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Review of APack MRE - Hearty Beef Stew

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 6:24 pm
by Jpak
The Mrs. was away, so it was just me and the dog this what better time than to try out an MRE. Up for review today is the civilian aPack MRE - Hearty Beef Stew made by Ameriqual. Per kman's previous post, Ameriqual Group was awarded a $170 million contract to manufacture MREs for the U.S. Armed Forces. Compared to real military MREs and other civilian MREs, the civilian aPack MRE outer pouch seems to be made of a thinner plastic material. Not a big deal if you don't plan on abusing your MREs...besides, I like to keep and store my MREs in the original factory box, so it's not a concern to me. I cracked the aPack open and layed out the contents:
aPack exterior pouch
aPack MRE Hearty Beef Stew opened and contents displayed
Hearty Beef Stew MRE contents:
1. Hearty Beef Stew entree
2. Crackers
3. Peanut Butter packet
4. Toaster Pastry Strawberry
5. Oatmeal cookie
6. Osmotic Raisins
7. Lemon drink mix
8. Pepper
9. Spoon
10. FRH Heater w/salt water packet

The first thing you really notice is that there is a lot of food in the MRE pouch. Take a look at the enclosed nutritional label and you'll see that this aPack MRE has a total of 1,310 calories. That's a pretty good amount of calories.
aPack nutritional label
The aPacks are different than traditional MREs in a couple ways. First, the aPacks use an FRH that is initiated using a packet of salt water that is included. Which is a pretty good idea, especially if you don't have access to a water source in an emergency. Secondly, the aPacks do NOT have a traditional side dish, rather, they pack in more snacks instead of a side dish. I've heard some people complain that the snacks are just basically junk food. I won't argue that point, but honestly, as long as you're not eating 2-3 of these MREs a day, everyday...I don't think it's much of a concern. And besides, the snacks make it easier to separate the MRE for on-the-go eating, especially during multi-day hikes, camping, etc. Third, the aPack does not have a traditional accessory packet, it has a spoon, a packet of pepper and a lemon drink mix, but does NOT have a salt packet, tobasco, napkin/wet nap, matches, coffee, creamer, etc. Not a big deal, but for me, I kinda like having those items in there...which you'll see why later.

Now, let me break it down by each component and by the actual progression of what I ate in order:

Lemon drink mix:
Mixed with cold water, this lemon drink mix was actually pretty good. Pretty sweet with a real tart lemon taste...kinda like Minutemaid lemonade, but sweeter...and no real noticeable aftertaste.
lemon drink mix

Toaster Pastry Strawberry:
If someone gave me this without the packaging, I would've thought it was a strawberry Pop Tart without frosting.
Toaster Pastry Strawberry
Crackers and Peanut Butter:
Nothing says MRE like crackers. I don't know why, but I love these crackers. There were 2 big square crackers in the pouch. I put the peanut butter on one cracker and ate the other cracker with the beef stew. The crackers were good and crunchy, but still held up to having peanut butter spread on it. The only downside is eating the cracker/peanut butter combo really, and I mean, really makes you thirsty. The peanut butter had a pretty rich peanut flavor, comparable to jif or skippy.
Crackers and Peanut Butter
Beef Stew:
Since I was at home, I decided not to use the enclosed FRH and salt water packet (I wanted to save it for later to heat up a side dish or something during a long hike). I tore open the pouch, placed it in a bowl and nuked it for about a minute. Not sure if you can see it in the photo, but there are 2 sets of tear notches on the entree for actually opening the pouch, and the 2nd placed about 1/3 of the way down from the top to tear after you've eaten a bit of the stew to make it easier to reach inside the pouch with your spoon. Good idea, especially if you're eating the entree right from the pouch.

Surprisingly, this beef stew was really good. Kinda reminded me of Dinty Moore beef stew...just not as rich. The beef chunks were tasty, but you could tell it was formed meat cut into nice square pieces. The veggies (potatoes, carrots and peas) were noticeable, maintained their shape, and actually had some bite to them...unlike some entrees where the veggies are basically mush. The stew was nice and thick and actually stuck to the spoon. Good beef stew flavor and no noticeable aftertaste. Only downside, I think the stew would've been awesome if I had a packet of salt and tobasco...I can't think of a more suitable entree where salt and tobasco would've been a perfect compliment. Whatever though...the stew was pretty damn good. Probably one of my favorites.
Beef Stew pouch
Beef Stew
Oatmeal Cookies and Osmotic Raisins:
The oatmeal cookie was kinda hard and crumbly, not too sweet, but I didn't really notice any oatmeal in it. I'm sure it's in there, it just didn't taste like an oatmeal cookie. Not bad, but not great either. The cookie also made thirsty. The raisins were too sweet for my taste and had a little aftertaste to it that I can only describe as a preservative-type residual taste. Honestly, I probably could've skipped the oatmeal cookie and raisins.
Oatmeal Cookie
Osmotic Raisins
At this point, I was pretty stuffed, and started feeling the effects of what I can only imagine was a sugar rush from all the snacks. I don't recommened eating everything at once...too much food and too much sugar in one sitting. Space out the snacks and you'll be good to go.

Overall, I'd rate this civilian aPack Hearty Beef Stew MRE as very good to excellent. I wouldn't toss this aPack MRE around due to the thinner outer pouch, but it has a lot of food to offer, and the beef stew entree was both tasty and filling. If I had it to do over again, I would definitely buy this civilian aPack MRE again.

Re: Review of aPack MRE - Hearty Beef Stew

Posted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 10:06 pm
by kman
Great review - nice bunch of pictures! I like the APacks, too. They make for good meals and then I usually have extra parts leftover for snacking later.

Re: Review of APack MRE - Hearty Beef Stew

Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 8:40 am
by Big Galloot
Jpak wrote: Only downside, I think the stew would've been awesome if I had a packet of salt and tobasco...I can't think of a more suitable entree where salt and tobasco would've been a perfect compliment. Whatever though...the stew was pretty damn good. Probably one of my favorites.
I was surprised to see, from your pic of the product label, that this entree had ONLY 19% of the RDA of sodium. I once comparison tested the Del Monte, Dinty Moore and military MRE Beef stews and they had 36%(Del Monte), 42%(MRE) and 52%(Dinty Moore) of the RDA for sodium. Fortunately, I don't worry about crap like cholesterol and sodium, but if you do that Ameriqual entree might be a healthy choice.

Good review.

Re: Review of APack MRE - Hearty Beef Stew

Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 3:23 am
by Jpak
Ya know I never even noticed that on the label...good eyes Big Galloot. No wonder I thought it needed more salt.