Backpacking increasingly becomes more popular as time passes. If you value quiet solitude on the trails, this might not be such good news. But if you value delicious meals after a hard day of hiking, this popularity is a blessing and you can enjoy best backpacking meals in nature.
As more and more people hit the trail, companies have gotten increasingly more creative in their quest to make the best dehydrated food. These days, you don’t even need to bring a mess kit in your pack. Just boil water, pour it into your bag, and stir it up.
You can have a hot meal in less than 10 minutes. Now, the only thing left for you to do is decide which meals are your favorite.
There are a few important features to consider when trying to buy the best hiking food for your backpacking trip. We’ve outlined the top three things to consider when choosing your perfect camping meal.
Taste is far and away the most important consideration when shopping for camping meals. Of course, there are people out there who don’t care about food. If that is you, go ahead and read the next section.
But for those of us with taste buds, there is nothing worse than finishing a strenuous hike and having to eat bland, tasteless food. Try to prepare a “test” meal before you hit the trail, to find out ahead of time whether you like a given product. Make sure you’re bringing food that you can enjoy after a hard day of trekking.
As with pretty much all camping supplies, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing something that is light weight. You take all this time and effort to buy lightweight trekking equipment, you don’t want to weigh yourself down with needless pounds of food.
The best backpacking meals will be lightweight, high calorie, and will give you the fuel you need to complete your adventure. See our article on the best dehydrated food recipes for more nutritious options on your fingertips.
This consideration is especially important if you are buying these meals to keep in case of emergencies.
You don’t want a disaster to strike, only to discover you don’t have any food. As a rule of thumb, try to buy products that will last ten years or more.
What Can You Find on The Market?
Mountain House Just In Case 72 Hour Kit
Weight: 2.9 lbs
Dimensions: 9 x 9 x 12
Special Features: This package contains enough food for 1 person for 3 days, and is good until 12 years from the manufacturing date on the packaging.
The meal set includes granola with milk and blueberries, scrambled eggs with bacon, pasta primavera, rice and chicken, rice and teriyaki chicken, and beef stroganoff and noodles.
Best Use: Emergencies, Wilderness backpacking, Power Outages
Description: As far as freeze dried food goes, Mountain House does a good job. In terms of taste, Mountain House may be one of the best on the market.
Most freeze dried food can be pretty bland and flavorless, but Mountain House Just in Case 72 can be downright enjoyable. Especially after a long day of trekking, having a meal with flavor can be pretty important.
In terms of longevity, the 12-year shelf life of these products is great for backpacking. However, if you’re planning on keeping these meals tucked away in an emergency kit, 12 years may go by faster than you think.
Lastly, the weight of this package is good for backpacking. Not too heavy and very compact, it doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your pack.
There are really only 2 downsides to this product:
- There is a low-calorie count per serving. With only 200 to 250 calories a serving and 2.5 servings per packet make sure you calculate your caloric needs before throwing these into your pack for a trek.
- As stated above, the 12-year shelf life is not the longest in the market and should be something to consider if you’re buying this food for emergencies.
Backpackers Pantry Hawaiian Style Rice with Chicken
Weight: 14.2 oz
Dimensions: 10 x 8 x 1 inches
Special Features: This package includes 2 servings and cooks in the pouch, just add hot water.
Best Use: Backpacking
Description: Backpackers Pantry Hawaiian Style Rice with Chicken is another reliable freeze dried food brand. Most of their meals taste good, are lightweight, and don’t take up too much space in the pack.
If you are new to backpacking or don’t like to pack your own meals, a prepackaged meal like this one is a good option.
The spices and flavors on the Hawaiian rice are pretty decent. Just, be sure to use less water than the amount they recommend. If you use the full amount of water, it will end up pretty soupy.
A few other words of caution: be ready to add 10 minutes to the cook time, to make sure that the food has enough time to cook properly, and make sure you shake it and stir it, to avoid having dry clumps at the bottom of the bag.
Overall, this is a good choice for backpacking food. Tastes decent, and will fill you up after a hard day of hiking.
Wise Company Entree Only Grab n Go Food Kit
Weight: 20 lbs
Dimensions: 15 x 10 x 12 inches
Special Features: This product has a 20-year shelf life, and comes with 30 pouches, each with 4 servings.
Best Use: Emergencies, backpacking.
Description: Wise Company Entree Only Grab n Go Food Kit can be a great resource for families who want to stock up in the case of emergencies, but there are a few downsides to this product as well.
As far as taste is concerned, this Wise Company gets an average rating. The food tastes fine but sometimes is a bit salty. Overall, it is palatable and after a hard day of trekking, it will still hit the spot.
The best thing about this freeze dried food is its 20-year shelf life. Whether you want to use it for emergencies or for backpacking, it is nice to know you’ll have food to sustain you for 2 decades.
However, customers do have a few complaints about this product that are worth noting:
- The calorie count: each pouch claims to have 4 servings, however, one serving is only 250 calories. Most adults need to eat 400-600 calorie meals, so the term “serving” here is a bit disingenuous.
- These packets are not great for solo backpackers. Because there are 4 servings per packet, you cannot divide it into 2 helpings before cooking it. This product works for families who are camping, but not for individuals.
Alpine Air Honey Lime Chicken
Weight: 5.8 ounces
Dimensions: 8 x 8 x 8 inches
Special Features: This product cooks in the bag and comes with 2 servings per pouch.
Best Use: Backpacking, Power outages, emergencies
Description: Alpine Air is regarded by some as one of the tastiest prepackaged camping foods on the market. For the honey lime chicken, the flavor is really quite tasty, not too salty or unpalatable.
As with all freeze dried food, make sure to use a little less water than they recommend, it helps to keep the flavor concentrated.
Some customers do report the bags for this brand of camping food have broken in their packs.
Make sure you keep it packaged up well, don’t store it next to pointy objects in your pack. Otherwise, this is a solid choice for backpacking food. If stored in a cool area, out of sunlight, it should stay good for many years.
Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef
Weight: 4.8 oz
Dimensions: 11 x 2 x 8 inches
Specific Features: This meal cooks in the pouch, comes with 2.5 1 cup servings, and has a 30-year taste guarantee.
Best Use: Backpacking. Emergencies
Description: Again, Mountain House impresses with their flavor, shelf life, and compact packaging. In terms of flavor, Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef is one of the most popular Mountain House meals on the market. The ratio of beef to macaroni to beans is spot on.
The sauce is flavorful, with just a bit of a spicy kick. The 2.5 cups of food are enough to feed 2 moderately hungry person, or enough for one completely starving man.
If there was any complaint about this product, it is that the beef doesn’t have the texture of fresh beef. But really, for a freeze dried meal, this one is pretty darn good.
Mountain House Neapolitan Ice Cream Bar
Weight: 0.8 oz
Dimension: 0.9 x 5.3 x 9 inches
Special Features: This product comes in no mess packaging, and is ready to eat. It comes with 1 serving that has a 2-year flavor guarantee.
Best Use: Backpacking. Snacking.
Description: Mountain House Neapolitan Ice Cream Bar is more unusual that your standard camping food, but as a snack or dessert, it can be a great option for something different while you’re on the trail.
It has a really interesting texture, it is a bit dry, and looks chalky, but when you start to eat it, it will melt in your mouth. The product doesn’t require any rehydration, you eat it as is.
Perhaps the downsides are that it is pretty sugary and the texture can be unexpected. Yet, this is one of the highest rated desserts on Mountain House’s menu. And who doesn’t want to eat astronaut food?
This product also gets extra points for its slim packaging and ultra-light weight. The only downside is, that unlike other Mountain House products, it will only last for 2 years on your shelf.
MaryJanesFarm Chili Mac
Weight: 4.9 ounces
Dimensions: 9 x 7 x 1
Special Features: This organic packaged food is vegetarian and cooks in the bag.
Best Use: Backpacking. Emergencies
Description: MaryJanesFarm Chili Mac is organic and a great option for more health conscious backpackers.
In terms of taste, this meal is pretty yummy, with a nice mix of chili beans, flavors, and pasta. However, it does lack in salt but after a long day of trekking, it is okay to add a little extra salt into your meals.
In terms of the packaging, this slim packaging holds up well in a pack, and is able to hold hot water well without burning the user.
If there were any downsides to this product, it concerns the amount of food:
- There are not enough calories in a single serving to compensate for a long day of trekking.
- The single package does not make you feel completely full. You may also want to pack dessert.
Backpackers Pantry Kathmandu Curry
Weight: 1 lb
Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 10
Special Features: This product cooks in the bag, is vegetarian, and includes 2 14 ounce servings.
Best Use: Backpacking. Emergencies
Description: Another good vegetarian option, Backpackers Pantry Kathmandu Curry is flavorful and the huge package will last you a long time on the trail. It is a good option for vegan or vegetarian backpackers who want to make sure they are getting enough protein.
The food is lightweight, and won’t take up a huge amount of space in your pack. Also, like most freeze dried foods, it is easy to make, just remember not to add too much water. It can get soupy and flavorless when you use too much water.
Customers do complain about the spiciness of this dish. If you are accustomed to spicy food, it won’t bother you, but if you are sensitive to spice, maybe this isn’t the product for you.
Overall, this is a filling vegetarian option for backpackers, that will provide you with plenty of food without wasting space or weight.
Plenty of Camping Food Options
Thanks to the wide variety of outdoors stores and the rising popularity of camping and backpacking, there are more and more options for freeze dried, pre-packaged camping meals on the market.
With so many different options to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find something you like. Keep testing out the different options until you find a few meals that suit your palate, and then you know what to bring when you hit the trail. The best backpacking food is the one that you can eat over and over again.
Need more ideas? Check out our article on the best camping food ideas – it’s a great read!