When you think of camping or backpacking foods, you usually don’t think of gourmet meals. Personally, plain pasta and tuna usually comes to mind. However, this can be both bulky and heavy to pack in. Not an ideal combination when you want to save those extra kilos and that precious space in your backpack.
Not to mention, at the end of a long day of hiking and setting up camp, the last thing you want to do is wait around to cook your dinner.
So, what’s the solution? Dehydrated or Freeze dried meals!
In no particular order, here are 10 of the most recommended freeze dried camping foods:
1. Back Country Cuisine
Back country cuisine is a well know brand with a large range. Available in both single and twin sized serves, these meals are re-hydrated simply by adding water.
Made in New Zealand, they offer breakfast, desserts, freeze dried meals and smoothies made and processed locally with many raw ingredients.
Taste and texture
Kung Pao Chicken
2. Outdoor Gourmet
With a smaller range of just 9 options including gluten free, outdoor gourmet has really focused their efforts to create some genuinely tasty, healthy meals.
These delicious meals are even designed by Australian chefs. Simply add boiling water directly to the package, secure with the handy zip lock to seal in the heat and wait 10 minutes.
With a 3 years shelf life, don’t be afraid to stock up your emergency supply or simply buy in bulk for your years of trips!
Spicy green chicken curry
Coq au vin
Mediterranean Lamb and Black olives
3. Campers Pantry
These meals that are high in protein, nutritious, preservative free and contain 100% real meat, are also super easy to make.
Again, just add boiling water and wait 10 mins. A slightly shorter 2 year shelf life means you can still stock up, but do remember to check the expiry dates.
A special thing about Campers Pantry meals is that you don’t even need to carry a heating element. These meals can be re-hydrated with cold water however, it does take a much longer time. Their handy bags come only partly filled so you can roll them down and save space.
Unfortunately, Campers Pantry does not have any gluten free or vegan options.
Cauliflower and pea dahl
Balti Vegetable curry
4. Mountain House
Mountain House meals take around 2 cups of water to re-hydrate so will require carrying a little extra water however they have a great calorie to weight ratio of 129.
They are on the cheaper end of the freeze dried food range however consequentially don’t have an amazing taste. The well known brand is always lightweight and reliable and even comes with a 30 year taste guarantee!
Meaning you can seriously stock up for a lifetime of adventures, not satisfied with its shelf life? Return it for a refund! Unfortunately there are not many dietary options here and not all natural or organic ingredients are used.
Mountain house also contains more sodium than other brands however, all these sacrifices may be worth it for your back pocket.
Biscuits and gravy
Beef Stroganoff with noodles
Chili Mac with beef
5. Mary Janes Farm Organics
With 30 different options in so many different flavors, Mary Janes Farm provides nutritious, delicious organic meals. Using all natural ingredients, Mary Jane boasts reasonable prices, and mostly vegetarian options.
With a quick 10 minute cooking time and a single serve worthy of a 1.5X label, Mary Janes is a top favorite.
The eco-friendly paper packaging is great for recycling or burning to reduce waste however, this also means you can’t cook in the package.
You will also need to pack in a pot. The Mary Janes Farm website even offers bulk servings to decrease packaging and help save the environment.
Curry in a Hurry
Organic black beans and rice
6. Peak Refuel
Made with real ingredients, Peak Refuel’s tasty meals are extremely well seasoned and certified non GMO.
With a quick cook time of just 10mins, this brand also uses less water than most other brands, coming in with just 1 1/3 cup required for cooking.
Sweet Pork and Rice
7. AlpineAire Gluten free
Made for hikers with nutrients and sustenance in mind, AlpineAire meals are all-natural and come in a grand range of options catering to many different dietary requirements including gluten free options.
Lower in sodium than other brands, AlpineAire also comes in large serving sizes for hungry hikers. Their flat packages mean they are easily stored and don’t take up too much precious space in your backpack.
With a quick cooking time and relatively low prices, people have commented on their more plain flavors than comparable companies have.
Pilaf with Hemp seeds
8. Backpackers Pantry
With a cooking time of 15-20mins, Backpackers Pantry takes nearly twice as long to cook as other brands.
After a long day of hiking, no one really wants to wait that long for dinner. However, their large selection, big serving sizes, 7 year shelf life, flat pack pouch and great taste tick nearly every other box on the list!
Backpackers Pantry is an OG in the freeze dry world and this long term brand can be trusted to create great MSG free products.
Jamaican Jerk Rice with chicken
Omeals are remarkably tasty and takes just 5 mins to cook! As these meals are pre-cooked and dried (not dehydrated), they can be eaten either hot or cold.
What makes this brand unique is the in built heating element that is included. Activated with any liquid, no need to lug a stove around with you to boil water.
The secret to O meals great taste is its lack of dehydration, retaining more moisture also retains more of the flavors.
Unfortunately, because of this, plus the heating element, O Meals are significantly heavier than other foods, meaning more weight to carry.
The heater itself becomes quite large and heavy when activated so even after eating, you don’t lose any weight for the hike out by eating.
They are also a little low in the calories needed to revitalize your body after a big day.
Chicken Creole with brown rice
Southwest style chicken
Maple Brown sugar oatmeal
10. Good To-Go
These meals are on the expensive side of the scale. Designed by a professional chef, Good To-Go’s all natural meals are packed with flavor that will tickle your taste buds.
Because of the all natural ingredients used, Good To-Go meals also takes longer to cook. Again, up to 20 mins cooking time being double most other brands.
Things to consider when choosing meals:
- A big thing to think about here is calories per ounce. You want your meal to provide enough energy to revitalize your body after a big day. Divide the total calories by overall weight to find out the ratio, an ideal range is between 120-120 Calories.
- Think about how your meal needs to be prepared, if it needs to be heated, the amount of water required for re-hydrating and where you can access it.
- How long will it take to prepare? While hiking, a quick meal’s a good meal, no one wants to wait around for dinner!
- Ingredients and amount of sodium. Look for real words on the back of the packet. Vegetables and meat products should be named, not numbers and letters. As with most instant food, it tends to contain a lot of sodium, which doesn’t agree with some people. High levels of sodium isn’t healthy if eaten regularly however at the high intensity of activity usually experienced whilst hiking, it should not be too much of an issue once in a while.
What is the difference between dehydrated or freeze dried?
Both systems remove the majority of the moisture from the food, allowing it to stay fresher longer. Saving space with a simple and quick re-hydration process.
Dried Percentage: Freeze dried foods remove more moisture meaning they can be stored for longer periods of time.
Nutritional content: Freeze dried foods are proven to retain more nutrients.
Cooking: While freeze dried foods only need water added in order to be edible, dehydrated foods need to be cooked.
Kate is a professional ski instructor who has been adventuring her way around the world since 2015. Whilst immersing herself in cultures from over 50 countries across 6 continents, she seeks the mountains where ever she goes. Explore the outdoor world with her as she hikes, climbs and skis through life on instagram @bagsalwayspacked. Visit www.bags-always-packed.com for off the beaten path hiking guides and backpacker travel budget secrets!