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Mountain House Freeze Dried Food Product Review 2:
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By JaredVagy
From Santa Monica, Ca
Dec 28, 2012
Moonlight Buttress

Below is a product review I wrote when testing Mountain House Freeze Dried Food Products at altitude on Aconcagua. It is the second review in a series of 2. The full review can be found on my blog at:
jspencerv.blogspot.com.ar/2012/12/mountain-house-product-rev>>>

Mountain House Freeze Dried Food Product Review 2:
By Doctor Jared Vagy PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Physical Therapist and Biokinesiologist

¨I am lying in my cocoon high on mount Aconcagua. It is snowing, minus 40 degrees outside and 100km winds are thrashing the tent. We have spent 10 days climbing the mountain but have to turn back because of weather. I should be disappointed but instead i smile slyly to myself. I realize in that moment that i don't climb mountains for the summit but for the experience...and the stories that follow¨

Full Disclosure:

Mountain House provided the product free of charge to me after I contacted them about helping support my climbing expedition of ẗhe Polish Direct Route on the 22,831 foot Mount Aconcagua. Mountain House provided me with 30 freeze dried meals.

Basecamp
Basecamp

The product
The product


I have decided to review four of the products that they have supplied for me on the trip.

Product 1:
Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled Eggs

Me on the radio
Me on the radio

Used for breakfast at 16,500 feet during aclimitization

Positives:
We had been climbing for six days straight before we had this dish and needed something in the morning for muscle recovery. Granola and oatmeal are high in carbohydrates but not in protein and they just weren't cutting it. We needed something with a lot of protein. This breakfast dish packs a lot of protein. We shared the pouch on some crackers and the added protein from the eggs and ham in the morning gave me a boost later in the day. It sure beats bringing up a skillett on the climb.

Negatives:
I love eggs and it is really tough to replicate farm fresh eggs by adding hot water. Although this product tastes very good and supplies good protein, it is not a stand alone substitute for fresh eggs. However, when condiments or crackers are added; it is as good as you can get.

Tips:
Go crazy on adding condiments. Salsa, crackers, ketchup and pepper. The addition of something very simple really enhances the dish. We had the eggs served on crackers which increased the calories and allowed us to split a packet between the two us for breakfast.

Score:
Taste: 4/5
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 4/5
Overall Rating: 8/10

Product 2:
New Orleans Style Rice
New Orleans Style Rice

On the mountain
On the mountain

Used for lunch at 16,500 the day before the big storm

Positives:
After seven days of continued climbing, we finally had a rest day. Well, sort of. We ended up taking a trip up to 19,500 feet to check out our next camp. We were positioned for a summit push. All we needed was a weather window. I felt like I needed some carbohydrates to fuel our upcoming summit push. I was eating a lot of pastas previously and looked to try something different. This pouch turned out to taste very good. Tony actually got upset because he thought I ate the only one that we brought; but we had two. A trend of my previous reviews were that some of the pouches lacked a variety of consistency, making them hard to eat at altitude. The New Orleans rice was the opposite. I actually wanted more after I had finished. I gave a spoonful to Curt and Mariabelle to try. They are a pair of world class kayak and big mountain climbers who were sharing a camp next to us. They hadn't had freeze dried food for 15 years because of poor memories. After trying it, Curt actually told me that it was "pretty" good and that he would look into buying a few for his next trip. That is a lot comming from him. I think the key to this dish tasting so well was that there was shrimp rice and ham, so there was something different to look forward to each mouthful.

Negatives:
I was a little skeptical about eating freeze dried shrimp and my ability to easily digest it at altitude. I usually trend towards more bland food because they are more simple for my stomach. But I had no problem with the shrimp. One complaint actually would be to make the shrimp a bit bigger. The shrimp contained were more like the ones you would find in a ramen packet - but they still packed some good flavor regardless of their size.

Tips:
The main tip for this dish would be to keep it to yourself and try not to share with others...it goes by fast...

Score:
Taste: 5/5
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 4/5
Overall Rating: 9/10

Product 3:
Chicken Fajita
Chicken Fajita

Getting blasted by snow
Getting blasted by snow

Used for lunch at 16,500 feet waiting out the storm

Positives:
We were waiting for a single day of good weather so that we could start our summit pish. But we ended up tentbound for three nights. The highlights of my day were breakfast, lunch and dinner because they would break up the monotony. I was saving this pouch towards the end of the trip because I am a big fan of mexican food. Tony and I had just received our final radio of a terrible storm and we did not have enough days to wait it out. We were forced to go down. Huddling in our tent, chilled to the bone, we decided to make one last meal before heading down. We boiled some water, mixed it in and then added the additional seasoning packet. WOW! IT WAS AMAZING! I am not sure if being stuck in a tent with minus 40 degree temperatures and 100km winds played a role in this, but I will stand by my first impressions. IT WAS REALLY GOOD. The chicken tasted really juicy, the peppers added some contrast and it tasted just like fresh fajitas. The entire meal was gone within minutes.

Negatives:
None. Except that I wish they had more food in the packet.

Tips:
We had no tortillas to add this to because we were running low on food. So instead, I added our last bit of cracker crumbs to thicken it up. It did the trick. I would love to try this pouch with tortillas. I will defiantly be buying some more of these for my next multi day big mountain, so I will have the chance to try them their intended way.

Score:
Taste: 5/5
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 5/5
Overall Rating: 10/10

Product 4:
Macaroni and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese

at the base
at the base

Used for breakfast at basecamp the day after our epic descent in the storm

Positives:
Calories, Calories, Calories. 900 of them. This dish has a lot of content and you can only go right with Mac and Cheese. It is simple and easy to eat. A great high camp food choice. After burning a couple thousand calories the day before in the storm, I was at a huge caloric deficit. I needed to replenish. I had this for breakfast. At this point we were tripling up on pouches each day because we knew the trip was coming to a close and we wanted to restore our lost calories. I had lost 9 pounds and was eating anything I could get my hands on. I polished off a packet for breakfast right before our 20 mile hike out from Basecamp.

Negatives:
Although it tastes very good, it does lack consistency. Because it has so many calories, It gets more difficult to eat the last few spoonfuls because you are so full. Luckily, since we had several of these pouches, we devised a strategy to consume an entire packet solo. See tips.

Tips:
Do not over hydrate or else your cheese will be more soupy than creamy. Start by adding 30 percent less water then as you get deeper into the packet, you can add more. But once you add too much, it is hard to go back. Eat 1/3 of the dish normal, 1/3 with pepper and the final 1/3 with spicy pepper. This will give you a sequential taste gradient that will keep your twinge guessing and also allow you to consume the entire packet.

Score:
Taste: 4/5
Practical use for high altitude mountaineering: 5/5
Overall Rating: 9/10

Overall Opinion So Far:
Overall Mountain House was the way to go for our high camps. During the approach, we had plenty of energy to cook pasta, cut vegetables and uncork some wine. But as we got higher on the mountain, freeze dried food became a necessity. We were too lazy to cut vegetables and fresh foods weighed to much to bring up. We brought an onion and a green pepper up to high camp thinking we would cut it up and add to the Mountain House but the altitude made us too lazy. Especially with temperatures -40 degrees and 100km winds outside, just adding hot water and eating a meal was about all we could do.

The food tasted very good. We had all of the pouches stuffed in a duffle bag. Each night we would pick a flavor to eat - sometimes arguing over who got the better one. It was kinda like being a kid in a candy store. It was a fun proccess as well arguing over our likes and dislikes of each pouch.

We followed the pouch directions verbatim. Early on in the trip, we would often end up with overly watery dishes. So we decided to cut back on the water content 20 percent and this tended to do the trick. I wasn't sure if things cooked and absorbed more slowly at altitude or not; but this worked for us.

We also noticed that a little goes a long way with adding spices and crackers. A few of the dishes needed a little extra "zing." By simply adding our own spice or pepper, it really uped the ante on the taste.

Overall I learned a lot about all of the different freeze dried dishes that Mountain House has and hopefully with these reviews was able to give additional information to high altitude climbers per what to look for when choosing Mountain House Meals for the next climb.

I wanted to give a special thanks to Ayni Hailicka, Ashley Aronson, Molly Gilbert, the entire R/West marketing team and Mountain House for helping me pursue my passions.
Tony and Jared
Tony and Jared

Climb On!


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By Adam Stackhouse
Administrator
Dec 28, 2012
Courtright Reservoir, September 2013

Nice Jared, thanks!


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By Cale Hoopes
From Sammamish, WA
Dec 28, 2012
Profile Icon

You should do the same for:

Hawk Vittles
Packit Gourmet

:-)


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By Morgan Patterson
Administrator
Dec 28, 2012
Stoked...

so do they pay you to write a review or do they sponsor the trip and provide supplies conditionally if you write reviews afterwards?


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By Steve86
Dec 28, 2012

It's cool that Mountain House and Backpacker's pantry offered to support your trip. Good write up and useful info -- this stuff doesn't get reviewed too often. Thanks for posting.


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By JaredVagy
From Santa Monica, Ca
Dec 28, 2012
Moonlight Buttress

CaptainMo: They were actually super cool about it. I didn't receive any payment, just the product and there really weren't any conditions. I sent them my proposal and needs and I told them that I would write a review after the trip, so I typed one up. It was a pretty cool learning experience trying all the different flavors and although I am reviewing only one brand and not a cross section of meals from different brands, I hope that some people can take some information from the write up on what to look for in freeze dried food when high altitude mountaineering.


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By Adam Burch
From San Dieger
Jan 17, 2013
Mexico, Mang

Good stuff Jared. Didn't you catch hell for this on another forum? I thought I saw something to that affect.


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