Wraps is only $6.40. Honestly, you’d spend that much at a fast food restaurant for lunch and for the amount of food you get, the taste and quality, and the convenience of easy preparation and cleanup, I think that’s a pretty darn good deal.
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