One of the most difficult choices you have to make when you’re packing your things for an extended backpacking trek is what kind of food you’re going to want to bring along for the ride.
There are a lot of freeze-dried foods out there, but not all of them are winners. When you bring these packages of life force with you on the trial you want to make sure they’re not just taking up space, they have to be tasty and nutritious to be worth their weight. If you’re at a culinary crossroads we’re here to clear up some of the confusion!
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
Best Freeze-Dried Food for Camping & Backpacking - Overview
Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for picks 6-8):
- 6 MEAL VARIETY SAMPLE PACK - No longer do you need to compromise taste for convenience! Our Variety Pack contains 6 delicious meals (2 Breakfast 4 Entree) with high-quality ingredients to ensure...
It’s impossible to beat this variety pack. Peak Refuel does freeze-dried food incredibly well, and getting the variety pack gives you a wide range of their selections without having to shell out a ton of cash upfront, solving the common problem of repetitive meals on the trail. It’s a package that contains over 4000 total calories, it’s way more than you’d need to feed yourself well for two straight days.
It’s a perfect package for a long camping trip or a long hike with a scenic stay at the crest of your expedition. Peak Refuel’s nutrition facts call these six packages “12 servings,” but if you’re expending energy on a difficult hike with a pack full of your heavy camping gear, you’re going to want all 4000 calories over the course of two days.
It’s possible to ration these out a bit more if you supplement them with trail mix and energy bars while you’re in between meals, but realistically you’re just going to end up eating a full package per meal to keep your strength up. If you’re not feeling up to cooking when you get your camp set up, these meals are a great way to get a full regular diet into your stomach with very little hassle.
All three pairs of meals are more than just mushed-up proteins that you add hot water to. They’re all full meals that have been carefully freeze-dried to preserve their taste and texture. When they’re reconstituted with a little bit of hot water, they make for a delicious meal.
- DELICIOUS MEAL ASSORTMENT! Savor your next adventure with this easy to carry bucket consisting of 12 total meal pouches that are loaded with unbelievable flavor. This bucket contains 24 total servings...
The Mountain House Classic Bucket is a surprisingly effective way to transport your freeze-dried meals. The bucket can clip to a pack easily, leaving you plenty of room inside of your pack for other provisions and equipment. The meals are delicious, they’re easy to prepare, and they’re low-maintenance once you’ve picked up your bucket.
There are five different nutritious meals to choose from, so you’re unlikely to get sick of the meals you’ve packed, and the packages are sizable enough to split with your travel partner. If you and a friend are splitting these you’ll get about 12 day’s worth of food. If you’re picking up food for the long haul, this package is one of the better options out on the market right now.
The meals aren’t just packed with calories, they’re carefully considered for nutritional value, and made without any artificial flavors or colors. They look delicious because of the quality of the ingredients, not because they were gussied up after the fact, and they taste delicious for the same reason.
It’s easy to crack these open for a meal you can be sure is feeding your body an adequate amount of the nutrients you need. If you have a lightweight water boiler, you’re able to condense over a week and a half of food into a single lightweight pail that travels well and becomes more multifunctional as you eat your way through the container.
This is a massive collection of food that will last you an incredibly long time. Their intended use is for emergency situations, but food is food, and if it travels well it can come with you on the trail. This set of rations is an incredible deal, for the length of shelf life this package has and the number of meals it comes with, you’re getting more food than you can carry, so you’ll be able to bankroll a couple of trips with one relatively inexpensive initial purchase.
Because this is designed to be eaten in a pinch, you’re going to be able to reap the benefits of disaster preparedness while you’re on the trail. The packages are easy to open, easy to prepare, and easy to store inside of whatever container you’re using to transport your food along with your camping gear.
Because you’re getting so many more meals for the same price as other freeze-dried options, you’re able to replace more of your food with these packages. This set is a great way to drastically reduce the overall space you have to dedicate to food and cooking accessories.
Their Achillie’s Heel, however, is the fact that the food is all a little bland, but there’s an easy solution to that glaring issue. Since you’re saving so much room and weight by bringing along these provisions instead of full meals you’re going to need pots and pans for, slide some of your favorite seasonings into your pack along with these meals, and suddenly you’ve got a three-star diner in your backpack.
- DELICIOUS BREAKFAST! Enjoy the comforting taste and smell of crispy, bacon crumbles combined with scrambled eggs. Freeze-dried to lock in nutrients and freshness. No refrigeration needed.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Starting your trek off with protein in your belly is one of the best ways to stave off hunger, give your body a boost in the morning, and start your day off feeling alert and energized. If you don’t think you’re going to enjoy replacing every single one of your meals with a package of the freeze-dried good stuff, then you might just want to invest in some of these quick breakfast options.
Mountain House uses all-natural ingredients to create delicious food that’s full of nutrition, and their breakfast provisions are no exception. A few scrambled eggs and bacon to get your day started is an amazing way to get the kind of protein and energy you’d expect from a good breakfast without having to come up with a crazy system to carry full eggs in your pack for days at a time. They’re delicious and they’re compact, a couple of these will go a long way and they’ll fundamentally change the way you go about breakfast at the campsite.
- Premium Quality & Taste — Our delicious low-fat Freeze-Dried Chicken contains only the best nutrients to keep every bite of meat tasting fresh and tender after rehydration
Freeze-dried chicken is a great way to carry your key protein with you during a long trip. You can grab yourself a container of this freeze-dried chicken and deploy it all throughout your camping trip. Nutristore’s freeze-dried chicken is an excellent way to build several meals throughout your backpacking trips, you can have tacos one night and white chili the next without having to sacrifice too much space inside of your pack.
This canister of chicken is a pretty good value for the amount of fully cooked chicken you’re getting, especially considering how much easier it makes your cooking while you’re out in the wilderness. A little bit of salt and pepper can really propel this meat into a totally different class of campfire meals.
If you're feeling lazy you also just have a quick source of protein that can be heated up and ready to eat in practically zero time at all. This chicken initially seems limiting, the package is a large canister that doesn't travel well, after all, but a little bit of ingenuity and foresight can turn a week of dull meals into a mobile smorgasbord.
- DELICIOUS MEAL! Perfectly seasoned rice and chicken in a savory sauce accented with pimentos. Freeze-dried to lock in nutrients and freshness. No refrigeration needed.
This is the kind of freeze-dried food you grab when you’re trying to get the most food for the least amount of money. It’s going to be filling, it’s going to get you your nutrients, and it’s going to last you the entire trip, but it’s not going to be the most thrilling thing in the world to eat. This is a package you should reach for if you’re either looking to feed a lot of people when you set up camp or you’re not picky in the slightest.
If you’re willing to eat the same meal multiple times in a row as long as it's fast and effective at filling you up, then there’s really nothing to complain about here. This chicken and rice isn’t exactly restaurant-quality, but it will get the job done, and you’re going to be saving so much space on the dried version of this meal, that you can afford to bring along some extra seasonings to spice things up.
This chicken and rice simultaneously show the best and the worst aspects of freeze-dried food that's cost-effective. It’s efficient to eat and easy to prepare, but if you just dive into it without any extra preparation then you’re not going to have a great time eating it over and over.
- TAKE ANYWHERE MEAL - Whether you’re camping, hiking, backpacking or hunting, take our lightweight, freeze dried and dehydrated Cuban Coconut Rice & Black Beans with you. Just add water to one of our...
This is a dish that’s high in protein and it’s a little different from what you’d usually expect from freeze-dried food. It’s a good way to branch out while still getting basically what you’re looking for in freeze-dried foods. Rice and beans are a staple for a reason. It's a good source of your three basic dietary needs.
The beans will give you all of the protein you need while also providing a tiny bit of fat, while the rice is going to supercharge your body with carbs. It’s not luxurious by any means, and if you had to eat this Backpacker’s Pantry meal every day of your life you’d get sick of it pretty quickly.
As a supplement to your other provisions, however, this is an amazing way to get some energy into your body in the middle of the day without disrupting your travel plans too much. It’s simple, but that makes it an incredible addition to your loadout. These are a tasty serviceable way to get a couple of meals in without bogging yourself down in packets and ingredients.
- ESSENTIAL SURVIVAL KIT: Each bucket contains 60 servings of meat with a 15-year shelf life.
What’s better than a bucket of meat? Wise Company has made this variety pack of freeze-dried meats so you can take your protein on the trail. By giving you a wide range of proteins to choose from you’re suddenly opening up a plethora of dinner options just by getting your hands on this big bucket of freeze-dried meats. This makes having quality meals that you enjoy while camping way less of an ordeal.
The meats are already chopped and ready to use, once you’ve added hot water to them you’re ready to incorporate them into any number of dishes. This variety pack comes with 60 full servings of meat, each of them with a shelf life of up to 15 years.
You can use this for just yourself over a number of years and dozens of camping trips, or you can use it as a quick and simple way to feed a large party of hikers every once in a while. The shelf life, cost-effectiveness, and huge number of portions mean that you’re given a huge amount of flexibility by purchasing something as simple as a bucket of meat.
This package is the kind of food you’d be happy to eat at your dining room table if you were looking for a quick and easy meal. The fact that you can have something this filling and delicious with just a little bit of boiled water and some time while on the trail is incredible. The customizable variety pack gives you a wide range of options, so you’re allowed to be picky while on a camping trip for once.
If you opt to shell out the cash for these then everybody will truly get the opportunity to eat exactly what they’re craving and it won’t leave a disappointing taste in their mouths. They’ll also walk away from each of those meals with an adequate number of calories, a healthy amount of protein, and the glucose to continue charging forward.
These freeze-dried packages are the perfect way to begin and end your days on the trail and if you supplement these meals with snacks in between, you’re going to get a lot of utility and time from just six packages of flash-frozen food.
Bonus tip: It’s hard to get a sense of how food tastes through a text-based review, here’s a video of someone tasting a lot of common freeze-dried camping provisions on camera for a better sense of what you can expect!