Forestia Meals Review

1st Dec 2016

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Forestia is an up and coming outdoor food brand and they recently offered us a batch of hydrated pouch ready meals to test.  It went a bit like this….  

We had a number of camping trips planned and so, of course, we said sure.  Great they said. Just check out the Forestia website and choose some meals you like the sound of……and here lay a problem.  When you do explore the Forestia site you’ll soon see that every single meal sounds like a dish you’d happily buy in a Michelin starred restaurant.  

The Peak Mountaineering juniors couldn’t help shouting up for their favourites (funny how children always sniff out food!) and we soon had a shortlist for our carnivore children.  Even for my vegetarian diet there was plenty of choice and Forestia also have a selection of vegan options.  It is a range guaranteed to make any camp a culinary experience - providing the food lived up to the descriptions of course.

We made our choices and a big box of food arrived. I nabbed some meals before the juniors got home from school.  For an upcoming Mountain Skills course I decided a Soya Meat Curry would tick the box for a night on Snowdon.  A selection of Veggie Meatballs and Pasta, Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Madras would be perfect for a family bivvy in the Lakes and I would use the remaining meals on upcoming mountain leader courses.  As the two oldest members of the Peak Mountaineering team are vegetarians, testing the meat dishes would fall to the juniors.  

Forestia meals are all hydrated food.  This means they already content liquid and all that is needed to prepare them is to heat the contents before eating.  This can be done by standing the pouch they are supplied in in a pan of boiling water or by emptying the contents into a pan and heating it.  One third option is that some Forestia meals come with a self heating outer sleeve but, as we didn’t actually test any of these, I can’t really comment.

I have to say this isn’t how I normally choose to take outdoor meals into the outdoors.  Mostly I take dehydrated foods (unless travelling somewhere where it is clear a ready water supply won’t be available) because I don’t want to carry water when I don’t need to.  It also means you don’t need to use fuel to heat the food up because, with good dehydrated meals, you simply boil the water and add it to the meal pouch.  It also means there is no washing up!  Even so, there are plenty of outdoor users for whom having the meals already hydrated is a real bonus so they certainly have their place.

Preparing the Forestia meals either involves standing the pouch in water for several minutes (and consequently using a fair bit of fuel) or the meal needs to be heated in a pan which then creates washing up.  The other upsides of pre hydrated food are that they can be eaten cold if needed and generally, in my experience, the good quality ones taste more ‘authentic’. So a choice is made and this is best based around your usage and situation.

After all that preamble, the key question is how do these meals perform?  Any outdoor meal really needs to be judged, in my opinion, by 5 criteria….so here goes......

Range of Options
The Forestia meal range, as mentioned above, is extensive.  Lots of choices, different dietary requirements catered for and plenty of types of meal.  Fancy Indian food? No problem.  Italian? Sure.  You get the idea.

I could count almost 30 dishes on the Forestia website (including self heating meals) and that, by any standards, is a comprehensive range.  There are main courses and desserts, meals catering for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. You are more likely to be spoilt for choice rather than not be able to find something you fancy!

Ease of Preparation
As mentioned, you can eat Forestia meals cold if you like, so in that sense ease of preparation can be as simple as opening the packet and dipping your spoon in.  This could be useful if you are in a hurry, have run out of fuel or are in conditions where cooking is impractical but, of course, most people will prefer to eat their food hot.  This is still easy enough. Either empty the contents into a pan and heat or dip the bag into a pan of boiling water for a few minutes.  Forestia meals are certainly simple enough to prepare. 

Price
Forestia meals are priced at around £6.00 which stacks up well against similar meals from other manufacturers but no one can deny pre prepared outdoor food is expensive compared to using cheaper foods you could get from a supermarket.  This is no criticism of Forestia - you simply decide whether you want to pay for hassle free outdoor foods.

Portion Size
In my opinion a common problem with outdoor pouch meals is that portion sizes are too small.  Maybe I am just greedy but after a day in the mountains I can easily demolish a portion from most brands and still be ready for more.  I get around this by having something like pitta bread with my meal and maybe a soup before hand.  Other people I know take something extra like super noodles or pasta to eat alongside but to some extent if you have to carry extra food just to bulk out the portion then you are somewhat defeating the advantage of buying ready made meals.   A few manufacturers offer different portion sizes but many, including Forestia, have set portion sizes.  

I did find that Forestia meals were pretty filling but with the main meals I tried then I could certainly have eaten more. Maybe not another whole meal, but something around half again would have been great.  Infact, the Peak Mountaineering Juniors could also have eaten more too.  I do think offering different portion sizes would be a good idea.  

Food Quality
Of course, this is the big one.  If the meal doesn't taste good then what is the point of choosing it? We have now tested a range of Forestia meals and I could discuss each meal separately but I don't see the need because we really liked every meal we tried.  Cal and I ate various vegetarian meals and the juniors ate several meat dishes.  We also tried a soya meat meal from the vegan options.  All the meals felt, as much as any food that comes out of a foil pouch can, like proper food.  Well defined vegetable pieces, sizeable chunks of meat and creamy sauces.  They were all great and so, although I can't offer judgement on every meal in the range, I would guess they all taste good.

Summary
As already stated, hydrated outdoor food is a trade off because you are always going to be carrying the weight of the water within the food, but providing that is not a problem for your particular requirements then I thoroughly recommend Forestia meals.  They are tasty, nutritionally sound and priced competitively in comparison to competitors meals.  They also, significantly, have a huge range of options catering to different dietary requirements.

You can buy Forestia meals directly from their website but it is also nice to see other sources, including Alpkit selling their range.

Posted by Paul

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