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 dehydrated 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.
For example, when we flew to California to go backpacking in Yosemite, we brought along freeze-dried meals.
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 your own dehydrated meals at home, go for it! 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 dehydrated 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 dehydrated 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 dehydrated eggs. In my opinion, freeze-dried breakfast “egg” scrambles are the worst.
If you want to try a meal with dehydrated 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 dehydrated 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.
Best Keto + Paleo Dehydrated Meals
If you're on a low-carb diet, Mountain House meals probably aren't for you.
Instead, check out Wild Zora 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.)
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.
That said, the flavors are good and the self-heating packaging might be a perfect option for some of you!