Product Review: British Army Issue 24hr Ration Pack

Sam Gravestock cooks up some hearty meals.

When out and about in the woods or wilds food takes on a greater importance to most folk. A decent meal can turn a mediocre or unpleasant day out into a much more pleasurable experience, lifting the mood and improving the spirit

Sometimes I go very elaborate, preparing feasts using nothing but fresh ingredients and a small garden worth of herbs, spices and seasonings.

However when I am going for a more back-to-basics feeling or trip out, or when I want to focus on practising skills rather than being a cook on the wild side, I hone my cooking kit down to a metal mug and a spork and take a British Army 24hr ration pack.

I have eaten ration packs on my excursions for as long as I have been practising outdoors skills this time around (about four years). Recently a new selection of ration pack menus became available. Coming in a brown cardboard box that clearly is a distant relative of the TARDIS the 24hour ration pack is bursting with a huge amount of food, both meals and snacks.

The full ration pack contents
The full ration pack contents

There are various menus available - I received "menu 16 multi climate ration pack" which has muesli for the breakfast, a tomato pasta salad for lunch and Thai green curry with long grain rice and sliced apples for the pudding.

First off the muesli. Now let me say this - I am not a fan of muesli in any of its forms so I went into this taste test biased against it. Much to my surprise it did not taste as bad as I feared it would, despite it being made by adding cold water to the foil package. In fact I have eaten much worse for breakfast.

One little grumble if I may be allowed it, whilst muesli is alright (I suppose) for breakfast when in a warm climate or weather conditions, I was taste testing the ration pack in temperatures of minus ten degrees centigrade and something I could eat warm would have been appreciated. (See what I put myself through in the name of reviews? Minus ten! Brass monkeys were looking concerned!)

Next the pasta salad, this has the option of being eaten hot or cold. My camping associates whom I shall refer to as A, P and S and I all agreed to try it cold as we were busy and wanted a quick snack.

A thought it was tasty, both P and S agreed that if they had bought it from a supermarket they would not feel as if they had been hard done by. Myself, I enjoyed it but I think I would warm it up if or when I have it again. It had a good amount of pasta and sauce in the pouch and although it was shared between four of us and only as a snack and to taste test it I didn't end up left feeling hungry. The flavours were bold and noticeable without being over-powering or one flavouring dominating the others.

On to the Thai green curry and rice. These both come in sealed foil packets. You can heat the packs in a mess tin or metal mug over a hexamine block or do as we did and heat them in a billy can over an open fire

Boil in the bag
Boil in the bag

Simply fill a container with water and then having pushed the contents of the pouches down to below the water line put the container over the fire. Allow the water to reach boiling point then give it five to ten minutes. Once it's boiled for ten mins your meal is ready. (We actually caught the corner of the packet in the flame but it didn't burn, only scorched and no harm was done to the meal)

You can if you wish simply eat out of the packages or mix the two together in one packet. However to allow a better view and because A, P, S and myself were sharing we put it in a bowl

Thai green curry with long grain rice
Thai green curry with long grain rice

Now A and I are not fans of spicy meals whereas P and S like their curries to register on the Richter scale. All of us found it flavoursome and tasty with a nice smell noticeable as soon as the packets were opened.

A and myself didn't find it too spicy and P and S although saying it could do with a bit of oomph (highly technical culinary term oomph) said it was acceptable and had a nice variety of veg in it. (The menu 16 ration pack comes with a little bottle of tabasco sauce to add a bit more kick to the meals if you desire it)

The sliced apples again can be eaten cold or hot. Cold apples didn't really appeal to me so I chose to warm them up in exactly the same way as the main meal. They tasted exactly the same as the stewed apples I used to get for pudding at my grandparents. All that was missing was the evaporated milk. Another thumbs up.

As well as the main food items there is a variety of snacks including mixed fruit and nuts, boiled sweets (which my other half who was raised on ration packs is happy to report that they remain the same and are just as good as when she was a child), a caramel chew bar - very tasty but very chewing cold conditions, a fruit leather bar much nicer than I feared, and pureed mango and apple (another of your five a day) which although an odd texture was very tasty,

Now for the bad news. There is no longer a Yorkie bar included in the ration pack. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but I must tell you. Gutted doesn't even come close to how I felt when I realised this.

As well as all the food there is a wide range of beverages included in the pack - tea, coffee, sugar, creamer, lucozade isotonic drinks powder, a blackcurrant drink powder, hot chocolate (orange flavour delicious) and of course lemon drink powder aka screech.

As if this wasn't enough there is also included 3 mini packs of chewing gum, a handipack of tissues, antiseptic wipes, wet wipes, a pack of windproof waterproof matches, a plastic spoon and a plastic resalable bag capable of containing the entire contents of the ration pack.

The menu 16 24 hour ration pack contains a weighty 4000kcals in a surprisingly small space. The food is tasty and I would happily take one with me for an overnight camp or several different menus for longer expeditions. In truth I don't think I could eat the entire contents in one day so could possibly manage to stretch the contents to last me a day and a half.

I can heartily recommend the British army multi climate ration pack menu 16 - even begrudgingly the muesli

You can buy the British Army Issue 24hr Ration Pack directly from this site.

February 2012