Best Freeze Dried Meals for Backpacking
Many backpacker’s prefer pre-made freeze dried or dehydrated meals. Freeze dried meals retain all of their nutrient content while dehydrated foods loose some in the heating process. Freeze dried meals also reconstitute faster than dehydrated meals so if you’re looking for an almost instant meal at camp, go with freeze dried. Most people prefer the taste of freeze dried foods over dehydrated too. See my post on Dehydrated vs. Freeze Dried foods for more details. Prepackaged meals can save you a lot of time and energy during the planning of your trip, however they can be more expensive than putting your own meals together. I really like the convenience of prepackaged meals and use them for shorter weekend trips. Many of these outdoor food companies are now creating vegetarian and gluten free meals with quality ingredients. So, what are some of the best freeze dried meals for backpacking? I’ve included some of my favorites listed below.
Mary Jane’s Farm is an organic farm and bed and breakfast located in Idaho. The owner is Mary Jane Butters and this lady really does it all. She has quite the interesting history and has many claims to fame including being one of the first woman forest rangers in the US. Read her entire story here. Besides the bed and breakfast and farm she runs she also offers a wide range of products and services including a magazine, a farm school, a you pick club, backpacking food, emergency storage food, fabric, bedding, towels, lighting, and more. The line of backpacking food is called Outpost and is fully organic and mostly vegetarian with some vegan options. With a wide variety of meals ranging from Lentil Pilaf to Jumbalaya to Ginger Sesame Rice, you’re sure to find something you like. My favorite is the Curried Lentil Bisque soup. Each meal comes in an EcoPouch that does not contain any foil and can safely be discarded into a campfire. The bottom of the pouch is expandable allowing the bag to stand on its own while reconstituting. Mary Jane’s Farm also offers skillet bake foods and do it yourself bulk food so that you can make your own meals.
Backpacker’s Pantry has been around since 1951 and was originally founded to supply the Girl Scouts with food for backpacking. The company is run out of Boulder, CO and is currently owned by the Smith family. The Smith family also owns Colorado Spice which provides many of the ingredients for the Backpacker’s Pantry meals. The meals have really great flavors and the first time the ingredients have been cooked together is when you add the water to the bag. They do not use MSG and the majority of the ingredients are sourced from the US. They offer gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan meal options. The packaging is BPA free.
Outdoor Herbivore was created in 2010 by Kim Safdy and is a fully vegetarian line of mostly organic backpacking food. The company provides minimally processed foods with ingredients mostly from the US. They do not purchase ingredients from China due to safety concerns. While Outdoor Herbivore’s meals are mostly dehydrated and not freeze dried, I want to include them on this list because they provide a really high quality product with some great options (such as cold no cook meals) that I’ve not seen elsewhere. The meals come in a resealable, BPA free bag that is not rated for boiling water. You can either dump the meal into boiling water in your cookpot, or repackage it into a freezer bag and add hot water to that. One really cool product from this company is the Sprouting Kit which includes everything you need to grow some of your own bean sprouts on the trail.
Paleo Meals are a line of freeze dried backpacking food that are made for people following the Paleo diet but would also be great for anyone with a gluten allergy or on a grain free diet. They are gluten free, soy free, milk free, and grain free. The company is owned and run by Ty Soukup and Dawn Anderson, a mother son team. Paleo Meals To Go offers mostly non vegetarian options as the Paleo diet revolves around meat as the main protein source. The exceptions are three of their breakfast meals, which include fruit, flax, and almond. While they are not an organic line, they do use real ingredients without any added preservatives or artificial flavors. The ingredient lists are kept short and simple.
AlpineAire Foods has been around since 1979 and is now owned by the Katadyn group (yes, the water filter company). Katadyn gave AlpineAire a complete re-branding facelift when they bought them out in 2012. AlpineAire uses both freeze dried and dehydrated ingredients and has some really good variety in meal options. While not organic, this company is considered all natural and does not use artificial ingredients, colors, or preservatives. They have one of the broadest lines of gluten free products on the market and quite a few vegetarian options as well.
Good To Go was founded by chef Jennifer Scism and her husband David Koorits. Jennifer has cooked at New York Time’s 4 star restaurants, beaten the Iron Chef, Mario Batali, and traveled to over 20 countries to study their regional foods. Good To Go meals are dehydrated, rather than freeze dried, but they do still reconstitute rather quickly. The meals come in a boil safe, resealable bag which is very convenient. This line is not organic, but I included them on the list because they do not use any artificial colors or preservatives. The ingredient lists are pretty simple, easy to pronounce ingredients. They offer mostly vegan and vegetarian options and two pescatarian options.
What are some of your favorite freeze dried or dehydrated backpacking meals? Do you have any specific favorite meal recommendations you want to share? Feel free to leave your two cents!