Introduction

Pre-packaged, dehydrated and freeze-dried backpacking dinners might be a good option for you to consider if you don’t have the time, skill, or supplies to make your own.

I own and use some meal preparation equipment (e.g., a dehydrator and a vacuum sealer) and enjoy making my own backpacking meals with ingredients that I source myself. However, I also appreciate having the option to grab a few pre-packaged backpacking meals when I’m short on time.

My favorite pre-packaged meal is the GOOD TO-GO Herbed Mushroom Risotto, which I reviewed here recently.

YouTube video

This gear guide features several dozen options for dehydrated and freeze-dried backpacking dinners from many different brands. Numerous sortable data tables are included in this gear guide to provide a plethora of nutrition data and metrics for comparison purposes.

Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Backpacking Dinners: Category Description

Freeze-dried and dehydrated backpacking dinners included in this gear guide met the following criteria:

  1. They can be “cooked” by pouring boiled water into the food pouch and waiting a set amount of time (defined by the manufacturer) for the food to rehydrate. Meals that require cooking on a stove (e.g., simmering), or transfer to another container for eating, are not included. In addition, this gear guide does not include so-called self-heating meals (e.g., OMeals), which are neither dehydrated nor freeze-dried.
  2. All meals in this gear guide are generally considered to be evening entrees. Snacks, desserts, appetizers, and breakfast foods are not included.
  3. They are available in either 1- or 2-serving sizes (in a few cases, manufacturers have specified 1.5 or 2.5 servings). When multiple serving size options are available, the larger serving size is included, since that more closely represents the amount of food for a hearty meal for one person. Smaller people, older people, or youth may find some of the meals to provide too much food for a single serving meal.
  4. The food brands are actively distributed through specialty outdoor retailers, so there is a high likelihood that you’ll actually find them if you need to make a last-minute run to pick up food for a trip!

I settled on a selection of five brands that cover a diverse array of both dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients. Some meals are organic, some are vegetarian, some are vegan, and some are gluten-free. The meat dishes include beef, chicken, turkey, and seafood as ingredients.

It’s worth noting that cooking times vary wildly but tend to be similar within each brand and food type:

  • Mountain House: 8-9 minutes
  • AlpineAire: 10-12 minutes
  • Mary Jane’s Farm: 10-12 minutes
  • GOOD TO-GO: 10-12 minutes (15-20 minutes for some)
  • Backpacker’s Pantry: 15-20 minutes

Many brands offer meals with a potato flake base. These meals are ready to eat in about 4-5 minutes.

Cooking times depend on the volumetric quantity of ingredients that are freeze-dried vs. dehydrated and the size of the ingredient pieces and granules (e.g., potato flakes require less time to rehydrate than noodles).

Most meals contain a mixture of both types of dried food. Freeze dried ingredients usually require less cooking time than dehydrated ingredients.

The longer a meal takes to cook, the higher the probability that you won’t have piping hot food by the time the meal is rehydrated and ready to eat. Cooking times are estimates only. Cooking times will be even longer at higher altitude (because water boils at a lower temperature), or in cold temperatures where heat loss out of the bag is faster. You can mitigate some of these effects by inserting the package into a bag cozy of some sort while it’s cooking.

Dehydrated and freeze-dried backpacking dinners.
When I started backpacking, only Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House dehydrated and freeze-dried backpacking dinners were worth considering. Back then, during the 1980s, they were only marginally worth considering. Texture and taste left a lot to be desired. Advances in food drying technology and ingredient processing, along with several more big brands entering the market, makes freeze-dried and dehydrated backpacking meals much more palatable! Some of them are downright gourmet.

The following table provides a summary of the packaged meals included in this gear guide.

(Using the Table: This table is sortable, searchable, and consists of multiple pages of data. Scroll right to see all data columns on small screens. Try a search for “Mountain House” if you want to filter for a particular brand!)

BrandMeal NameMSRP# ServingsWeight (oz)
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles$9.002.54.8
Mountain HouseItalian Pepper Steak$10.002.54.6
Mountain HouseChicken and Dumplings$8.0024.7
Mountain HouseLasagna with Meat Sauce$9.002.54.8
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pak$8.0024.1
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef Pro-Pak$8.0024.1
Backpacker's PantryPad Thai Veggie$5.9928.0
GOOD TO-GOPad Thai$9.9926.6
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Bare Burrito$9.751.55.4
Backpacker's PantryChana Masala$5.9928.8
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Black Beans and Rice$9.251.55.6
Backpacker's PantryChicken Picatta with Tagliatelle Pasta$10.7926.1
AlpineAire FoodsHimalayan Lentils and Rice$5.1926.0
GOOD TO-GOMexican Quinoa Bowl$9.9926.8
AlpineAire FoodsThree Cheese Chicken Pasta$5.9925.0
AlpineAire FoodsBlack Bart Chili with Beef and Beans$6.7926.0
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spice$8.001.54.0
GOOD TO-GOBibimbap$5.5913.4
GOOD TO-GOHerbed Mushroom Risotto$5.5913.4
GOOD TO-GOIndian Vegetable Korma$9.9926.7
Backpacker's PantryPesto Pasta with Salmon$11.9928.7
AlpineAire FoodsMountain Chili$5.1926.0
GOOD TO-GOThai Curry$5.5913.4
AlpineAire FoodsSanta Fe Black Beans and Rice$5.1926.5
AlpineAire FoodsThai Style Chicken with Noodles$5.9925.1
Backpacker's PantryFettuccini Alfredo with Chicken$8.7927.5
Backpacker's PantryCincinnati Style Chili with Beef$7.5928.0
AlpineAire FoodsSpicy Sausage Pasta$5.9925.0
GOOD TO-GOSmoked Three Bean Chili$9.9927.0
GOOD TO-GOMarinara with Penne$9.9927.0
Backpacker's PantryVegetable Lasagna$7.1927.0
AlpineAire FoodsCheese Enchilada Ranchero$5.1926.3
GOOD TO-GODouble Chicken Gumbo$9.9926.8
Backpacker's PantryCuban Coconut Beans and Rice$5.9928.7
Backpacker's PantryShepherd's Potato Stew with Beef$8.7925.8
Backpacker's PantryThree Cheese Mac and Cheese$7.5927.1
Backpacker's PantryBaco Cheddar Mashed Potatoes$3.5923.5
Backpacker's PantryBeef Pho$7.1924.6
AlpineAire FoodsIndian Style Chicken Curry$5.9926.0
Backpacker's PantryMexican Cowboy Beans and Brown Rice$5.1928.3
Backpacker's PantryChiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beef$8.7926.6
AlpineAire FoodsSouthwestern Style Masa with Beef$6.7926.0
Backpacker's PantryKung Pao Rice with Chicken$8.7927.8
Backpacker's PantryJamaican Style Jerk Rice and Beans with Chicken$7.1926.2
AlpineAire FoodsChicken Gumbo$5.9925.5
AlpineAire FoodsChicken and Rice Burrito Bowl$6.7926.0
AlpineAire FoodsCreamy Potato Cheddar Soup$3.5923.5
AlpineAire FoodsMesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans and Rice$6.7927.0
AlpineAire FoodsBeef and Rice Burrito Bowl$6.7926.0
AlpineAire FoodsVegetarian Burrito Bowl$5.1926.0
AlpineAire FoodsHoney Lime Chicken$5.9925.8
AlpineAire FoodsPepper Beef with Rice$6.7926.0
AlpineAire FoodsPineapple Orange Chicken$6.7927.0
Mountain HouseChicken Fajita Bowl$9.0024.2
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef$9.002.54.8
Mountain HouseGrilled Chicken Breasts and Mashed Potatoes$11.0023.7
Mountain HouseSpaghetti with Meat Sauce$8.002.54.5
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Shepheard's Meat Pie$12.001.54.0
Mountain HouseChicken Teryaki with Rice$9.002.55.0

Prices represent current sale prices at REI as of the time of publication.

Food Types

All meals in this gear guide were categorized based on the major food types of interest to those who aspire to follow a particular diet strategy, including:

  • Meals with meat (these include beef, chicken, and turkey)
  • Vegetarian meals (may contain dairy products)
  • Vegan meals (no meat or dairy)
  • Gluten-free meals

These types are noted in the table below.

(Using the Table: This table is sortable, searchable, and consists of multiple pages of data. Scroll right to see all data columns on small screens. Try searching for “chicken” or “vegan” as examples of how to filter the entries for various search terms.)

BrandNameTypeGluten-Free?
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodlesbeefno
Mountain HouseItalian Pepper Steakbeefyes
Mountain HouseChicken and Dumplingschickenno
Mountain HouseLasagna with Meat Saucebeefno
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pakbeefno
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef Pro-Pakbeefno
Backpacker's PantryPad Thai Veggieveganyes
GOOD TO-GOPad Thaiseafoodyes
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Bare Burritovegetarianyes
Backpacker's PantryChana Masalaveganyes
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Black Beans and Ricevegetarianyes
Backpacker's PantryChicken Picatta with Tagliatelle Pastachickenno
AlpineAire FoodsHimalayan Lentils and Ricevegetarianyes
GOOD TO-GOMexican Quinoa Bowlveganyes
AlpineAire FoodsThree Cheese Chicken Pastachickenno
AlpineAire FoodsBlack Bart Chili with Beef and Beansbeefyes
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spiceveganyes
GOOD TO-GOBibimbapveganyes
GOOD TO-GOHerbed Mushroom Risottoveganyes
GOOD TO-GOIndian Vegetable Kormavegetarianyes
Backpacker's PantryPesto Pasta with Salmonseafoodno
AlpineAire FoodsMountain Chilivegetarianyes
GOOD TO-GOThai Curryseafoodyes
AlpineAire FoodsSanta Fe Black Beans and Riceveganyes
AlpineAire FoodsThai Style Chicken with Noodleschickenno
Backpacker's PantryFettuccini Alfredo with Chickenchickenno
Backpacker's PantryCincinnati Style Chili with Beefbeefno
AlpineAire FoodsSpicy Sausage Pastabeefno
GOOD TO-GOSmoked Three Bean Chiliveganyes
GOOD TO-GOMarinara with Penneveganyes
Backpacker's PantryVegetable Lasagnavegetarianno
AlpineAire FoodsCheese Enchilada Rancherovegetarianno
GOOD TO-GODouble Chicken Gumbochickenyes
Backpacker's PantryCuban Coconut Beans and Ricevegetarianno
Backpacker's PantryShepherd's Potato Stew with Beefbeefno
Backpacker's PantryThree Cheese Mac and Cheesevegetarianno
Backpacker's PantryBaco Cheddar Mashed Potatoesvegetarianno
Backpacker's PantryBeef Phobeefyes
AlpineAire FoodsIndian Style Chicken Currychickenno
Backpacker's PantryMexican Cowboy Beans and Brown Riceveganno
Backpacker's PantryChiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beefbeefyes
AlpineAire FoodsSouthwestern Style Masa with Beefbeefyes
Backpacker's PantryKung Pao Rice with Chickenchickenno
Backpacker's PantryJamaican Style Jerk Rice and Beans with Chickenchickenno
AlpineAire FoodsChicken Gumbochickenyes
AlpineAire FoodsChicken and Rice Burrito Bowlchickenyes
AlpineAire FoodsCreamy Potato Cheddar Soupvegetarianyes
AlpineAire FoodsMesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans and Ricechickenyes
AlpineAire FoodsBeef and Rice Burrito Bowlbeefyes
AlpineAire FoodsVegetarian Burrito Bowlvegetarianyes
AlpineAire FoodsHoney Lime Chickenchickenyes
AlpineAire FoodsPepper Beef with Ricebeefyes
AlpineAire FoodsPineapple Orange Chickenchickenyes
Mountain HouseChicken Fajita Bowlchickenyes
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beefbeefno
Mountain HouseGrilled Chicken Breasts and Mashed Potatoeschickenno
Mountain HouseSpaghetti with Meat Saucebeefno
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Shepheard's Meat Piebeefno
Mountain HouseChicken Teryaki with Ricechickenno

Product Nutrition Considerations

Calories

Calories = fuel. Generally, most hikers will consume 400-800 Calories during their evening meal, which helps replenish glycogen stores, repair muscles, and provide metabolic fuel until morning.

Macronutrients

Most backpackers who are students of their own nutrition will attempt to dial in a particular macronutrient ratio, defined as carbohydrates:fats:protein. One common ratio is 50:35:15, which simply means that 50% of your calories are coming from carbohydrates, 35% of your calories are coming from fats, and 15% of your calories are coming from protein.

Some backpackers try to increase the caloric density (e.g., expressed as Calories per ounce) of their food by increasing the percentage of fat in their diet (which has a caloric density of 9 Calories/gram vs. proteins and carbohydrates, which have a caloric density of 4 Calories/gram). A typical high-fat backpacking diet may have a macronutrient ratio that looks something like 35:50:15.

Proponents of ketogenic and other low-carb diets for athletic activity rely upon diets where less than 10% of their total caloric intake is from carbohydrates, where energy is derived primarily from fat metabolism instead of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.

For most (non-fat adapted eaters), a high load (100-150 g) of carbohydrates during the evening meal helps replenish glycogen stores consumed over the course of several hours of hiking.

Protein (at least 20 g per meal) helps with muscle repair.

Saturated Fats and Cholesterol

In the raw data table at the end of this gear guide, saturated fats and cholesterol numbers are reported as an FYI for those with chronic diseases that require monitoring the dietary intake of these nutrients. Neither one likely has any meaningful impact on short-term backpacking performance.

Sodium

A diet void of sodium is risky for backpacking. High levels of physical exertion, especially during warm temperatures, results in perspiration and sodium loss that can lead to conditions such as hyponatremia. One diet that can be particularly problematic is one that rigidly adheres to plant-based whole foods with no processed foods or ingredients. The extremely low sodium in this type of diet is risky for backpackers, who may expel up to several grams per day of salt through perspiration.

Conversely, some people monitor sodium intake as part of chronic disease management.

Fortunately, for backpacking, we can afford to take in a little extra salt here and there since we are engaging in an activity that expels quite a bit more of it than if we were sitting at our desk back at the office.

Dietary Fiber

Dietary fiber increases stool softness, volume, and regularity (reduces constipation). High fiber diets (especially common among those who eat plant-based diets) are great for backpacking, but when combined with vigorous exercise, may increase your required toilet paper supply dramatically.

Sugars

The sugar content of these foods is provided in the raw data table at the end of this gear guide primarily for those interested in evaluating the potential glycemic and insulinemic impacts of foods.

Macronutrient Specifications (Per Package)

This table is sortable, searchable, and consists of multiple pages of data. Scroll right to see all data columns on small screens.

BrandNamePackage Weight (oz)CaloriesFat (g)Carbs (g)% Carbs as FiberProtein (g)
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles4.865028733%28
Mountain HouseItalian Pepper Steak4.645067314%33
Mountain HouseChicken and Dumplings4.762028626%30
Mountain HouseLasagna with Meat Sauce4.8600207310%35
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pak4.152022583%22
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef Pro-Pak4.1460126216%24
Backpacker's PantryPad Thai Veggie8.09203612813%36
GOOD TO-GOPad Thai6.6860201467%32
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Bare Burrito5.455599324%29
Backpacker's PantryChana Masala8.8860518410%26
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Black Beans and Rice5.657099837%30
Backpacker's PantryChicken Picatta with Tagliatelle Pasta6.170018867%48
AlpineAire FoodsHimalayan Lentils and Rice6.0620712415%22
GOOD TO-GOMexican Quinoa Bowl6.87001613413%26
AlpineAire FoodsThree Cheese Chicken Pasta5.058016686%38
AlpineAire FoodsBlack Bart Chili with Beef and Beans6.0580108431%50
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spice4.043529015%17
GOOD TO-GOBibimbap3.43708666%9
GOOD TO-GOHerbed Mushroom Risotto3.441010646%13
GOOD TO-GOIndian Vegetable Korma6.77803210423%30
Backpacker's PantryPesto Pasta with Salmon8.764028845%40
AlpineAire FoodsMountain Chili6.054049428%42
GOOD TO-GOThai Curry3.4380145613%10
AlpineAire FoodsSanta Fe Black Beans and Rice6.5640313612%20
AlpineAire FoodsThai Style Chicken with Noodles5.15006907%28
Backpacker's PantryFettuccini Alfredo with Chicken7.5540121022%44
Backpacker's PantryCincinnati Style Chili with Beef8.0740514013%40
AlpineAire FoodsSpicy Sausage Pasta5.060022768%24
GOOD TO-GOSmoked Three Bean Chili7.06801012624%32
GOOD TO-GOMarinara with Penne7.09202612613%24
Backpacker's PantryVegetable Lasagna7.07601811011%44
AlpineAire FoodsCheese Enchilada Ranchero6.3760329610%30
GOOD TO-GODouble Chicken Gumbo6.86601610811%32
Backpacker's PantryCuban Coconut Beans and Rice8.79601417634%34
Backpacker's PantryShepherd's Potato Stew with Beef5.8600168212%36
Backpacker's PantryThree Cheese Mac and Cheese7.1860281124%38
Backpacker's PantryBaco Cheddar Mashed Potatoes3.5420146010%16
Backpacker's PantryBeef Pho4.64602986%16
AlpineAire FoodsIndian Style Chicken Curry6.0600911812%28
Backpacker's PantryMexican Cowboy Beans and Brown Rice8.3800616416%32
Backpacker's PantryChiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beef6.654051028%22
AlpineAire FoodsSouthwestern Style Masa with Beef6.0660169213%40
Backpacker's PantryKung Pao Rice with Chicken7.87401411411%48
Backpacker's PantryJamaican Style Jerk Rice and Beans with Chicken6.2620411622%38
AlpineAire FoodsChicken Gumbo5.554041006%32
AlpineAire FoodsChicken and Rice Burrito Bowl6.0620411616%32
AlpineAire FoodsCreamy Potato Cheddar Soup3.536012547%16
AlpineAire FoodsMesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans and Rice7.0700512611%40
AlpineAire FoodsBeef and Rice Burrito Bowl6.0620511616%30
AlpineAire FoodsVegetarian Burrito Bowl6.0600212814%20
AlpineAire FoodsHoney Lime Chicken5.860031601%22
AlpineAire FoodsPepper Beef with Rice6.062071443%28
AlpineAire FoodsPineapple Orange Chicken7.072041404%32
Mountain HouseChicken Fajita Bowl4.2560225012%40
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef4.8575157816%30
Mountain HouseGrilled Chicken Breasts and Mashed Potatoes3.74207449%44
Mountain HouseSpaghetti with Meat Sauce4.557513839%30
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Shepheard's Meat Pie4.03759548%23
Mountain HouseChicken Teryaki with Rice5.055051003%25

Macronutrient Density

(Using the Table: This table is sortable, searchable, and consists of multiple pages of data. Scroll right to see all data columns on small screens.)

BrandNameCal/ozFat (g)/ozCarb (g)/ozProtein (g)/oz
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles135.45.715.15.7
Mountain HouseItalian Pepper Steak97.81.415.87.1
Mountain HouseChicken and Dumplings131.96.013.26.4
Mountain HouseLasagna with Meat Sauce125.04.215.17.3
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pak126.85.414.15.4
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef Pro-Pak112.22.915.15.9
Backpacker's PantryPad Thai Veggie115.04.516.04.5
GOOD TO-GOPad Thai130.33.022.14.8
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Bare Burrito102.81.717.25.3
Backpacker's PantryChana Masala97.70.620.93.0
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Black Beans and Rice101.81.617.45.4
Backpacker's PantryChicken Picatta with Tagliatelle Pasta114.83.014.17.9
AlpineAire FoodsHimalayan Lentils and Rice103.31.220.73.7
GOOD TO-GOMexican Quinoa Bowl102.92.419.73.8
AlpineAire FoodsThree Cheese Chicken Pasta116.03.213.67.6
AlpineAire FoodsBlack Bart Chili with Beef and Beans96.71.714.08.3
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spice108.80.622.54.1
GOOD TO-GOBibimbap108.82.419.42.6
GOOD TO-GOHerbed Mushroom Risotto120.62.918.83.8
GOOD TO-GOIndian Vegetable Korma116.44.815.54.5
Backpacker's PantryPesto Pasta with Salmon73.63.29.74.6
AlpineAire FoodsMountain Chili90.00.715.77.0
GOOD TO-GOThai Curry111.84.116.52.9
AlpineAire FoodsSanta Fe Black Beans and Rice98.50.520.93.1
AlpineAire FoodsThai Style Chicken with Noodles97.71.217.65.5
Backpacker's PantryFettuccini Alfredo with Chicken72.01.613.65.9
Backpacker's PantryCincinnati Style Chili with Beef92.50.617.55.0
AlpineAire FoodsSpicy Sausage Pasta120.04.415.24.8
GOOD TO-GOSmoked Three Bean Chili97.11.418.04.6
GOOD TO-GOMarinara with Penne131.43.718.03.4
Backpacker's PantryVegetable Lasagna108.62.615.76.3
AlpineAire FoodsCheese Enchilada Ranchero121.65.115.44.8
GOOD TO-GODouble Chicken Gumbo97.12.415.94.7
Backpacker's PantryCuban Coconut Beans and Rice110.31.620.23.9
Backpacker's PantryShepherd's Potato Stew with Beef103.42.814.16.2
Backpacker's PantryThree Cheese Mac and Cheese121.13.915.85.4
Backpacker's PantryBaco Cheddar Mashed Potatoes120.04.017.14.6
Backpacker's PantryBeef Pho100.00.421.33.5
AlpineAire FoodsIndian Style Chicken Curry100.01.519.74.7
Backpacker's PantryMexican Cowboy Beans and Brown Rice96.40.719.83.9
Backpacker's PantryChiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beef81.80.815.53.3
AlpineAire FoodsSouthwestern Style Masa with Beef110.02.715.36.7
Backpacker's PantryKung Pao Rice with Chicken94.91.814.66.2
Backpacker's PantryJamaican Style Jerk Rice and Beans with Chicken100.00.618.76.1
AlpineAire FoodsChicken Gumbo98.20.718.25.8
AlpineAire FoodsChicken and Rice Burrito Bowl103.30.719.35.3
AlpineAire FoodsCreamy Potato Cheddar Soup102.93.415.44.6
AlpineAire FoodsMesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans and Rice100.00.718.05.7
AlpineAire FoodsBeef and Rice Burrito Bowl103.30.819.35.0
AlpineAire FoodsVegetarian Burrito Bowl100.00.321.33.3
AlpineAire FoodsHoney Lime Chicken104.30.527.83.8
AlpineAire FoodsPepper Beef with Rice103.31.224.04.7
AlpineAire FoodsPineapple Orange Chicken102.90.620.04.6
Mountain HouseChicken Fajita Bowl132.45.211.89.5
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef119.83.116.16.3
Mountain HouseGrilled Chicken Breasts and Mashed Potatoes113.51.911.911.9
Mountain HouseSpaghetti with Meat Sauce127.52.818.36.7
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Shepheard's Meat Pie93.82.313.55.6
Mountain HouseChicken Teryaki with Rice109.81.020.05.0

Raw Data Table

(Using the Table: This table is sortable, searchable, and consists of multiple pages of data. Scroll right to see all data columns. Try a search for “vegan” or “pad thai” to see how the search-and-filter function works!)

BrandMeal NameTypeGluten Free?MSRPCooking Time (minutes)Weight (oz)ServingsCaloriesFat (g)Sat Fat (g)Cholesterol (mg)Sodium (mg)Carb (g)Dietary Fiber (g)Sugars (g)Protein (g)
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodlesbeefno$9.0084.82.526011445800291311
Mountain HouseItalian Pepper Steakbeefyes$10.0084.62.51802.50.525590294213
Mountain HouseChicken and Dumplingschickenno$8.0084.7231014435970312715
Mountain HouseLasagna with Meat Saucebeefno$9.0084.82.524083.530390293614
Mountain HouseBeef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pakbeefno$8.0084.1226011445800291311
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beef Pro-Pakbeefno$8.0084.122306220780315312
Backpacker's PantryPad Thai Veggieveganyes$5.99158.0246018304806481518
GOOD TO-GOPad Thaiseafoodyes$9.99156.62430101.51053407351516
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Bare Burritovegetarianyes$9.75105.41.537062.5107206215419
Backpacker's PantryChana Masalaveganyes$5.99158.824302.5001,3409291513
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Black Beans and Ricevegetarianyes$9.25105.61.538062.5106806524220
Backpacker's PantryChicken Picatta with Tagliatelle Pastachickenno$10.79206.1235092401,450433224
AlpineAire FoodsHimalayan Lentils and Ricevegetarianyes$5.19106.023103.51.510180629311
GOOD TO-GOMexican Quinoa Bowlveganyes$9.99156.82350810390679913
AlpineAire FoodsThree Cheese Chicken Pastachickenno$5.99105.0229084.535570342419
AlpineAire FoodsBlack Bart Chili with Beef and Beansbeefyes$6.79106.0229051.5357504213725
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Lentils, Rice, and Indian Spiceveganyes$8.00104.01.52901.500520609911
GOOD TO-GOBibimbapveganyes$5.59203.4137081.50670664119
GOOD TO-GOHerbed Mushroom Risottoveganyes$5.59203.41410101.50420644313
GOOD TO-GOIndian Vegetable Kormavegetarianyes$9.99206.72390166069052121715
Backpacker's PantryPesto Pasta with Salmonseafoodno$11.99158.72320144.530140303918
AlpineAire FoodsMountain Chilivegetarianyes$5.19106.022702005904713921
GOOD TO-GOThai Curryseafoodyes$5.59203.413801480500567810
AlpineAire FoodsSanta Fe Black Beans and Riceveganyes$5.19106.523201.500370688810
AlpineAire FoodsThai Style Chicken with Noodleschickenno$5.99105.1225030.515420453514
Backpacker's PantryFettuccini Alfredo with Chickenchickenno$8.79157.5227063.545850361218
Backpacker's PantryCincinnati Style Chili with Beefbeefno$7.59158.023702.5020540709920
AlpineAire FoodsSpicy Sausage Pastabeefno$5.99105.0230011525440383312
GOOD TO-GOSmoked Three Bean Chiliveganyes$9.99207.0234050.5036063151316
GOOD TO-GOMarinara with Penneveganyes$9.99207.02460131.503606381512
Backpacker's PantryVegetable Lasagnavegetarianno$7.19157.0238095256905561122
AlpineAire FoodsCheese Enchilada Rancherovegetarianno$5.19106.3238016625700485615
GOOD TO-GODouble Chicken Gumbochickenyes$9.99156.8233081.545420546316
Backpacker's PantryCuban Coconut Beans and Ricevegetarianno$5.99158.7248072081088301217
Backpacker's PantryShepherd's Potato Stew with Beefbeefno$8.79155.8230083.5451,340415818
Backpacker's PantryThree Cheese Mac and Cheesevegetarianno$7.59157.1243014745610562519
Backpacker's PantryBaco Cheddar Mashed Potatoesvegetarianno$3.5953.5221073.51569030338
Backpacker's PantryBeef Phobeefyes$7.19154.6223010201,08049338
AlpineAire FoodsIndian Style Chicken Currychickenno$5.99106.023004.52.5203805971414
Backpacker's PantryMexican Cowboy Beans and Brown Riceveganno$5.19158.324003001,0908213816
Backpacker's PantryChiang Mai Coconut Curry with Beefbeefyes$8.79156.622702.5020650514411
AlpineAire FoodsSouthwestern Style Masa with Beefbeefyes$6.79106.0233084357704661020
Backpacker's PantryKung Pao Rice with Chickenchickenno$8.79157.8237071301,0705761024
Backpacker's PantryJamaican Style Jerk Rice and Beans with Chickenchickenno$7.19156.2231020251,4405813919
AlpineAire FoodsChicken Gumbochickenyes$5.99105.522702030630503816
AlpineAire FoodsChicken and Rice Burrito Bowlchickenyes$6.79106.023102020300589516
AlpineAire FoodsCreamy Potato Cheddar Soupvegetarianyes$3.59103.52180642064027238
AlpineAire FoodsMesquite BBQ Seasoned Chicken with Beans and Ricechickenyes$6.79107.023502.50304606371520
AlpineAire FoodsBeef and Rice Burrito Bowlbeefyes$6.79106.023102.50.515400589515
AlpineAire FoodsVegetarian Burrito Bowlvegetarianyes$5.19106.02300100280649510
AlpineAire FoodsHoney Lime Chickenchickenyes$5.99105.823001.5020480801622
AlpineAire FoodsPepper Beef with Ricebeefyes$6.79106.023103.5025580722214
AlpineAire FoodsPineapple Orange Chickenchickenyes$6.79107.0236020.5254107031316
Mountain HouseChicken Fajita Bowlchickenyes$9.0094.2228011160690253420
Mountain HouseChili Mac with Beefbeefno$9.0084.82.52306220780315312
Mountain HouseGrilled Chicken Breasts and Mashed Potatoeschickenno$11.0043.722103.51.555810222222
Mountain HouseSpaghetti with Meat Saucebeefno$8.0084.52.52305220600333512
MaryJanesFarmOrganic Shepheard's Meat Piebeefno$12.0054.01.525063.520780363515
Mountain HouseChicken Teryaki with Ricechickenno$9.0085.02.522020.5256604011210

Recommendations

Ultralight Performance: Best Calorie-to-Weight Ratio Meals

The meals in this gear guide have an average caloric density of 107 Cal/oz, with a range of 72-135 Cal/oz.

The following meals have caloric densities exceeding 130 Calories per ounce:

Trying to Lose Weight? Lowest Calorie-to-Weight Ratio Meals

Low-cal meals may be of interest to those who are trying to lose weight.

The meals that had the lowest caloric density were:

Low Net-Carb Options

If you are looking to minimize your carbohydrate intake, look for meals that have a low net carbohydrate density (total carbs minus dietary fiber, per weight unit).

The average net carb density for all meals in this gear guide is 15.2 net carb (g)/oz (net carb density of 54%).

High Net-Carb Options

For those who do not eat a ketogenic or other fat-adapted diet and need a very high carb meal after a particularly long day of hiking, consider these high net-carb density options:

  • AlpineAire Foods Honey Lime Chicken¬†(27.5 net carb (g)/oz, i.e., net carb content by weight = 97%).
  • AlpineAire Foods Pepper Beef with Rice¬†(23.3 net carb (g)/oz, i.e., net carb content by weight = 82%).
  • GOOD TO-GO Pad Thai¬†(20.6 net carb (g)/oz, i.e., net carb content by weight = 73%).
  • Backpacker’s Pantry Beef Pho¬†(20.0 net carb (g)/oz, i.e., net carb content by weight = 71%).

Best Value: Calories per Dollar

The meals in this gear guide have an average cost of $1.30 per 100 Calories, and range from¬†$0.62/100 Cal to $3.20/100 Cal. Prices represent current backpacking dinner sale prices at REI¬†as of the time of publication. Some items are on sale during REI’s Anniversary Sale, others remain listed at their MSRP.

Average cost by brand:

  • AlpineAire¬†– $0.99/100 Cal
  • Backpacker’s Pantry¬†– $1.15/100 Cal
  • GOOD TO-GO¬†– $1.36/100 Cal
  • Mountain House¬†– $1.68/100 Cal
  • Mary Jane’s Farm¬†– $2.10/100 Cal

The following meals give you the most calories per dollar spent:

Acknowledgments

I’d like to say thank you to Stephanie Jordan for performing the data research for this review!

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