When hiking hither and yon across the countryside and your pack is loaded with all the high-tech gear you've read about in previous reviews, there might come a point where you begin to feel an emptiness inside your stomach and your thoughts turn toward food. That is what I'm going to talk about today: portable nourishment. Many hikers favor canned foods, breads, cheeses, etc. These are perfectly adequate low tech solutions for those who don't mind products that are a bit bulkier, heavier, or require more preparation than their space-age cousins. If you're on a longer trip and need things that will last, but won't weigh you down quite so much, you can turn to the wonders of modern science. In recent years, many modern marvels of food science have been created, packaged, and made available for your convenient joyous consumption. To examine the best of the low-weight, low-prep options, I have once again turned down the dark path of military tech.
Bridgeford Shelf-Stable, Ready-to-eat Pocket Sandwiches
(or as I like to call them "BATTLE SANDWICHES!")
Dissatisfied with the relatively high-weight and complex preparation requirements of the MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat) used in the military, the government formed partnerships with a number of companies to research and produce a new option that would weigh less, taste better, require no special preparation, and be hand-edible. After years of work, a new package, called the FSR (First Strike Ration), was created. At the center of the FSR was the shelf-stable sandwich.
The sandwiches come in six flavors plus an option for plain bread with no filling. They range in caloric content from 270-350 each and vary in size and weight. As shown above, each one comes individually packaged in a beige packet with nutrition information printed on the front. In appearance, the sandwiches look more like a stuffed pocket of bread than an actual sandwich, because the fillings are entirely enclosed by a bread shell.
The primary features of the shelf stable sandwiches are in portability and longevity. Each sandwich is sealed into a packet weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 oz. each. The foil packets in which they are packed are relatively flat and completely waterproof. They are good for up to three years when stored at 80F or six months at 100F. While the sandwich's stability degrades at higher temperatures, even at 120F, storage for a month or more would present no problem. In addition, though I cannot attest to this fact, they supposedly taste the same for their entire lifespan. All flavors of the sandwich are made to be eaten cold or can be heated by boiling in the pouch, heating in an oven or microwave, or by using an MRE heating packet (see below in the section on the Sure-Pak).
How they work
You may ask how these sandwiches can possibly last so long in storage. The answer is by combining a number of different methods. The sandwich itself has a carefully measured acid content that is created by both a selection of ingredients and by a specialized water treatment, the nature of which was not explained to me. Packed within each sandwich is a small desiccant/oxygen absorbing pouch such as the ones you might find in everyday packaging (the ones that say "Do Not Eat") that insures the correct level of moisture inside the packaging and prevents premature oxidation. The wrapper is made of a sturdy but easily-opened multi-layer foil.
For testing, I got together a couple of friends together to help me. It was necessary to get a range of tastes involved and to prevent me from eating 3000 calories of field food in a single sitting. We all documented our impressions of each of the flavors provided. Here are our impressions of their flavor and texture: