Some items just scream out overpriced gimmick from the off, and you feel like the entire review process is just a precursor to the obvious slating you’re going to inevitably give the product at the end. That was how I initially felt about the Hotcan, and whether or not it got the inevitable panning, you’ll need to read on (or look at the stars just up to the left if you want to cheat!)
The Hotcan is, put simply, a self heating meal that claims to heat your food to piping hot in 8-12 minutes due to an exothermic reaction between the limestone and water in the outer section of the tin. Simply pierce the water sachets to release the krakken.. er, water, and hopefully you end up with a hot meal. More on that later, here’s how Hotcan put it:
Inside is a can of food surrounded by an outer can and in the space between the two cans is a water sachet and processed granular limestone (the same basic compound found in some toothpastes).When you insert the spike into the three holes in the top rim of the can this pierces the water sachet, the water then flows into the limestone and a natural reaction occurs between the limestone and water which produces heat. This warms up the food inside the can and within 8-12 minutes it will be a perfect eating temperature of 60-70°C
You have the choice of seven meals, Bangerz and Beans, Beanz and Balls, Chicken Curry, Tortellini Bolognase, Vegetable Chilli, Cheese and Tomato Ravioli and a Rice Pudding. We tested the Bangers with Beans, Beanz and Balls and the seemingly discontinued Spicy pasta. None of these are going to win gourmet awards, but that’s somewhat missing the point. These are sturdy meals that self heat, competing with other ready meals.
So armed with our three Hotcans, and sceptical to the extreme, we set off on the coldest day so far this winter in order to give them a proper test. We carried them to the summit of Foel Fras, at 942m had the season’s first dusting of snow, and a keen breeze had made us rather expectant of the result. We wanted to get warm.
So we all opened our cans, and pierced the water with the supplied spike. This was tough in places, and i used a flask to force it all the way in. So we waited. And waited some more, before finally we were rewarded with a display of steam that at least made it look like it was heating our food. Of course, mine was the last one to start steaming as I anticipated cold Beanz and Balls to accompany the others that were rapidly cooling in these conditions.
Of course, the food was still cold. This didn’t stop one of the cans being eaten, a lot too soon, and so hadn’t had the time to warm through properly. The two cans that were given the time, were warm enough, and we’d obviously not left them long enough as they were still warming up as we were finishing off, almost to the point of being too hot to eat. Considering it was well below freezing, the Hotcans passed this test with flying colours. A word of warning here is that if it gets too cold, then the water in the Hotcan will freeze and it won’t work!
Between the mmms, and uhus, and chewing, I managed to get a few murmurs of approval from the crew that they’d also passed the taste test. Basically, the beans were as good as Heinz, and not budget quality as expected. They had a spicy tang which I liked, and was most welcome on a cold day like this one.
There are a few things though, that we weren’t as keen. They’re reasonably heavy, with the empty can weighing in at over 450g plus 415g of product making a total of 865g. This is OK for a day walk, where a flask would probably weigh more, but puts them out of the reckoning for backpacking. I’d consider taking one on an overnight wild camp, but you’d have no way of warming up drinks or other food.
The price is rather high as well, but while you’ll baulk at £3.99 when you’re buying them, it’s money well spent when you’re scoffing them on the hill. I’m also uncertain about the waste left afterwards, as the can can’t be recycled from what I could see. It’s a shame it doesn’t easily dismantle for recycling.
In summary, the Hotcan certainly lives up to it’s name! Even in the subzero conditions encountered, we had piping hot food that left us more than satisfied during a hard day on the hill.