One of the most frequent questions I get when I go on a backcountry trip is “What do you eat?” Backpacking meals have come a long way since the Boy Scouts carried a can of stew and a can opener into the woods. You’d be amazed at what you can cook up on a backcountry camping stove!
There was a very brief period of time when I explored more gourmet options, but quickly realized I hate doing dishes in the backcountry as much as I hate doing dishes at home. Most backpacking meals I make these days only require boiling water – easy to make and nothing to clean up. I’m also a fairly picky eater, so I don’t love a ton of the prepackaged meals out there. I tend to stick to the same four or five tried-and-true backpacking meals that I know I will like.
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If you’ve ever wondered about the best freeze dried food for backcountry trips, these are some of my favorite backpacking meals.
Mountain House meals are the go-to beginner’s backpacking meal. They have a lot of varieties, they’re easy to make and they’re pretty frickin’ tasty. One complaint I hear the most about these (other than price – backpackers are notoriously cheap) is that the sodium content is high. It’s true, they do pack a lot of sodium into these meals (around 30% of your daily intake) so if sodium is an issue for you, it’s something to consider. I don’t think other dehydrated backpacking meals fare much better, though. I’ve got 99 problems, but sodium ain’t one, so you’ll have to do your own research on that one, sorry!
Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole – now, I’m not usually a fan of casseroles (because vegetables) but I gave this one a shot and it was really good. If you are a fan of stuffing, you’ll love it! One of my dream trips is to backpack in the Grand Canyon at Thanksgiving and this is the meal I’ll bring along! (with some dehydrated mashed potatoes, of course)
Spicy Southwest Breakfast Hash – super tasty breakfast with just the right amount of kick to it! I would definitely buy this one again. Somehow, the potatoes were not soggy or hard, but just right. I’m a recent fan of green chiles since moving to the southwest, so I loved that flavor among all the others in this delicious backpacking breakfast. (Note to Mountain House: make this in a single serving…please!)
Granola with Milk and Blueberries – my go-to camp breakfast. Just add cold water. I’ve tried replicating this myself with granola, dried fruit and powdered milk, but could never get it just right. (I would love a strawberry version of this one.) This no-cook camp breakfast is seriously tasty, and I love slurping up the purple milk that’s left at the bottom of the bowl.
Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Beef Stroganoff – two of the first Mountain House backpacking meals I ever tried, and they are still regulars in my rotation. They are super tasty, and most importantly, come in single serve packets. I’m not trying to carry out a bunch of heavy, half-eaten meals at the end of a trip!
Enjoying Mountain House Lasagna at Plateau Point in the Grand Canyon:
Packit Gourmet just celebrated ten years in business and they have some really unique offerings in freeze dried food. The shelf-life is not quite as long as Mountain House, but they’re still good for a year or so. The meals are also a bit pricier than other options out there, but totally worth it, if you ask me. If you are more of a DIY backpacking meal prepper, they have a pretty awesome grocery selection, too!
All-American Works Burger – I don’t even know how they make this, but it is seriously amazing. For my Midwest friends, it’s like eating a Maid-Rite in the backcountry. Try it! Perfect flavor of onion, ketchup, mustard, etc.
Dottie’s Chicken and Dumplings – fun comfort food on the trail.
Texas Mesquite Chicken Salad – cold water prep makes this one an easy trail lunch when you get tired of PB&J! If you are trying to pack light and don’t want a stove or fuel, they have a lot of cold water prep foods!
Migas del Sol – one of my all-time favorite camping breakfasts, although this requires a pan and some cleanup, so it’s relegated to car camping trips for me. But man, this egg scramble in a tortilla? Yum! I don’t even mind the vegetables. Their biscuits and gravy is another great car camping breakfast…a bit messy, but so tasty! They even have a pretty decent smoothie if you prefer your camp breakfast on the go.
Mary Jane’s Farm makes organic backpacking meals in minimalist packaging. One of my go-to trail dinners is their Cheesy Noodle Casserole with Sugar Snap Peas. Mary Jane’s Farm has a lot of pasta and veggie options, all of which only require adding boiling water to the bag.
I’ve got a pretty simple camp cooking setup these days, but here is some backpacking cooking gear you should have in your pack:
Check out my full backpacking gear list!
If you want more DIY backpacking meal ideas, I recommend these two sources.
I was provided complimentary meals by Mountain House for the purpose of this review. All opinions, and photos, are my own.
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