Best freeze-dried lunch
Mountain House Fettuccine Alfredo
An all-natural, gluten-free snack that works as a great extra for backpacking meals.
Best freeze-dried breakfast
Mountain House Breakfast Skillet
Homelike vegetarian hash browns scrambled eggs with pork patty peppers and onions.
Best freeze-dried snack
Augason Farms freeze-dried Whole Blueberries
An all-natural, gluten-free snack that works as a great extra for backpacking meals.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we know how crucial it is to have nutritious, filling, but still tasty enough meals when exploring the great outdoors. However, preparing fresh meals while camping or backpacking can be time-consuming, and carrying heavy food items or canned meals can weigh you down on the trail.
This is where freeze-dried food comes in. It’s lightweight, easy to pack, and all you need to enjoy it is some boiling water. The best part is that it also retains most of its nutrients, so it’s a great option for those looking to eat well while on the go.
But before we move on – we want to put a disclaimer. Yes, freeze-dried foods have serious benefits as backcountry meals, but they won’t compete with your freshly-cooked campfire dinner in terms of flavors.
Thank goodness, everything tastes better in the wild, especially when you’re hungry enough after all the camp tasks are done. Bring your favorite sauces and spices, and you’ll end up happy and full.
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of the best freeze-dried food options that will satisfy and energize you on your next adventure.
- What is freeze-dried food?
- Benefits of freeze-dried food for camping and backpacking
- Best freeze-dried foods for camping and backpacking
- Different types of freeze-dried food
- What about the cost?
- Freeze-dried food vs other camping food options
- Tips for choosing and storing your freeze-dried meals
- How to make your own complete freeze-dried meals
- On a hunt for more camping gear advice?
What is freeze-dried food?
Freeze-drying is a preservation method that removes all moisture from the food to create a dry, shelf-stable product perfect for camping and backpacking.
Here’s how it works: the food is flash-frozen, turning the water inside it into ice. Next, the food is placed in a vacuum chamber where the pressure is lowered, and the temperature is raised, causing the ice to turn directly into water vapor, which is then removed.
This leaves behind a dry, lightweight food product that can be rehydrated with water before consumption.
Benefits of freeze-dried food for camping and backpacking
When it comes to camping and backpacking, freeze-dried food has several benefits over other types of food. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider bringing freeze-dried meals on your next outdoor trip:
Lightweight and portable
Freeze-dried food is incredibly lightweight and easy to pack, making it a great option for camping and backpacking trips where every ounce counts.
While freeze-drying foods, around 80% of water weight is removed, while the high caloric density remains.
Since the food has had all the water removed, it takes up much less space than fresh food, canned goods, or other types of packaged food. Most store-bought meals have 500 to 900 calories and weigh 5 to 7 ounces.
This means you can pack more meals into your backpack without sacrificing valuable space or adding unnecessary weight.
Long shelf life
Another advantage of freeze-dried food is its long shelf life. With all moisture removed from the food, it can last for several years without spoiling or going bad.
You can stock up on freeze-dried meals before your trip and not have to worry about them spoiling before you get a chance to eat them. This makes them an ideal option for emergency kits or bug-out bags.
Retains nutrients and flavor
Freeze-drying is a delicate process that helps to retain most of the nutrients and flavor in the food. Unlike other preservation methods, such as canning or dehydration, freeze-drying doesn’t use high temperatures or chemicals that can damage the food’s nutritional value or taste.
So, you can enjoy delicious and nutritious meals that will energize and satisfy you during your outdoor adventures.
Easy to prepare
One of the best things about freeze-dried food is how easy it is to prepare. All you need is a source of hot water, and you can have a hot meal ready in minutes.
Simply add hot water to the freeze-dried meal, wait a few minutes to rehydrate, and you’re good to go. This will allow you to spend less time cooking and more time enjoying the great outdoors.
Versatile and convenient
Finally, freeze-dried food is incredibly versatile and convenient. You can find freeze-dried meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks and desserts. Plus, there are options for all types of dietary restrictions, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.
It’s a great option for all outdoor enthusiasts as you can find something that fits your needs and tastes.
Best freeze-dried foods for camping and backpacking
There are a ton of freeze-dried meal options available for camping and backpacking, but not all of them are created equal.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve rounded up some of the top freeze-dried meals that are both nutritious and delicious (as much as possible for them to be delicious).
As you’ll notice, our three favorite freeze-dried food companies are Mountain House, Peak Refuel, and Backpacker’s Pantry. There will be some decent options from other brands, too.
We’ve marked vegan and gluten-free options accordingly.
Best freeze-dried food for breakfast
Best breakfast: Mountain House Breakfast Skillet. It’s our most beloved, filling vegetarian breakfast skillet with hash browns, scrambled eggs, pork patty peppers, and onions. One 3.7-ounce pouch is enough for two servings. Pair it with tortillas, and it might be good for even three servings.
Here are runner-up freeze-dried breakfast meals we also like:
- Peak Refuel Breakfast Skillet
- Peak Refuel Mountain Berry Granola with Rice Milk
- Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon – gluten-free
- Mountain House Granola with Milk & Blueberries
- Mountain House Biscuits & Gravy
Best freeze-dried food for lunch and dinner
Best lunch and dinner: Mountain House Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken. It’s a creamy pasta packed with butter, parmesan, and chicken. The pouch weighs 5.5 ounces and can serve two people if you add extra ingredients. We were pleasantly surprised at how good this meal tasted.
Runner-up freeze-dried lunch and dinner meals:
- Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef – gluten-free
- Mountain House Classic Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
- Mother Earth Products Dried Vegetable Soup Mix – vegetarian, gluten-free
- Mountain House Chicken Fried Rice – gluten-free
- Backpacker’s Pantry Three Sisters Stew – vegan, gluten-free
- GOOD TO-GO Thai Curry – pescatarian, gluten-free
- Mountain House Beef Stroganoff
- Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai – vegan, gluten-free
Best freeze-dried snacks
Best freeze-dried snack: Augason Farms Freeze-Dried Whole Blueberries. It’s a gluten-free, all-natural snack that we love. It contains a nearly full flavor of fresh blackberries and plenty of nutrients and can be a great addition to other camping meals, like pancakes.
- Augason Farms Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Fruit Variety Pail
- Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mix – vegetarian
- Augason Farms freeze-dried Sweet Corn – vegetarian, gluten-free
- Backpacker’s Pantry Creme Brulee – vegetarian, gluten-free
- Augason Farms Freeze-Dried Sliced Strawberries – vegetarian, gluten-free
- Nutristore Freeze-Dried Peaches – vegetarian, gluten-free
- Astronaut Foods Freeze-Dried Ice Cream Sandwich
Different types of freeze-dried food
There are a variety of options available to suit different needs and tastes. Here are some of the most common types of freeze-dried food that you might come across:
Bulk survival meals: Are you preparing for the apocalypse or another disaster? Or maybe you’re off on a long camping trip? Then bulk survival meals might be the way to go.
These meals come in large quantities and are often packaged in waterproof containers for extra protection. They’re a great way to save money in the long run, as they usually have a long shelf life measured in years or even decades.
Single-serve meals: If you’re planning a shorter trip or prefer to pick and choose your meals individually, single-serve freeze-dried meals are your best bet.
These meals are perfect for accommodating different tastes or dietary needs, and they allow you to sample different brands and menu items before committing to buying in bulk.
Novelty items: Who says freeze-dried food must be about practicality and convenience? Some novelty items are available that can add some fun to your outdoor adventures.
Freeze-dried fruits and desserts can be a delicious and nutritious snack or dessert option, and freeze-dried ice cream is a popular choice for those hot summer days.
So whether you’re prepping for doomsday, planning a short camping trip, or just looking to add some excitement to your outdoor meals, freeze-dried food offers a variety of choices to suit your needs and preferences.
Just consider factors like shelf life, nutritional value, and taste when choosing the best freeze-dried food for your next adventure.
What about the cost?
Indeed, freeze-dried meals are not always the cheapest option when it comes to camping and backpacking food. However, their convenience and nutritional value can be well worth the investment, especially for shorter trips or those who value a lightweight and easy-to-pack meal option.
Look for bulk meal kits or sales on larger quantities to save money on freeze-dried meals. Some outdoor retailers offer discounts on bulk purchases of eight or more meals.
If these costs still don’t convince you, you can always supplement your freeze-dried meals with inexpensive options like instant noodles or pasta sides to stretch your budget. At the expense of nutrition, though.
Freeze-dried food vs other camping food options
When it comes to camping and backpacking food, there are a variety of options available. Here are some of the most popular camping food options and how they compare to freeze-dried food:
Canned goods are a popular option for camping and backpacking, as they are often inexpensive and widely available.
However, canned goods can be heavy and take up a lot of space in your backpack. Plus, they can be high in sodium and preservatives, leaving you feeling bloated and dehydrated.
In contrast, freeze-dried food is lightweight, easy to pack, and often contains fewer preservatives and sodium.
While fresh produce is a nutritious option, it can be challenging to pack and keep fresh on camping trips. Fresh produce also tends to be heavy and takes up a lot of space in your backpack.
Plus, preparing and cooking fresh produce while camping can be challenging, especially if you don’t have access to a stove or other campfire cooking equipment.
On the other hand, freeze-dried food is lightweight and easy to prepare, making it an excellent option for outdoor adventures.
Pre-packaged snacks like granola bars and trail mix are convenient and easy to pack, but they often lack the nutritional value of a full meal. Plus, they can be high in sugar and preservatives, which can leave you feeling sluggish and hungry.
On the contrary, freeze-dried meals are designed to provide a complete meal with balanced nutrition and often contain fewer preservatives and additives.
Dehydrated food is another popular option for camping and backpacking. However, dehydrated food can be time-consuming to prepare, and it often lacks the flavor and texture of fresh food.
Freeze-dried food retains most of its original flavor and texture, making it a tasty and satisfying option for outdoor adventures.
Tips for choosing and storing your freeze-dried meals
Now that you know the benefits of freeze-dried food for camping and backpacking, here are some tips for selecting and storing the best freeze-dried meals for your trip:
Consider your dietary needs
Before purchasing freeze-dried food, consider your dietary needs and restrictions. Many freeze-dried meals are designed for specific diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. Be sure to check each meal’s ingredient list and nutritional information to ensure that it fits your dietary requirements.
Look for nutritious options
When selecting freeze-dried meals, look for tasty and nutritious options. Check the nutritional information for each meal to ensure that it provides a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Meals that contain whole grains, lean protein, and a variety of freeze-dried vegetables are a great option for optimal nutrition.
Test different brands
Not all freeze-dried meals are created equal, so it’s a good idea to test different brands and meals before your trip. This will give you an idea of which food you like best and which provides the most nutrition and flavor.
Consider purchasing sampler packs or individual pouches to try out different meals.
It’s vital to store freeze-dried food properly to ensure it’s fresh and quality. Store your meals in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, as exposure to heat and light can cause the food to deteriorate more quickly.
Keep the meals in their original packaging until you’re ready to use them, as this will help maintain their shelf life.
Bring enough water
Finally, be sure to bring enough water to rehydrate your freeze-dried meals. Most meals require at least a cup of hot water per serving, so plan accordingly.
It’s also a good idea to bring a lightweight and compact stove, camping pot to boil water, and a heat-resistant utensil for stirring.
How to make your own complete freeze-dried meals
While plenty of freeze-dried meals are available for purchase, you can also make your own complete meals using freeze-dried ingredients. This allows you to customize your meals to your taste preferences and nutritional needs. Here are some tips for making your own freeze-dried meals:
Use freeze-dried ingredients: One of the easiest ways to make your own freeze-dried meals is to use and combine your chosen freeze-dried ingredients. Find a recipe and use your favorite freeze-dried fruit, vegetable, or meat for it.
These ingredients are lightweight and shelf-stable, perfect for camping and backpacking trips.
Combine with instant soup: To create a complete meal, combine freeze-dried ingredients with an instant soup mix. This will provide a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, and flavor.
You can add freeze-dried carrots, spinach, or other veggies to a chicken noodle or tomato soup mix to increase the nutritional value of your meal. A pinch of freeze-dried cheddar cheese will increase caloric density and taste.
Experiment with flavors: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and combinations when making your own freeze-dried meals. You can mix and match different types of freeze-dried fruits, vegetables, and freeze-dried meats to create unique and tasty meals.
Adding spices and seasonings to instant soups creates a more complex flavor profile.
Consider DIY freeze-drying: While freeze-drying your own food at home is possible, it’s not very cost-effective for most people. Freeze-drying requires specialized equipment and can be time-consuming.
If you’ve decided to make your own freeze-dried backpacking meals, investing in a freeze-drying machine is the way to go.
These devices don’t come cheap, and most designs cost between $1,000 to $3,000. But for the price you pay, you get a reliable and efficient method for preserving food for longer periods of time.
You’d also need to think about your home freeze-dried food storage. Mason jars are one of the decent options for storing your meals.
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