Can you use “emergency food” to make meal prep easier for vanlife? Absolutely, especially when you’re boondocking in the wilderness. The better question might be, should you?
Dehydrated food in those “just add hot water” pouches has long been a staple for hikers. Traveling in a van, we have found they’re nice to have around for the occasional hot meal. They’re quick and easy to prepare but don’t need much space or special handling for storage.
There are pros and cons to any type of food planning and prep.
In this case, the pros are:
- The traditional bags they come in are easy to store in a small cupboard.
- They tend to be light weight, which makes them great to toss in a backpack for hiking excursions.
- There are several quality companies out there that make tasty food, even if its initial appearance before cooking isn’t all that appetizing.
- Clean-up is easy when compared to traditional cooking. You often can cook the meal by adding hot water straight into the storage pouch. This eliminates the need for more dirty cooking dishes.
- You can come up with a variety of hot dishes that are more complex than you might normally. This is especially true on travel days or during hikes.
- Shelf-life is pretty incredible, with some lasting up to 30 years(!)
Here are some cons:
- You generally need a way to boil water. Although, we currently have some “granola with milk and blueberries” in a pouch to which you simply add cold water.
- You have to dispose of the pouches somehow. That matters more when hiking than if you’re in your camper.
- The pouches tend to be a bit pricey, but you’re paying for convenience.
- Your doctor may frown on the high sodium content. Eat too many of these meals regularly and your salt intake will increase exponentially.
- Depending on how you purchase them, the packaging may not be be in convenient sizes.
Many of the companies that make this type of food also are marketing to folks who want to be prepared for whatever zombie apocalypse scenario might be on the horizon. So demand has driven supplies down and prices up a bit. But you can usually find sales or discount deals.
A new affiliation
Ready Project is a company that sells everything from emergency food to first-aid kids, plus gear to stay warm and dry in crisis situations. Their motto is “Live life ready.” After all, at any moment, the electric grid could go down, zombies could become a reality, or your friends could convince you to go on an extra-long hike.
Ready Project offered us an opportunity to become affiliates. As always, we insisted on trying a product for a review. We only promote products and companies on our website when we feel we can stand behind a recommendation.
I’m happy to say we are affiliates of Ready Project because their food passed our cooking and tasting tests.
We were sent what Ready Project refers to as the “Ark 2020 Variety Pack.” It is a giant plastic bucket full of large pouches of food designed to provide 2,020 calories per day for 30 days. Meal choices include cheddar broccoli rice, potato soup, oatmeal, cheese grits, and more.
From powder to plate
We have tried cheese grits (my favorite so far), rice pudding, and orzo rice pilaf. The cooking instructions are simple to follow. Generally, a certain amount of water is brought to a boil, the ingredients of the pouch are added, and then there is some simmering.
The flavor of the things we’ve tried has been quite good. Although there is a relatively high sodium content, I don’t think any of the food tasted extra salty, which can be a problem with some pouch meals.
The one disadvantage I’ve seen to the “Ark,” is that the pouches for each food type are very large. So if you’re looking to use these for backpacking or vanlife, you’ll need to open them, dole out how many servings you want into a sealable container, and then reseal the main pouch. So keep that in mind when purchasing. Depending on your circumstances, this system might work fine. But you also might consider purchasing this kind of food in the smaller, single-meal pouches.
Once the Ready Project large pouches are open, you can reseal them with a built-in system, so that’s nice. And the whole concept is that this bucket of food is going to last you 30 days. In that case, freshness wouldn’t be an issue.
We’re always ready for something
We have been carrying this kind of food in our van for years now (literally in the case of some of the smaller pouches). It’s not something we make a regular habit of eating, but on travel days they can be quite handy. Sometimes, you just have a hankering for a “fancy” hot meal but have neither the ingredients nor the time and energy to create it. Plus, we always know that in a pinch, we have a good hot meal waiting to be enjoyed while we wait out the horde of zombies passing by.