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One way we’ve categorized the meals in this article is by cooking method: pouch, pot, or pre-cooked meal. After dehydrating her own backcountry food for years, Alaska-based Heather Feather launched Heather’s Choice via a Kickstarter campaign in 2015. For pot meals, on the other hand, you might need to boil or simmer the food for up to 10 minutes. With that in mind, calories are your friends in the backcountry and the numbering on nutritional labels deserves your attention. #1 Selling Just Add Water Backpacking Meals in North America! Surprisingly, it also rehydrates almost twice as quickly—freeze-dried Mountain House meals cook in 9 minutes vs. the 20 minutes required for dehydrated Good To-Go meals. Add it all up over a week-long trip and with Omeals, you’re either going on a death march with a very heavy backpack or a hunger march with an empty stomach. All gripes aside, many will find the Provisions offerings worth it for the class-leading flavor and nutrition.See Patagonia Provisions Meals. But as an affordable standby for hungry backpackers, Mountain House—after all this time—still is one of the best in the game. You can find most ingredients at your average grocery store on the Appalachian Trail. Similar to Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry has been making dehydrated meals for decades and still is among the most recognizable backpacking food brands. But for a few bucks more, Next Mile Meals or those from Heather’s Choice are tastier and more nutritious.See Mountain House Pro-Pak Meals. Cooking method: PouchAverage cook time: 7-10 minutesCalories per ounce: 142What we like: Incredibly nutrient-dense and generous serving sizes.What we don’t: Expensive and limited offerings. This is not necessarily the number of calories for the whole pouch: some are single serving, others are double, and some are even made to serve four people. What we don’t: Short shelf life. Most brands featured above offer a lineup of breakfasts too, ranging from savory options like the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet to sweet treats like Backpacker’s Pantry Granola with Bananas, Almonds and Milk. It even comes with a heating element that is activated with 3-5 ounces of any kind of liquid (even sea water or coffee). To help highlight the possibilities, we’ve included the “special diets” spec in our table above. One taste and you'll know why Mountain House meals are a top choice for camping food. Mountain House’s home-cooked- style dinners—like Chicken & Dumplings and Chili Mac with Beef—cook up quickly (9 mins.) All natural ingredients, and definitely one of our favorite hiking lunch ideas. Maybe you’re pinching your pennies, cooking for the masses, or just enjoy channeling your inner chef in the wilderness. Sodium Generally, it shouldn’t be difficult to find meals that suit your dietary needs. Importantly, you also get good bang for your buck with a price that undercuts similar two-serving options by around $4-5, as well as a high calorie-to-weight ratio. About 1/6th of the weight of Mountain House is the packaging. Finally, the advertised “single serving” is actually 1.5 servings, although this will be good news for hungry hikers.See MaryJanesFarm Meals. Copyright © 2020 Mountain House. Take note: the supply of MREs seems suspect, so take care when purchasing. Mountain House backpacking food also comes in three different sizes – pouches, Pro-Paks, or cans. All of the meals above are made up of dry ingredients, but Omeals is a pre-cooked option that can be eaten straight from the package, hot or cold. The meat (free range, grass-fed, and 100% natural) especially stood out: it retained the taste and texture of real meat better than other freeze-dried meats we’ve tried. A meal’s shelf life denotes the amount of time that it retains its flavor, nutrition, and edibility. Mountain House – Granola with Milk and Blueberries is our top pick for the best backpacking breakfast food (non-savory) Start your day off right with sweet breakfast backpacking meals from Mountain House. If you prefer dehydrated, pre-packaged meals, try Backpackers Pantry or Mountain House. Compared to Next Mile above, Pro-Pak meals fall short in calories for the weight (131 vs. 142 for Next Mile), are fairly basic in terms of taste and ingredients (there are no paleo, vegetarian, or gluten-free options), and are lower in protein. It all adds up to an impressive 142 calories per ounce on average, which is far and away the best calories-per-weight spec here. Plus, with an average of 96 calories/ounce, it’s not super dense in calories. Additionally, meals from Outdoor Herbivore, Good To-Go, and AlpineAire tend to be lower in sodium than most. If you’re looking for flavorful or all-natural ingredients, look elsewhere. Ambitious backcountry chefs can stock up on the staples—instant pasta and beans, egg powder, vegetable mix, and more—and save a good deal of cash in the process. Favorite Backpacking Recipes and Ideas. Macaroni and cheese, couscous and canned chicken, a frozen burrito bought the morning of, Tasty Bites, even fresh vegetables: the sky is the limit. If you need quick calories, other pouch meals such as Mountain House and AlpineAire cook in half the time. But at 114 calories per ounce, Packit meals have a very respectable caloric density for such unique, flavorful dishes, and they even offer some cold-water lunch options too. It’s likely you’ve had your fill. Similar to Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry has been making dehydrated meals for decades and still is among the most recognizable backpacking food brands. Not surprisingly, the premium ingredients make Good To-Go meals among the most expensive on this list. They offer 16 different tasty dinners (with a variety of options for special dietary needs) that are more flavorful than most of the competition. That said, we ordered our meal in April and it came with an expiration date of November 11 of the same year. Pitch the tent, collect more water, sit down and work on a crossword with your hiking partner—20 minutes will fly by. Finally, AlpineAire offers a filter feature on their website that allows users to find meals with specific ingredients or special diet options. One serving of Paleo Meals To Go’s Beef Stew Pouch is packed with 320%, 45%, and 90%, respectively. There’s no denying that dehydrated meals are the easiest, but don’t let this article lull you into thinking that they are the only way to go. For over 50 years, they’ve been producing long-lasting freeze-dried meals that can be taken on almost every adventure. Their flavor and texture are more along the lines of canned chili than rehydrated mush. Sometimes instructions will require that you simmer the meal for up to 10 minutes (requiring a backpacking stove with good flame control). So, if you’re hoping to consume a 700-calorie dinner, Mountain House will weigh 5.4 ounces, and your Omeals dinner a whopping 26 ounces. At around $7 for two servings, these are the most budget-friendly meals on our list, especially when purchased in a six-pack. You won’t find us bringing Omeals into the backcountry very often, but for certain applications—going without a stove, emergency food in the car, canoeing, or the novelty of watching a flameless heater at work—they can be a tasty choice.See Omeals Meals. You do lose some ankle support when carrying... From our campsite, the green valley rises, steepens, and becomes rocky and cold. See MRE Complete Meals. That said, we don’t think the changes were necessarily all good. Cooking method: PouchAverage cook time: 9 minutesCalories per ounce: 122What we like: A great value with decent taste and high caloric density. The two pre-cooked meals on our list, Omeals and MRE Complete Meals, come with a small flameless heater, so you can leave your stove and pot at home. They may not knock it out of the park in terms of taste, but these meals remain a reliable and lightweight standard for backcountry cuisine. The dehydration process, on the other hand, exposes food to hot and dry air over several hours (smoking and sun-drying are also methods of dehydrating). We use affiliate links and may receive a small commission on purchases. Of course, when the meal is finished, you have to clean the pot and pack it away for your next day on the trail. However, most healthy and active individuals who spend much of the day sweating in the hot sun will need—and thus crave—high-sodium foods to replenish what is lost. Additionally, the eco-friendly packaging lacks a resealable closure for cooking your meal in the pouch, but squeezing the air out of the bag and folding the top underneath to cook is a fairly simple workaround. are a convenient, lightweight, and tasty option for backpacking dinners. What we don’t: Lots of preservatives and sodium. Good To-Go pouches, for example, are fully gluten-free. MREs are made for function: they can withstand parachute drops from over 1,000 feet and have a shelf life of 3 years in 80-degree heat. Most backcountry enthusiasts are buying for their next adventure, meaning that shelf life shouldn’t be a concern for most. That said, Next Mile isn’t shy on serving size, and many of their dinners pack in close to 600 calories. Similar to Good To-Go above, you’ll recognize all of the ingredients on their labels as real food. For pouch meals, you simply boil the water, turn off the stove, and pour the water into the pouch. 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