TentMeals: Q&A with Jess & Tom

We were recently fortunate enough to have a Q&A interview with the Founder and Marketing Manager of one of our popular brands, TentMeals! TentMeals is one of the most unique meal ranges we stock, dedicated to no faff and hassle, just high-energy, healthy, practical meals. Read on to learn about the inspiration for TentMeals and how they are very proud to do things differently! A huge thank you to Founder and Marketing Manager Jess and Tom for their time! 

Tell us about your inspiration for starting TentMeals


Founded in 2014, TentMeals wanted to fill the gap for a healthy and practical camping meal.

It began in cold, snowy Alaska... Me, my bike, and way more stuff than I could really carry.

I had decided that I didn't want a 'normal' job, but I also didn’t know what I did want to do.

So I saved up and flew myself to Deadhorse - a very aptly named place on the far north coast of Alaska. No food shops, no homes, no trees... A very bizarre place. Nothing except an oil field, truckers, thousands of mosquitoes, and a long road heading south. 

The road was made mostly of mud – thick and slick from the pouring rain. The wind howled relentlessly. I quickly had a cold sweat hugging my skin, and could barely balance my bike it was so heavy.

On the first morning, I woke up to find my bags had disappeared from outside my tent. Left without any food or equipment, I wondered if I would have to head home just a day into my trip. I got lucky though. A patrol guy I bumped into somehow found enough military ration packs to see me through to the nearest shop, 500 miles down the road.

Some months and 3500 miles later I was in Vancouver, scrounging bits of work to buy my flight ticket home and start TentMeals, hoping never to eat such bad food again.

How has TentMeals grown since you started in 2014?


I started the company out of a tiny kitchen in a shared house I was living in at the time much to my housemate’s amusement. From there the company moved to my own kitchen in a rented flat, then my mum’s attic and FINALLY to a dedicated TentMeals special operations, utterly awesome mini-warehouse in Bangor North Wales. 

What was initially a one-person company with me doing everything from customer service to production to website design has now grown to include Marcsi as our chief meal maker, Karen managing all day-to-day operations, Tom doing our marketing and me overseeing it all and making sure the company runs effectively. 

It’s also now super nice to work with a bunch of amazing athletes who use our products in all sorts of wild locations and it’s great to be stocked by lovely stores like Base Camp Food. We’d also like to thank Base Camp Food for doing all our order dispatches for many years before we moved to our new premises, it was a lifesaver! 

In summary, we’ve gone from a tiny, optimistic start-up to a successful full-blown company and had a wonderful time along the way! We are aiming to keep growing and delivering wonderful products to wonderful wild peeps, all while maintaining our original friendly, helpful and ethically-minded style. 

What’s the biggest misconception about nutrition when adventuring?


At TentMeals we think the biggest misconception about adventure nutrition is that you need a great deal of short-burn sugary carbs. The kind of thing you get from a bag of sweets or a bar of chocolate. People also tend to underestimate the quantity of calories you burn in a hard day’s exercise out in the elements, you need a lot of food! Not just a lot… A LOT, A LOT. 

It's important to eat balanced meals with a large portion of slow-burn carbohydrates and a healthy dose of protein in order to restore the glycogen stores in your muscles and your liver and to start repairing those muscles. The number of calories required to fuel an outdoor adventure cannot be underestimated. 

Just maintaining your body temperature outside burns far more calories than a normal sedentary lifestyle. This is why all our products are nutritionally balanced meals and come in a chunky 800-calorie offering (we do 500-calorie options for smaller peeps) which makes it really easy to track your food intake and make sure your getting enough calories in! Forget recommended calorie intakes, get chomping! 

What’s your favourite TentMeals meal?


Our new tropical breakfast! It’s not quite out for sale yet but it's full of delicious things! Papaya, coconut, pineapple, linseed, goji berries…. All the good stuff! Perfect for stoking you up for a big day out in the hills and a nice new addition to our breakfast range. If you’ve eaten all our other meals it's time to suck on your spoon and get ready for this new one!

What makes TentMeals different from other brands?


I think what separates us most from our competitors is how dedicated we are to making the best product possible for adventures rather than simply doing what sells best. An example of this is how we compress all of our products into tiny packets to reduce packaging and minimise the amount of space they take up in your bag, despite how this reduces visibility on a shop floor. 

We also use all-natural ingredients and organic ones where we can, to make our meals as healthy and nutritious as they can be!  

We are also a very ethically minded company, deliberately working to minimise our impact on the planet and improve the experience of our customers and the welfare of our staff. All the packaging we ship products in is reused boxes from our supply chain and we use recycled plastic packaging to contain the food itself. 

We always try to go the extra mile for our customers, shipping to different locations along a trail or catering to any number of odd requests adventurers seem to have. Any spare product is either eaten by our staff, given to charity for free or given out free via our website to create a no-food waste company policy. 

Lastly, we have a flat PayScale with all our staff on the same wage regardless of job role. This is because we believe each team member's contribution is equally important and everyone should be treated equally. Giant pay disparities and lining shareholder pockets is not the kind of thing we will ever be interested in. We like our company to be fair, helpful, decent and kind. 

What’s been your favourite adventure in the UK?


My favourite adventure was an early overnight camping trip with my dad when I was about eight. We followed a section of the Cotswold Way through stunning rural scenery of gentle hills and magical native woodlands before bivvying on the top of Stinchcombe Hill with a glorious view of all the surrounding farmland and natural environment. 

Being the kind man that he is and me being the pestering, stubborn titch that I was, he carried a full set of frying pans and eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, hash browns and beans with him for our breakfast. These days I’d usually opt for a lightweight TentMeals porridge-based option (shameless plug), but the experience of watching the sun rise with an amazing breakfast, stunning views and hot nettle tea will stay in my memory forever. It’s an early experience that really got me hooked on the outdoors. 


What’s your number one adventure tip?


Always bring more food than you think on an expedition. Assuming you have lightweight meal options it doesn’t weigh much and the extra large portions and reserves that allow you to wait an extra day and sit out bad weather are always going to be a good thing! When you're working like a packhorse you should be able to eat like a hippo (not to shame hippos in any way). More, more, more! That should be the expedition catering mindset. 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published