Hitting the backcountry for a multi-day adventure requires calories, and lots of em’! If you’re an avid backpacker or even day hiker than you know the importance of a hearty, portable meal while in the field.
There’s no such thing as a good time hiking when you’re left hungry after eating, and nothing more disappointing than a mediocre tasting meal when you’re truly ravenous. Stick with our top brands and you’ll satisfy both your taste buds and your belly while on the trail this season.
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1. Meals by Mountain HousePros:
- Awesome variety of meals and flavors to choose from, almost all of which are super well reviewed!
- Impressive 30 year shelf life - don’t worry if you have some meals left over for next season!
- Mountain House even has dessert options like Raspberry Crumble and Apple Crisp! for those backpackers with a sweet tooth!
- Due to the shelf life and low cost when you buy in bulk these freeze dried meals can double as a home survival essential. Pull them from your emergency pantry whenever you’re gearing up for the trail!
- These are fairly expensive to buy as individual meals, consider buying in bulk to save some cash
- Some people don't like the texture of certain Mountain House Meals
- Complaints that some meals are under-seasoned and could use some salt/pepper
Mountain House is my personal favorite brand that produces dehydrated meals suitable for backpacking. I find the flavor of their meals to be quite good and the portions to be filling – I have yet to try one I don’t like.
The flavors are absolutely present but also not too bold, it’s a nice balance between not being too bland nor too powerfully “camp-food” tasting. Most of us backpackers have had dehydrated meals that are essentially tasteless as well as meals that the manufacturer has just tried too hard to add flavor to the point of overkill – Mountain House has a good thing going.
This Oregon based brand was born out of the Vietnam War conflict when it was contracted to make freeze dried meals for the military. After the war, the fact that outdoorsmen everywhere need good tasting, healthy and filling meals was realized and the brand name Mountain House began!
Mountain House is now one of the top reviewed and most highly purchased freeze dried meal companies on the market for backpacking/camping, survival and home emergency preparedness. It’s become a trusted brand known for its quality and variety of meals.
The shelf life on Mountain House meals is an impressive 30 years! You won’t have to worry about eating everything in a season or two if you decide to save some money and buy in bulk.
Alternatively, the long shelf life makes this a great brand for your home survival or emergency kit. There are even 10 serving sized cans available specifically suited for long term storage and disaster preparation.
This brand has a ton of different meals ranging from the Biscuits and Gravy pictured to Chili Mac with Beef to Mexican Style Rice and Chicken. They also offer breakfast meals like Scrambled Eggs with Ham & Peppers. One of my personal favorite meals from Mountain House is the Chicken Teriyaki with Rice — it’s got a great flavor and is pretty dam filling when you’re hungry.
Most meals (both breakfast and dinner) have 10 to 15 grams in protein and are meant to serve two. Make sure to read the specific nutrition details for whatever you buy if getting as many calories into you as possible is your main objective – some of their meals give you a little more bang for your buck energetically than others.
Alternatively, some meals weigh slightly more or less than others (they’re all around 4 ounces) so if every ounce in your backpack counts make sure you’re not buying one of the heavier meal types.
Most of the links provided here have options to purchase solo pouches or to buy in larger quantities. It’s significantly cheaper to purchase these meals in bulk, so consider this once you’ve found which flavors and meals you like most!
2. Meals by Good To-GoPros:
- Vegetarian and vegan meal options
- Low in sodium, free of preservatives and gluten free
- Reasonably priced considering the quality of the ingredients used
- Shelf life is just four years - it’s nice knowing there’s no added preservatives but these meals won’t last as long in the pantry as a lot of other brands
- Limited meal options
- This is a good value higher quality meal option, but Good To Go is still relatively expensive unless you buy in bulk
Here’s a slightly more gourmet option from dehydrated rather than freeze-dried food brand Good To-Go. If you’re someone who really strives to eat healthily, this might be the best option for your backcountry adventures.
This brand prides itself on creating great tasting meals that are gluten-free, low in sodium and made without any preservatives.
There are even meal options that are vegetarian and totally vegan. Good To-Go is an excellent option for all the nutritionally mindful outdoorsmen and women out there.
The Co-founder and head chef of Good To-Go, Jennifer Scism, is a gourmet chef by training. She’s owned and operated several successful restaurants in New York City and has also worked as a renowned wedding and event caterer along the seacoast of Maine and New Hampshire.
Her and her husband decided to create Good To-Go in Kittery Maine a few years back and have been making killer backpacking meals ever since! Jennifer is a real deal chef with a love for outdoor adventure – the perfect recipe for the birth of a delicious backcountry meal brand.
Some tasty meals by this brand include the Thai Curry pictured, Herbed Mushroom Risotto, Smoked Three Bean Chili and Indian Vegetable Korma. There are also some more typical backcountry meal options available like Classic Marinara with Penne.
There are even some neat three-pack “weekender” options that include one breakfast and two entrees like this one including Oatmeal, Pad Thai and Classic Marinara with Penne! These three packs have meal options that compliment each other nicely and come at a bit of a lower cost as well.
These meal pouches come as either a double or single serving. Keep in mind there’s no meat in any of these dehydrated meals so if you’re a carnivore by nature who prefers a meat-heavy backcountry meal you might want to look elsewhere. That being said, the protein content in most of these meals is more or less equivalent to most other brands that do include meat at around 10 to 16 grams.
Unlike Mountain House, Good To-Go has evolved from gourmet food rather than from ultralight meals for special forces teams. Despite this brand’s somewhat fancy origins, these dehydrated meals still pack exceptionally light. Single serving bags are around three ounces while double servings are around six.
As with most dehydrated meal brands, some flavors and meal types are heavier than others so make sure to read the product specs if every ounce of weight matters to you!
All in all, this is a great backcountry meal brand for those hikers who want to treat themselves to meals that emulate gourmet dishes at a totally comparable cost to the competition.
3. Meals by Wise CompanyPros:
- Wise offers six-packs of two serving pouches on a lot of their meals at a great value!
- Made in the USA
- High in protein!
- Up to a 25 year shelf life
- Not as wide of a selection of exciting meals and flavors as some other brands
- On the more expensive end of freeze dried meals unless you buy in bulk
- Some people might not like the textured vegetable protein - it's a matter of preference
Wise Company is a USA made brand that specializes in back country meals and emergency preparation. This is about as standard as freeze-dried meals get, but it’s a trusted brand that’s well reviewed by outdoorsmen and emergency preppers everywhere.
Their meal packs are affordable, high in energy and taste great! One thing awesome about Wise is they off six-packs of two serving meal pouches at a really great value so you can save some cash!
Wise often includes textured vegetable protein into their meals to really pack some energy in there. These are meals designed knowing that you’re working hard on the trail and that you’re going to have an appetite come mealtime. The shelf life depends on which meals you purchase but many are good to go for up to 25 years!
These meals are not particularly light or heavy for freeze-dried pouches – it’s a standard serving size and package size. All in all, this is a totally suitable backpacking option that comes at a bit of a cheaper cost than a lot of the competition!
4. Alpine Aire FoodsPros:
- Super high in protein and energy packed! This is a great brand for backpackers who really want a filling meal in the backcountry
- A lot of Alpine Aire’s meals are priced very affordably
- Vegetarian options
- These freeze dried meals don’t pack any heavier or more cumbersome than a lot of other brands and they contain a significantly higher amount of calories and protein
- Not a ton of options to buy in bulk - fortunately these meals are cheaper than most
- Shelf life is around five years - not bad but not particularly impressive either
- Alpine Aire goes a little heavy on the veggies in some of their dishes that could use more meat
This is a slightly lesser known brand compared to companies like Mountain House, but a lot of backpackers who have tried Alpine Aire have never looked back! This brand makes some great dehydrated meals that are super energy-rich and well reviewed for great taste.
These meals are just as quick and easy to prepare as all the others – just add hot water directly to the pouch, wait 10 minutes and enjoy!
Depending on which meals you choose, this brand is quite affordable. Some two serving meals like their Spicy Pork Sausage Pasta, for example, are just seven dollars! That’s a pretty dam affordable meal option to split with your hiking partner!
Some other particularly affordable options include the Chicken Gumbo and also the seven day (14 pouches) variety meal kits. 14 pouches at their price point is a pretty solid value – that’s a whole week of food!
There’s of course also vegetarian options for those backpackers who don’t eat meat. The Vegetarian Burrito Bowl is a favorite among hikers as well as the Cheese Enchilada Ranchero. Alpine Aire almost definitely has some meal options right up your ally.
What I like in particular about this brand is how energy and protein rich the meals are compared to a lot of the competition. The Chicken Gumbo for example has a whopping 580 calories and 38 grams of protein per two serving pouch! That’s one power-packed freeze dried meal, especially if you plan on eating a two serving pouch on your own (pretty standard after a big hike).
If you plan on sharing these meals pouches, the high calorie and protein content means both you and your hiking partner will both actually be satisfied after your meal. There’s nothing worse than splitting a dehydrated meal and being left hungry.
The size and weight of these pouches is totally comparable to the competition (around six ounces) so although there’s in some cases more than twice the energy content these meals don’t pack any heavier or more cumbersome.
Alpine Aire is a great go to brand because of the affordability, packability and great taste of of their meals, but above all this is a meal brand that provides you with the best bang for your buck energetically. Definitely a great option for particularly hungry backpackers on a budget.
5. Meals by Backpacker’s PantryPros:
- Awesome variety of interesting meals!
- Lots of all natural and organic meal options that are all MSG free - this is one of the healthier brand options
- Affordable dessert options like Dark Chocolate Cheesecake
- Not any particularly affordable options to buy in bulk
- A bit heavier than some of the competition, but packs the same size
- Some meal options are significantly more expensive than others
Backpacker’s Pantry is a gourmet backpacking meal company operated out of Boulder Colorado. The company began in 1951 supplying the Girl Scouts with lightweight and nutritious food for hiking purposes and has been around ever since.
Their meals are well reviewed by outdoorsmen for taste and fairly high in calories and protein. They offer a good variety of meal flavors and are fairly priced.
These meals are just a bit heavier on average than a lot of the competition at around seven to eight ounces for a two serving pouch. It’s totally comparable to most other brands, but if you’re super serious about trimming pack weight be mindful of which meals weigh more than others with this brand.
The spice company Colorado Spice is under the same ownership as Backpacker’s Pantry and the two brands have a pretty neat partnership going. A lot of the spices and incorporated flavors for Backpacker’s Pantry’s meals are sourced from the USA from their sister company.
This is a brand that prides itself on its ingredients, striving to create freeze dried meals that both tasty and healthy. There are many meal options that are all natural and/or organic and none contain MSG.
Most of their meals will last up to seven years in storage which is pretty decent considering the use of natural ingredients. Backpacker’s Pantry does also offer #10 cans for emergency food storage or for use in settings like your hunting cabin that have an impressive shelf life of 25 years!
What I like most about this brand is the super wide selection of different meals. Some of the top reviewed dishes include Jamaican BBQ Chicken, Potatoes with Gravy and Beef and Louisiana Beans and Rice.
There are even some great dessert options at affordable costs like Dark Chocolate Cheesecake! All in all, a great freeze dried meal company with great origins that offers an awesome selection of meals!
Selecting The Right Freeze Dried Meal Brand
Buying individual dehydrated or freeze dried meal packs can be expensive. Once you know which brand you enjoy most it's much more cost-effective to buy in bulk.
There are a few details to consider in order to find the best freeze dried or dehydrated meal brand for you:
Caloric Content: Are you seeking a high energy meal for your outdoor excursions? Make sure to buy a brand with particularly high calorie counts if so.
Packed Weight and Size: If you're trekking far from base camp, you'll want both a particularly energy-rich and packable meal. Stick to the brands with the lowest weight vs. caloric content if you plan on covering lots of ground
Included Ingredients: If you try to stray away from processed foods, are vegetarian or vegan, then you'll need to carefully consider which meal brands contain none of the ingredients you steer clear of.
Taste: A good tasting meal is, of course, important to most backpackers, preppers, and outdoorsmen, but you might prefer some of the more packable, and calorie-high brands over the tastiest ones if you're really crushing trail miles out there.
Make sure to try a few brands to find out the best taste for energy/portability compromise.
Vegetarian Camping Food
If you're an exclusive vegetarian or vegan, then chances are you'll gravitate to the meal brand, GOOD TO-GO. The brand hand-makes their dehydrated, gluten-free meals in Maine with real ingredients - and there are even vegan options!
Emergency Food Supply
If you're here to consider energy-rich meal options for long term storage in your emergency home shelter, perhaps you'd enjoy reading through our lists of the best emergency food supplies and storage containers.