Freeze-dried meals are everywhere now; they’re not just reserved for the space-inclined anymore. They have actually become a popular choice for backcountry hikers, as they are lightweight, nutritionally sound, convenient, and a hot meal is always appreciated at the end of a long hiking day. You just need to add boiling water, and you have a warm and tasty dinner, and as a bonus, there are no dirty dishes to wash!
While they can be a great choice, we should probably lower your expectations and warn you that it will not taste like a home-cooked meal. Of course, even though the flavor isn’t quite up to par with what you expected, you’ll still scarf it down, as everything tastes better in the backcountry. That being said, to get the best experience, we recommend packing some spices (such as salt, pepper, or hot sauce) to enhance the flavor.
Freeze-dried meals come in loads of flavors, some of which you’ll like more than others. Personal food tastes are very subjective, but we’ve put together this handy guide so you can upgrade your food and discover something tasty.
The reason loads of backpackers choose to pack freeze-dried meals as their primary nutrition source is because of their light weight, as they have most of their water removed. However, they still offer a calorie-dense dinner, providing you with around 500-1000 calories while only weighing about 8 ounces. This, of course, varies with every meal, but we recommend looking for a packet that gives you a calorie-per-ounce ratio of around 120.
Freeze-drying can retain around 85% of the nutrients while removing approximately 80% of the product’s weight. Nonetheless, they also add preservatives and sodium, which brings down their nutritional value, but they give you a better-balanced meal than other hiking staples, such as instant potatoes or ramen. Look for brands that use real food or recognizable ingredients to get as much out of your meal as possible.
Value for money
While convenient, freeze-dried meals aren’t as cheap as other alternatives, such as pasta sides or mashed potatoes. Therefore, we can only recommend them for weekend or short trips, as they would be too expensive for thru-hiking. Look for meals that fit your budget; as comfortable and easy as they may be, they’re not worth spending a fortune on.
All in all, freeze-dried meals are super convenient, and they come in loads of flavors, so give them a try! Trust us; you’ll be grateful to sit down to a comforting and hot meal after a long day on the trails.