During my recent trip to South Dakota I found myself in a dilemma of figuring out how to heat my food and water on the trail, comply with TSA regulations and deal with extreme fire danger due to this summer’s drought. Over the last decade the TSA has tightened restrictions of what is allowed on airline checked baggage and backpacking stoves are on the list. The TSA states that camping or backpacking stoves can travel as carry-on or checked luggage only if they are empty of all fuel and then cleaned such that no fuel vapors or residue are noticeable. With that in mind I did not want to risk having to surrender my stove and fuel bottles so I decided to try out the Mountain Oven.
The Mountain Oven comes with everything you need for five uses and includes a large reusable insulated zipper pouch, a plastic storage bag, plastic bottle, 5 salt tablets and 5 heat activation pads. All you need is water and a Mountain House Meal (we used our favorite Backpacker’s Pantry meal pouches) and you are minutes away from a hot meal.
Operating the Mountain Oven is straight- forward and the directions are easy to follow.
1. Prepare your meal according to the package with ambient temperature water (Be sure to check that your meal does not require anything to be simmered, etc. This kit works best with products that just need to rehydrate with hot water.)
2. Prepare the heat source by placing one heating pad flat on the bottom of the insulated zipper pouch, Then fill the water bottle to the fill line, add the salt tablet and mix will. The salt will act as a catalyst in the oxidation of the magnesium in the heating pad producing magnesium oxide, hydrogen gas and most importantly heat. Be sure to keep the Mountain Oven away from open flames as hydrogen gas is flammable.
3. Pour the salt solution over the heating pad, then quickly add your prepared meal pouch and seal the insulated pouch to begin heating. As the chemical reaction progresses the bag will vent steam (a mixture of hydrogen and water vapor) for about 15-20 minutes.
4. After 20 minutes pull out your meal, mix and enjoy!
There are several reasons I like this method for heating up meals, but the most important is simplicity. Secondly the Mountain Oven is self-contained and does not need to be watched like a stove so you can be setting up camp while your meal cooks. It is also great for high fire risk areas. Third is the weight, with this kit coming in at only 15 oz (425 g). Finally this product is great for travel and is approved for your checked baggage by the TSA. Over =all this is a great product and receives full marks in my book.
Note: If you want to be extra safe when flying (or if you’re a curious chemist like me) contact Mountain House for the the material safety data sheet (MSDS) and attach this document to the outside of the bag so that TSA agents know what is inside.
Product: Mountain Oven, Flameless Heating Kit
Manufactuer: Mountain House