Reviewing an MRE is a pretty grim experience for a foodie like me, but if nothing else – this has definitely given me renewed appreciation for our soldiers. I know I sure as hell wouldn’t be happy eating this stuff on a regular basis; they deserve an award based on having to eat this stuff alone.
SoPakCo MRE Meal Ready to Eat Sure-Pak – Amazon / eBay
As you read through this review, please appreciate the fact that I am reviewing this product in the comfort of my own home and am obviously not in a survival situation or in any kind of emergency situation. If I was ever truly hungry (a hard task, I find, in North America) I am sure my criticisms of this MRE would quickly disappear. With that said, I opted to give my honest opinion based on my current frame of mind, which is to say, a pretty spoiled westerner who has never had to deal with severe food shortages.
There are plenty of survival foods you can just pop over to the grocery store to build up a stockpile of, ones that will last as long as these MREs if stored properly. So in my opinion, MREs are unnecessary and redundant for prepping for emergencies (and a little expensive as well). I would consider them a decent option for a bug out bag, because of their compact size and their convenience. But at home, I’d rather spend the prepper food budget in other ways and not blow it on these.
This MRE by SoPakCo came in a sealed bag made of pretty tough (thick) plastic. I dare say it would handle rough handling easily, and I am 99% sure it’s pretty much impervious to water damage of any kind. Definitely a pro, but I wish it was vacuum packed instead, as I feel a lot of space is wasted by air. Seeing as how I prefer small rucksacks (24-30 L capacity) space is always a premium.
Inside the SoPakCo MRE is a pretty solid plastic spoon. The only utensil provided, but for this MRE, it certainly suffices. After sampling the main course, which is basically mush, it’s safe to say you won’t be needing anything else to eat this thing.
Below is the total breakdown of what you get. As you can see, the labeling is somewhat spartan and utilitarian in nature with a very drab military look to everything. Definitely looks the business.
First things first, we started with the lemon and lime drink powder. Its general appearance is like one of those pre-workout energy drinks. Feels very chemically and smells like some sugary sour candies.
Taste was reminiscent of liquefied sour patch kids, which isn’t bad at all. I imagine that this drink packs a lot of vitamin C (as well as a crap-ton of sugar!), and I definitely felt a boost of energy after drinking even a small portion of it.
The texture is decent with no grittiness. This statement would be unremarkable albeit the fact that the rest of the stuff in the SoPakCo MRE has such piss poor consistency that I felt it was worth mentioning the drink is the exception to this rule.
Needless to say, that artificial coloring is really something. I did check to see if it glowed in the dark, but alas, no.
Overall – am pretty happy with this drink.
Next up on the tasting block – the single cookie. Comes in a drab vacuum pack and is all business. No advertising here – though I guess they felt a cookie could speak for itself.
Out of the package it crumbled immediately. This was not due to poor handling, but rather because of its bone dry texture. It will break apart if you look at it the wrong way.
Taste however was decent. Elise tells me it basically tasted like Mr. Christie’s Chips Ahoy! cookies, specifically the “Candy Blasts” kind (known here in Canada as Chips Ahoy! Rainbow). As far as I was concerned, the cookie was definitely edible. Between the two of us, we polished this one off pretty quick, and I would definitely munch on one of these again. The highlight of the SoPakCo MRE for sure.
Crackers next. As you can tell by now, for the most part, I went for the least offensive foods first before tackling the main dish – what I feared from the start would be glorified dog food. The cracker, much like the cookie, also came in a drab vacuum pack – nice, but again, why vacuum pack all the foods individually, but keep the overall package full of air? Does not make much sense to me.
Bone dry, crumbly, and plain as heck. Absolutely no seasonings (including salt) so it’s not a saltine, but rather just a plain cracker. I presumed it was supposed to be eaten with the processed cheese so I opted to tackle that next.
Texture-wise, this stuff felt ghastly. For sure one of the most horrendous textures in the entire SoPakCo MRE. It had a Play-Doh-mixed-with-gravel-like texture when it was still inside the package, and the instructions helpfully asked you to knead it prior to opening (something you never want to read about your food – unless you’re baking and will need to knead dough).
Completely horrifying kneading this, and I felt a cold sweat over what was going to come out of that plastic package.
As you can see the processed cheese is just… there are no words. Its a doughy sandy substance with a very strong chemically smell. I was thoroughly horrified, but Elise (brave woman), bit the bullet and tried it out. It apparently tasted better than it looked (trust me, the pictures don’t do the horrifying way it looked justice), and was bland with an after taste of processed cheese. Elise compared the combination to a poorly made/flavourless Ritz Handi-Snacks.
Would personally not recommend unless actually starving.
We tried the cocoa beverage next. It came in a needlessly complicated bag designed for mixing the resulting chocolate drink to a suitable consistency.
In practice it works and tastes like a really crappy run-of-the-mill hot chocolate, though with a slightly sandy, gritty texture. If the water was hot I imagine it would be much better – but flavour-wise, this drink was paletable. The lemon lime drink, however, was definitely the better of the two.
The main dish – Mexican rice and chili with beans.. or so the packaging says.
Texture felt absolutely horrendous through the package, but I figured this is the main course, so it shouldn’t be that bad. I had hope (not HIGH hopes, but hope nonetheless). Elise was skeptical.
It should be noted that no instructions were given on either of the main dishes – presumably means it’s just ready to eat.
From the bag, the rice looks like chewed up and spat out Doritos (no, I am actually not exaggerating here). I could barely get myself to take a bite, but when I did, what resulted was a very chalky texture on the outside with a not-so-pleasant, sometimes mushy inner texture. The beans literally look like dog vomit with the bits being interspersed throughout. Not at all my cup of tea (in case you hadn’t noticed).
The look of the chili on its own wasn’t much better. Glorified dog food is spot on what it looked like (amongst other – worse – things).
The flavor of the Mexican rice is surprisingly not bland and actually has a half-decent kick to it. Not spicy, but certainly not plain. It gets spicier the more you eat it, though never over the top spicy. That being said, my guess is you won’t want to continue taking bites, as the grittiness of the texture is borderline unbearable.
At this point in the game, I was questioning why I put myself through testing this product when there were plenty of other reviews I could have been doing. I kid you not, it felt like bits of sand were in the food.
Individually, the two parts of the main dish are simply horrendous, but mixed together, there is a marked improvement (as per what Elise relayed to me as I looked on in horror). She insisted it still wasn’t good when combined, however, the two together were not completely inedible. I did finally make an effort to try the combination, and once I took a bite, felt like my taste buds were trying to kill me.
The issue with all the “bad” parts of this MRE (read: would-eat-these-only-in-starvation-mode foods) is not merely the taste (or lack thereof), but rather the biggest culprit is that ghastly texture.
Why couldn’t they figure out a way to make this food smooth? Or at least not sandy? At this point I prefer baby food. And I mean really heavy preference here.
Again, if I were starving I would be grateful to have this, but seeing as how I was not, I found myself shuddering in fear. Even thinking about tasting this again gives me goosebumps. Elise states that even if she were in a survival situation, she’d probably try to scarf the meal down fast enough that she wouldn’t have to really taste it.
I kept what I assumed to be the best for last. A “Soldier Fuel” energy bar! It’s basically a peanut butter power bar. How can you possibly mess up using peanut butter as a base?
Repeat after me SoPakCo – food should not be shiny. “Shiny” is not an appropriate descriptor for something I am about to consume, and yet here I was looking at the glossiest slab of what looks like pure sticky plastic with a somewhat strong peanut scent.
Took a bite – flavour is actually somewhat palatable. It’s reminiscent of a stale generic peanut butter power bar. I could definitely eat this if it were not for the (you guessed it!) texture. It’s both chewy and brittle at the same time, and I found it very jarring. Elise couldn’t stand it.
I am almost 100% sure that this thing is chock full of protein and nutrients, so that’s an enormous plus, and if I was peckish, I could chow down on it – but it wouldn’t put a smile on my face.
Finally we had an assortment of seasoning packages as well as instant coffee + creamer. I didn’t bother to test those out as they are as generic as they come.
Washed my mouth out with the remainder of the lemon lime juice and thanked my lucky stars that the taste testing for the review was over. Again, I am so sorry soldiers. You deserve so much better than this.
Yes, I was whining throughout the taste testing for this review, and whilst I may have (a teensy bit!) exaggerated things, it has reinforced my long-held belief that MREs are not good survival food. They’re, to me, a complete waste of time and money. Extremely expensive, don’t store as long as dehydrated foods, and taste like crap to boot.
If you have any concern for your taste buds, heed my word: stick to power bars, jerky, and a work out energy drink. Stick to stockpiling long-term survival foods you can buy at any grocery store. And if you just must buy some sort of pre-made pre-packaged survival meals, for heaven’s sake do it with dehydrated foods (like the ones Valley Food Storage provides) and not MREs! It will be cheaper, will last long enough, and you won’t have a mutiny in your mouth once you finally have to eat it!
As a side note, this MRE is from a pretty popular site online (SoPakCo.com), but I will state that it’s my only reference to MREs – so please drop a comment if you have suggestions that are actually edible. While I don’t have any other experience in this area, making me hesitant to test out more MREs, if you promise me you have tasted better, I’ll take your word and give the product you suggest a go.
If your cheese was that consistency it was a meal that had ben stored improperly for to long ,probably taken to the Sandbox and back.
Thomas Xavier says
Makes sense Sam, frankly I will take your word for it as I have no intention of trying that again. Hah.
You sound like a whiny little puss. There’s nothing bad about it if you’re hungry. And the kind you’ve got — Sopakco — is a civilian version. And extremely expensive? No. If you know where to buy them, they’re less than $5.40 a meal, so that actually makes them quite feasible and smart for any food to throw in your bag. Take the silver soon out of your mouth and eat some food that the rest of the world eats. Some of the best food I’ve had was moldy bread, beans and rice with worms
Thomas Xavier says
Did the moldy bread, beans and rice with worms affect your literacy? Second paragraph cupcake;
Radio Guy says
Just my generic take on MREs: They are meant to give a body calories for a good workout.
They were NEVER meant for survival food for civilians. I have bought a lot of them to keep
in my gear as I worked in remote locations and flew to mountaintops where I could be stranded for a while. I was curious about taste so had to open two while sitting in my office.
One was 5 years old and the other 2 years old. I was pretty impressed with the taste considering so many people said they were horrible. (Don’t ask me which brand they were)
I do agree that taste can be an issue if you are used to standard food at home. But like you said, when you are hungry most anything will do.
As for the packaging, remember they are designed to be dropped out of a plane and survive. The vacuum sealed packages are easier for the manufacturer. The outer package is for survival. Yes a lot of bulk but you are not supposed to carry a case with you! I have one backpack with just MREs…I fit 10 of them in so enough for 5 days for two people. I would suggest having a side by side taste testing of different brands. (the same food) and then tell us if you have a preference! BTW I did pick meals that I would like, not what a what you get is what you get situation.
I know I’m commenting on an old article, but if you want to learn more about various countries’ MRE’s, go to youtube and look up Steve1989. He’s very knowledgeable and has a lot of videos that are quite informative and entertaining.
Thomas Xavier says
I’ll check it out, thanks Eric!
Some MRE’s are very very good and some are very very bad. Different companies make them and each nation has their own standards. Some companies don’t even produce the food packets themselves and only assemble the various items into the outer wrapper and heat seal the plastic for boxing and shipping. This can explain why some love them, some hate them and others just shrug and eat because they’re hungry. In over 48 years and experiencing both mess halls of nearly every NATO member nation as well as their field rations, there are some I thoroughly enjoyed and some field rations that neither stray dogs or rodents would do more than sniff, cock their head and run (not walk) away.
Soldiers gripe about mess hall chow too now and then. Personally I never had a bad meal at any enlisted men’s mess regardless of service type, and when given an option I tend to be a very picky eater – there are some foods I just don’t like but will eat when there’s nothing else available.
Getting back to your article, I’ve had some of that company’s food before myself and your opinion doesn’t stray very far from my own. Given a choice I’d never buy from them, and given no choice in the field I try to trade them off when and where I can.
Please note that in the last decade and more we have had far more forces deployed in the field than in the years prior. In the 90’s finding surplus MRE cases was more difficult and most of the cases were near the end of their shelf life. In the last decade the orders for MREs have skyrocketed compared to the previous decade. With the rise in demand also rose more companies to produce them. Some who excelled received many repeat orders. Those that didn’t had to find other outlets for their wares and it’s mostly these that you find dumped on the marketplace.
Like you I prefer to stock other food types but where time, lack of cooking availability, or lack of water for rehydration of food stuffs, MREs do have their place. Oft times in the desert I find it more palatable to hump an extra liter or two of water to rehydrate a meal than carry a known bad MRE. The best course of action I could recommend is try some from different manufacturers and only buy stocks from those you like. As a civilian it’s an option that, unfortunately, servicemen don’t have.
Thomas Xavier says
A most excellent comment Paladin, which countries/companies MRE was the best in your opinion? Now I am curious to try some more out. Glad to here that my experiences with Sopakco were not isolated thanks to your input. Always good to know I am not crazy! ;)
You probably reviewed the newer ones. If I kept anything it was the tabasco, the sugar/creamer/hot choc mix and the cheese spread. Shelf bread or pilot cracker with ham slice or rehydrated pork patty (old MRE from years ago) with cheese was a quick gut filler.
Mix the sugar, creamer, hot choc mix (more than one pack if you can get it from your buddies) in a bit of water in your canteen cup and you have a sugar boost we called ranger pudding.
Loved the review. Funny as hell. See if you can find any C rats around and try them. First you have to carry them on a hike. haha
Thomas Xavier says
…you want me to…try more MRE’s? What did I ever do to my readers to deserve such things!
Thanks for dropping by Dave, definitely curious about the older MRE’s, anything with Tabasco in it is a step up in my books!
I have lived on MREs for 9 months straight, along with my fellow Marines. We got two hot meals out of those nine months. I only got one because I was holding my plate in one hand and my buddies in the other. He was on watch in a fighting hole. A stiff wind picked up and knocked the plate out of my hand. I was always fine with MREs, so I told him I had already eaten my hot meal. I liked crushing up the crackers and adding them to what ever and adding hot sauce.
I really enjoyed your artical and your descriptions of the food. I got a good chuckle.
Have a good one
Thomas Xavier says
I feel for you. Did you at least get a citation for enduring cruel and unusual punishment?
So the real question to me after any MRE or even most foods that are destined for long term storage is….. how was the GI tract in the 48 hours following the consumption of it? To me that is the big thing with foods like this. You would not want to eat them while bugging in, but if you are bugging out (or take them on long distance multi-day hikes you do not want stomach/bowel issues.
I do not understand why they would add vitamin C to the “cheese”. I add a citric acid to nut milks at times to promote a curdling effect (usually just add some apple cider vinegar to do the trick since it has a lot of citric acid), but an animal cheese using “enzymes” should not need an extra curdling agent.
Thomas Xavier says
For me, slight constipation which is easily fixed with an extra bowl or two of tobacco and an espresso. I wouldn’t want to deal with this “food” and its effects for prolonged periods of time.