I assume, like me, you’ve been on some hikes, probably closer to the start of the month, when you’ve still got some money in the bank and thought you’d spoil yourself with one or two of those fancy, ultra-light freeze-dried meals. I mean, the description on the packet makes it sound like it’ll be the best meal you’ve ever had.
If you can relate to that, then, like me, you’ve most likely been a little disappointed when, two days into your adventure, the meal in your bowl isn’t even in the same postal code as the description on the packet… This is not one of those meals.
Forget what you know about freeze dried meals. When you pick up an unassuming, 100% recyclable Forever Fresh packet that says “Slow Cooked Lamb Tagine”, or “Mild & Creamy Butter Chicken”, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just another bit of marketing that’ll later let you down on the trail. Fear not! This stuff is amazing!! I know this is supposed to be an unbiased review and too many exclamation marks seems unprofessional, but it feels like the correct response… BEST LIGHTWEIGHT MEAL EVER!!!
Who Is Forever Fresh?
Okay, I’ll reign it in a bit with a backstory. Forever Fresh is the brainchild of Jason Perthel, who I had the privilege of hiking with on two sections of the Rim of Africa Cape Mountain Traverse in 2019. Jason had recently retired and was looking for something big to mark the transition into the next chapter of his life, so he signed up for the toughest, longest, wildest guided mountain traverse in the country… as one does.
Fully aware of the magnitude of the challenge, he started looking at ways to reduce the weight of his backpack as much as possible. After purchasing the lightest hiking gear known to man, he set about the task of putting together the lightest possible hiking menu. Bear in mind that the Rim of Africa is 750-800km long, spread over nine sections and takes two months to complete, so it’s not as easy as just buying all the 2-Minute Noodles and calling it a day. You actually need some nutrition for an adventure that long, and I dare say, some variety to keep you sane.
Long story short, Jason tried all the dehydrated and freeze-dried food options available at the time and thought: “I can do a better job”. Having trail-tested his own product on the Rim of Africa, he thought other hikers might also enjoy a lightweight meal that tastes the way it reads on the packet, and so Forever Fresh was born.
Taste & Texture
The taste and texture of almost all the Forever Fresh meals is as good as if you had just prepared the meal from scratch in a kitchen. Actually, that’s wrong… I couldn’t make a meal as tasty or well balanced as some of the Forever Fresh meals. They’re brilliant!
Naturally there are some exceptions. Due to the nature of the freeze drying process, some of the elements of a dish get broken up when dry, so the lasagne, although tasty, is more of a mince and pasta situation, rather than the layered creation you’re used to.
One or two hikers said they found some of the meals a little on the salty side, but other than that, every meal was a delight.
Knowing that everything tastes better out in nature, I prepared some of their meals at home and the experience was exactly the same: Restaurant-grade meals – just add water and heat.
Forever Fresh has taken an interesting approach to portion sizes. All meals are measured out at 300g “wet weight” and then get put through the freeze-drying process. As you can imagine, there is a lot more water and a lot less energy in 300g of vegetable lasagne, than there is in 300g of chilli con carne. This results in slight variation in “dry” meal weight and quite substantial variation in calories.
Thus, there is no set “serves 2” or “serves 1” instruction with these meals necessarily. Rather, you need to pick your meal, or meals, depending on the energy you require, based on your size and the difficulty of the hike. If you’re 1.8m tall and weigh 90kg+, you’re going to need more calories than someone smaller and lighter. Similarly, you’re going to require more energy for the Amatola than you would while slackpacking the Whale Trail.
At home, or on a relaxed weekend hike, I found I could share some of the more calorie-dense meals with my wife, but on a more strenuous adventure, I would happily finish a meal on my own.
Build your own
There is something for everyone. Vegetarian, wheat-free, you can even pick your sides, which is a feature I really enjoy. Sometimes you want a tasty meal, but you need to bulk it up a bit, in which case you can just add the calorie-dense side of your choice. They also sell single ingredients, like freeze-dried egg, or mixed-veg.
However, for the times that you’re wanting quality over quantity, the Forever Fresh sides are hard to beat. The added texture and taste of the Quinoa and Almond Flakes when paired with the Lamb Tagine is a match made in heaven.
In addition to being ultra-light, freeze-dried meals are also very energy efficient to prepare. The rehydration process requires no heat, only time. Once the food has sat for long enough to fully rehydrate, all you have to do is heat it to your desired temperature, which makes your gas last longer.
A process that worked well for me was to add water to my meal as soon as we would get to camp and by the time tents have been set up and you’ve put on some dry clothes, all you have to do is heat and eat. The packets state a soaking time of 8-10 minutes, but I found 20-25 minutes to be more realistic, especially for the meals that contain meat.
Forever Fresh have really gone the extra mile to make their products as sustainable and eco friendly as possible.
They decided to forego the cook-in-the-bag option so that they could keep all their packaging 100% recyclable. However, to accommodate those who enjoy the cook-in-the-bag convenience, they sell resealable, reusable, food-grade silicone pouches.
Their freeze-drying process is also 100% solar powered. This, combined with the fact that their meals are produced locally, requiring no international shipping, means that their carbon footprint is kept to an absolute minimum.
Proudly South African, eco friendly, lightweight, delicious and at a competitive price… Forever Fresh freeze-dried meals are hands down the best lightweight, ready-made meal available in South Africa. If you need more convincing, Forever Fresh won GO!-hiking magazine’s 2021 hiking meal shout out.
Check out their delicious range of freeze-dried meals at https://bit.ly/3u4DKH7.