Current Retail: $9.50-$10.00
Historic Range: $4.50-$36.99
Reviewers Paid: $5.00-$7.99
BUY THIS. A comfort food staple, near-and-dear to me (my mom packed it in a thermos for my school lunches) that Mountain House nails. Whether or not you miss home on the trail, you do miss home-cooked meals, and if you tasted this one blindfolded, you'd swear you were at the family dining table.
A simple combination of ground beef, red chili beans, and elbow macaroni is married well with a chili sauce that has a spicy kick. Widely reviewed as one of the best meals MH has to offer, I'd place myself in agreement with the majority and say this one knocks it out of the park.
- "Stick to your ribs" filling
- Nice spicy kick in sauce
- Feels like home-made comfort food
- Simple preparation
- Could afford more time to rehydrate than suggested (+10 min.)
- Spicy (only a negative to those who avoid spicy foods)
- Serving size an overestimation
Par for the Mountain House course: practically bulletproof, very lightweight for a two-portion meal (4.80 ounces), and the top flap folds down easily to minimize the volume this will take up in a pack.
I've read reviews ranking this among the top three Mountain House meals, and I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype, and try it for myself.
Here's a shot of the 2-serving bag:
INGREDIENTS AND NUTRITION FACTS
PREP AND COOKING
All I need to cook this is a stove and small pot: boil 2 cups (or 16 ounces) of water, pour it inside the re-sealable pouch, and let it sit for 8-9 minutes.
Contents prior to re-hydration:
TIP: let this one rest inside the bag a little longer than the 8-9 minutes MH suggests. The macaroni and beans reconstitute just fine, but the freeze-dried beef requires a little longer than usual if you'd like to avoid it being chewy. It still tastes fine, but if you prefer a softer texture, let this one chill in the bag a couple more minutes than your typical MH meal.
Wait 8-9 minutes, open the bag, and here's what it looks like:
All I need to eat this is a spork: you can eat straight from the bag, and better yet, once you've finished eating, you can pack your trash into the bag and seal it up to keep the scents inside.
Mac? You betcha!
Alright! Done and done with that part of the review!
But seriously, apart from delivering on the obligatory components of the dish, Mountain House really does knock it out of the park with this meal.
The texture is dead-on, and it doesn't feel like a freeze-dried meal at all. That said, it does taste noticeably better than what you'd find in a can of Chef Boyardee, and has a little more "al dente" firmness than would most canned pastas.
My favorite part was the unexpected, spicy kick the sauce had to it. You could assume a meal in a bag (for lack of a better way to put it) would taste about as exciting as it sounds. Not the case, here. This one has a little bite than jumps out at your taste buds, and - if you've been eating bland food for most your trip - this will wake them back up.
Spicy? Yes. Hot? No. If you want a legitimate kick, toss a packet of hot sauce in to raise it up to your masochistic and desired level of heat intensity.
Here're the contents of the meal, shown plated, to give a better view of the serving size and ingredients:
SATIETY AND ENERGY
Great. A really generous helping of food. This was a full meal for me, and although it did make for a filling meal for one, I can't say this would be enough food for two people.
Being carb-heavy (heck, "mac[aroni] is half of the dish's name!!!) I would be mindful of when you eat this one if you don't want to feel compelled to nap after eating it. I'm the kind of guy who prefers a larger meal toward the end of my day, so this isn't something I'd make for lunch. This has "dinner" written all over it.
SEASONING AND TIPS
By itself, to be 100% honest, this dish is fine. It's already a five-stars-on-Trailspace meal. Being a Midwestern boy who spent his college years with a couple guys from Cincinnati, I can't help but top my chili (and chili mac) with a healthy sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese. On the trail, either grate a little bit off the chunk you're carrying around, or carve off a few pieces and let 'em melt in with everything else. It makes it gooey in a good way, and once you've got cheese atop it, you'd swear you were having a home-cooked meal. Yeah. It's that good.
Me being me, I - naturally - "made it rain" black pepper on this dish. It's my go-to seasoning. You can pick up packets for free at any fast food restaurant, and it's great for hikers with hypertension (high blood pressure) like myself. When you're eating high-sodium backpacking meals, you try and cut back on your sodium consumption where ever else you're able.
Much like the capacity rating on tents is usually over-estimated, the same holds true to serving sizes with these meals. I would consider this a filling meal for one average-sized male adult, but no more than that. If you wanted a lighter lunch, I would suggest splitting it, but as a satisfying dinner, this isn't feeding any more than one person.
Definitely a late fall or cooler weather dish, too. Not like you can't eat it another time, but I think it'd be especially satisfying in the late fall on a crisp night outside.
5 stars, and quite possibly the first things I've ever reviewed for Trailspace I have absolutely nothing negative to say about. I like spicy. Some may not. I enjoyed this as a one-person meal. Some splitting it may not consider it filling.
Would I eat it every day on the trail? Considering there aren't any discernable vegetables, well, no, I probably would not. Would I make this a "special occasion" treat to celebrate a milestone or my first/last night on a trip? Oh, most definitely.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $7.99
Chili Mac with Beef on a backpacking trip, it's great and fits well with meals around the fire. I'd recommend this (higher than the Beef Stroganoff...though still good) on any outing.
- Quick meal
- 3 servings?...just one for me really
- Ingredients/additives can be overwhelming
Like most Mountain House meals, prep is very easy. Though similar to the Beef Stroganoff (meat and noodles), I prefer the Chili Mac because of the flavor and it filled me up more.
All of these flash frozen, dehydrated meals have a long shelf life; most are 10 years. Because of this, if you look at the ingredient list, it can be daunting...but isn't most of what we eat nowadays quite ridiculous.
Unfortunately, the 2 or 3 servings that is labeled really wasn't that for me. I can eat most of these meals in one sitting. While it wasn't my equivalent of being 2 or 3 servings, it did fill me up for what I ate.
I usually begin a day of backpacking with colder meals/snacks like bars and finish the night with warmer meals. Helps me to unwind and keep my body working the meal while digesting, keeping me warm.
Overall, this is a tasty meal. Great for long backpacking trips as it is lightweight and flavor and prep are top notch. I'd recommend this flavor to others.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: ~$5
One of the best tasting foods they offer. Taste is really great, very light weight and super easy to make right in its own bag.
- Light weight
- Easy to make in its own bag
- Can't think of any
This is one of their best tasting meals and I have tried most of them. Very good flavor, you will hardly know you are eating dehydrated food. Filling and very easy to prepare in its own bag, just need to boil some water.
I would definitely recommend this one for a long hike or a backpacking trip. They are lightweight and don't take up too much room in your pack. They are well sealed so you can squish them in a tight spot. Killer for an energy boost.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $5.49
My wife and I were camping and tried this one night.
To my amazement my wife really liked it. We are leaving on a week-long camping trip and she asked my to pick up this for one night's meal. Excellent product.
Price Paid: $5
Whenever I am planning out a backpack trip or just a day trip, my husband always asks for this Chili Mac. Though it is not gourmet food, once it is rehydrated, you would never realize it was not fresh to start.
And bears like it too! I was making this for lunch on a day trip in Shenandoah National Park, and a black bear tried to join us. I guess it smelled good to him too.
Original Review: April 27, 2010
I love the stuff, always keep a couple of bags in my fishing boat.
Try adding a 10.5 oz. can of black beans to the mix before serving and if available eat with taco chips.
With the added beans, it's more than enough for two people.
One word of warning, if you're not used to the spices, it will backfire - enjoy
Update: September 25, 2011
Try adding a small can of black beans in the mix, it's even better. I always carry a couple of pouches on my fishing boat, just in case.
Price Paid: $5 +/-
A great meal, just let it re-hydrate a little longer than directions advise in anything other than warm conditions.
- Great taste
- Easy to prepare
- Alone, not a two-person dinner
Excellent meal. The spice adds a little feeling of warmth in cool conditions. Taste is excellent.
I find increasing re-hydration time by 5-15 minutes (especially in colder weather) improves the foods consistency.
Not a true two-person meal. I think you need an entree per person, especially if you've been carrying a pack all day. If backpacking as a couple, an entree like this with an added side (something like Mountain House Fire Roasted Vegetables) and a two-person dessert (Backpacker Pantry Mocha Mousse Pie), will do.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $6
All in all, at the end of a long day, this provides a warm meal that is very easy to prepare but the taste could be better.
- Full meal ~500cal, 21g protein
- Vacuum sealed to save pack space
- Not particularly great tasting
- Took longer then stated to rehydrate
- Too much sodium
I found the meal overall to taste okay. There was some spice to it but it was one noted and could use some more complexity.
Comparing it to a standard canned chili mac found on the shelf it was just a notch below. I realize that it may be asking a lot from a cheap and easy hiking meal and in the future I will probably bring my own spices to bring it to taste (which may be what was intent by the manufacturer). I should be noted though that most of my family did enjoy eating it and I may just be picky.
From a nutritional point of view this meal provides a good amount of calories, protein and carbs for a dinner at the end of a long hike but contains too much sodium. At about 54% of your daily sodium this is too high unless you consume most of your salt at the end of the day.
To cook this meal all you have to do is boil 1 3/4 cups of water, add to the bag and seal it until. The instructions stated that it should take about 7-8 minutes to rehydrate but when I tried it after 8min the noodles were still slightly hard. It ended up taking about 15min for the noodles to soften to the texture that I prefer.
Overall this is a decent meal because of its convenience, space and weight savings at the cost of some taste that can be remedied by bringing your own spices.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $6.50
Original Review: May 22, 2012
Very tasty, but buy two per meal.
- Taste - Excellent
- Texture - Good
- Packages are small
This is one of the standards for dehydrated food. It's tasty and has a bit of a zing from the chili.
Nice texture - it's hard to tell the hamburger is reconstituted. Macaroni and beans make for a satisfying meal, and there's enough calories to get your strength back for another day of hiking. Be warned, the chili gave me a bit of heartburn, and you may be producing noxious odours later in the tent at night. Fine if you bring some Tums just in case, and if you're bunking alone.
Cooks up quickly and without any fuss. Just add boiling water, re-seal the bag and let it sit, then eat straight out of the bag 9-10 minutes later. Unlike that other standby, Lipton's Sidekicks, there is no simmering involved, so you really save on fuel.
I bought the freeze-dried Pro Pak version at 115 grams instead of the regular, larger one (135 gms), and I found it just wasn't enough food for me after a day of backpacking. My tentmate was fine with a single serving, though. Notes about the Propak; as well as taking up less space in the pack, the vacuum-packed bags don't expand at elevation, so you don't find your pack full of puffy bags when you get to 2000 metres.
One person suggested adding a can of black beans, and that would certainly help, and this would certainly make a good base for any number of dishes. I'm just not fond of having to carry the extra weight of canned foods. Kind of defeats the purpose of buying ultralite meals. In future, I'll just buy two of these for myself.
Update: August 11, 2013
An old standard improved even more.
- Vacuum-packed to take up less space
- Won't expand at elevation
- Excellent flavour
- Excellent texture
- A bit spicy - nothing boring here
- A bit spicy - noxious fumes possible
This is one of the standards for dehydrated food and the Propak version retains all the advantages of the original. It's very tasty, has a great texture, and has a bit of a zing from the chili. Now one of the dehydrated foods I always buy when setting out on a long trip.
It's hard to tell the hamburger is reconstituted. Macaroni and beans make for a satisfying meal, and there's enough calories (470) to get your strength back for another day of hiking. Be warned, the chili gave me a bit of heartburn, and you may be producing noxious odours later in the tent at night. Fine if you bring some Tums just in case, and if you're bunking alone.
Cooks up quickly and without any fuss. Just add boiling water, re-seal the bag and let it sit, then eat straight out of the bag 9-10 minutes later.There is no simmering involved, so you really save on fuel.
I bought the freeze-dried Pro Pak version at 115 grams instead of the regular, larger one (135 gms), and I found it just wasn't enough food for me after a day of backpacking. Adding something extra like bread or a bun would take care of that, I think. My tentmate was fine with a single serving, though.
Notes about the Propak; as well as taking up substantially less space in the pack, the vacuum-packed bags don't expand at elevation, so you don't find your pack full of puffy bags when you get to 2000 metres.
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $6.50
This is one of my favorite dehydrated meals. It taste great, is very filling and just a little spicy....not to much or to little. Also works great for warming up on cold nights.
I think Mountain House makes some of the best dehydrated meals available and the Chili Mac with Beef is my favorite from them.
Price Paid: $5