There is no denying that sharing a fresh meal with your friends and family around a campfire is one of the best memories you will make while camping. However, if you are backpacking, fresh meals do not come very easy.
Backcountry meal planning when you are hiking, or backpacking is close to impossible. Figuring out how to carry around foods with nutritional value can add unnecessary weight to your backpack. This leaves you with only a few meal options for your trip.
It is most common for backpackers to carry freeze-dried meals because they are lightweight and offer multiple meal flavors. You can get these meals ready to go with just some boiling water.
Packing an appropriate backpacking meal can seem overwhelming because you don’t know exactly what to pack. Which foods have the best shelf life in a backpack? Is the preparation time short and easy? How do you know which companies offer a freeze-dried meal option?
Two popular brands carry freeze-dried food: Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House. These companies make it easy for you to eat a meal that has nutritional value while saving space and weight in your backpack.
Backpacker’s pantry meals
Ann Benedict initially founded Backpacker’s Pantry meals in 1951 to supply Girl Scouts with meals that will provide them with proper nutrition on their hiking and camping trips. These freeze-dried meals were meant to be lightweight and healthy, so they were easy to carry around in backpacks.
When the Smith family bought Backpacker’s Pantry in 1971, they started to focus on marketing their meals to the regular consumer market. The Smith family is all about spending time outdoors, so they know precisely what campers and hikers are looking for in a healthy, quick meal.
Backpacker’s Pantry meals focus on providing a healthy amount of carbs, protein, and vitamins. All of these backpacking meals are MSG-free and all-natural. The average shelf life of one of these meals is seven years, while the cans meant for emergency survival have a shelf life of about 25 years.
Backpacker’s Pantry meals offer a wide variety and have a detailed menu to help you navigate their website. You can shop for breakfast, entrees, desserts, cases, and emergency food supplies. Backpacker’s Pantry also has options for any dietary needs such as dairy-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian meal options. They even have desserts!
Backpackers Pantry Meals
The majority of the breakfast options offered by Backpacker’s Pantry are either oatmeal or granola. These meal pouches are high in carbs, giving you plenty of energy to make it through your day. The granola prepares instantly, while the oatmeal takes about 5 to 10 minutes to set, depending on how thick you like it.
There are so many different entrees offered by Backpacker’s Pantry that you can choose from. These meals range from lasagna to Shepherd’s Potato Stew and many more in between. You will be able to find a meal that fits your tastes.
One of the most popular meal pouches offered by Backpacker’s Pantry is the stroganoff with egg noodles, meat sauce, and mushrooms. It has a 10-year shelf life and 16 grams of protein, and 300 calories per serving.
To prepare, all you need to do is add just over 2 cups of cold water or boiling water and stir. Seal and let it sit for about 20 minutes, then you can enjoy it. There are two servings per pouch, and you can purchase one single pouch or a 6-pack.
When it comes to vegan options offered by Backpacker’s Pantry, Pad Thai is a favorite. This meal contains 20 grams of protein and 460 calories per serving. It has a three-year shelf life and has two servings per pouch.
Add the included peanut butter packet to the other ingredients, making sure to leave out the peanuts. Stir in some boiling water, then let sit for about 20 minutes. Crush the peanuts and sprinkle them over the top and serve.
If you are looking for something that is dairy-free but still offers you some meat, the Sweet and Sour Rice and Chicken is a fantastic option. You get 19 grams of protein and 340 calories per meal. This meal is also gluten-free.
If you have a massive sweet tooth, there is no reason to worry. Backpacker’s Pantry offers dessert options that will make your stomach happy. You can choose between Creme Brûlée, Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake, or ice cream sandwiches.
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About the Pouches
The pouches are about 7 ounces and are completely flat, making them simple to store and carry for easy backpacking food. This can make it a little challenging to fill the pouch with water, but you will get used to it.
Backpacker’s Pantry offers meals with lower sodium and a high-calorie count. You will also notice there are more vitamins in their pouches than some of their competitors.
Each pouch is decently priced, so you don’t need to worry about breaking the bank. Depending on what meals you choose, you can expect the cost to be between $4.50 and $10.90. This is a great deal when you think about the fact there are two meals in each pouch.
Mountain House surprisingly did not start as a company that produces backpacking food. The company started as a production company for the United States Special Forces during the Vietnam War.
The military kept requesting new meals that tasted better, were lightweight, and had a longer shelf life than the meals they were currently eating. In the beginning, the company wasn’t Mountain House; it was Oregon Freeze Dry.
While the company still offers its services to the military, they also started servicing the consumer market in 1969. There were not many brands offering freeze-dried meals at that time, so Mountain House meals were the most popular company to buy backpacking food from.
Mountain House offers many options for breakfast, entrees, desserts, and sides. You will be able to find any type of meal that you want to take with you on your backpacking trip.
Mountain House Meals
Mountain House offers freeze-dried breakfasts that allow you to keep yourself full and fueled no matter where you end up during your backpacking trip. All meals are offered in pouches, Pro-Paks, and #10 Cans, which are great for emergency preparedness.
Mountain House offers some gourmet meals for your lunch and dinner options. Some of the favorites are the Chili Mac, Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce, and Beef Stroganoff.
The Mountain House Beef Stroganoff has 280 calories per serving, and there are two servings per pouch.
The Mountain House Lasagna with meat sauce is a classic dish that will make you think of home no matter where you are. With 220 calories per serving, you can be sure you are getting a healthy meal.
The Mountain House Chili Mac is a delicious option that will offer you 230 calories per serving. There are 32 grams of carbs, providing you with a ton of energy to get through the day.
If you are looking for a gluten-free option, you should consider the Mountain House Rice and Chicken pouch. You will get 250 calories per serving, and there are two servings per pouch. Personally, i cant go past the mountain house beef stew, you just need boiling water and its perfect for winter.
Mountain House only offers a few dessert options, but all of them are delicious. They have a mint-chocolate chip ice cream sandwich, vanilla ice cream sandwich, or a raspberry crumble.
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About the Pouches
Mountain House meals take anywhere between 8 and 10 minutes to be good to go. Each pouch will weigh around 5 ounces and have a flat bottom, making it much easier to pour the water in and eat directly from the pouch.
Another option that is not as popular as the two brands listed above is Wise Foods. They offer emergency preparation meals, as well as food for adventures you might take. They are less popular than Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry, but you will still find a decent variety of backpacking food options.
Backpacker’s Pantry vs. Mountain House: Which Brand Should You Buy?
Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House are both highly respected and highly recommended brands that offer backcountry meals. Each brand has its fan base, but you can also find a backpacker who will happily eat freeze-dried meals from either brand.
Backpacker’s Pantry offers more dietary friendly options that a company like Mountain House doesn’t provide. You will be able to pick from dairy-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, and other dietary restriction options.
Either brand will take some weight off your shoulders (literally) by allowing you to choose freeze-dried pantry meals that are light and easy to stash in your backpack. You need some water to make sure.
If you aren’t sure which brand will be the best for you, consider trying out a few meals from each company. Do a taste test, figure out what you like. If you decide you like both brands, you can order from both companies in the future.