Home 8 Best Backpacking Meals for Fueling Your Next Adventure

8 Best Backpacking Meals for Fueling Your Next Adventure

by Chase Whartnaby
tasty and nutritious backpacking meals

As seasoned backpackers understand, the sustenance one chooses can significantly affect energy levels and overall enjoyment while exploring the backcountry. The quest for the best backpacking meals involves a blend of nutritional value, weight, taste, and ease of preparation.

Our curated list of 8 top-tier meals addresses these criteria, featuring offerings from industry leaders such as Mountain House and ReadyWise, each with unique takes on freeze-dried convenience. From the hearty aroma of Chicken and dumplings to the comfort a classic Beef Stroganoff provides, these meals promise to elevate your dining experience amidst the most remote landscapes.

However, beyond the mere listing of products, it is imperative to consider the nuanced factors that influence meal selection, which can have far-reaching implications on your outdoor venture. As we embark on this culinary journey, one must ponder: what elements truly define the optimal meal for the intrepid backpacker, and how might these choices reflect the diversity of your adventures?

Key Takeaways

  • Ready-to-Eat Backpacking Meals: READYWISE Emergency and Camping Meal Variety Pack, Mountain House Chicken & Dumplings Freeze Dried Camping Food, Mountain House Breakfast Skillet, Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef.
  • Freeze-Dried Backpacking Meals: Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles (Freeze Dried, 2 Servings), Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce (Freeze Dried Camping Food, 2 Servings), Mountain House Biscuits & Gravy Freeze Dried Camping Food (2 Servings), Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl (Freeze Dried, 2 Servings, Gluten-Free).
  • Importance of Nutrient Balance and Sodium Intake.
  • Considerations for Calorie-Dense Meals.

READYWISE Emergency and Camping Meal Variety Pack (Freeze Dried Food, 30+ Servings)

freeze dried meal assortment

Suppose you’re gearing up for a multi-day trek or preparing for unexpected emergencies. In that case, the READYWISE Emergency and Camping Meal Variety Pack offers a convenient and long-lasting food solution with 30+ hearty servings. This variety pack isn’t just practical; it has delicious options like cheesy lasagna and strawberry granola crunch. You’ll appreciate the culinary versatility of real meat, fruits, grains, and veggies, providing balanced nutrition.

Each pouch is a breeze to prepare—add hot water, and you’re ready to eat. You won’t have to worry about meal prep or mess, making camp cleanups a snap. These meals are lightweight and won’t weigh you down as they offer a high calorie-per-ounce ratio to keep you fueled. With a 15-year shelf life, you can rely on these meals to maintain taste and nutrients, ensuring you’re well-fed on any adventure or emergency.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and emergency preppers looking for a reliable, tasty, and convenient meal solution with a long shelf life.


  • Variety of flavors catering to different meal times, from breakfast to dinner.
  • No cooking is required; just add hot water for a quick and easy meal.
  • Its lightweight and compact design makes it ideal for backpacking and emergency kits.


  • Requires access to hot water, which might not be available in all emergencies.


Mountain House Chicken & Dumplings Freeze Dried Camping Food (2 Servings)

freeze dried chicken and dumplings

For the comfort food enthusiast hitting the trails, Mountain House Chicken & Dumplings offers a home-style meal that’s both lightweight and satisfying, ensuring you don’t have to sacrifice taste for convenience on your backpacking journey. You’ll savor each bite as if dining at home, made with real chicken, veggies, and fluffy dumplings in a creamy gravy free from artificial additives. It’s freeze-dried to lock in nutrients and freshness, and you’ll appreciate the ease of preparation: add hot water, wait less than 10 minutes, and you’re ready to eat directly from the pouch—no mess, no dishes.

The two servings per pouch make it an ideal choice, backed by a 30-Year Taste Guarantee. Plus, with recyclable packaging, you’re taking care of the trails you love.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and emergency preppers looking for a convenient, tasty, and long-lasting meal option.


  • Easy to prepare with hot water and no cleanup required.
  • Lightweight and portable, ideal for camping and backpacking.
  • 30-Year Taste Guarantee ensures quality over time.


  • Some may find the serving size insufficient for their needs.


Mountain House Breakfast Skillet (Freeze Dried, Gluten-Free, 2 Servings)

freeze dried gluten free breakfast

You’ll appreciate the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet for its 30-year shelf life and no-fuss preparation, making it an ideal choice for avid backpackers and emergency preppers. This gluten-free meal combines hash browns, scrambled eggs, pork sausage, peppers, and onions in a convenient freeze-dried format. Add hot water, wait less than ten minutes, and get a hearty breakfast straight from the pouch—no dishes required.

Weighing a mere 3.7 ounces, the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet won’t weigh you down as you hit the trails. Its taste is well-regarded, earning it a 4.5-star customer rating. For those who like a bit more kick, you can easily jazz it up with hot sauce or extra seasonings. Plus, you’re doing the environment a favor with the recyclable packaging.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts and emergency preppers seeking a convenient, nutritious, and long-lasting breakfast option.


  • Long 30-year shelf life suitable for emergency preparedness.
  • No cooking; add water preparation ideal for outdoor activities.
  • Lightweight and portable with recyclable packaging for environmental consciousness.


  • Some may find the flavor to be too mild without additional seasonings.


Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef (Freeze Dried, 2-Servings)

freeze dried chili mac

Elevate your outdoor dining experience with Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef, a freeze-dried meal for the solo backpacker craving a hearty, no-fuss dish under the stars. This savory option combines spicy chili sauce, tender beef, and macaroni noodles with onions and beans, all without preservatives or artificial flavors. It’s a breeze to make—add hot water and wait a few minutes. You’ll appreciate the convenience of eating directly from the pouch, making cleanup nonexistent.

Though some find the $9 price steep, many agree the quality justifies the cost. It’s not quite as filling as fast food, but for a backpacking meal, it’s satisfying. Plus, with a 30-year shelf life, it’s perfect for emergency kits. Remember, tweaking the water amount and rehydration time can perfect the taste to your liking.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a convenient and tasty meal option while backpacking, camping, or preparing for emergencies.


  • It offers a long shelf life of up to 30 years, ideal for emergency food storage.
  • Easy to prepare with no cleanup required, as it can be eaten straight from the pouch.
  • Free from preservatives, artificial flavors, or colors, providing a more natural meal option.


  • Some customers find the meal less filling compared to a traditional fast-food meal.


Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles (Freeze Dried, 2 Servings)

freeze dried beef stroganoff meal

If you’re tackling the trails and need a hearty, no-fuss meal, the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles offers a satisfying mix of tender beef and savory noodles ready in a snap. This freeze-dried meal boasts a creamy sauce with natural meat, mushrooms, and onions, minus artificial flavors or colors. It’s a breeze to prepare—add hot water, and in under 10 minutes, you’ve got a delicious meal for two.

With its lightweight, portable design, it’s ideal for your camping and backpacking adventures. Plus, the pouch’s innovative shape lets you eat straight from it, saving you the hassle of cleanup. The meal’s long shelf life, backed by a 30-year Taste Guarantee, also makes it a reliable option for emergency food storage.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts seeking a convenient, tasty, and long-lasting meal option for their adventures or emergency preparedness kit.


  • High-quality ingredients with no artificial flavors or colors.
  • It is highly convenient, with a quick preparation time and no cleanup required.
  • Durable packaging with a 30-Year Taste Guarantee ensures longevity and reliability.


  • Some customers may find the meal requires less water than instructed for optimal consistency.


Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce (Freeze Dried Camping Food, 2 Servings)

freeze dried camping lasagna

For backpackers seeking a hearty and convenient meal after a long day on the trail, Mountain House Lasagna with Meat Sauce offers a satisfying blend of pasta, cheese, and a rich Italian meat sauce. You’ll appreciate that it’s free from preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors, ensuring you’re fueling your body with quality ingredients. It’s a breeze to prep—pour hot water directly into the recyclable pouch and wait less than 10 minutes, and you’ve got a delicious meal that rivals fast food in taste and value but surpasses it in nutrition.

Customers rave about its flavor, noting it’s a step above other outdoor meal options, though some mention the price point. With a 30-year shelf life, you can stash it for emergency supplies or rely on it for a filling meal wherever your adventures lead.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a tasty, convenient, and nutrient-packed meal on the go.


  • Easy to prepare with just hot water and ready in under 10 minutes
  • No preservatives, artificial flavors, or colors, providing a healthier meal option
  • Extremely long shelf life, making it ideal for emergency food storage or long-term trip planning


  • Higher price point compared to other backpacking meal options


Mountain House Biscuits & Gravy Freeze Dried Camping Food (2 Servings)

freeze dried biscuits and gravy

Packing a punch with authentic buttermilk biscuit pieces and savory pork patty crumbles, Mountain House Biscuits & Gravy offers a hearty and flavorful breakfast perfect for fueling outdoor adventures. It’s free from artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors, ensuring you only indulge in natural, delicious goodness.

With its unique bowl-like pouch, you’ll find eating directly from the packaging is a breeze. It’s tasty and practical, designed to be lightweight and portable for any trail you tackle.

You’ll appreciate the 30-Year Taste Guarantee, a testament to its reliable shelf life, making it ideal for emergency food storage. Add hot water, and you’re set for a satisfying meal garnered high praise from fellow adventurers for its taste and convenience.

Best For: Outdoor enthusiasts looking for a convenient, nutritious, and tasty breakfast option while on their adventures.


  • They are made with natural ingredients and free from artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors.
  • It comes in a convenient, easy-to-eat-from pouch that’s lightweight and portable.
  • It boasts a 30-year Taste Guarantee, ensuring long-term reliability for emergency food storage.


  • Some customers may find the need to adjust water amounts for preferred texture.


Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl (Freeze Dried, 2 Servings, Gluten-Free)

freeze dried chicken fajita bowl

Satisfy your hunger on the trail with the Mountain House Chicken Fajita Bowl, a gluten-free and flavor-packed option ready in minutes. This meal is a blend of seasoned chicken, bell peppers, rice, black beans, corn, and onions, all freeze-dried to preserve taste and nutrients without artificial additives. It’s not just easy to make—add hot water—but also light to carry, making it ideal for your backpacking adventures or emergencies.

Customers have raved about its authentic chicken fajita flavor and the convenience of preparation. While some found it a tad salty, many agree it’s among the best camping meals, with a texture and seasoning that doesn’t disappoint. Plus, the packaging is recyclable, adding to its appeal for the eco-conscious traveler. Whether weathering a storm or fueling a hike, this meal is a solid choice for staying nourished and satisfied.

Best For Adventurers and emergency preppers seeking a tasty, gluten-free, and convenient meal option that is both lightweight and easy to prepare.


  • Authentic chicken fajita flavor that has received high praise from customers.
  • It is quick and easy to prepare by just adding hot water.
  • Portable and ideal for backpacking trips, with the added benefit of eco-friendly, recyclable packaging.


  • Some customers find the meal to be too salty.


Factors to Consider When Choosing Backpacking Meals

choosing backpacking meals wisely

Proper meals for backpacking trips are critical to maintaining energy and morale. Consideration must be given to the nutritional content and caloric density to support strenuous activity while also balancing factors such as preparation time and the weight that will be added to your pack.

Additionally, ensuring a variety of flavors and a sufficient shelf life is essential for a satisfying and safe culinary experience in the wilderness.

Nutritional Content

When planning meals for a backpacking trip, it’s critical to consider the nutritional content. This involves focusing on protein and carbohydrate levels to fuel sustained energy throughout your adventure. A harmonious balance of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, is vital for maintaining health while engaging in strenuous outdoor activities.

Moreover, monitoring sodium intake is essential. High sodium levels can amplify the risk of dehydration, a significant concern in the wilderness. It’s critical to be mindful of sodium consumption and choose foods with lower sodium content.

Fiber content is another essential factor to consider when planning backpacking meals. Adequate fiber ensures proper digestive function and gut health, which can be challenging during extended treks. Including high-fiber foods in your meals can help prevent digestive issues and keep your gut in good shape.

Additionally, calorie-dense meals are preferable for backpackers. These meals provide ample energy without burdening you with extra weight, which is crucial for both efficiency and comfort on the trail. When selecting foods, opt for calorie-dense, lightweight, and easy to carry.

Considering all these factors will help you plan nutritious and well-balanced meals for your backpacking trip. By fueling your body correctly, you’ll enjoy your adventure while maintaining your health and energy levels.

Meal Preparation Time

Understanding the meal preparation time is crucial for backpackers, as it can significantly impact the overall rhythm and enjoyment of the trek.

Quick-to-prepare options, ready in under 10 minutes, are available for those wishing to maximize their time exploring. Convenience is further enhanced with meals consumed directly from the pouch, negating the need for additional dishes and facilitating a swift cleanup.

The primary step in preparing these meals is simply adding hot water. However, some customers recommend tweaking the water quantity and allowing the meal more time to rest for improved texture and taste.

Personalizing meals with extra ingredients also exists, potentially elevating the dining experience amidst nature’s backdrop.

Pack Weight Considerations

Considering the pack weight of your meals is essential, as carrying lightweight and nutrient-dense food is pivotal for a successful and enjoyable backpacking experience. Dehydrated meals are often the go-to option for backpackers as they provide a high calorie-per-ounce ratio, crucial for maintaining energy levels without the heft.

These meals’ shelf stability and long shelf life are significant advantages, ensuring they remain fresh and safe to consume without adding weight to packaging or preservation methods. For high-output activities, selecting meals tailored to the rigorous energy demands of backpacking helps maintain stamina.

Ultimately, the goal is to balance the meal’s weight, nutritional content, and serving size to efficiently meet both dietary needs and pack weight limitations.

Flavor Variety

Ensuring a diverse array of flavors in your backpacking meals can significantly enhance the culinary aspect of your outdoor experience. When planning your menu, selecting meals across various tastes prevents palate fatigue and keeps dining interesting.

From the savory richness of beef stroganoff with noodles to the zesty kick of a chicken fajita bowl and from the comforting simplicity of biscuits and gravy to the exotic sweetness of strawberry granola crunch, variety is vital.

Including meals spanning different cuisines cater to any dietary preference and mealtime, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A balanced mix of savory, sweet, spicy, and hearty options ensures that every meal is not just fuel but a satisfying and enjoyable part of your adventure.

Shelf Life Duration

While a varied flavor profile is crucial for enjoyable backpacking meals, equally important is the consideration of shelf life duration to ensure your food remains fresh and nutritious throughout your journey. Backpacking meals come with varying shelf lives, from 15 to an impressive 30 years, catering to short excursions and long-term emergency preparedness.

Opting for meals with longer shelf life means they will retain their taste and nutrients over time, a critical factor for adventurers and emergency planners. When selecting your backpacking meals, assess the shelf life of the length and nature of your trip.

Always verify the product’s shelf life to align with your anticipated consumption period and storage circumstances, thus guaranteeing meal effectiveness and safety.

Packaging Practicality

When selecting backpacking meals, the practicality of the packaging is a critical factor that merits careful consideration due to its impact on the ease of transportation and overall environmental footprint. Ideally, the packaging should be compact and conform to the shape of your backpack, allowing for efficient use of space.

Resealable pouches offer added convenience, enabling you to divide servings as needed, which is crucial for managing waste and leftovers. Durability is also essential; the packaging must resist tears and damage that could occur during vigorous outdoor activities. Lightweight materials are preferable to minimize the burden on your back.

Lastly, environmentally conscious choices, such as recyclable or sustainably sourced packaging, reflect a responsible approach to wilderness exploration.

Dietary Restrictions Compatibility

Beyond the practical considerations of packaging, it is equally essential to select backpacking meals that cater to the diverse dietary restrictions of your group, including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.

When assembling food for your adventure, prioritize meals that provide a variety of choices to meet different dietary needs and preferences.

Carefully checking the ingredient list and nutritional information is essential to avoid potential allergens or restricted ingredients that could cause adverse reactions.

Accommodating each group member’s preferences and dietary requirements ensures that everyone can enjoy their meals, boosting morale and energy levels.

Opting for inclusive meal planning is not just considerate; it’s a crucial aspect of group trip planning that promotes a harmonious outdoor experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Manage Food Allergies When Selecting Backpacking Meals?

When managing food allergies, carefully review meal ingredient labels, opt for allergen-free options, and consider preparing your meals to ensure safety and avoid cross-contamination during backpacking excursions.

Can You Rehydrate Freeze-Dried Meals With Cold Water if You Don’t Have a Heat Source?

Yes, freeze-dried meals can be rehydrated with cold water, though the process is slower and may result in a less hot, potentially less palatable meal than hot water.

Are There Eco-Friendly Packaging Options for Freeze-Dried Backpacking Meals?

Several brands offer eco-friendly packaging for freeze-dried meals, utilizing recyclable materials or biodegradable bags to minimize environmental impact, aligning with the sustainable practices preferred by many outdoor enthusiasts.

How Can You Incorporate Fresh Ingredients Into Your Backpacking Meal Plan Without Adding Too Much Weight?

To include fresh ingredients in a lightweight meal plan, choose dehydrated vegetables, packeted sauces, and cured meats. These items add flavor and nutrients without significantly increasing the weight of your pack.

What Are Some Strategies for Repackaging Meals to Save Space and Reduce Waste on the Trail?

Use lightweight, reusable containers, vacuum-seal portions, and pre-mix ingredients to save space and minimize waste while repackaging meals. Prioritize compact, high-calorie items and consider dehydrated options to reduce bulk and maintain nutrition.

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