Reviews

TentMeals – High Energy Health

I came across TentMeals as they’re a supporter of the Dundee Mountain Film Festival.  I’m always keen to try new camping food and this looked interesting.  Usually I use retort meals some ex-military rations or Wayfarer meals.  I do like to have a freeze-dried option and usually go for Mountain House (MH) or similar.  MH are the best tasting in my opinion but are full of salt.  The benefit of retort or freeze dried option is of course there’s very little washing up (I usually lick my spoon clean) something I find a pain when I’m outdoors.  There is a fair bit of rubbish though and it’s not the biodegradable kind.

So getting back to TentMeals what are they.  Well I ordered a few meals, they have 3 – 4 main, breakfast, dessert options with the option to have a 500kcal portion or the larger 800kcal portion.  In the interest of trying to stick to my diet I ordered two of the 500kcal size portions.  All the meals are vegan and in dialogue with one of the staff they intend to bring out meat/protein which packaged seperately can be added to their meals by those that like a hit of protein.  I ordered an Almond Jalfrezi main meal and the Blueberry burst breakfast.  the packages are tiny 13cm x 8.5cm x 4cm deep.  They are in a heat sealed bag and whilst not rigidly tightly vacuum packed they seem to be pretty robust.

All the ingredients can be seen rather than an amorphous collection of soy products, MSG or oil.  This is becoming more important to me and one of the things on my christmas list is a good variable dehydrator.  I plan to make my own food which is reasonably healthy to bring camping.  All soups, stews etc but stuff I enjoy.  Because I’ll have made them, I’ll know what’s gone into them and I know I’ll enjoy them.  I’ve tried one or two with my current dehydrator (not a great one I bought from Westphalia catalogue shop years ago, are they still on the go?) I’ve had limited success with it in the past.  Nevertheless when it has worked the food has been decent and enjoyable.  I’d like some consistency though.

Back to TentMeals.  Now in such a small package they can’t be cooked in the bag so they have to be re-hydrated in a dish.  Back to the washing up dilemma but I’ll give them a go and it’s what I intend to do in the future so lets get that hygiene discipline as part of my routine.  If you read my Injury Possibles blog post you’ll know I’ve a bad knee so these were ‘cooked’ in the back yard.  As a lover of all things titanium I have a double wall titanium bowl, a Keith titanium Ti5322 and a Keith Ti5365 plate that nicely fits over the top to act as a lid and will insulate the bowl as the food is rehydrated. PDP05131 The issue is how to measure 250 – 300ml of boiling water though.

PDP05141Bring on the Sea to Summit foldable cup which is marked up to 250ml and weighs in at 50g.  I usually find it’s better to add the lower end of the recommended water to freeze/dehydrated food only adding more if required.  I have had porridge soup or rice pudding soup a number of times neither of which are that pleasant or satisfying.

I’m following Weight Watchers or WW as it is now rebranded.  I put the nutritional value of both meals into the WW app calculator and they both came out at a whopping 19 points.  I only get 30pts per day so this should be filling although the almonds will have contributed greatly to that total.  I can also see what I take to be milk powder (vegan, of course it wasn’t) and coconut milk powder in amongst the package ingredients.  Right lets eat.  A few intentions to get the best from the meal, I’ll warm the cup and bowl up with boiling water before filling it to hydrate the meal.

So Sunday morning and I was excused shopping.  Instead of eggs and something I decided to have the Blueberry Burst Breakfast.  As planned I warmed the bowl and the measuring cup.  As I boiled more water I opened the pouch and poured it into the now empty bowl.  I was surprised how much it looked in the bowl when I poured it in.  I then added the water (250ml), wow there was a lot of it.  I stirred well it and placed the lid on top before I put the bowl into a cozy I’d knocked together the night before.  I left it for the prescribed 7min without stirring it any further.  When I removed it from the cozy and lifted the lid it was still very warm.  I stirred it again, it was very thick so I added some water to loosen it up, about 50ml.

Making TentMeals Blueberry Burst Breakfast Video

I got tucked into it and it was nice.  It was lacking the creaminess that I expected but then I remembered it was vegan so no dairy.  There was a great coconut flavour, and lots of coconut evident, and the blueberries were particularly sweet although a few more would have been better.  The small packet certainly translated into a good sized meal.  On my diet I use 40g of porridge oats in the morning this felt like much more although I could have eaten again at lunchtime.  Overall I enjoyed it but wonder how it would work out putting in some full fat milk powder before adding water.  It would make a decent camping breakfast even better I think, sorry vegans, sorry cows.  It came together as a breakfast better than a lot of the other dehydrated/freeze-dried food I’ve tried.  And I’ve tried a lot.   Prepping it in the bowl was a success barring the prep and the washup.  Certainly I’ll be happy to buy the breakfast again and at £3.80 they’re worth it far more than other camping food.

Ok so dinner.  Well the Almond Jalfrezi was prepared the same way, it was colder outside by the time I prepped but essentially the same steps were carried out and I added about 300ml of water.  I purposely let it hydrate in its cozy outside in the ambient temperature.  I added a cooked and chopped chicken breast to the meal, I’m afraid I need some meat/fish protein.  Obviously if I’m camping it’s unlikely to be available in that format so I’ll have to think about an alternative.

The meal was tasty and it tasted real.  This was the best tasting dried camping food I’ve had.  Not full of salt or preservatives (had a shelf life until 2020) or certainly didn’t taste like it anyway.  The rice tasted cooked through, a few of the flakes vegetable or coconut were a wee bit chewy but again it was tasty.  There was a fair amount of the sauce present, it was thin but not unpleasant and probably just on the right side of the meal not being soup.

If I may pass comment, the breakfast could be improved with more dried fruit and whole milk powder.  In my omnivore view the main meals could be improved with having meat/fish protein.  How that’s achieved; whether TentMeals have ‘sides’ that can be added or it’s an inclusive part of the meal or there is a different line of non-vegan food is irrelevant to me to be honest.  If the food tastes as good as the two meals I’ve tried then I can’t wait for it.  The 800Kcal sized meals would probably be too big for my 550ml bowl and they would be a jumbo meal for most.  Would there be any benefit in bringing the meal to boil in a pan rather than re-hydrate it?  I can learn to deal with the cleaning up, I’ll have to, in order to welcome the decent food, lack of waste and smaller packaging.

I consider both of the meals to be a success and I can see me buying more from TentMeals in the future when I use up my current stock of freeze-dried meals.  I happily recommend them to others too.  I’ll add that I bought these personally they were not sent to me for free or for a positive review.  I paid for the speedier postage which was around £5 and it was here within 48hrs the cheaper option was around £3.

Find them here:

TentMeals – High Energy Health

Keith Titanium Canteen and Mug

So the Keith Titanium Canteen what is it, why’s it so expensive.  Well it’s expensive because it’s titanium and I understand there’s a challenging manufacturing process.  What’s the benefits?  It’s as light as hell, provides a means to carry water, with a mug, you can boil to clean water in the mug with it’s lid.  You can also boil water in canteen itself. 

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Here’s some details;

Canteen:

Volume 1100ml (to the bottom of the neck opening)

Width of mouth 43mm

Height without lid 185mm

Height with lid 200mm

Width (widest part) 77mm

Weight 160g

Mug:

Volume 700ml (600ml filled short of the brim)

Height (no lid) 95mm

Height (lid) 96mm

Width 75mm

Weight 128g

I first came across these via Bushcraft USA website and the Heavy Cover Canteen.  Looking for a cheaper version I found the Keith titanium canteen.  I’m pretty sure they’re the one and the same but the Heavy Cover Canteen is inscribed with the logo.  Keith do advertise on their website that they can do special logo designs and I guess that’s what Heavy Cover did. The canteen is a completely different shape to the current Brit military issue more akin to the US or NATO aluminium canteen from the 40’s or 50’s or the current military plastic 1 quart canteen.  The difference is the Keith titanium canteen is larger in most respects.  Not massively bigger but it makes it tighter when fitting it into most of the current third party canteen covers such as Maxpedition or even military issue ones.  It fits but it’s a tight fit.  The canteen I ordered came with a cheap desert digital camouflage cover but I never used it repurposing the 25mm webbing strap for other tasks.  It will fit into the current Brit military issue canteen pouch with room to spare.  In keeping with it’s primary benefit, it’s as light as hell, I made a ‘skeleton’ canteen belt holder out of some 25mm webbing.  On the other hand I also carry it in my Mother Canteen Carrier, reviewed below.

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When out and using it to collect water there is the added benefit of being able to boil water in it over a fire to purify it and make it safe for drinking.  Of course it’ll need filtering to remove any bits or mud in suspension.  I’ve done this a number of times with no bother.  The outside of the canteen is almost a stonewash effect but I’ve been able to clean off the soot from the fire easily enough but there is some residue.  The key thing to note is that the lid of the canteen is sealed with a silicon washer. 

Happy to state the obvious but you can’t boil water with the lid on because it’ll seal the unit and ‘explode’ and you’ll melt the washer, which may in fact stop the ‘explosion’.  Still take the lid off the canteen if boiling water with it.  I do have a lanyard attached to the loop on the lid that I then secure via a slip knot around the neck of the canteen.  If I’m filling up with water I won’t lose it but the slip knot allows me to remove it easily.  The mug I’ve boiled water in it over a fire and boiled water to warm a retort meal over a gas stove.  No issue whatsoever.  The lip of the mug is obviously warmed when there’s boiling water in it or when cooked over a flame of some sort.  This isn’t a big problem and after a few minutes it’s usually cool enough to drink from with no bother.  I did buy a a fish mouth spreader to try help suspend the bottle over a fire but due to it’s screw neck it doesn’t hold it securely and I’ve never tried it in anger.

The neck of the canteen is large enough to fit an ice cube into but the size by volume is a bit of a weird one.  1100ml is a tad inconvenient.  If using purifying water tablets you’ll need to pour some of the water away in order to ensure that the water has been sensibly treated.  Equally if adding a powder to flavour the water or create a drink you’ll need to pour some water out of the filled canteen.  I thought it might be more appropriate measured in fluid oz but that becomes 37.2 oz so where the sizing comes from I’ve no idea.  The mug is no bother 600ml filled to beneath the brim gives you a good sized brew when out and about.  It’s not insulated but it keeps a drink warmer than a similar aluminium or steel in my opinion.

Why would someone spend this much money on a water carrier, is the saving in weight worth the extra money.  I’ll probably say no it’s not worth it.  Is it a nice bit of kit, yes.  I will at this stage remind you that in my intro I mentioned I’m a gear hound.  You could of course use a steel or aluminium bottle, I chose titanium.  Carrying a litre of water in a bottle that can be used over a flame or stove to purify more water as well as having a mug to drink out of is a huge plus.  Obviously the weight saving  on it’s own is considerable, it’s easily carried in a variety of carriers.  Should you wish, if you chose to ignore the weight saving, you can use it as a base to create a meaningful outfit to take into the field.

I’m a fan, but, and it’s a big but, it’s a very expensive piece of kit and I daresay many will frown and shake their heads at the expense but damn it’s a nice piece of kit.

I bought mine here

Centreline Systems Mother Canteen Carrier and G2 Gear Roll


So my first gear review or gear ‘show and tell’ on my blog. Today I would like to introduce you to the Centreline Mother Canteen Carrier (MCC). This has been designed to accept a variety of water containers.  I’m using it with theKeith titanium canteen which is the same as the Heavy Cover Titanium Canteen (just not badged by Heavy Cover…I think).  I’ll save the canteen for a future piece on the rest of my titanium kit.
So the MCC available from Centreline System here; Centreline Mother Canteen Carrier at the same time I bought a G2 gear roll to complement it. Both are in Ranger Green (RG) which is flat earthy green. Yes thats the price and I paid it, would I pay it again were I to lose it, yes. What I did not do is get it shippped to the UK. Mark at Centreline was happy to ship and gave me a quote but I bought it prior to a visit to NYC and had it delivered to the hotel for my arrival. Great communications with the owner and no probs having it delivered to a hotel for my arrival. Note: I warned the hotel prior to my arrival that I had packages arriving (I made other purchases).
As i said my one is Ranger Green, Raven Black which is now an option was not when I purchased but yes I would like one. The idea of the MCC is to provide water and the maximum amount of gear in a minimalist package. It does so and does it in a well made, robust package.

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Mother Canteen Carrier and G2 Gear Roll

The outside is made of 500D cordura with front pocket two side pockets and a slide pocket to the rear of the main part of the pouch. Quality plastic buckles are used throughout, I’m unsure whether they’re duraflex or ITW.  The canteen, front and side pouches are firmly secured with 25mm webbing and have velcro across the front. The rear of the pouch has MOLLE webbing including attachments. There are additional small gear loops on the front either side of the front pouch that’ll take a pen or a cyalume. The bottom of the pouch has loops to attach additional items to and in my case used for the G2 gear roll. If you don’t want to attach the MCC via MOLLE it can be carried as a shoulder pack. The MCC comes with a bare webbing strap attached to the buckles on the flaps of the side pockets. It goes from 25mm webbing for the buckles to 40mm webbing for the main body of the strap. A seperate padded shoulder strap can be bought but this wasn’t available when I made my purchase. It’s well sewn, made with quality materials and comfortable to carry.

So what do I carry in mine;

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Front pocket contents – Cooking

Front pocket – The front pocket carries my cooking kit.  In the small green plastic pouch I have The Pocket Stove in titanium, The Pocket Stove Ti.  I got this second hand with the plastic pouch.  I have two blocks of solid Dragon fuel, a silicon hotlips cover for my mug, a small metal round tin as a burning container for the fuel, a genuine Aussie FRED and the piece in red on the MCC itself is a long K&M matchcase in aluminim with a piece of retroreflective tape around it (the grey bit). There is also a quality Suunto compass in the top of the matchcase.  This is a fair amount of kit and allows me to boil water in the canteen mug or in fact the canteen.  This is in fact the essence of my kit selection.  I wanted a means to carry water, make a brew/purify water in all environments even where I can’t have an open fire.  Not pictured is a Chinese copy storm lighter.

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Right pocket contents – Brew, food

The right hand side pouch carries brew kit and food.  I carry Clif bars or Trek bars as food.  The Trek bars are preferred because of the lack of added sugar and bits.  They’re also more filling in my opinion although I do find you need a brew to help them go down.  For brew kit I only drink tea or espresso and I’m not carrying my espresso kit with me.  I carry a few teabags, sugar (usually demerara) and some sachets of whitener but thats usually more for the look of it as they add little to the taste.  I also carry a titanium spork because you never know when you need a bit of a tool or spork.

The left hand pocket carries some paracord (just visible in the shade),

PDP03447
Left pocket contents – assorted

some hand cleanser in a spray pen format, an energy drink to make up 1litre of drink and in the little yellow pouch is a titanium foil windshield.  Additional bits are the small button torch from the Bushcraft UK forum BCUK secured to the main buckle.  To the rear of the main pouch for the canteen is a small slip pocket where I keep my bottle hanger (to suspend the bottle over an open fire if needed/possible) and mug lid.  My plan for this kit was to provide me with an ability to carry water, boil it if needed in the canteen or mug, make a brew and have a bit of something to eat.  So if I’m out and about and want to do a bit of exploring I have basic kit to supplement what I have in my pockets or EDC bag.

The G2 Gear Roll from Centreline Systems is can be used on it’s own but in fact compliments the MCC beautifully.  Centreline Systems G2 Gear Roll The Gear roll is aPDP03448 pretty compact package made of 500D cordura and 25mm webbing.    The webbing goes around the roll and is tensioned with a ladderlock buckle.  A handle made of webbing is provided with a patch of loop velcro.  I have mine pretty stuffed full and it measures 14cmX10cmX27cm (HxWxL).  It could be smaller in height or width depending on how much stuff you have inside.  Again this is a quality made piece of gear and it’s loops fit nicely under the MCC as a compact but complete package.  To access the pockets you loosen the straps going around the gear roll slip them off the ends and voila.

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Further details are at the site accessed at the link above but there are different ways of carrying it or even using it as a chest rig.  If that is in fact your gig.

So what do I carry in mine.  So the right hand pocket, I carry some more paracord, an Adventure Medical Kits first aid kit ‘Medical Kit .5′(check out my products page) to which I’ve added an Israeli 4” traumaPDP03453 bandage, these are great pieces of kit and so adaptable, (I buy mine from an ebay shop 4” Israeli Bandage), a thermal blanket and an ‘AMK/SOL Pocket survival pak plus’.  I don’t know if these are still available but it’s a nice handy little package.  In addition I’ve got more Trek bars, just in case.

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The centre pocket is taken up with a military casualty blanket, essentially a proper space blanket in a vacuum packed bag.  I’ve included some small titanium tent pegs.  To be honest I’m not too sure they’ll hold at all well but the blanket can be wrapped around me if things go a bit ‘Pete Tong’.  It’s quite bulky but very light and I’m looking at this whole package as providing me with food, first aid, cutting tools and a means to holding and purifying water.

The right hand side has two pockets opening at opposing ends.  PDP03451In the top one I carry a Leatherman Signal, this is in a privately made pouch by a guy called Boris under the name of ‘Sarma’.  I’ll do a seperate review of this.  I haven’t used it much but it’s got some of the feature that I wanted. I also carry a Victorinox sharpening tool. In the bottom pocket I have a Petzl E-lite (Products page) for a head torch and yet again another Trek bar (they are good very palatable and this is my favourite flavour).

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All together ready to be carried.  It can be improved upon with a padded shoulder strap, these were not available when I purchased it but they are available on the website.  I have it adjusted so it sits nicely at my butt and carries comfortably.  I really like this as a complete package, it gives me a bit of kit to safely scout a bit.  Lightweight Goretex gear could be added but not a lot of additional clothes could be easily included.

It was expensive but great kit, well made and provides me a complete safety/survival package.  I would buy another, in black, with a padded shoulder strap but only if I was getting it posted to the US when I was over for a visit.  A great compact lightweight set of gear.

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