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.
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.