Hiking, backpacking, climbing, camping, and other rigorous outdoor activity mandates the need for premium nutritional and powerful body fuel. Fitting in all five food groups when you’re hitting the trails, however, can be quite the challenge. How can do you fit in all those proteins, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals while keeping your pack light? You will need a lightweight and compact food source that is nutritionally complete. One of the simplest sources are dehydrated and freeze-dried food packs.
While some might cringe at the thought, freeze-dried food no longer consists of the chalky and pasty astronaut ice cream that you tried as a kid. These days, freeze-dried food offers both nutrition and flavor. You simply need to know what to get, and that’s where we can help. Below, we’ve reviewed ten of the best freeze-dried meals currently available. These products have been carefully selected based on qualities such as flavor, texture, ease of use, real-life application and overall value. Let’s have a look.
With authentic chili flavor and real beef, this macaroni helper style meal is a hardy and filling option. Ingredients include cooked beef, enriched macaroni, kidney beans, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. It’s much better than the old MREs that experienced hikers may have become accustomed to. Mountain House has been perfecting the art of meals on the go for over 50 years, so it’s no wonder their meals are enjoyable. Mountain House claims each pouch offers a whopping 32 grams of protein, but remember, that’s per pouch, not per serving. You’ll get 2.5 servings in a pack. While this would normally mean that you can feed two people comfortably, we have found that if you don’t bring along some high-quality snacks, this single-serving isn’t enough. You may wind up eating the whole pack yourself. For this reason, we have reduced our value rating. Still, the flavor and texture are good, and preparation couldn’t be easier: add hot water to the pouch, close it, and wait for it to re-hydrate.
Another delicious Mountain House option, this chicken and dumplings meal is tastes great. It contains peas and carrots, two foods that re-hydrate well and maintain flavor easily. The other main ingredients are freeze-dried chicken and then a blend of spices and ingredients to create a thick white gravy. Unlike many freeze-dried meals, this option meal gives you the home-cooked flavor. It’s hard to botch chicken and dumplings, and we are happy to say that Mountain House has nailed this one. We also appreciate the salt balance. You won’t have to guzzle water after eating this meal. It’s easy to digest and ideal for people with stomach sensitivity. However, this meal is a bit bland. If you’re super hungry after a long day, it tastes great. If you’re eating something else with it, it may feel a bit lackluster. That being said, this is our favorite Mountain House freeze-dried meal flavor.
Here we have yet another fine and highly-rated mountain house meal option. This meal differs from the commonly known 2.5 serving packs in a few ways. For one, you get 30 servings of food. Yes, you read that right. That’s enough food to keep someone going for quite a while. This bucket is ideal for emergency preparation, camping trips, hunting trips, RV expeditions and more. It contains a variety of meal options, including two different kinds of scrambled eggs, a breakfast skillet, and granola with milk and blueberries. The eggs come with ham, peppers, and bacon. The skillet has potatoes, eggs, pork patty, peppers, and onions. These are all tasty breakfast options. The entire bucket weighs only 6 pounds, so you can take it anywhere. Each pouch in the bucket can be cooked by adding hot water and waiting for around 10 minutes. This is a great option for anyone who needs to bring lots of food but doesn’t have a ton of space. You will also save a bit of money, as you’re essentially buying these freeze-dried packs in bulk.
If you like the taste of breakfast cereals in the morning, this is a great option to keep in your pack. Though it isn’t exactly like cereal, it has a sweet and enjoyable granola crunch that pairs well with the tart re-hydrated strawberries and creamy milk mixture. It’s simple, filling, and smells amazing. The secret is the real honey and molasses used to make this meal. You don’t have to compromise taste for convenience. Though Peak Refuel is relatively new to the freeze-dried food game, their packs are getting high praise from outdoor enthusiasts and backpackers. Another feature that we like is the speedy prep time. Just add water and this meal will be ready in less than 5 minutes. It’s also good value, as each pack contains two filling servings. On the downside, it has less protein than many of the Mountain House breakfast options.
This is the apex of dehydrated food pails. It excels in quantity, variety, and flavor. Though you may find larger buckets out there, none of the ones that we’ve seen so far have had the flavor variety and quality this meal does. This pail works as a complete meal solution with multiple individual food pouches all in one easy to carry container. You’ll get 29 pounds of dehydrated food with over 307 servings in 35 food pouches. Servings end up equaling about 1,822 calories per day for a total of 54,670 total calories in the bucket. Meals include broccoli rice, chicken rice, macaroni and cheese, chicken and vegetable soup, creamy potato soup, maple and brown sugar oatmeal, milk, instant potatoes, and banana chips. This is a great option for anyone who needs to have backup food on hand as they travel. You can also remove the pouches and carry a couple with you as you are out backpacking or hiking. Like the Mountain House Breakfast Bucket, you save money by purchasing in bulk. On the downside, we would like to have seen more protein in this large pail. Most protein comes from dairy, so if you’re lactose intolerant, you’re out of luck.
A large bucket with lots of entrée options, this would work well for people who hike, bike, trek or climb and need to bring dehydrated meals with them frequently. Every 60 Serving Entrée Only Grab and Go Food Kit contains two servings per day (entrées only) for 1 adult for around 1 month or for 4 adults for about 1 week. You’ll get meals such as Savory Stroganoff, Chili Macaroni, Pasta Alfredo, Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini, or Teriyaki and Rice. There are eight servings of each meal in this bucket. These ready-made meals come packed tightly in an airtight mylar pouch that includes an easy to carry plastic container. This is an innovative way to get quality nutrition easily and at an affordable price. This bucket also offers some of the best tasting meals currently available in bulk. It works well for a variety of applications. On the downside, this is a bucket full of lunch style and dinner style meals, there’s nothing sweet or breakfast related. You may wish to bring other snacks along on the trail for a balanced feeling meal.
If you want an organic freeze-dried meal option, you’ve come to the right place. This Mary Janes Farm Alfredo Pasta meal contains 1.5 servings in a pouch, is vegetarian, organic, and tastes good. The pouch is 6 ounces and gives you a satisfying backcountry meal for lunch or dinner. Ingredients include basil, creamy cheddar cheese, pasta, and a blend of seasonings for flavor. You just pour boiling water directly in the pouch, wait 7-10 minutes, and you’re ready to eat. It requires less water to cook than most meals as well. On the other hand, the protein content of this meal isn’t that impressive. Additionally, it doesn’t come at the best overall value. It isn’t as big as the Mountain House meals or as delicious as any of the Wild Zora – Paleo Meals to Go. However, if you really need something organic, this meal is a great option.
With these Good to Go meals, you get a set of three single-serving packs. Each set will include Oatmeal, Classic Marinara with Penne, and our favorite, Pad Thai. You get lots of variety and each pack offers three square meals. These meals are easy to prepare. Just open the pouch, remove the oxygen absorber, add boiling water, wait as it rehydrates, and enjoy. They work great for eating at a campsite. All these meals have been made using simple ingredients such as coconut sugar, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, dried banana flakes. ground turmeric, and ground cardamom.
All the meals are completely gluten-free and made to fully suit vegetarian and vegan diets. On the downside, each serving contains less than 500 calories, and packs only contain one serving per meal. You may find that you’re still hungry and need to eat additional servings, especially after being active for an entire day. This makes these a deliciously bad value.
Here we have a unique option that may seem a bit old-fashioned but allows you to conserve resources at your own pace. Harmony House gives you two full gallon jugs of healthy dried vegetable soup mix. That’s around 5lbs of mix total. You can use this mix as soup, as a supplement with other meals, or as an ingredient if you are hunting and wish to serve it with meat. On the other hand, as a stand-alone option, this is not a nutritionally complete option. The shelf-life isn’t the best either. Once opened, you will need to consume the entire jug within a year. If unopened, they can be kept for around 5 years. This would be a good cabin food option. We don’t see it working well for hiking or backpacking. It also takes around 12 minutes or more to rehydrate.
Finally, there’s an easy to make camping meal with clean, quality ingredients. This meal is also made with pasture-raised/grass-fed meat and organic components. Wild Zora Paleo meals are a great option for campers and hikers who value their health or anyone on the Paleo diet. Each meal is loaded with whole dehydrated vegetables, clean meats, and more. They’re also delicious. However, these meals aren’t very nutritionally complete. While they do pack in a ton of protein, each pack only contains around 400 calories, sometimes less. Additionally, they only have a shelf-life of around two years. Even more unfortunate is the price of each meal. They’re expensive, and you don’t get a lot of food. Still, they do contain real vegetables, meats, and other surprisingly delicious dehydrated ingredients. They offer campers and hikers a clean eating solution with 20-41 grams of protein. We would recommend Wild Zora Paleo Meals to day hikers, backpackers, or campers who are planning to return to civilization shortly and want a better on-the-go meal option. For survivalists, the Mountain House meals may be a more utility-friendly choice.