Shopping for easy, ready-made meals for backpacking or your emergency go-bag? These are my top picks for the best freeze-dried meals out there.
I don’t always camp with freeze-dried meals.
One of my favorite things about camping is campground cooking, and I love to add fresh produce to our food and make it (mostly) from scratch.
But sometimes that’s simply not practical.
When we flew to Arizona to hike Camelback Mountain and the Siphon Draw Trail, we knew we’d be car camping (not backpacking), but flying with our Coleman Classic Propane Stove was out of the question. Instead, we brought a small backpacking stove and some freeze-dried meals.
Are Freeze-Dried Meals Worth the Price?
There’s no doubt about it, at $5 to $15+ per serving, these meals can be pricey.
There’s something so satisfying about eating a hot, well-seasoned meal after a full day hiking. Some of us (me, for instance) get pretty grouchy when we live on trail mix for days.
If you have the time (and equipment) to make dehydrated meals at home, go for it! No, dehydrating is not the same as freeze-drying, but making dehydrated meals might be a little more accessible for most people than freeze-drying.
Otherwise you (like me) will have to buy your meals.
That said, I never really worry about buying too many of these meals, because they have long shelf-lives and are perfect for emergency go-bags or emergency shelter-in-place rations.
Best (+ Worst) Freeze-Dried Meals
Below are some of the best freeze-dried meal options (in my opinion). I think you’ll find these meals surprisingly delicious, especially if you’re feeling a little suspicious about freeze-dried food.
Keep in mind that most of these meals (all of them except for Omeals) require a heat source to boil water.
Obviously, I haven’t tried every brand out there, so if there’s a meal you love and I completely missed it, let me know what it is!
But first, a word of caution. Some freeze-dried meals are just plain nasty.
I don’t have a full list of the “worst” freeze-dried meals out there, but I will say that I do not like freeze-dried eggs. In my opinion, freeze-dried breakfast “egg” scrambles are the worst.
If you want to try a meal with freeze-dried eggs, I recommend starting with just one egg-filled meal. Don’t buy them in bulk for the first time, because (again), they are the worst.
Best Overall Brand
When I shop for freeze-dried meals, I usually begin by looking for Mountain House meals.
They’re easy to find (I even see them at Walmart), are relatively affordable, and (in general) are fairly tasty.
We haven’t loved every Mountain House meal we’ve tried, but most of them have been pretty fantastic (especially when you’ve been hiking all day long!).
Keep in mind that Mountain House meals tend to be fairly high-carb and most (or all) of their entrees include meat.
This Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl is one of my favorite Mountain House meals. It’s both tasty and filling.
We usually scoop this meal into tortillas, and then wrap them up to make burritos for an even more satisfying meal.
I really like Mountain House’s Turkey Dinner meal.
When we went backpacking in Yosemite, my husband and I saved this meal for the last night. It was a celebration of sorts.
I remember this meal being absolutely incredible; however, I also hadn’t eaten anything but backpacking food for days. We tried it again on another camping trip (when I wasn’t quite as hungry), and I still thought this was a very tasty meal.
Mountain House finally has a freeze-dried chicken curry meal! I like to bring along a variety of flavor options on my trips, and curry helps make that possible.
Tip: If you like your curry spicy, bring along some red pepper flakes!
Best Keto + Paleo Freeze-Dried Meals
If you’re on a low-carb diet, Mountain House meals probably aren’t for you.
Instead, check out Wild Zora meals.
Wild Zora’s Summit Savory Chicken meal is perfect if you’re on a paleo or keto (or any other low-carb) diet. It’s made with free-range chicken and organic vegetables.
Wild Zora also makes a gluten-free, grain-free lemon chicken soup. This soup is perfect if you’re backpacking in cold weather, or if you want to stock your pantry with keto or paleo dry goods.
If you’re following a strict keto diet, check out Next Mile Meals.
Keep in mind that these meals tend to be pricier than a lot of others, and one package generally serves one person, not two.
BEST VEGAN FREEZE-DRIED MEALS
If you’re vegan, (or vegetarian or pescetarian), check out Backpacker’s Pantry for their meatless freeze-dried meal options.
These meals are also nice to have on hand if you do eat meat, but want to mix things up with some meatless meals.
(Backpacker’s Pantry also has meat options, but their meatless options are impressive.)
Their Kathmandu Curry is pretty tasty. Don’t expect restaurant or home-cooked curry-level delicious, but this is a really good meal.
My husband and I both enjoyed this meal, and I’d definitely buy it again.
If you love Pad Thai, try Backpacker Pantry’s Pad Thai (it’s vegan and gluten-free!).
If you want to bulk this meal up even more, try adding extra peanut butter. For more spice, add extra hot sauce!
Beans and rice are a classic and filling meal, and Backpacker’s Pantry Cuban Coconut Rice and Black Beans makes it easy to eat it on the trail.
For extra calories, try scooping the beans and rice into a tortilla and rolling it into a burrito!
NO HEAT SOURCE? TRY SELF-HEATING MEALS
Finally, if you need a meal that will self-heat, no stove (or backpacking stove) required, try OMeals.
OMeals self-heat, and there are several vegetarian options.
Why aren’t they higher on my list?
The packaging is heavier than other meals, so I don’t love this for a long backpacking trip. Also, the portions are single-serving, making these meals much pricier than most of my other choices.
That said, the flavors are good and the self-heating packaging might be a perfect option for some of you!
Omeals vegetarian chili is an awesome meatless option.
Eat it with corn chips, or scoop it into a tortilla for extra calories.
If you’re looking for a protein-packed, self-heating freeze-dried meal, this Omeals Southwest-Style Chicken and Rice is perfect. Again, try eating it in a tortilla for extra calories.
If you love Cajun seasoning, try this Omeals Chicken Creole with Brown Rice! I recommend bringing along some red pepper flakes if you like things spicier.