top of page

The Best Backpacking Meals

Freeze-dried meals have come a long way in the past decade. There are now small-batch companies using quality ingredients that taste nearly as good as the real thing (without the freeze-drying process). But, the more quality the offering, the more expensive the meals will be. While most thru-hikers gravitate toward Ramen and instant mashed potatoes, it is nice to have a quality meal on an overnight trip, or simply as a treat. Here is our roundup of the best freeze-dried meals on the market.

  1. Best Overall: Peak Refuel

  2. Best Budget: Readywise

  3. Best Value: Mountain House

  4. Premium Offering: Heathers Choice

Most Popular Backpacking freeze dried meal companies

Company

Calories per ounce

Cook Method

Price

150

Pouch

115

Pouch

$13

120

Pot

125

Pouch

Heathers Choice

130

Pouch

130

Pouch

115

Pouch

Peak Refuel backpacking meal review

Peak Refuel is a Salt Lake City company specializing in quality meals with lots of calories and protein. The Peak meals are known for their premium taste and their filling serving size.

Pros:

  1. Taste: Known for a taste similar to a home-cooked meal.

  2. Nutrition: Designed to provide adequate nutrition with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

  3. Easy to prepare: The meals are easy to prepare in the pouch. They also take slightly less water than competitors.

  4. Dietary options: Peak Refuel offers a few vegetarian and gluten-free options for those with dietary restrictions.

Cons:

  1. Price: At the premium end of the market

  2. High sodium content

  3. The meals are fairly bulky, which is the tradeoff for having large portion sizes.


 
Backpackers Pantry Freeze Dried Meal review

Backpacker’s Pantry is based in Boulder, Colorado, that makes freeze-dried food made in the USA. The company has been around for over 50 years and sports a great lineup of diverse meals, usually around two servings and just a step below premium pricing.

Pros:

  1. Taste: The meals have a great flavor profile

  2. Nutrition: The meals have a great amount of calories and protein, along with a great 2 serving size that can work for two people or one very hungry thru-hiker.

  3. Variety: The Backpackers Pantry line is quite diverse with their offerings. Check them all out here.

Cons:

  1. Sodium content: As is common in the freeze-dried food category, there is lots of sodium in Backpackers Pantry meals.

  2. Price: Backpackers Pantry meals are still in the premium category, although the value for the cost is still high.



 

Right On Trek is relatively new to the market. They started in 2018 in Kalispell, Montana, and have a customizable meal offering that differs slightly from other meal companies. Right On Trek meals are meant to be cooked in pot, and have a premium taste while still offering vegetarian and gluten-free options.

Pros:

  1. Single Servings: Right On Trek offers single serving meal options which is rare in this category.

  2. The meals taste really good and feels more like standard cooking than rehydrating a meal

  3. The meals cook in 10 minutes which is quite quick compared to competitors.

  4. The single serving size is cheaper than others on this list

Cons:

  1. The meals are meant to cook in a pot. This can make the preparation and cleanup a little more complicated

  2. They have complicated ordering process and website. There is the option to customize the meals, but it can be a little complicated on their website.


 
Readywise backpacking meal review

Readywise is a large company offering a wide range of food items, from snacks to entrees to even soups. They are expanding the brand this year and reformulating some of their old recipes, along with beginning a product line to compete in the premium market while also keeping their more affordable line.


Pros:

  1. Convenience: Readywise offers super packable and easy to make meals

  2. Long shelf life: The meals last for many years on the shelf.

  3. Affordable: The Readywise meals are the most affordable on the market

  4. Wide range of offerings: Since it is a larger company, the range of Readywise meals and offerings is quite diverse

Cons:

  1. Taste and texture: Lack the premium ingredients of more expensive meals

  2. High sodium content: A common thing in the freeze-dried meal category


 
Heathers choice backpacking meal review

Heather’s Choice was founded by Heather Kelly, a wilderness guide and avid outdoorswoman who recognized a need for healthy and convenient food options while out in the backcountry. She started experimenting with dehydrating her own meals and snacks, eventually turning her passion into a business.

Pros:

  1. Healthy and Nutritious: Heather’s Choice meals have some of the highest quality ingredients

  2. Sustainable: Heather’s Choice is committed to sustainability, sourcing their ingredients from small-scale producers

  3. Taste: These are the top of the line meals, with premium quality, and packed with very solid ingredients

  4. Great entree offerings

Cons:

  1. Price: Heather’s Choice meals are some of the most expensive on the market

  2. Just one serving which is tough for the price


 
Mountain House Backpacking meal review

Mountain House is one of the first brands in the freeze-dried meal category. The company has been producing freeze-dried food for over 50 years and has stood the taste test of time. They have a wide range of offerings at a mid-tier price.

Pros:

  1. Availability: Mountain House meals are the most widely available from almost every retailer

  2. Value: at a mid-level price, Mountain House meals still taste good.

  3. Long shelf life: These can last multiple seasons if stored correctly

Cons:

  1. Texture: Some of the meal textures are not as close to a real food feel as other brands

  2. Sodium and nutrition: with less quality ingredients the meals don’t compete with the high-end premium freeze-dried meals in their composition. They also are packed with sodium.


 
Good To-Go backpacking meal review

Good To-Go makes a neat assortment of meals ranging from breakfast to dinner. They offer many of the staples but also have some different entrees that are a good change from the most generic noodle-based dishes that most companies make.

Pros:

  1. Great Value: the meals are affordable at both single serving size and two serving size

  2. Come in multiple sizes

  3. Flavor and texture: Good To-Go meals are known for their complex flavors and textures

Cons:

  1. The range in taste in the Good-To-Go product line differs quite a bit more than other brands. Some meals are great and some are just average

  2. Sodium content: Lots of sodium like other brands

  3. Serving size: A smaller serving size with less calories than other meals on the list

  4. Preparation time: The meals require boiling water and a longer rehydration time than other dehydrated food options.


 

How are freeze-dried backpacking meals made?

Freeze-dried meals are made using a process called lyophilization, which involves removing water from food by first freezing it and then drying it in a vacuum chamber. Here’s a general overview of the freeze-drying process:

  1. Preparation: The food is cooked and then frozen.

  2. Sublimation: The frozen food is placed into a vacuum chamber and heated slightly. The water in the food turns from a solid (ice) directly into a gas (water vapor) through a process called sublimation. This process removes approximately 98% of the water from the food.

  3. Condensation: The water vapor is then removed from the vacuum chamber and condensed into a separate chamber where it is frozen.

  4. Final Drying: The frozen water is then removed from the chamber by heating it to evaporate the remaining moisture. The process is complete when the food is completely dry and all moisture has been removed.

Once the lyophilization process is complete, the freeze-dried food is packaged in an airtight pouch or canister with an oxygen absorber to prevent any moisture from getting in. This ensures that the food can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling and that it will rehydrate quickly when hot water is added before consumption.

bottom of page