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Self-heating meals - HotCan versus HotPack

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OK - maybe this isn't strictly 'tactical equipment' - but it surely is something that many of you may want to consider packing into that tactical bag! (If you can think of a better section of the forum for stuff like this - let me know.)




Let me start off by saying that it might seem a funny time of year to be looking into self-heating meal packs for airsofting - but the British weather being what it is it's quite nice to have the option of a hot meal to hand.


Anyway, the main point is - as we all know - a lot of the smaller sites can be somewhat bereft of facilities and don't normally have a 'chow wagon' or mess tent on hand. The best many can do is the dreaded burger! :)


So I decided to look into what self-heating meals that there were available here in the UK - and I was surprised to find quit a variety. I bought two of the best known - HotCan and HotPack (there is also a HotBox and Crosse & Blackwell's Heater meals.)


Here comes the science...

Er, well actually I dunno about the science, I did think it was all done by Pixies - but apparently both of these meal systems use a chemical crystal compound that reacts to either air or water.


Hotcan is air activated, by piercing the can, and Hotpack uses a small amount of water poured onto a special heater element inside the pack (the water is supplied in a small plastic pouch). After activation both products require around 8-10 minutes to cook, after which teh meal can be eaten directly from the package or emptied onto a plate or into a mess tin.


The Hotcan in use...

The first of the products I tried was the Hotcan self-heating meal. As the name suggests, this is a can system which consists of a 'pot' made up of an inner and outer can. The heating 'crystals' (or pixies) are contained between the two walls of the inner and outer cans.


The process of activation is quite simple. You remove the plastic lid and place it on the bottom of the can, then you pierce the pre-stamped holes in the lid of the dual cans with the supplied spike (push the spike all the way down - you'll hear the crystals crunching). Having done this peel back the inner can lid using the ring pull. At this point you will probably notice some hissing coming out of the holes you just pieced. Full and clear instructions are printed on the side of the can.


Having done this, set the can down for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be warned though, the outer can can get very hot!


The Hotpack - un-packed...

Next we have the HotPack - and to be honest these are very much like NATO style self-heating ration packs.


The box contains the two main packs; the heater pack with internal heating pad, and the meal pack (a bit like a boil in the bag meal). Along with this you also get a small pouch of water, a snazzy knife, fork and spoon set and a eating tray.


You open the heater pack by taring of the tab at the top and insert the meal pack - on top of the heating pad. Then you pour in the water on top of the heater pad and fold the heater bag over to seal in the heat. At this point you'll probably notice the chemical reaction and some steam might start to try and escape from the bag, so...


Place the heater bag inside the meal box (you didn't throw that away did you?) - this will help the cooking process and stop a lot of the 'steam' escaping. Again, wait the allotted time and do be careful when unpacking teh meal. You can either eat the meal from the bag, or pour it into the tray provided.


The results...

Well, both were tasty enough - I tried the Hotcan 'All Day Breakfast' and the Hotpack 'Pork and Beans' for comparison. Both tasted very much like a Heinz canned meal (I later tried a curry from both product lines and these were very nice indeed).


I have to say that I found the Hotpack a bit fiddley - but I guess once you have done it a couple of times you won't mind it. But Hotcan did seem to be the more convenient and easy to use - just pierce, open and stir!


Against this, Hotpack is probably easier to....er...pack! This box product will take up less space if that is a major concern. Also the outer can of the Hotcan does get very hot, and it stays hot for quite some time. So there is additionally a disposal issue (although this can is completely recyclable - presuming your site has a recycling bin!)


Having said that, I would still probably go with the Hotcan product - just because it is slightly cheaper and is just so easy to use.


Summing up

Well, both products have a 7 recipe range of meals - including good old British standards like Curry, Irish Stew, Beef Casserole, etc.


But there are a couple of slight issues - first of all there is the price, Hotcan is £3.99 and Hotpack is £4.45 and secondly you have to find a source where you can buy them (I got both online).


Having said that, if - like me - you can only afford to airsoft just once a month (poor me) then this ain't a big outlay. The advantages really do out-weigh the disadvantages as having a quick and easy hot meal to hand is a real moral booster. And best of all, there's no washing up or panicking when you remember you didn't get a new gas canister for your little stove thing!


Just to back this little review up I have made a demonstration movie, which can be seen here: Milgeek's Hotcan vs Hotpack video demo


I hope this mini-review has been of help. Milgeek




> Hotcan


> Hotpack

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