There’s arguably nothing worse than eating the same thing night in and night out on a long hunting or mountaineering expedition. When you’re trekking in the wilderness for days on end, mealtime becomes ever more coveted and giving your body the nutrition it needs to keep going is critical.
Fortunately, there is a wide selection of freeze dried foods available to keep your taste buds guessing on the trail. Our list of the Top Ten Freeze Dried Foods will give you an idea of how many brands and delicious concoctions there are to choose from. Our Buyer’s Guide and Frequently Asked Questions sections will also cover everything you need to know to stock up for your next trip.
1. Mountain House Rice and Chicken
Mountain House’s Rice and Chicken is a simple staple that goes down easy and requires minimal preparation. This mixture is perfectly seasoned in a savory sauce accented with pimentos. It’s ready in less than 10 minutes by simply adding boiling water.
One of the best parts about this Mountain House meal is that it can be consumed right out of the can, which contains 10 single-cup servings. This means minimal cleanup when your belly is full and you’re ready to climb into your tent. Lastly, this freeze dried rice and chicken is backed by a 30-year taste guarantee.
2. Astronaut Snack Pack
This unique blend of ‘astro-goodies’ is great for keeping energy levels up throughout the day. They say that it’s best to eat more small snacks throughout the day instead of just a couple of large meals, and these freeze dried snacks are a great way to do just that.
The Astronaut Snack Pack includes five distinct, space-related snacks, including cheddar Moon Cheese, Astronaut Ice Cream (Neapolitan sandwiches), Astro grapes, three candy classic Space Food Sticks, and two all-new Splashdown water enhancers.
3. MaryJanesFarm Kettle Chili
This 3.3-ounce bag of kettle chili is made with all-natural, organic ingredients, making it perfect for the more health conscious hiker, backpacker, or hunter. It includes lentils, black bean flakes, tomatoes, onions, red bell peppers, sea salt, garlic, and various additional herbs and spices.
Preparation of this Kettle Chili from MaryJanesFarm is easy. The top of the pouch tears off and the pouch itself stands up on its own. Just boil 1.5 cups of water and carefully pour directly into the pouch. Stir well, fold the top down, and let it sit for seven minutes. After a brief wait, give it another quick stir and enjoy your hearty, healthy dinner.
4. Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai
The Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai is a non-GMO, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free backcountry meal that is high in protein to replenish the calories you exert throughout the day. It’s made of premium freeze dried meats and produce to provide nutritious enjoyment for backpackers, hikers, and hunters alike.
This freeze dried meal contains two servings, each with 460 total calories. Rice noodles are seasoned with a spicy, sweet, garlic sauce and supplemented with textured soy protein, vegetables, and roasted peanuts. Preparation on this one requires a little more effort, but the returns are certainly worth the work.
5. Wild Zora Mountain Beef Stew
The team at Wild Zora makes delicious trail snacks and meals from minimally processed, all-natural ingredients. This freeze dried meal is ideal for backpackers, hikers, and hunters that want to eat on the trail just like they eat at home.
The Wild Zora Mountain Beef Stew contains grass-fed beef, organic carrots, onion, broccoli, mushrooms, kale, celery, green onion, sea salt, garlic, marjoram, thyme, and parsley. Each container holds a single, 420-calorie serving and lasts up to 2 years unopened. Perhaps best of all, improved packaging makes the pouches these meals come in even easier to eat from.
6. Peak Refuel Strawberry Granola
This freeze dried breakfast meal is a great option for early morning peak scrambles or adventures deep into the backcountry. Each pouch contains a whopping 23 grams of protein and two whole servings of delicious, wholesome granola with strawberries and milk.
Peak Refuel uses non-GMO ingredients in all of their freeze dried meals so that you can enjoy a nutritious backpacking meal by just adding water. All the ingredients rehydrate right in the pouch, which you can also eat straight out of, making clean up virtually non-existent with this freeze dried food.
7. Good To Go Thai Curry
This thai curry from Good To Go is pescatarian, gluten-free, low in sodium, and contains zero preservatives. It’s made in the USA and boasts an extraordinary four-year shelf life when unopened, making it an excellent choice for extended hunting or backpacking trips.
One pouch of Good To Go Thai Curry contains two servings of spicy yellow coconut curry with vegetables and jasmine rice. Preparation requires just four simple steps and in just about 20 to 25 minutes you’ll be enjoying a delicious Thai dinner.
8. Mountain House Breakfast Skillet
The Mountain House Breakfast Skillet is a staple breakfast meal for so many backpackers, hikers, and hunters. Each pouch contains two one-cup servings that can be prepared in just under 10 minutes and comes with an astounding 30-year taste guarantee.
This freeze dried food contains hash browns, potatoes, eggs, red and green bell peppers, onions, and sausage. Preparation is easy. All you need to do is boil and add water, let the meal rehydrate and heat, and you’ll be enjoying a hearty breakfast just like the ones you’d cook at home.
9. AlpineAire Veggie Burrito Bowl
This freeze dried food option is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a meat-free substitute when out on the trail. It still provides enough substance to make you feel full and replenished after a long day hunting, hiking, or backpacking.
The AlpineAire Vegetarian Burrito Bowl contains a savory blend of cilantro-lime rice, black beans, corn, peppers, and zesty Mexican spices. Each package contains 600 total calories and a heaping 20 grams of protein. Preparation requires nothing more than the addition of boiling water, a stir or two, and a little patience.
10. TrailFork Coconut Chana Masala
TrailFork has really outdone themselves in putting this deliciously creamy spin on a lightly spiced classic. All of TrailFork’s meals are prepared in a separate container using only boiling water. This is largely due to the fact that they’re taking care of our environment by offering 100% compostable packaging.
The TrailFork Coconut Chana Masala is vegan and gluten-free. It contains white rice, garbanzo beans, coconut milk powder, spice, and tomato powder. Each pouch contains one, 590-calorie serving that’s packed with 18 grams of protein. This freeze dried food option is ready to enjoy in just over 10 minutes.
Freeze dried foods have come a long way since the earliest rudimentary techniques were practiced by the Incas in the 15thcentury (1). Even our access today has rapidly improved compared to what astronauts were eating on some of their first space missions. Fortunately for us, a lot of people like to backpack, hunt, and hike, and a lot of those people want to eat well while doing those activities.
Freeze dried food options are many, and they can actually be quite delicious. In this Buyer’s Guide, we are going to focus on several important characteristics of freeze dried foods to help you make the best decision of what kinds of meals are best for you.
The USDA recommends that most women consume between 1600 and 2400 calories per day, while they say men should be consuming somewhere between 2000 and 3000 calories. This, of course, ranges quite a bit depending on age and activity level (2). Many avid backpackers would support the claim that they need more than 2000 calories a day to replenish what they’re using on the trail.
So, while counting calories isn’t all that fun, doing it well in advance of your trip can help you make sure you’re getting the sustenance you need throughout your trip. For example, if your preferred freeze dried food choice for breakfast gives you about 400 calories to start your day, you know you’ll still have at least 1600 calories to go throughout the rest of the day.
If you adhere to the “three meals a day” model while in the back country, 400 calories per meal just aren’t going to cut it. You’ll want to search for meals that offer somewhere in the 500 to 900 calorie range for your “main” meals and then supplement with snacks in between.
It’s also important to consider where these calories are coming from. In a side-by-side comparison, the Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai contains a total of 920 calories while the Good To Go Thai Curry offers a total of 760 calories. Both contain two servings per container. The most noticeable difference comes in the protein category, with the former containing double the protein (20 grams) than the latter.
While it’s also important to do your own research on sodium, fat, and cholesterol content in your preferred freeze dried foods, as well as various other vitamins and minerals, protein and carbohydrates are going to be two of the most critical nutritional items you’ll need to replenish when your activity levels are high on the trail.
Serving size is another one to be wary of when purchasing freeze dried foods. Not all brands package their meal options in the same fashion. Some prefer to package single servings of their recipes and some design their meals to be shared with a hiking or hunting partner. Buying a meal that’s fit for one and expecting to share it will certainly leave both parties feeling dissatisfied.
Make sure the freeze dried foods you purchase contain the number of servings you’re looking for. In some cases, especially if your activity level is extremely high, meals that claim to be packaged for two can suit one person quite well.
When it comes to moving around in the back country, pack weight is a consideration whether you’re backpacking or hunting. Freeze dried foods are much lighter than their perishable alternatives, but there’s still a minuscule difference between foods produced by different brands, as well as between certain meal options and others.
In a side-by-side comparison of the Wild Zora Mountain Beef Stew and the TrailFork Coconut Chana Masala, for example, the former boasts a total net weight of 85 grams while the latter’s total net weight is 143 grams. Both are single serving meals offering 420 and 590 calories, respectively. It’ll be up to you to decide whether the extra weight is worth the extra nutritional value when deciding between two freeze dried foods.
Quality of Ingredients
The ingredients used in freeze dried foods today can vary greatly. You’ll find everything from a simple set of five or six total ingredients to a lengthy list of terms you don’t even recognize. A balance must be struck between getting the nutritional value you need and compromising on the quality of ingredients in your meals.
Now, it’s not necessary to research where every company is sourcing all of its ingredients from, but the quality of ingredients in certain freeze dried foods can make a difference in how your body reacts to their nutritional value. In general, a “less is more” approach can be useful when doing side-by-side comparisons of ingredient lists on different freeze dried foods.
Freeze dried foods, fortunately, aren’t crazy expensive, but if you’re embarking on a long trip, buying in bulk is a great way to reduce overall food costs. Some freeze dried food companies sell their recipes in bulk so that you can package up individual servings on your own for later use. This can be a big money saver when you’re also factoring in costs of gear, permits, transportation, and more.
When comparing different freeze dried foods, it’s important to look at more than the overall cost, however. The technique is the same when performing comparisons at the grocery store. You’re hoping to find the most of the product you want for the cheapest price. This means considering price per ounce rather than just total cost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Freeze dried foods are a great, lightweight food option for all forms of outdoor adventure. In this Frequently Asked Questions section, we seek to answer some of the most common areas of concern regarding freeze dried meals.
How does freeze drying work?
In this process, foods are first frozen and then placed in a strong vacuum were all moisture is vaporized and removed from the product. This process helps to preserve foods for a longer period of time without altering the taste or nutritional content.
What is the biggest mistake when preparing freeze dried foods?
One mistake that happens a lot is forgetting to remove the oxygen absorbing packet that most meals have to keep them fresh. These packets typically contain an iron powder that absorbs oxygen and moisture (3). Although safe to keep freeze dried foods fresh, they are not safe for human consumption. The other common mistake is adding too much (or too little) boiling water to reheat and re hydrate the food.
How long do freeze dried foods last?
It largely depends on the brand, but some freeze dried foods have a shelf life that exceeds 25 years.
What’s the difference between ‘freeze dried’ and ‘dehydrated’?
The major differences between freeze dried foods and dehydrated foods are that freeze dried foods contain far less moisture while still retaining more nutrients than their dehydrated counterparts.
Proper nutrition is always important when you’re spending any extended amount of time away from your home kitchen. But on top of that, we know that you deserve to eat delicious, healthy food on each and every one of your adventures. That’s why we hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of the best freeze dried foods and we wish you the best of luck selecting the ones you’ll enjoy on your next trip!