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Freeze-dried meals are popular with many campers. They’re convenient, filling, rich in calories, and very easy to prepare. But with so many options available, it can be hard to figure out the best options when your goal is to camp in style.
The best freeze-dried food for camping is nutrient-dense, all-natural, filling, high in energy, and bears a long shelf-life. It should be lightweight, quick to prepare, tasty, available in many flavors, and free of preservatives and artificial colors.
In this article, we comb through dozens of freeze-dried food options in the market to bring you a list of 10 of the very best, including options for vegans and vegetarians. We’ll also explore what makes these freeze-dried meals the best and what to look for when buying your freeze-dried food for your next camping adventure.
What Makes Freeze-Dried Food Popular Camping Food?
Freeze-dried food is food devoid of moisture content. This food preservation system preserves nutrients, allows food to stay fresh for longer, and you only need a quick rehydration process to consume it.
As mentioned previously, freeze-dried food is extremely convenient. To prepare a meal, all you need to do is add boiling water, and your food is ready in a few minutes. You can also eat your meal straight off the pack meaning there will be no dishes to clean up afterward.
Freeze-dried meals come in different flavors—some tastier than others. While they don’t taste exactly like gourmet meals, these meals are great to come back to after a hard day on the trails. Besides, you can bring the taste up a notch with easy-to-carry condiments like hot sauce, olive oil, salt, dry cheese, and pepper.
Though not as nutritious as freshly cooked food since it contains sodium (amongst other additives), freeze-dried food retains up to 90% of its nutrients. The food provides you with a balanced meal.
The meals don’t come cheap, but when you want to camp in style, freeze-dried food is just what you need to take your camping experience to the next level.
What to Consider Before Buying Freeze-Dried Food
While freeze-dried food contains a high nutritional value, there are several features you need to look out for before buying your pack. Some of these include:
- Cooking time: Some recipes take less time to cook. Remember, you want a quick meal—you don’t want to sit around waiting for your dinner.
- Great taste: While the food won’t taste like a fresh home-cooked meal, you can still get flavors and textures that are quite pleasant.
- Ingredient list: Choose freeze-dried food with whole familiar ingredients and stay away from too much sodium or unrecognizable ingredients. Such food has a shorter shelf-life than its artificially supplemented counterparts.
- Nutrition: Each freeze-dried food package comes as a complete meal with proteins, fats, and carbs to provide you with ample fuel for your hike. However, you may want to check the nutritional information to confirm there’s enough calorie content or to avoid consuming too much salt or fiber. For extra protein, you can supplement your meals with cheese, dried meats, or protein powder.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the best freeze-dried foods you can have for stylish camping.
Mountain House freeze-dried foods are easy to find and relatively affordable. They are also hearty, filling dishes that boast a long shelf life—up to 30 years! This flavorful dish contains two servings of spicy chili sauce loaded with beef, macaroni noodles, beans, and onions. To serve, add hot water, and your satisfying meal will be ready in a few minutes.
This is a delicious blend of tender beef, mushrooms, and noodles in a rich sour cream sauce. The food takes under 10 minutes to prepare and makes an excellent dish for a camping night. What’s more, it has no artificial flavors or colors and requires no cleanup.
If you are wondering what to eat for breakfast, Mountain House Biscuits and Gravy have got you covered. This delicious, hearty meal features fluffy buttermilk biscuits alongside pork sausage in a creamy gravy. A single pack contains two servings, so you can spread it over two days—or not if you are feeling particularly ravenous.
This brand has an extensive freeze-dried food catalog and a wide variety of small dishes, breakfasts, and desserts to suit every taste. Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai consists of rice noodles in a sweet-spicy garlic sauce, soy protein, vegetables, and roasted peanuts. It’s protein-dense, gluten-free, non-GMO, and great for vegetarians.
Note that these meals take a little longer to prepare—about 20 minutes—but the delicious larger servings are well worth the wait.
Backpacker’s Pantry Lasagna is a high protein vegetarian meal. It comprises parmesan cheese, tomatoes, noodles, organic soy protein, and Italian seasonings. The food is tasty and filling enough that you can use a single pack to cover two meals or share it with a friend. With vegetarian freeze-dried foods not so easy to come by, this dish is a sure winner.
All Good To-Go freeze-dried foods are gluten-free certified and pescatarian-friendly. They have no chemical additives or preservatives and contain less sodium than other brands. Thai Curry is delicious and a favorite of many campers. The spicy yellow coconut curry comes loaded with vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans served with fragrant jasmine rice.
To prepare, pour boiling water into the pack, zip up, and wait 20 minutes before serving.
This delicious vegan meal contains whole grain, gluten-free oats, raw nuts such as almonds and pecans, and fiber-packed seeds like flax and sesame seeds. The gluten-free mixture also boasts antioxidants and vitamin B6 from blueberries, maple syrup, and honey. Whole milk, coupled with shiitake mushrooms, spinach, carrots, and zucchini, round up this complete meal.
Wild Zora Paleo Meals consist of grass-fed beef and real vegetables. The brand is synonymous with great taste and uses the best ingredients. Again, these ingredients undergo minimal processing—no antibiotics or hormones. As a result, the nutritious, healthy, and highly-satisfying meals are all-natural, gluten-free, and full of flavor.
This 4-pack comprises two meals each of Summit Savory Chicken and Mountain Beef Stew, and you can prepare the food by simply adding water to the pouch. Though a little pricier than their counterparts, these meals are worth paying extra for a taste of freshly-made food.
Packit Gourmet packs their ingredients separately, which helps maintain freshness while giving you the freedom to choose how to prepare your food. This freeze-dried meal takes an exciting twist on native comfort food by blending fire-roasted whole kernel and creamy sweetcorn.
Added to the above mix are cheddar-jack cheese, chili peppers, southwestern spices, and maple sugar to round up the flavors. The hot kick from the green peppers makes the meal perfect for a chilly day on the trails.
Mary Jane’s Farm uses organic, recognizable ingredients to make nutritious freeze-dried meals that last up to two years. The large assortment of all-natural foods are mostly vegetarian, and you can also cook the meals in the pouch. Tasty Organic Bare Burrito contains rice, corn, beans, cheese, garlic, onions, and spices. You can have it with a tortilla, but it’s also delicious on its own.
Freeze-dried foods are one of the easiest, most convenient ways to get a hot meal while camping in style. However, to get the best taste, you need to follow the package instructions. Remember to drink lots of water afterward for easier digestion and to counter the high sodium content.
Try out some of these fantastic flavors the next time you go camping in style for a whole new taste experience.
- Mary Jane’s Farm: Organic Bare Burrito
- 99 Boulders: 5 Best Freeze-Dried Meals in 2020
- Packit Gourmet: Santa Fe Breakfast Corn Pudding
- Clever Hiker: Best Freeze Dried Food for Backpacking
- Switchback Travel: Best Backpacking Meals of 2020
- Backpackers Pantry: Camping Food 101: What are Freeze Dried Meals?
- Trail and Summit: Freeze Dried Camping Food: Our 10 Favorite Brands
- My Open Country: 7 Best Freeze-dried Food for Backpacking [2020 Edition]
- Champagne-Tastes: Best Freeze-dried Meals