Since I have started backpacking, food has been one of the hardest things for me to get together before a trip. Doesn’t really matter if it is for a day hike or an overnight trip, and especially so for a multi-day hike! So, like many others before me has probably done at one point in time or another, I leaned into the prepackaged freeze-dried meals to meet these needs.
According to Wikipedia:
Freeze-drying (also known as lyophilization or cryodesiccation) is a dehydration process typically used to preserve a perishable material or make the material more convenient for transport. Freeze-drying works by freezing the material and then reducing the surrounding pressure and adding enough heat to allow the frozen water in the material to sublime directly from the solid phase to the gas phase.
Two examples of freeze-dried meals that I have experience with are the Mountain House Meals and the Backpacker Pantry Meals. Of course both companies offer a fairly large variety of meals for both breakfast and dinner and even some deserts.
The only place that I have locally in which any of these meals are readily available to me is our local Wal-Mart. And of course the selection is quite limited. Other than this I have ordered some meals from REI as well as stopped at some other outdoor type stores so that I would have something a little different.
Most of the meals that I have consumed have been the Mountain House Meals, and only recently have I used some of the Backpacker Pantry Meals. After eating both, I cannot necessarily tell a difference in the quality of one versus the other. In my opinion, the difference simply comes down to which particular entrée is chosen.
So, starting with the Mountain House Meals, the ones that are available to me at Wal-Mart are the Chili Mac with Beef, Lasagna with Meat Sauce, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and the Chicken Teriyaki. All of these were the meals that served two, and I shared all of them with either my wife or my son. There has been one occasion in which I ate an entire entrée by myself because my son decided that he didn’t like Lasagna while we were on the trail. I was able to do so, but I must say that I am glad that it was one that I liked, otherwise it would have been a lot of food to force feed myself.
Of these I enjoyed them all except the Chicken Teriyaki, which simply did not taste good to me and I will not get it again. As for the other three, they were each pretty good, but I have got to say that they all kind of tasted like the other. I guess that this can be expected since they are all really kind of the same. Anyway, I would get any one of these three again if needed.
I also at one point tried the Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Bacon. The morning I ate this one I decided to mix a little instant potatoes with the breakfast and then serve it on a flour tortilla. Long story short, it was nasty. I could not even force myself to eat it and I ended up packing it out. I told myself that I would never do that again…
Then again, here recently actually, I decided I would give this type of breakfast one more shot. I initially wanted the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet Wrap, but it was sold out online at some of the stores I buy from, and it was not available at the stores I stopped at. So, in place of it I decided I would try the Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Red And Green Peppers. Even though it was a single-serving meal and there were two of us (my wife and I) I only got one. This time I did not intend on mixing anything with the breakfast, however we did plan on putting them on some pieces of Pita bread. Long story short, it was just as bad as my first experience. Now when I say I will not buy these anymore, I mean just that.
I have on occasion gotten my son the Mountain House Neapolitan Ice Cream Bar, and he loves it. Every time we go hiking together he asks me if he can take some. I tried a little piece of it one time and found it to be rather tasty. My problem with it is that it seems to be a small amount, at least for me.
One of the last Mountain House Meals that I have tried is the Pasta Primavera. I have found that this has been my favorite of the Mountain House Meals so far and will be sure to get this one again when looking for more freeze-dried type meals for my hiking trips. I could have easily eaten this whole entrée by myself but thought that it was only right that I share with my wife, which also had good things to say about this meal too.
As for the Backpacker Pantry Meals I have only had three, the Chicken Cashew Curry, Santa Fe Chicken, and the Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken (and this is the order in which I liked them). I really enjoyed the cashews in the Chicken Cashew Curry, but the curry was not quite right. Maybe it was because it was freeze-dried, I don’t know, but don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it. The Santa Fe Chicken we got was good and filled with beans. As for the Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, I was a little disappointed. I saved this meal for our last night out on a recent hike, thinking it would be the best, but I ended up not even eating my share. It was a good thing my wife liked it because she ate a little more than I did. I would not get that one again.
So, these are my general likes and dislikes when it comes to the freeze-dried meals I have eaten so far. As for the packaging, I have both carried the original packaging as well as repackaged them myself at home, splitting them into equal parts in two separate Heavy-duty quart sized Ziploc bags. Both ways work fine for me, it just depends on what the situation calls for. My wife likes to use a bowl, so I just pour out her portion in her bowl and I eat the rest out of the package. My son does not mind eating out of a Ziploc so when he goes I will repackage them.
In the future I do plan on trying to get more involved with preparing my food for my trips, and hopefully moving away from these types of meals. But until then, they are filling the void.