Greatest Backpacking Meals of 2023

Greatest Backpacking Meals of 2023

It nearly goes with out saying: dinnertime is among the greatest elements of any backpacking journey. There’s simply nothing fairly like heat, filling meals after a protracted day on the path. In selecting the most effective backpacking meals of 2023, we deal with style, dietary worth, packability, preparation time, and cleanup. As well as, weight, energy, and value actually matter to most backpackers, so we calculated useful “energy per ounce” and “energy per greenback” specs for every. For extra background data on choosing the proper meal, see our comparability desk and shopping for recommendation under the picks. To finish your mealtime toolkit, see our article on the most effective backpacking stoves.

Our Workforce’s Backpacking Meal Picks

Greatest Total Backpacking Meals

1. Backpacker’s Pantry ($10 – $13)

Backpacker's Pantry backpacking meal (Pad Thai with Chicken)Cooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 15-20 minutes
Energy per ounce: 115
What we like: Nice bang in your buck and unimaginable choice.
What we don’t: Lengthy cook dinner time; different manufacturers have extra attention-grabbing and/or wholesome menus.

Selecting a high choose isn’t straightforward, particularly in relation to one thing as subjective as meals. Everybody has their very own style and dietary preferences, caloric wants, and funds, and we’re not right here to inform you what to love. What’s extra, in 2023, there’s no scarcity of unimaginable mom-and-pop firms serving up scrumptious and nutritious backcountry meals (don’t fear, we’ll get to those under). All that stated, we’ve reserved our greatest general choose for a dependable standby that provides a big and numerous menu—together with many gluten-free, vegan, and natural choices—and nice bang for the buck: Backpacker’s Pantry. Their Pad Thai, which comes full with a small bundle of peanut butter and handful of individually packaged peanuts, is one among our all-time favorites.

Should you go to the meals aisle of nearly any outside retailer, you’ll see Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain Home, and AlpineAire compete for the title of most ubiquitous backcountry meal. All three are moderately priced and are available in flat, packable pouches, giant serving sizes, and a plethora of particular eating regimen choices. However we predict Backpacker’s Pantry meals style higher than the competitors, and at 58.8 energy per greenback on common, they provide glorious bang in your buck, too (Mountain Home and AlpineAire meals common 52.7 and 48.5 cal/$, respectively). For worth alongside nice flavors and recognizable elements, Backpacker’s Pantry places all of it collectively higher than most. And should you’re keen to spend up for gourmand, natural, or all-natural menus, take a look at choices like Heather’s Selection and Good To-Go under.
See Backpacker’s Pantry Meals


Greatest Funds Backpacking Meals

2. RightOnTrek Journey Meals ($9 – $15)

_RightOnTrek Adventure MealsCooking technique: Pot
Common cook dinner time: 10 minutes
Energy per ounce: 118
What we like: Reasonably priced meals and the choice of handy customized meal planning.
What we don’t: You’ll must soiled a pot.

Meals is dear in 2023, and backcountry meals are not any exception. For probably the most inexpensive possibility available on the market, check out RightOnTrek. Checking in round $9 for calorie-loaded single servings ($15 for double servings), they’ll prevent wherever from $3 to $6 per meal in comparison with many choices right here. What’s extra, RightOnTrek’s customized meal plans (together with snacks, breakfast, scorching drinks, and extra) make journey planning straightforward. Merely fill out the net type—designating journey size, dietary restrictions, desired energy per day, preferences for candy versus savory, and way more—and their generator outputs a meal plan, which you’ll then add to your cart and buy. All informed, it’s a fast course of and a virtually easy strategy to keep good diet within the backcountry.

RightOnTrek’s customized meal plans use their very own breakfasts and entrées, which may also be bought individually in a single, two, or four-person portions. These meals are made with principally pure elements and embrace a good choice for these with dietary restrictions. We predict they’re fairly darn tasty, too. However they do include one main caveat: RightOnTrek’s meals have to be cooked in a pot over a range, which is so much much less handy than a just-add-water pouch. Then again, they’re sooner to arrange than most of the just-add-water meals right here (10 min. from begin to end) and considerably extra inexpensive as well. 
See RightOnTrek Journey Meals


Greatest Gourmand Backpacking Meals

3. Gastro Gnome ($16 – $17)

Gastro Gnome backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 8-12 minutes
Energy per ounce: 126
What we like: Actual elements and cooking practices; restaurant-quality flavors. 
What we don’t: Expensive; some may need blander meals within the backcountry.

Selecting between varied backpacking meal choices isn’t too dissimilar to deciding on a restaurant: You’ll think about value, high quality of meals, quantity of meals, and general expertise. And as eating places differ from quick meals joints to advantageous eating, so too do your backcountry choices. Gastro Gnome sits on the high of the meals chain, with a small-team operation that makes use of actual elements and bonafide cooking practices (together with marinating their Indian Yogurt Braised Rooster in a single day) to ship really top-notch meals. Their menu contains choices like Almond Pesto and Mushroom Ragu Farfalle and Italian Fennel Sausage Rigatoni—and so they truly style as scrumptious as they sound.

At 125.5 energy per ounce, Gastro Gnome’s meals are about mid-pack by way of caloric density, which is spectacular within the gourmand class and makes them a very viable possibility for everybody from ultralight thru-hikers to informal backpackers. And in contrast to most gourmand eating places, there’s not a lot of a price penalty with Gastro Gnome’s meals—they’re dear at $17 per dinner, however in 2023, that’s simply the excessive finish of regular. You’ll want to put together your self for complicated flavors, which not everyone seems to be drawn to within the backcountry (generally we simply crave good ol’ mac and cheese). However when sampled alongside different premium meals on a latest backpacking journey, all six members of our testing workforce concurred: Gastro Gnome’s entrées are one thing particular. 
See Gastro Gnome Meals


Greatest Calorie-Dense Backpacking Meals

4. Pinnacle Meals Co ($16)

Pinnacle Foods Co backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 12 minutes
Energy per ounce: 169
What we like: Greatest-in-class caloric density alongside real-food elements and nice flavors.
What we don’t: Excessive in sodium.

Should you’re attempting to maintain your pack weight low whereas maximizing your meals provide, Pinnacle Meals ought to be on the high of your listing. This small however mighty Excessive Level, NC-based model makes use of recent and pure elements to create high-powered entrées, which provide by far the most effective caloric density right here at 169 energy per ounce. We’ve taken Pinnacle meals alongside on our final three backcountry outings, and have but to be disillusioned: Their Thai Peanut Curry is among the many greatest we’ve tried, and the Italian Sausage and Zesty Tomato Sauce with Farfalle Pasta is simply what you need after a protracted time out. For thru-hikers, climbers, severe backpackers, and anybody else needing filling meals at a low weight, give Pinnacle Meals a more in-depth look.

Our one gripe with Pinnacle’s choices is their excessive sodium content material, which hovers round 50 to 70% of your day by day worth for every meal. However for Pinnacle Meals’ target market, this might truly be a robust swimsuit. Additionally they provide the possibility between customary (Retort) and omnidegradable pouches, the latter of which have a shorter best-buy date, however are literally compostable (an increasing number of we’re seeing these utilized in backpacking meals). All informed, you’d be exhausting pressed to seek out one other firm that provides the identical mixture of nice flavors, real-food elements, and caloric density—we’re all the time glad after we see a Pinnacle Meals pouch in our pack, and realize it’s going to be a tasty and satiating meal.
See Pinnacle Meals Meals Co


Greatest Market for Backcountry Cooks

5. Concord Home Meals

Harmony House Foods bulk dehydrated food for backpackingCooking technique: Pouch/pot
Common cook dinner time: 10-Quarter-hour
Energy per ounce: N/A
What we like: In depth number of nutritious staples for DIY backcountry meals.
What we don’t: Vegetarian and gluten-free choices solely. 

Concord Home’s web site is paying homage to the majority meals aisle of your native grocery co-op, with a big assortment of dehydrated and freeze-dried choices. Bold backcountry cooks can refill on the staples—dried greens and beans, meat-flavored TVPs (brief for textured vegetable protein), fruits and berries, soup blends, and extra—and save a great deal of money within the course of. You possibly can pre-pack your meals at house (Concord Home sells a number of completely different sizes of just-add-water zip pouches) or convey the pantry to the sector so you’ll be able to improvise for every night’s meal.

In contrast to most backcountry meals manufacturers, Concord Home doesn’t provide pre-packaged entrées, limiting their attraction to seasoned camp cooks or these inclined to DIY. And since Concord Home is totally vegetarian and gluten-free, you received’t discover dehydrated meats or many easy carbohydrates, that are a simple strategy to tack on further energy and protein within the area. Additional, most hikers will simmer these supplemental elements in a pot together with immediate rice or noodles (simply bought at your native grocery retailer), leading to extra cleanup in comparison with easy pouch meals. However should you’re on path for lengthy stretches and in search of an inexpensive but wholesome various to pre-packaged dinners, Concord Home is a superb place to begin.
See Concord Home Meals


Better of the Relaxation

6. Heather’s Selection ($13 – $16)

Heather's Choice backpacking meals (spaghetti)Cooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 20 minutes
Energy per ounce: 130
What we like: Ethically sourced meals that tastes actually good.
What we don’t: Costly; not a ton of choices.

After dehydrating her personal backcountry meals for years, Alaska-based Heather Feather launched Heather’s Selection by way of a Kickstarter marketing campaign in 2015. Now, this small and rising firm is one among our favourite decisions in relation to style, elements, and gluten-free choices. Heather takes care in placing collectively her meals, utilizing high-powered meals corresponding to coconut, maple syrup, wild-caught Alaskan Sockeye salmon, and 100%-grass-fed bison and elk. Impressively, most of the dinner choices comprise a whopping 35 to 40 grams of protein per serving and common out to 130 energy per ounce. And the cherry on high: every meal is available in an impressively tiny bundle (kudos to Heather for conserving supplies), which is nice for small packs and spoons alike.

You don’t get a ton of choices with Heather’s Selection, particularly should you’re a vegetarian (though every dinner is gluten, soy, egg, and dairy-free). Additional, the one-serving meals will run you as a lot as $16, and at round 500 energy per entrée, you get so much much less bang in your buck than with Backpacker’s Pantry above (34.2 energy per greenback vs. 58.8). However Heather’s Selection is a few of the best-tasting and well-sourced backpacking meals round, and the tradeoffs could possibly be nicely price it for individuals who don’t wish to compromise enjoyment or diet whereas on the path. And to finish your package, we additionally advocate taking a look at Heather’s Selection’s breakfast choices ($9) and her fashionable cookie-like Packaroons, which provide 170 energy of wholesome fat and sugars in a 1-ounce bundle.
See Heather’s Selection Meals


7. Good To-Go ($9 – $16)

Good ToGo backpacking foodCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 15-20 minutes
Energy per ounce: 113
What we like: Nice flavors and wholesome, actual elements.
What we don’t: Could be too spicy; slower to cook dinner than most of the choices under. 

Good To-Go spearheaded the present era of backpacking meals, which prioritizes the identical entire meals and recent flavors that many people eat at house. Designed by skilled chef Jennifer Scism, the assortment of all-natural, gluten-free meals have an ingredient listing that’s brief and readable (translation: actual meals). Their quantity of choices can’t match a few of the different big-name manufacturers right here—Good To-Go has 13 dinner choices so far—however the mixture of taste, high quality elements, and calorie-to-weight ratio earns this Maine-based firm our resounding endorsement.

Good To-Go falls about mid-pack in each our energy per ounce and energy per greenback metric, though their meals are extra inexpensive than a lot of the gourmand competitors. That stated, we’ve seen ourselves reaching for Good To-Go much less and fewer because the market expands: their flavors could be slightly harsh at instances (on a couple of event, the Thai Curry has been too spicy for us to complete), and the meals aren’t as tasty as these from manufacturers like Gastro Gnome and Heather’s Selection. Additional, their 20-minute cook dinner time is among the longest right here. However should you’re gluten free (and even celiac) or wish to eat wholesome backcountry meals with out deviating too removed from the mainstream, it is exhausting to beat Good To-Go’s mixture of high quality elements, value, and choice.
See Good To-Go Meals


8. Firepot ($14 – $16)

Firepot backpacking meals 2Cooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: Quarter-hour
Energy per ounce: 108
What we like: Effectively-sourced and scrumptious meals; extra inexpensive than Gastro Gnome and Heather’s Selection.
What we don’t: Not as calorie dense as Gastro Gnome’s meals.

Based within the rural southwest of England, Firepot is recent on the scene within the U.S., now being bought by means of the outside large REI. We examined plenty of their meals on a latest backpacking journey in Patagonia, and had been very impressed with what the small startup has put collectively. Their entrées signify a optimistic shift in backcountry delicacies that we’re all enthusiastic about: a deal with entire, pure elements and considerate flavors. Sourcing a lot of their elements from the agricultural space round their headquarters, Firepot’s meals are a few of the greatest we’ve tasted, and embrace plenty of vegan and gluten-free choices as nicely.

Firepot goes head-to-head with Gastro Gnome as among the best sourced and healthiest meals right here. At 108 energy per ounce, it’s not fairly as power-packed as Gastro Gnome, which is perhaps a consideration for these significantly involved about protecting pack weight low. However you do get a whole lot of energy per pouch—ours averaged about 770 energy per meal—which leads to a greater worth general (particularly should you’re sharing your meal or like a wholesome quantity of meals). All in all, Firepot is a superb model to have in your radar, and should you order from their web site (a bit tough from the States), you get the choice of compostable packaging, too.
See Firepot Meals


9. Farm to Summit ($13 – $15)

Farm to Summit backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 15-18 minutes
Energy per ounce: 117
What we like: Up-cycled imperfect produce; vegan, vegetarian, and GF choices.
What we don’t: Common by way of caloric density.

Farm to Summit joins the ranks of gourmand backpacking meals, with a small assortment of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free entrées made in small batches with actual meals. As their title states, Farm to Summit sources a lot of their elements instantly from farms, and focuses particularly on “imperfect” produce: fruit and veggies which can be rejected by grocery shops as a consequence of deformities, scars, or being overly ripe (final yr, 32% of the produce in Farm to Summit’s meals was imperfect and would have in any other case gone to waste). On the time of publishing, they provide 9 distinctive entrées, starting from Thai Pink Curry to Backyard Mac & Cheese.

We haven’t but examined Farm to Summit (they’re on the menu for our subsequent in a single day), however have acquired a whole-hearted suggestion from one among our gear testers. And it’s not simply their sourcing that’s well-executed: The meals style nice and are nicely priced, too. Like most gourmand choices, Farm to Summit isn’t our high suggestion for severe outings whenever you need probably the most satiating meal attainable, however they’re nonetheless an ideal meatless possibility (and entrées just like the Three Bean Chili pack in 39 grams of protein). Lastly, It’s additionally price mentioning their powdered latte mixes—together with Golden Milk Latte, Coconut Milk Latte, and Double Shot Latte—which are available in single-serving packets and are an opulent substitute for black espresso.
See Farm to Summit Meals


10. Peak Refuel ($14)

Peak Refuel backpacking mealCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 10 minutes
Energy per ounce: 153
What we like: Full of energy and protein. 
What we don’t: Dishes are noodle-heavy and solely are available in two-serving pouches.

Peak Refuel provides a aggressive lineup of high-powered meals in your subsequent journey. Their dinners pack a severe punch with a median of 153 energy per ounce and one of many highest protein counts of any possibility on our listing (a median of twenty-two.5 grams per serving). And like Mountain Home and Bushka’s Kitchen under, Peak Refuel’s entrées are freeze-dried, which means that they rehydrate in simply 10 minutes and with much less water than dehydrated pouch meals. Should you’re in search of a simple and fast strategy to replenish after a giant day on the path, Peak Refuel is a strong alternative. 

All that stated, there are some tradeoffs to going with such a power- and calorie-packed possibility. In contrast to firms like Gastro Gnome that prioritize artistic and high quality ingredient lists, Peak Refuel’s choices are pretty conventional and noodle-heavy. Additional, we’ve discovered that the double service sizes aren’t supreme for solo adventures—with near 1,000 energy per pouch, many hikers will find yourself sharing or having to avoid wasting for later (which generally is a course of). On the flipside, which means you’ll be able to have dinner for 2 for simply $14, which is extra inexpensive than most choices right here. 
See Peak Refuel Meals


11. Bushka’s Kitchen ($16)

Bushka's Kitchen backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 3 minutes
Energy per ounce: 143
What we like: Nutritious and fresh-tasting, light-weight, and fast to cook dinner.
What we don’t: Not probably the most satiating meals right here.

A cottage model based mostly in California, Bushka’s Kitchen units themselves aside from many different manufacturers by providing freeze-dried—slightly than dehydrated—meals. The freeze-drying course of entails extra complicated gear than dehydrating, however the result’s lighter and extra nutrient-dense meals with an extended shelf life. And the cherry on the highest? These meals reconstitute extremely shortly: Whereas your pals hungrily twiddle their thumbs for 20 minutes, your Bushka’s Kitchen entrée might be prepared in simply 3 minutes flat. And in contrast to dehydrated meals, you don’t run the danger of struggling an upset abdomen as a consequence of inadequate rehydration.

Once you rip the seal off a Bushka pouch, you’ll see a cornucopia of actual, identifiable elements. These meals don’t rating tremendous excessive on the style rating (if we had a ranking system, they’d get possibly a 7 out of 10) and also you’ll doubtless need extra sustenance after a protracted, exhausting day on the path. However they’re undeniably nutritious and depart us feeling gentle, akin to having simply eaten a salad (in contrast to many backpacking meals, which depart us feeling heavy and bloated). They usually rating decently nicely on our metrics, too: Averaging 143 energy per ounce, their meals provide one of many highest densities right here, and at 38.3 energy per greenback, Bushka’s is cheaper than manufacturers like PackIt Gourmand, Heather’s Selection, and Subsequent Mile. All of it provides as much as an ideal possibility for these in search of whole-food elements in a light-weight bundle (with minimal cook dinner time).
See Bushka’s Kitchen Meals


12. Mountain Home Journey Meals ($11 – $12)

Mountain House Adventure Meal backpacking foodCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 9 minutes
Energy per ounce: 133
What we like: A basic worth alternative with respectable style and excessive caloric density. 
What we don’t: A number of preservatives and sodium. 

The Mountain Home title is virtually synonymous with freeze-dried meals, and for good motive. They could not knock it out of the park by way of style, however these meals stay a dependable and light-weight customary for backcountry delicacies. Mountain Home’s home-cooked-style dinners—like Rooster & Dumplings and Chili Mac with Beef—cook dinner up shortly (9 min.) and are nice for filling up after a protracted day on the path. Importantly, you additionally get good bang in your buck with a value that undercuts related two-serving choices by round $4 to $5, in addition to a excessive calorie-to-weight ratio. Plus, all Mountain Home meals include a 30-year Style Assure, so you should buy now and eat a lot, a lot later. 

Mountain Home has been dishing up backcountry meals for over 50 years, however the competitors has by no means been fiercer. In contrast to most of the fashionable gourmand choices, you received’t discover all-natural or natural elements right here, and people with particular diets ought to look elsewhere. As well as, the pasta-heavy menu hasn’t modified a lot in years, and every entrée is startlingly excessive in sodium (which generally is a good factor, relying in your wants). And whereas Mountain Home is a comparatively inexpensive standby, Backpacker’s Pantry wins out by way of energy per greenback. In different phrases, we predict there are a variety of higher choices in 2023, however we actually received’t fault you for sticking with an outdated basic. It’s additionally price noting Mountain Home’s Professional-Pak lineup, which are available in low-profile, single-serving pouches and are typically very excessive in protein. 
See Mountain Home Meals


13. PackIt Gourmand ($13 – $15)

Packit Gourmet backpacking foodCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 10-Quarter-hour
Energy per ounce: 105
What we like: Tasty meals with all of the accoutrements. 
What we don’t: Expensive for what you get.

PackIt Gourmand isn’t fairly a family title, however the small on-line market boasts an impressively numerous lineup together with prepackaged meals, bulk dried elements, individually packaged sauces, and even separate Prepare dinner-in-Baggage for DIY dehydrated meals. They provide greater than 20 completely different tasty dinners (with quite a lot of choices for particular dietary wants) which can be extra flavorful than a lot of the competitors. And PackIt sweats the small print, too: For instance, their Austintacious Tortilla Soup comes with a packet of lime powder, dehydrated jack cheese, and tortilla chips. 

However PackIt meals don’t provide a very nice bang in your buck—a lot of their one-serving meals have lower than 400 energy but nonetheless value $13 to $15, which is among the worst values right here. Some additionally require you to pack your personal elements—just like the Large’un Burrito with Fajita Rooster, which is BYO tortilla. Lastly, the shelf life for many entrées is comparatively brief—solely a couple of yr and a half. However for these in search of smaller serving sizes and extra artistic choices than the usual thai curry or mac ‘n cheese, PackIt’s distinctive, flavorful dishes are price a shot. 
See PackIt Gourmand Meals


14. Trailtopia Journey Meals ($7 – $14)

Trailtopia Adventure Food backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 8-Quarter-hour
Energy per ounce: 120
What we like: High quality elements and handy packaging.
What we don’t: Doesn’t stand out in some other means.

Like entrées from manufacturers corresponding to Good To-Go and Heather’s Selection, Trailtopia’s ingredient lists are chock-full of all-natural meals with few chemical substances or preservatives. Take their Cajun Smack Rooster & Rice, for instance, which is analogous to a meal you might need at house with long-grain rice, hen, onion, broccoli, bell pepper, and spices. We’re additionally huge followers of their brief and stout packaging (you received’t should go fishing together with your spoon), and pattern packs assist you to check out a number of meals at a reduction earlier than committing to full serving sizes. Lastly, entrées are packaged to feed two (some single servings can be found), and you can too choose up meat “facet packs” so as to add further protein.

There’s no denying that Trailtopia’s meals are wholesome and style good, which is nice information on the finish of a protracted day of mountaineering. What’s extra, at 59.2 energy per greenback, they provide pretty good worth among the many competitors. That stated, the menu is fairly customary and uninspiring, and also you’ll should dig a bit to seek out the gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan choices (you’ll be able to’t filter particularly, however these designations are listed instantly on the product pages). Lastly, you’ll be able to pack in additional energy at a decrease weight with manufacturers like Pinnacle Meals and Peak Refuel. However small gripes apart, we’ve loved digging into many a Trailtopia meal, and so they get our wholehearted suggestion for these in search of actual path meals.
See Trailtopia Journey Meals Meals


15. Subsequent Mile Meals ($16) 

Next Mile backpacking mealCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 7-10 minutes
Energy per ounce: 156
What we like: Extremely nutrient-dense and beneficiant serving sizes.
What we don’t: Costly and restricted choices.

Subsequent Mile Meals is a small firm that hasn’t been round for lengthy, however we took their meals on a latest trek in Chile’s Parque Patagonia and got here away very impressed with the flavors, elements, and fast cook dinner time. Like Gastro Gnome above, Subsequent Mile Meals truly style like actual meals, which shouldn’t come as a lot of a shock after wanting on the ingredient labels. These ketogenic entrées minimize the carbs and pack in calorie- and nutrient-dense meals like meat, veggies, and cheese. All of it provides as much as a powerful 156 energy per ounce on common, which is among the greatest calories-per-weight specs right here.

Our fundamental gripe about Subsequent Mile is the value: $16 solely will get you a one-serving pouch, and at solely 34.9 energy per greenback on common, they’re removed from a standout worth (for reference, Peak Refuel’s meals provide nearly twice the energy per greenback). You additionally don’t get many entrée decisions—six on the time of publishing—however we anticipate extra over time. Lastly, Subsequent Mile Meals are greatest inside a yr of buy, and the included condiments have a brief 180-day shelf life. However they’re an ideal possibility by way of caloric density, and it actually doesn’t harm that Subsequent Mile Meals are additionally all-natural and style nice.
See Subsequent Mile Meals


16. AlpineAire Meals ($10 – $15)

AlpineAire backpacking foodCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 10-12 minutes
Energy per ounce: 106
What we like: Low value and enjoyable menu objects.
What we don’t: Tastes like customary backpacking fare.

We’ll begin by saying that AlpineAire meals sound scrumptious. With names like Al Pastor with Cilantro Lime Rice, Cheese Enchilada Ranchero, and Tuscan Grilled Rooster Alfredo, you virtually really feel such as you’re ordering from a restaurant. Additionally they provide a plethora of particular eating regimen choices: low-sodium, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and all-natural. And their eye-catching packaging clearly shows data on elements, serving dimension, and diet. The pouches are flat and packable, and the primary programs are as speedy to cook dinner as Mountain Home meals. With a comparatively low value, AlpineAire looks like the entire bundle. 

Sadly, the style of AlpineAire meals simply doesn’t measure up. Maybe their names and labeling create overly excessive expectations, or possibly mixing wholesome elements with a brief cook dinner time stresses the flavors. No matter it could be, we discover that AlpineAire dinners are both noticeably bland or so over-spiced that they’re exhausting to complete. Should you discover one you want, keep it up. In any other case, the pouch meals above are each tastier and extra calorically dense.
See AlpineAire Meals Meals


17. Wild Zora Paleo Meals To Go ($13)

Paleo Meals To Go backpacking foodCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 10-12 minutes
Energy per ounce: 110
What we like: Extremely nutrient dense.
What we don’t: Steep price ticket of $13 for a single serving.

In a world of noodle-heavy backcountry meals, Paleo Meals To Go’s gluten-free and protein-rich choices are refreshing, and also you don’t should be paleo to take pleasure in them. The Mountain Beef Stew Pouch we tried had a powerful ingredient listing: beef, greens, spices, and sea salt. The meat (free vary, grass-fed, and 100% pure) particularly stood out: it retained the style and texture of actual meat higher than different freeze-dried meats we’ve tried.

One notable downside to those tasty meals is shelf life, which in accordance with the Wild Zora web site, is barely two years from the date of manufacture. That stated, we ordered our meal in April and it got here with an expiration date of November 11 of the identical yr. Paleo Meals To Go additionally come at a excessive value: $13 for one serving, to be actual. For that value, you could possibly have three servings of Backpacker’s Pantry. However that value distinction reveals within the diet comparability: for one serving of Mountain Home Beef Stew, you’ll get 15% of your really helpful day by day Vitamin A, 15% of Vitamin C, and eight% of Iron. One serving of Paleo Meals To Go’s Beef Stew Pouch is full of 320%, 45%, and 90%, respectively. That’s an enormous promoting level for individuals who are centered on getting extra than simply energy from their backcountry meals.
See Wild Zora Paleo Meals To Go


18. Nomad Vitamin ($14)

Nomad Nutrition backpacking mealsCooking technique: Pouch
Common cook dinner time: 8-12 minutes
Energy per ounce: 130
What we like: Distinctive dehydrating course of and surprisingly calorie- and protein-packed.
What we don’t: Restricted choice and never the most effective worth.

A small firm based by an adventurous foodie from British Columbia, Nomad Vitamin provides nutrient-dense meals with a robust emphasis on entire meals elements. And regardless of being principally plant-based and 100% gluten- and dairy-free, Nomad’s entrées are startlingly calorie- and protein-packed, topping our listing with a powerful 130 energy per ounce and 15 grams or extra of protein per packet. And Nomad is doing issues otherwise with their distinctive dehydrating course of referred to as REVdry, which cuts out the necessity for preservatives and retains the ingredient listing each pure and low in sodium (a rarity among the many competitors).

In comparison with Peak Refuel above, Nomad Vitamin’s meals have much less energy per ounce, though they handle to drag it off with no single noodle-based dish. However whereas two hungry hikers can get away with sharing a Peak Refuel pouch, Nomad’s equally priced meals will doubtless solely feed one (they common about 600 energy per pouch), making them the pricier possibility by a large margin. For some it is perhaps price it: wanting inside a Nomad Vitamin pouch is a clean-eater’s dream, with a colourful rainbow of actual meals corresponding to potatoes, broccoli, peppers, corn, peas, and extra. All informed, the corporate is off to a promising begin, and we’re excited to see the place they’re headed.
See Nomad Vitamin Meals


Backpacking Meals Comparability Desk

Meals Value Cal/$* Methodology Time Cal/Oz* Particular Weight-reduction plan Choices
Backpacker’s Pantry $10-13 58.8 Pouch 15-20 min. 115 GF, vegan, vegetarian
RightOnTrek Journey Meals $9-15 76.2 Pot 10 min. 118 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Gastro Gnome $16-17 43.9 Pouch 8-12 min. 126 GF, vegetarian
Pinnacle Meals Co $16 47 Pouch 12 min. 169 Vegan, wheat free
Concord Home Meals N/A N/A Pouch/pot 10-15 min. N/A GF, vegan, vegetarian
Heather’s Selection $13-16 34.2 Pouch 20 min. 130 GF
Good To-Go $9-16 49.1 Pouch 15-20 min. 113 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Firepot $14-16 50.8 Pouch 15 min. 108 GF, vegan
Farm to Summit $13-15 52.2 Pouch 15-18 min. 117 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Peak Refuel $14 60.5 Pouch 10 min. 153 Vegan, vegetarian
Bushka’s Kitchen $16 38.3 Pouch 3 min. 143 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Mountain Home $11-12 52.7 Pouch 9 min. 133 GF, vegetarian
PackIt Gourmand $13-15 32 Pouch 10-15 min. 105 N/A
Trailtopia Journey Meals $7-14 59.2 Pouch 8-15 min. 120 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Subsequent Mile Meals $16 34.9 Pouch 7-10 min. 156 GF
AlpineAire Meals $10-15 48.5 Pouch 10-12 min. 106 GF, vegan, vegetarian
Wild Zora Paleo Meals $13 26.2 Pouch 10-12 min. 110 GF
Nomad Vitamin $14 38.5 Pouch 8-12 min. 130 GF, vegan

*These numbers signify the averages of weight, value, and energy per serving for the highest 5 meals from every model (when accessible).

Backpacking Meals Shopping for Recommendation

About Our Rankings

Backpacking meals is a troublesome gear merchandise to rank as a result of style is extremely individualized. A few of us love high-sodium meals within the backcountry, whereas others crave all-natural elements. Some prioritize taste and diet, whereas others search for calorie-dense meals that pack down small. Our rankings above take all of those components into consideration: value, weight, taste, elements, packaging, number of menu, and extra. However as a result of we’re all in search of one thing completely different to eat, you merely may not agree with our numbering. That’s okay. Utilizing the chart above, you’ll be able to hone in on what issues most to you and evaluate the specs for the entire meals we included.

Backpacking food (group photo)
From easy to gourmand, there may be a variety of backpacking meals choices

Cooking Methodology: Pouch or Pot

A technique we’ve categorized the meals on this article is by cooking technique: pouch or pot. In 2023, many backcountry vacationers go for “pouch” meals like Backpacker’s Pantry or Good To-Go as a consequence of their ease of preparation and cleanup. You merely add boiling water to the pouch and let it sit for the required period of time, and no bowl or pot is required (neither is cleansing stated bowl or pot after your meal). Notably, the shortage of cleanup additionally reduces impression on fragile wilderness environments. Then again, “pot” meals—like these from RightOnTrek—require that you just pour the dried contents right into a pot, add water, and most frequently warmth the meal over a flame. Generally directions would require that you just simmer the meal for as much as 10 minutes (requiring a backpacking range with good flame management). In fact, when the meal is completed, it’s important to clear the pot and pack it away in your subsequent day on the path.

Pouring water into a dehyrated backpacking meal
To arrange a pouch meal, simply add water and wait the really helpful time

Cooking Time

Relying on the cooking technique, the meals on this article take wherever from 5 to twenty minutes to cook dinner. For pouch meals corresponding to these from Heather’s Selection, you merely let the meals sit in scorching water for 15 to twenty minutes—no must are inclined to it. Pitch the tent, gather extra water, sit down and work on a crossword together with your mountaineering companion—20 minutes will fly by. We personally don’t thoughts this ready time and discover the excellence between 8 and 20 minutes nearly inconsequential (though this doesn’t imply that we don’t dig in somewhat early and eat crunchy noodles on the uncommon event). Then again, pot meals like these from RightOnTrek require that you just stir the meal sometimes because it simmers, which means you’ll have to be beside your backpacking range in the course of the cook dinner time.

Eating breakfast in camp at sunrise (backpacking meals)
Backpacking meals take wherever from 5 to twenty minutes to arrange

Energy and Serving Measurement

We’re not right here to supply an equation for energy burned based mostly on mileage, elevation achieve, pack weight, altitude, physique weight, and metabolism, or give our opinion on whether or not or not a backpacking journey is a major time to begin a eating regimen. We’ll depart that to the specialists and to your personal private discretion. However we are going to say if you wish to keep robust and energetic throughout outside actions, you’ll typically must eat greater than you’d on a traditional day at house. It’s fairly easy: for each calorie out, you wish to put at the least one in. With that in thoughts, energy are your pals within the backcountry and the numbering on dietary labels deserves your consideration. 

Once you discover the calorie quantity on the again of your meals pouch, take observe that it denotes the variety of energy in a single serving. This isn’t essentially the variety of energy for the entire pouch: some are single serving, others are double, and a few are even made to serve 4 individuals. And take into account that firms differ considerably on serving dimension. A typical Gastro Gnome meal, for instance, can comprise as much as 850 energy per serving, whereas a median Mountain Home meal serving dimension is 264 energy. Talking from private expertise, on a severe backpacking journey we discover that we’d like a double serving from most manufacturers to satiate our starvation at dinnertime. For that reason, we advocate that you just pay extra consideration to the calorie rely than the serving dimension, and don’t be shy about consuming far a couple of serving. Not typically does meals go to waste within the backcountry…

Gastro Gnome backpacking meal (nutrition label)
Serving sizes differ enormously, so you may wish to pay most consideration to the energy

Weight (Energy per Ounce)

Whether or not you’re a thru-hiker who saws off half your toothbrush and tears accomplished pages out of your ebook, or a weekend warrior who enjoys creature comforts on the path, all backcountry vacationers share some degree of concern about weight. As a result of meals is such a big portion of your load, the aim is to maximise style and energy for the least variety of ounces. For this, our “energy per ounce” spec could be your information.

To give you this quantity, we divided the variety of energy by the load of the packaged meal. For instance, Bushka’s Kitchen’s meals common 612 energy per 4.28 ounce serving: divide 612 by 4.28 and also you get 143, the energy per ounce. You’ll wish to intention for round 100 energy per ounce, and the bigger this quantity, the higher. For example, a median PackIt Gourmand meal incorporates solely 105 energy per ounce, whereas Pinnacle Meals Co meals comprise 169 energy per ounce. So, should you’re hoping to eat a 700-calorie dinner, Peak Refuel will weigh 4.1 ounces, and your PackIt Gourmand dinner 6.7 ounces. Add all of it up over a week-long journey, and with heavier meals you’re both carrying much more or coping with an empty abdomen.

Backpacking food (comparison photo)
To find out caloric density, divide the variety of energy by the load

Components and Dietary Restrictions

All-Pure Choices
A lot to the delight of the health-conscious, there are a rising variety of all-natural (which means actual meals: no synthetic flavors, components, or preservatives) backcountry meal choices. In reality, the vast majority of manufacturers right here—together with Good To-Go, Gastro Gnome, Pinnacle Meals Co, Heather’s Selection, Subsequent Mile Meals, and Firepot—pleasure themselves on utilizing solely pure elements. Others, corresponding to AlpineAire, have many all-natural choices and try to make use of solely actual meals elements at any time when attainable.

Preservatives are probably the most frequent unnatural offenders in backcountry meals, added to extend the shelf life and guard meals from being spoiled by microorganisms corresponding to mould, micro organism, and yeast. Though some preservatives are pure (salt, garlic, spices), many are manufactured chemical substances. Mountain Home’s 30-year assure is an excessive instance, requiring a great deal of unnatural elements and a heckuva lot of sodium for such a protracted shelf life. Then again, should you can learn an ingredient label and know the place to seek out every entry within the grocery retailer, chances are high they’re pure.

Backpacking meal ingredients
The variety of all-natural backpacking meal choices is rising every year

Particular Diets
Most backcountry meals manufacturers have tailored their menus to accommodate the rising vegan, vegetarian, paleo, ketogenic, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free (and many others., and many others.) markets. Usually, it shouldn’t be troublesome to seek out meals that fit your dietary wants. Good To-Go pouches, for instance, are totally gluten-free. Farm to Summit solely sells vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free delicacies, Heather’s Selection solely makes use of ethically sourced meats, and Subsequent Mile Meals appeals to the ketogenic crowd. Lastly, AlpineAire provides a filter characteristic on their web site that permits customers to seek out meals with particular elements or particular eating regimen choices. To assist spotlight the chances, we’ve included the “particular diets” spec in our desk above.

Heather's Choice backpacking meal gluten-free
Heather’s Selection meals are gluten-free

The American Coronary heart Affiliation recommends that adults restrict their sodium consumption to 2,300 mg per day, and ideally not exceeding 1,500 mg. Nonetheless, most wholesome and lively people who spend a lot of the day sweating within the scorching solar will want—and thus crave—high-sodium meals to replenish what’s misplaced. With a median of 400 to 800 mg of sodium per serving (and keep in mind, you’re most likely consuming a couple of serving), it’s no secret that almost all backcountry meals are excessive in sodium (Pinnacle Meals’ meals are among the many worst offenders, with as much as 1,570 mg/serving). Should you’re trying to maintain your sodium consumption down, pay particular consideration to the dietary info (we see quite a lot of variation from meal to meal). Moreover, meals from Good To-Go, Bushka’s Kitchen, and Nomad Vitamin are usually decrease in sodium than most.

Eating backpacking meals in Patagonia
Backpacking meals could be very excessive in sodium

Dehydrated vs. Freeze-Dried

Dehydrating and freeze-drying are two distinct strategies of meals preservation. Within the freeze-drying course of, meals is positioned in below-freezing temperatures and regularly warmed, shifting water within the meals from a strong to gaseous state. The dehydration course of, alternatively, exposes meals to scorching and dry air over a number of hours (smoking and sun-drying are additionally strategies of dehydrating). Ultimately, the freeze-drying course of removes 98-99% of moisture from meals, whereas dehydrating removes 95%. Each processes lead to dried meals that must be soaked in water to regain its dimension, texture, and edibility, however with noticeably completely different traits.

As a consequence of its decrease water content material, freeze-dried meals is lighter and has an extended shelf life than dehydrated meals. Surprisingly, it additionally rehydrates nearly twice as shortly—freeze-dried Mountain Home meals cook dinner in 9 minutes versus the 20 minutes required for dehydrated Good To-Go meals. Then again, dehydrated elements shrink extra (suppose plum to prune), which means they’ll take up much less room in your pack. They’re additionally recognized to maintain their authentic texture higher than freeze-dried elements. By way of style, the 2 strategies go face to face.

Cheers around backpacking stove in Patagonia
Some manufacturers use a mixture of freeze-dried and dehydrated elements

Whereas some manufacturers (like Good To-Go and Mountain Home) use both completely dehydrated or freeze-dried elements, most use each. Producers use discretion when selecting which course of works greatest for every ingredient, weighing the professionals and cons of taste, dimension, and value. Briefly, the freeze-dried versus dehydrated debate issues little to the on a regular basis shopper. The businesses do the legwork to seek out one of the best ways to dry meals, so we will sit again after a protracted day on the path and benefit from the end result. 

Breakfast and Espresso

To finish your meal package, most backpackers will wish to add breakfast and occasional (and snacks) to their purchasing listing as nicely. For many people, breakfast is a lighter, faster, and easier meal than dinner, and oftentimes bulk oatmeal or a bar with some dried fruit will suffice. However for individuals who desire a extra substantial or elaborate begin to their day, there are myriad choices to select from. Most manufacturers featured above provide a lineup of breakfasts too, starting from savory choices just like the Mountain Home Breakfast Skillet to candy treats like Backpacker’s Pantry Granola with Bananas, Almonds and Milk. Packaged backcountry breakfasts normally begin as little as $7 and can be found in one- and two-serving choices.

Backpacking food (pancake)
Cache Lake’s fry bread makes for an ideal breakfast deal with

Should you’re something like us, breakfast simply isn’t full with no scorching cup of espresso. You’ve a whole lot of choices in relation to a backcountry brew, starting from light-weight and moveable pour-over setups to disposable drip espresso kits from manufacturers like Kuju. Essentially the most light-weight answer is immediate espresso, which we’ve discovered to be completely ample for our morning cup of joe. Various choices can be found, from Dealer Joe’s to the ever-present Starbucks Through. Our private favourite is Alpine Begin, a small start-up out of Boulder that focuses on making unbelievable espresso for the path. Alpine Begin could be made with scorching or chilly water and is sweet sufficient that we’ve even been caught ingesting it at house a time or two.

Pouring hot water into cup (morning coffee while backpacking)
Nothing beats espresso on a chilly morning within the backcountry

Bulk Components

The pouch meals predominantly featured on this article is perhaps your most handy possibility for backcountry eating, however they aren’t the one strategy to eat dehydrated or freeze-dried elements. Possibly you’re pinching your pennies, cooking for the lots, or simply take pleasure in channeling your interior chef within the wilderness. You’ll find bulk dehydrated and freeze-dried elements from plenty of on-line distributors, together with Concord Home Meals, HQ Organics, and PackIt Gourmand. And recipes aren’t exhausting to come back by: with a easy Google search you’ll find tasty meal concepts like this Beef and Barley Stew. 

DIY Dehydrated Meals

You’re paying a fairly penny for comfort whenever you go for the prepackaged meals above. A one-stop store at your native gear retailer (and even on-line) can prevent hours in meal planning in your subsequent backcountry journey. That stated, should you’re inclined to DIY, it can save you your self quite a lot of cash by dehydrating your personal meals. You possibly can even accomplish that in your oven, though most will discover an precise meals dehydrator works higher. You’ll normally wish to cook dinner your elements earlier than dehydrating (a uncooked onion, dehydrated after which rehydrated, continues to be a uncooked onion). Many on-line guides present the temperature and time specs for various kinds of meals. And take observe: should you’re dehydrating meals and planning to retailer it for months or years, ensure that it’s correctly dehydrated and totally sealed.

Backpacking food (DIY)
A meals dehydrator permits you to put together your personal backpacking meals

Different Meal Choices

The prepackaged meals and dehydrated elements we’ve talked about above are probably the most handy and lightest strategy to eat within the backcountry. That stated, there actually are not any guidelines right here and loads of “actual” choices. Macaroni and cheese, couscous and canned hen, a frozen burrito purchased the morning of, Tasty Bites, even recent greens: the sky is the restrict. For some, meals preparation (slightly than merely pouring water right into a pouch and ready 10 minutes) may even be a enjoyable strategy to calm down on the finish of the day. There’s no denying that dehydrated meals are the simplest, however don’t let this text lull you into pondering that they’re the one strategy to go. Be artistic and have enjoyable on the market.

Backpacking food (sodium)
Should you’re keen to soiled a pot, the choices for backcountry cooking are limitless

On the opposite finish of the spectrum, enterprises like RightOnTrek take the legwork out of meals planning and packing with their made-to-order meal kits. All it’s important to do is specify the scale of your group, variety of days, and a bit about your meals preferences, and so they’ll put together your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for your complete journey. Basically, it is like a Blue Apron or Howdy Contemporary for backpacking meals. For first-timers who discover themselves intimidated by the method of packing meals for the backcountry, this is perhaps a extremely good strategy to go.

Stoves, Gas, and Cooking Provides

Lots of the meals on this article rehydrate of their pouch, making them fashionable choices as a result of they solely require including boiling water. For these meals, we advocate bringing an all-in-one range system such because the Jetboil Flash. It’s compact, boils water shortly, and within reason priced. For “pot” meals, you’ll most likely desire a extra conventional range with a simmering perform, just like the MSR PocketRocket 2 or Dragonfly. For extra data together with our high picks, take a look at our article on the most effective backpacking stoves. If you wish to depart the range behind, think about bringing pre-cooked dinners (like MREs or Omeals) or meals that may be hydrated with chilly water.

Backpacking food (pot system)
MSR’s PocketRocket has an ideal simmer perform

The quantity of gas you’ll want in your subsequent backpacking journey relies upon largely on whether or not you’re consuming “pouch” or “pot” meals. For pouch meals, you merely boil the water, flip off the range, and pour the water into the pouch. For pot meals, alternatively, you may must boil or simmer the meals for as much as 10 minutes. Should you’re out for per week, this cook dinner time can actually add as much as much more gas. Understand that altitude, temperature, and wind are additionally components in how a lot gas you eat. 

For meals that require cooking over a flame, take your choose from a large assortment of pots and pans, from ultra-lightweight titanium to extra sturdy stainless-steel or aluminum. When cooking for a couple of, we advocate bringing a light-weight bowl or mug/bowl combo alongside. Should you’re touring solo, it can save you weight and simply eat straight from the pot. Lastly, bear in mind you may want a second pot or kettle to make use of completely for boiling water for warm drinks.

Backpacking food (meal prep)
You may wish to match your range system to the kind of meals you propose to arrange

Shelf Life and Emergency Preparedness

A meal’s shelf life denotes the period of time that it retains its taste, diet, and edibility. Wanting on the manufacturers above, the shelf lives differ from 1 to 30 years, relying on the preservation technique (dehydration, freeze-drying, or pre-cooking) and sort/quantity of preservatives used. This data is straightforward to seek out on the packaging or producer web site. To ensure their shelf life, backcountry meals ought to be saved totally sealed in a cool and dry surroundings (no refrigeration wanted). 

Most backcountry fanatics are shopping for for his or her subsequent journey, which means that shelf life shouldn’t be a priority for many. However backpacking meals, because it seems, can also be supreme for emergency preparedness—it takes up much less area in your cabinets than canned items (the advantage of that calorie-to-weight ratio), lasts for a very long time, and is straightforward to arrange. For stocking up in case of an emergency (or should you’re shopping for in bulk for journeys nicely into the long run), the shelf life is a specification price contemplating. And if meals storage is your fundamental intent, we do advocate shopping for in bulk. Firms like Mountain Home provide their meals in cans and even buckets, which can take up considerably much less area and save on each packaging and cash.
Again to Our High Backpacking Meals Picks  Again to Our Backpacking Meals Comparability Desk