When backpacking, there’s nothing better after a long day on the trail than sitting down to a nice, hot meal. However, planning well-rounded meals—especially for extended trips—can be a challenge. Luckily, there are a number of freeze-dried meals available for backpackers.
While freeze-dried meals have a reputation for being bland, dehydrated meals can be incredibly tasty. As someone who spends a lot of time on the trail, I’ve had my fair share of good camp meals—and bad ones, too.
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I set out to find the ultimate freeze-dried meals, and was surprised by just how far they had come and how good some of them taste. Here are six of my go-to companies for trail-ready meals and my top flavor for each.
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Good To-Go was founded in 2014 by award-winning chef Jennifer Scism with the goal of making delicious meals from healthy ingredients you can recognize. The meals are diet-friendly, gluten-free, low in sodium, and made with no preservatives, with vegan and vegetarian options available.
Scism hit the nail on the head with Good To-Go—all of the meals are rich in flavor, filling, and satisfying. The ingredient list is very clean, meaning you don’t have to compromise convenience for quality. The collection mainly includes lunch and dinner choices, but there are a couple breakfast options, as well.
To make, you simply boil water, fill the bag, and after 20 minutes you can enjoy a hot meal straight out of the bag.
– Flavor We Love: Thai Curry
Courtesy of REI
Family-owned and operated out of Austin, Texas,
Packit Gourmet was born from a love of good food and a passion for the outdoors. The Mullins family set out to create a “one-stop shop” to satisfy campers’ dining needs. All of the meals are full of flavor, and the southern flair is evident in both the names and tastes of each meal.
Packit Gourmet offers stand-alone meals or “BYOT” (bring your own tortilla) meals, which proved to be a good option when looking for a more filling meal. Between their breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert options, they had a meal to please everyone in my group and we appreciated that the dietary considerations were clearly labeled on each pack. To cook, you simply fill the pack with boiling water, stir, wait 15 minutes, and voila!
– Flavor We Love: Big’un Burrito with Fajita Chicken
Courtesy of Packit Gourmet
Patagonia has been making high-quality outdoor clothing for years, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that they added food to their selection. Through Patagonia Provisions, Patagonia strives to make the best products possible, cause no unnecessary harm, and inspire solutions to the environmental crisis.
All of their meals are hearty yet satisfying, and the flavors are unlike any other dehydrated meal I’ve had. It feels good knowing that your food is organic and comes from a reliable source. The cooking process is easy: Simply bring water to a boil, add ingredients, return to a boil for a minute, and then remove from heat and let the magic happen.
Flavor We Love: Savory Grains, Green Kale + Kamut
Courtesy of Patagonia
Wild Zora was born in 2013 when a Colorado-based family set out to create an alternative to the typical sugary, grain-filled snacks on the market. Their meat and veggie snacks were a hit, and four years later they joined forces with Paleo Meals To Go to produce healthy, tasty, and convenient meals and snacks. As someone who sticks to a healthy diet, I really appreciate that all of their meals are made with whole ingredients and are free of grains, dairy, and added sugar.
They offer a number of paleo meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as bars, so you can easily maintain a healthy diet while on the trail. The well-rounded meals are tasty but if you prefer a little extra flavor, brining your own spice kit is a good idea. To make, you simply pour boiling water into the bag and let it do its thing.
– Flavor We Love: Mountain Beef Stew
Courtesy of Wild Zora
Harmony House entered the business of making freeze-dried foods many years ago with the vision of providing shelf-stable foods in an environmentally conscious way. All meals are processed in an eco-friendly plant and are packed in recycled packaging. Today, Harmony House is like the ultimate backpackers’ pantry: They offer a collection of dehydrated vegetables, fruits, beans, and deluxe soup mixes, so you have the option of choosing a pre-made meal or selecting ingredients to make your own.
They offer a number of different sampler packs of soups and chilis—it’s a fun way to try out the different flavors, and is much more affordable than other freeze-dried backpacking meals. The mixes are full of flavor and are all vegan/vegetarian, but if you’re looking for a heartier meal, consider adding some freeze-dried meat or bringing tortillas for a side. To make, you simply throw the mix and 2 cups of water in a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
– Flavor We Love: “Mamma Mia” Italian Veggie Soup
Courtesy of Harmony House
Mountain House Breakfast Skillet
Born in Oregon in 1969,
Mountain House is well versed in the art of making freeze-dried meals. They first began making lightweight, long lasting meals for the U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War and have been making meals for Special Forces and other military branches ever since. Now available to the public, Mountain House has an impressive pantry with breakfast, lunch, dinner, side, and dessert options.
I was particularly excited about their breakfasts – while most companies only offer oatmeal, Mountain House offers a wide selection to help break up monotony during a longer trip. All of their meals are extremely lightweight, flavorful, and easy to make. To cook, simply add boiling water, stir, and reseal – within minutes you’ll have yourself a tasty meal.
– Favorite Flavor: Breakfast Skillet
Courtesy of Mountain House