If you’re on a backpacking trip, all you need is a heating element and water to create a hot meal with enough calories and nutritious value to carry you through to the next day. Here’s a list of the best freeze-dried backpacking food from the top meal brands in 2022.
Freeze-dried and dehydrated food is perfect for outdoor activities. Dehydrated meals are perfect for the trail because they are lightweight, nutritious, and don’t take up much space.
Best Lightweight Backpacking Meals for Special Dietary Options
These meal companies provide the very best lightweight backpacking meals for being with specific dietary needs.
- freeze-dried and dehydrated
AlpineAire Meals creates dishes such as Al Pastor with Cilantro Lime Rice, Cheese Enchilada Ranchero, and Tuscan Grilled Chicken, with all-natural ingredients. Unfortunately, these healthy ingredients don’t always agree with the taste buds. With that in mind, Alpineaire does offer a plethora of special dietary options such as low-sodium, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and all-natural.
If you care less about taste and more about ingredients and nutritional value, Alpineaire meals might be the best freeze-dried backpacking food for you. Their packaging provides clear and concise information on ingredients, serving size, and nutrition.
With a relatively low price and many dietary options, AlpineAire may be the best option for someone who has dietary restrictions on the trail!
Top Alpineaire Meals
- Cinnamon Apple Crisp
- Forever Young Mac & Cheese
- Tuscan Grilled Chicken Alfredo
- Grilled Chicken Jambalaya
Next Mile Meals ($9-$14)
- freeze-dried and dehydrated
If you follow a Ketogenic diet, this is the best freeze-dried backpacking food company for you! Experience day-to-day variety while meeting your macronutrient and nutrition goals.
This small, family-run business was created on a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail! Looking for the ability to hike the trail while following a Keto diet inspired Jessie to make her meals for the adventure. Next Mile Meals only uses the highest-quality meats, vegetables, and cheeses.
May carb-eating customers like to add their own rice or ramen to each bag. This strategy cuts overall costs as well as cost per calorie. Next Mile Meals strives to bring great-tasting backpacking meals that are high in protein and fats to their outdoor community!
Best Keto Backpacking Meals
Outdoor Herbivore ($8-$16)
- freeze-dried and dehydrated
The best freeze-dried backpacking food for the vegetarian and vegan backpacker! Outdoor Herbivore’s meals are made with whole food ingredients using a combination of organic freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients. Over 85% of their ingredients originate in the United States! There’s nothing like a locally produced meal.
If you’re looking for a meal with lower sodium content, Outdoor Herbivore uses a wide variety of dried herbs and spices to pack a ton of flavor without the high salt content.
Best Outdoor Herbivore Meals
- Bear Patch Cobbler
- Lemony Herb Quinoa Salad
- Pack-it Primavera
- Penne-demic Marinara
Best Budget Backpacking Meals
Hungry hikers seeking high calorie to cost ratio should take a look at these backpacker meal companies.
Backpacker’s Pantry ($6-$13)
- freeze-dried and dehydrated
Backpacker’s Pantry has been in the business of making dehydrated meals for decades. They are still among the most recognizable backpacking food brands in the industry with one of the largest selections of backcountry meals on the market.
They have a meal for every palate and dietary need with a great taste. There are many gluten-free, vegan, and organic options as well as worldly flavors. Jamaican Jerk Rice with Chicken, Kathmandu Curry, and Pad Thai are among the most popular meals from Backpackers Pantry. Additionally, all Backpacker’s Pantry meals are MSG-free and have a shelf life of 7 years.
Favorite Backpackers Pantry Meals
- Granola with Blueberries, Almonds, & Milk
- Pad Thai
- Fettuccini Alfredo
- Stroganoff Sauce, Egg Noodles, Beef, & Mushrooms
Mountain House ($9-$11)
Mountain House is one of the best freeze-dried backpacking food options for good reason. They’ll provide you with the calories and nutrients you need to sustain your adventure. Although these meals are often high in sodium and preservatives, they remain a reliable, lightweight backcountry source of nutrition.
You aren’t going to find all-natural, organic ingredients in a Mountain House pouch, but you will receive the calories you need to keep adventuring. Mountain House has a high calorie-to-weight ratio and a low price. It’s the perfect budget freeze friends backpacking food option.
With a 30-year taste guarantee, Mountain House is a great option for buying now and eating much later. The long shelf life of Mountain House makes it a great product to stock up on for your various backpacking trips while keeping a stash for disaster preparedness. Mountain house is an affordable and reliable freeze-dried backpacking food company.
Best Mountain House Meals
- Breakfast Skillet
- Chicken and Dumpling
- Chili Mac with Beef
- Chicken Fried Rice
Peak Refuel ($13)
Peak Refuel meals pack a lot of calories in their double serving pouch. This makes them an incredibly affordable option for backcountry dinner for two.
Peak Refuel Meals are freeze-dried, not dehydrated. This means that they will rehydrate in less time and with less water than dehydrated meals. A delicious meal that’s ready in 15 minutes? Sign me up! Peak Refuel has some of the best breakfast options on the market.
My fiancé and I love Peak Refuel meals in the backcountry because it means we can share a cheap, easy meal that will fill us up and fuel us for adventure! With that in mind, it might not be ideal for solo adventures. All Peak Refuel’s meals come in double servings. At nearly 1,000 calories a pouch, that might be too much for a solo adventurer to finish in one sitting.
Favorite Peak Refuel Meals
- Mountain Berry Granola
- Chicken Teriyaki Rice
- Beef Stroganoff
- Sweet Pork and Rice
Ethically Sourced Freeze Dried Backpacking Food
Backpacking food companies that are ethically sourced utilize a sustainable and responsible approach to supply chain management and sourcing their ingredients. Fair wage, environmental impacts, and social influence are taken
Fernweh Food Company ($9-$15)
Fernweh Food Company is known for its thoughtfully produced and packaged provisions, designed to nourish the adventurer in all of us. The brand is committed to supporting local and sources a huge variety of fresh produce from small farms in the Portland area.
Their goal is to create bulk dehydrated meals with low-impact packaging. Their adventure foods are sold in 100% compostable packaging when possible. When not possible, they’re sold in Omnidegradable Packaging, which is made of materials that decompose wherever there are naturally-occurring microbes.
Fernweh Food Company also sells a few of its meals in bulk! And they’re working on adding to the list. This is helpful for people traveling in a large group and people who like to cook in their own containers.
Fernweh Food Company Favorites
- Sweet Potato Breakfast Bowl
- Mushroom Pot Pie
- Southwest Stew
- Red Beans, Greens, and Coconut Rise
Good to-Go ($10 – $15)
Good To-Go’s missing is to provide healthy meals on the go and they do just that! Good To-Go strives to offer meals that suit all diets. All of their products are gluten-free, low in sodium, and made with no preservatives. There are also several vegan and vegetarian.
Good To-Go meals are made in Maine by Iron Chef competitor, Jennifer Scism. Her healthy, homemade meals are a true hit in the outdoors!
Good To-Go practices zero-waste production and leans heavily on sustainable food sourcing. All ingredients are gluten-free and most come from certified organic farms. The remaining ingredients are largely organic but do not come from certified farms. After a long day of hiking, knowing you’re eating a meal that’s environmentally conscious will make dinner taste that much better!
My Good To-Go Favorites
- Mushroom Risotto
- Thai Curry
- Chicken Pho
Heather’s Choice ($10 – $15)
Heather’s Choice has the best ingredient list of all the dehydrated dried backpacking food. This small company puts their meals together using high-powered foods such as 100% grass-fed bison and elk and wild-caught sockeye salmon.
There may not be a ton of options when selecting a Heather’s Choice meal, but the quality is amazing. Many dinner options offer 40 grams of protein per serving with real meat options. Due to the amount of meat-focused options, Heather’s Choice isn’t the best option for a vegetarian diet.
Additionally, Heather’s Choice has 8 flavors of protein-packed, delicious packaroons. Packaroons are coconut macaroons for your backpack! These will quickly become your new favorite high-calorie backpacking snack and/or dessert.
Favorite Heather’s Choice Meals
- Banana Nutmeg Breakfast
- Grass-fed Bison Chili
- Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder
- Mom Spaghetti with Beef Marinara
Environmentally Conscious Backpacking Meal Companies
These companies are aware of their impact on the environment. They’re the best backing meals when it comes to sustainability and environmental awareness.
Packit Gourmet ($11 – $13)
This family-run business loves the outdoors just as much as you do! After years of dehydrating their own backpacking meals, they’ve decided to share their homemade dehydrated meals with the masses.
Packit Gourmet is a one-stop-shop for outdoor enthusiasts. They offer both hot and cold water meals as well as freeze-dried groceries. There are 113 pages of trail groceries on the Packit Gourmet website.
We’re all familiar with hot water backpacking meals, but cold prep entrees are perfect for stove-less camping and backpacking trips! It’s amazing to have a good meal that doesn’t require a stove. Additionally, the option to purchase groceries so you can build your own meals allows you to be creative and cater to your own needs and taste preferences.
Favorite Packit Gourmet Meals
- Polenta with Pork Sausage
- All American Works Burger
- Texas State Fair Chili
- Cajun Ranch Chicken Salad
Wild Zora ($13)
Wild Zora is committed to using only the highest quality, responsibly sourced ingredients. This woman-owned, family-run business strives to provide healthy, delicious, and convenient products to the outdoor community
These paleo-friendly meals are gluten-free and rich in protein. With an impressive ingredient list, Wild Zora Paleo Meals to go are a great option for health-conscious adventurers.
At $13 for one serving, Wild Zora is on the more expensive side. If you’re looking for food that’s made with love and clean ingredients, then the price tag might not be too important to you!
Wild Zora Family Favorites
- Cliffside Coconut Berry
- Lemon Chicken Soup
- Mountain Beef Stew
- Summit Savory Chicken
Patagonia Provisions ($7-$13)
Yes, the same Patagonia our favorite puffy jacket and outdoor gear comes from. known for their environmental consciousness, it’s no shock that their food branch, Patagonia Provisions, fits the same mold!
Patagonia’s Provisions includes a variety of snacks and side dishes. Although their menu is small, each meal or snack’s ingredients and taste are both at the top of their game. Additionally, they carry products from other companies that share their love of the environment.
Although Patagonia Provisions is a freeze-dried backpacking food company, their meals are not “cook in pouch” style. You have to use a pot and stove to cook these meals. This isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for many campers, however, carrying a stove and pot large enough to cook a meal in can be tough when backpacking.
Best Patagonia Provisions Meals
- Organic Tsampa Soup, Garden Veggie
- Spicy Buffalo Jerky
No-Cook Backpacking Meals
Let’s take quick and easy to the next level with a meal that requires no cooking and no preparation.
Greenbelly Meals ($11 – $13)
- Energy bar
If you’re looking for a ready-to-eat meal that provides the nutrition and calories you need in the backcountry, Greenbelly Meal Bars are a great choice. They’re faster and lighter than just add water meals and likely become your next backpacking staple.
You will appreciate the nutrition label and taste of Greenbelly Meals. These gluten-free bars have a fluffy rice crispy texture with chunks of fruits and nuts. Each pouch comes with two of these bars, totaling 650 calories and over 25% of your daily carbohydrates, protein, sodium, fat, and fiber.
Greenbelly also boasts a product called mud meal. Mud Meal is an all-natural drinkable meal that includes 400 calories, over 21 grams of protein, and 20 grams of fat with only 4 grams of sugar. Add two heaping spoons to 6-10 ounces of water to stay fueled for the long haul!
Best Greenbelly Meal Flavors
- Strawberry Mud Meal
- Dark Chocolate Banana
- Spiced Caramel Apple
- Peanut butter Apricot
Backpacking Meal Planning Ideas
There are so many different options from so many different brands, but sometimes, spicing it up a bit can be a great addition to add to your total calories and taste. There are a few ideas that have worked best for me in the past, and I’m here to share them with you.
- Pack a tortilla, hot sauce, and avocado to turn your Mountain House breakfast skillet into a hearty, energy-filled breakfast burrito.
- Bring along Mac and Cheese to add to Red Chili style dishes
- Add a good carb source like rice, quinoa, or faro to meat and veggie-heavy meals
- Purchase a vegan or vegetarian meal and add your own meat source to pack on the protein
What is the difference between Dehydrated and Freeze dried?
Although dehydrated and freeze-dried foods both retain a high nutritional value, they have noticeable differences.
Freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf life, lower moisture content, and often taste better than dehydrated foods. Additionally, freeze-dried foods rehydrate faster and also retain their original shape, texture, and color. The variety of foods that can be freeze-dried is greater than what can be dehydrated.
When a food item is dehydrated, heat and airflow are used to remove moisture from the item. Freeze-drying food uses a combination of extremely low temperatures, vacuum sealing, and heat to accomplish sublimation to remove moisture.
Creating dehydrated foods in a household kitchen is an affordable possibility with the right equipment. The freeze-drying process often requires commercial equipment. Luckily, either method will leave you with a shelf-stable option that will fuel you for whatever adventure you choose!
How should I use my freeze-dried meals?
Although some people purchase freeze-dried meals for emergency preparedness, most people invest for their next big hiking trip.
I utilize freeze-dried backpacking meals for my National Park Road Trips, Adirondack Camping Trips, and always have a few stored away just in case. While road tripping, it’s very convenient to have a quick meal option both at your campsite and while you’re traveling from one destination to the next.