Feeding in the field
In order to work effectively on exercise, you need to be able to sustain yourself independent of prepared meals and dining facilities. This comes in the form of the 24 hour ration pack. In this lesson, you will learn about the contents of the pack and how to use and prepare the items correctly. First, there are some basic rules about hygiene we need to follow:
- Personal hygiene in the field is really important, especially if we are to keep free from any illnesses. Make sure you wash or clean your hands before eating, the ration pack contains some antibacterial wipes for this purpose. Alternatively, you can use alcohol hand gel in the field.
- Make sure you only eat the rations that are issued to you or at least from a trusted source.
- You will need water to cook with, and also to drink. Make sure you collect water from a trusted source, and only drink water that has been correctly purified in an emergency.
- Clean your cutlery, mess tins or mug after use.
- Dispose of your rubbish sensibly, into a rubbish bag if possible, if not you will need to roll up the used pouches and keep them in a bag in your bergan. Wild animals love to sniff out half eaten rations lying around a harbour area.
- And as with all other personal equipment, once you have used it; put it away again. Don’t leave kit and food lying around the harbour area.
There are often nuts contained in many of the ration packs, as well as other allergens. Check with your instructors before or at the time of issue that the meals are suitable for you.
24 Hour Ration Pack
Also known as either an Operational Ration Pack (ORP) or Multi-Climate Rations (MCR), your rations for a 24 hour period will come in a cardboard box or a bag. The packaging may be different, but the contents are the same. There are around 40 different menus, each one denoted by a number, with options for vegetarian, kosher and halal diets. Inside each ration pack is a combination of meal pouches that can be boiled ‘in-the-bag’ for mess free cooking, snack items such as biscuits and nut mixes, and drinks. All of the contents can be eaten hot or cold, and provides around 4,000 calories – more than enough energy to keep your body fuelled during a cadet exercise.
To prepare your meals you will need some issued equipment. The image gives you an idea of what you need.
- 24 hour ration pack
- Mess tin
- Dragon Fire (or hexamine) cooker
- Spare fuel for the cooker
- Full waterbottle
- Spork / spoon / fork
Setting up the Cooker
The new Fire Dragon cookers are excellent pieces of equipment. They are clean burning, easy to light, and virtually odourless. The cooker will be issued separately to the fuel, with each person being issued 6 tablets per 24 hour period. The cooker is reusable, so look after it and pack it away when you are done.
- Open up the cooker frame, and remove anything inside.
- There is a wind shield with the cooker. To fit this, slide the lips of the shield over either side of the cooker. Making sure that the word OUT is facing out.
- Find a sheltered place to cook and clear an area suitable for setting the cooker down; making sure that the side protected by the wind shield is facing the wind. It is difficult to blow out the flames once lit, but a strong wind will reduce the efficiency of the cooker to heat your water. Make sure the area you select is not near any flammable materials (such as your spare fuel), your sleeping bag or sitting on top of a groundsheet or under your basha. Ideally, clear an area about twice the size of the cooker of vegetation, and set it there.
- Unwrap a fuel tablet and set it in the fuel tray on the inside of the cooker ready to light.
- Before you light your cooker, have a mess tin filled half way with water close to hand. As soon as the tablet is lit, you will need to set the mess tin on top and start heating your water.
Preparing the Food
As we have already mentioned, the food can be eaten cold, however it is much more appetising when heated up. You will do this by boiling any foil bags in warm water. Once the water is boiling (or as hot as you can get it in the environment you are in), you will need to heat the pouches for around 8 minutes to get them warm all the way through.
- Breakfast can be one of two main types, either a boil-in-the-bag meal such as vegetarian all day breakfast, or something like sausage and beans, or it can be a foil pouch (not for boiling-in-the-bag) with a fruit muesli. You can add cold or warm (not boiling) water to this pouch for a mule breakfast cereal, with milk.
- The remainder of the main meals are in boil-in-the-bag pouches and consist of meals such as curry, pasta and meat balls, or stew type meals. These bags can be placed into the warm water in your mess tins, and left there for around 8 minutes. This will ensure they are warm all the way through. To get them into your mess tin, you will need to hold one end of the pouch, shake or squeeze the contents to one end, and fold the bag over. Also note, there are two tear notches at the top end of the bag. These are to help you ripping the top of the pouch off when your meal is heated.
Lunch and Savoury Snacks
- Lunch is intended to be a cold meal. You may get a pasta salad meal, or a packet of biscuits and a savoury spread, such as cheese (flavour). They are eaten without heating, and can be supplemented with any of the other items in your ration pack, such as powdered energy drinks and muesli bars.
- Fruit and nut mix, tins of nuts and oatmeal bars are also savoury snacks you can eat at any time.
- Also in the ratio pack are some sweet items. Normally a packet of boiled sweets, as well as some sugar free chewing gum and cereal bars.
You can make hot drinks using the water already boiled to heat your boil-in-the-bag meal. Nothing goes to waste.
- Tea bags – add a tea bag to hot water in your mug, and then sugar and whitener to taste.
- Instant coffee – add to hot water, and then sugar and whitener. Normally one sachet per cut, but the black mugs are huge, you might need two for an extra large cup of coffee.
- Whitener – this is a replacement for milk, normally adding one or two to a cup of tea or coffee does the job.
- Sugar for sweetening drinks.
- Hot chocolate flavour powder – this is the most sought after item in the ration packs. One packet of hot chocolate will be enough for a black plastic mug. Add less water to make a stronger hot chocolate.
- Two types, energy drink powders and normal juice drinks. Empty the sachet into your mug and then add water, and stir.
- Top tip! They are also great with hot water if you’re cold and wet.
- How you cook and prepare your food will be dictated by the environment. There may be tactical situations where cooking isn’t permitted after dark, or where the smell of burning fuel could give away your position.
- There is more than sufficient energy in the ration pack to keep you active. Digesting food also helps your body to keep warm, so in cold weather make sure you keep eating to maintain your body heat. Especially at night.
- In warm conditions, you will dehydrate more quickly. Make sure you keep taking in fluids, and use the energy drinks to keep your energy levels high.
That is the end of this lesson on feeding in the field. The way you cook in the field and the rations you enjoy eating the most will develop with time, so there is rarely a wrong way to do it; some methods are just easier than others!