Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Backpacking Dinners (Gear Guide)
May 25, 2018 at 6:25 am #3538267Ryan JordanAdmin
@ryanLocale: Central Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Backpacking Dinners (Gear Guide)
This gear guide features several dozen options for freeze-dried and dehydrated backpacking dinners from many different brands and provides nutritional information on each one for comparison purposes.May 26, 2018 at 12:06 am #3538443GK LottBPL Member
@gklottLocale: Texas Hill Country
Thanks for the details and the quantitative comparisons.
I can highly recommend these two brands as the best I’ve found for variety, content, preparation ease, various sizes, taste, and availability – with emphasis on the taste.
Packit Gourmet https://www.packitgourmet.com/
Mary Jane’s Farms https://shop.maryjanesfarm.org/Food
I really like Mary Jane’s organic products and ingredients. They make it easy to customize nutrition. Packit Gourmet has such neat, tasty items – especially Mom’s Banana Puddin’. Using these two brands, I look forward to meals on the trail – even when arriving late and worn out.
Enjoy your walking!May 26, 2018 at 1:55 am #3538466Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I will second Pack-It Gourmet – the best dehydrated food I have found.May 26, 2018 at 3:00 am #3538482humorlessBPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
Love Packit Gourmet. Also fond of Heather’s Choice, though her meals are expensive (and she’s only got two entrees on the site right now, there are usually half a dozen – the Dark Chocolate Chili, Chipotle Cherry Chili and Doro Wat are quite good). Some Outdoor Herbivore is also pretty good for veggie/vegan meals, but it can be a bit of hit or miss. And Patagonia actually has a couple of nice veggie meals now.
Would love to see another article of this type that features the smaller, ‘cottage’ meal makers instead of the big guys (and gals).May 26, 2018 at 3:19 am #3538484matthew kModerator
I don’t cook much these days but when I do, I prefer Packit Gourmet’s meals as well. I’m also a big fan of their “grocery” items which I’ve used to dress up potato flakes, couscous etc.
Honeyville Farms is another good source for this approach to making meals.May 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm #3538523Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I don’t do meals, but I dry my own pinto beans, add dried onions, peppers, and tomatoes from packit gourmet which are pretty good.
Sometimes I dry my own, but the ones from packit gourmet are probably better and don’t cost much moreMay 26, 2018 at 1:52 pm #3538527Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
Just placed an order myself,
But in the scope of this guide even my local Winco carries some Mountain House. I like to buy on sale and stockpile so I don’t have to think much about food.May 26, 2018 at 5:10 pm #3538543AK GranolaBPL Member
Is Packit Gourmet available at retail stores or only online?
REI does tastings for their employees of the brands they sell; wish they’d do that for the public.May 26, 2018 at 5:16 pm #3538545Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
PG is online onlyMay 26, 2018 at 5:35 pm #3538550Gary DunckelBPL Member
Many FD meals have good amount of salt. But if you know that you’ll be sweating a lot on a couple of days of your trip, you might want to take along 1-2 ProPacks of Mountain House’s Beef Stew – each one contains a whopping 2390 mg of NaCl (the other ProPacks contain 570-820 mg).
When our local meet-up group hosted Backpacker’s Pantry (a local Boulder company), I asked the speaker just why their foods all contained so much salt, and was it because it was needed during the freeze drying process. She answered that no, it isn’t for the FD process, but that backpackers need more salt. I mentioned that their products are also marketed toward those that want to stock a “ready food supply” in case a disaster (eg, a hurricane) happens. I also suggested that so much salt wouldn’t be good for the elderly with high blood pressure that was in a sedentary environment (when I volunteered with a Federal disaster response team, I spoke with a Red Cross person about this very thing, and she definitely concurred). The Backpacker’s Pantry speaker’s reply, was something like, “Um…I see…well… Now, are there any other questions, people?”
I was rather bummed that most FD meals have so much salt, until I realized that my own concoctions (which I dehydrate and then vacuum seal) contain far more salt than Mountain House ProPacks. My favorites contain between 1000 mg and 1600 mg of NaCl.May 27, 2018 at 6:36 am #3538663Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Thanks very much for this article Ryan. Very helpful.
But as one who has been on a low sodium diet since 1977 (tinitus problems) I gotta say that most of the foods you listed are “salt bombs” that I have to avoid. That’s why Freezer Bag Cooking and home dehydration is my mainstay.
Let’s be honest here regarding high sodium content of freeze dried foods. We do NOT need 3 to 4 times the maximum daily recommended salt content in EACH mealbecause we sweat a lot from the exertion of backpacking! If more freeze dried food makers would use more spices for flavoring I feel they could greatly lower the sodium content in their foods. But of course substituting spices for flavoring is more expensive than sodium…May 27, 2018 at 12:46 pm #3538671ArthurBPL Member
Eric is right on and the main reason I cannot stand this stuff. Getting hyponatremia outside the US desert southwest in the summer on a backpacking trip is about impossible with the food we eat. And, if you eat about anything that comes in a bag every day or two you will have tons of sodium unless you have some sort of water drinking compulsion. My take on all this food is that it inherently tastes so bad that the only way to make it editable is to douse it with salt. BTW, I am no health food nut nor do I have any bent on “eating right”. I just think this type of food is terrible, but it is fixable if the manufacturers choose.May 27, 2018 at 4:06 pm #3538700JAMES CALLBPL Member
@conductorLocale: Sierra Nevada
A huge thank you to the Jordan’s! This is why I’m a member of BPL.May 27, 2018 at 4:08 pm #3538702GK LottBPL Member
@gklottLocale: Texas Hill Country
Agree on many being salt bombs. This quantitative detail is one of the benefits of BPL.
NaCl is the one downside to PackIt Gourmet. One of my favorites, Mary Jane’s Shepherd’s Meat Pie, has 1170 mg NaCl, 375 calories, 114 g, 3.3 cal/g per pouch. The excellent Shepherd’s Cottage Pie from Packit Gourmet has 2320 mg NaCl, 680 calories, 155 g, 4.4 cal/g per pouch. Ideal to me would be <750 mg NaCl and > 4 cal/g.May 27, 2018 at 4:39 pm #3538710Lance RBPL Member
Ryan, your article is extraordinarily detailed and well done. Thank you. I have some thoughts here.
- I didn’t see any references to monosodium-glutamate (MSG) or any of its hidden derivatives. MSG is a neuro-toxin and used in many processed foods. It fools your taste buds into thinking that the food tastes better. When you see “natural flavors” or “natural seasonings” listed as an ingredient, you can bet that there are hidden forms of MSG. To learn more about the dangers of MSG, you can do your own research or start with this article on Mercola.com: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/21/msg-is-this-silent-killer-lurking-in-your-kitchen-cabinets.aspx Even so-called health food products or “natural foods” have their share of MSG hidden in them. A good example are “natural” potato chips found in health food stores. Food companies add MSG because it’s a cheap way of making something bland having a more piquant flavor.
- For a person looking to diet or lose weight, you want to increase the fat content of your food, not reduce it. It’s the abundance of carbs, particularly refined carbs, in the Western diet is why we have alarming rates of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance which leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, strokes, hypertension, cataracts, etc.
- I’m glad to see you made a non-issue about saturated fats. The entire demonization of saturated fats and cholesterol was a plot hatched by the sugar industry in the 1960s. It goes like this: If we make fat, particularly saturated fat, the bad guy, then we have to replace it with something else. And what do you suppose the something else is? You guessed it, sugar! I might add, even if you think that you backpack, run, and burn a zillion calories per day and think you can get away with eating junk food, it will catch up with you. Just try asking Jimmy Fix!
Yes, you want to do everything possible to prepare your own back-country meals. I have used my dehydrator quite a bit. Getting a vacuum sealer sounds like a terrific idea. Thanks Ryan for that one. I’ve had an interest in a home freeze-dryer. Has anyone had experience with such a unit for meal preservation?
LanceMay 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm #3539056Chad LorenzBPL Member
@chadlLocale: Teton Valley, Wydaho
For me this read like a thinly veiled attempt at affiliate marketing, hence the exclusion of smaller brands. I hope BPL can figure out their revenue stream so we can read comprehensive reviews without being bombarded with links to REI.May 29, 2018 at 8:34 pm #3539116
Let’s be honest here regarding high sodium content of freeze dried foods. We do NOT need 3 to 4 times the maximum daily recommended salt content in EACH mealbecause we sweat a lot from the exertion of backpacking! If more freeze dried food makers would use more spices for flavoring I feel they could greatly lower the sodium content in their foods.
Really? Which ones? Did you research it?
Here’s the data and note it is for 2.5 servings. Granted most will eat the entire 2.5 servings, but even then, none exceeds the RDA of 2300mg of sodium per day.
Granted, the sodium content is high but the RDA is for the average person, not someone who is hiking 10-20 miles per day with a pack on their back. I hike in the desert a lot and often need more salt, which is pretty easy to figure out… I start craving salty food. I’ve been eating Mountain House meals almost exclusively for dinner while backpacking for almost 50 years. My vital signs and blood workup is always normal or better than normal.May 29, 2018 at 8:35 pm #3539117
For me this read like a thinly veiled attempt at affiliate marketing, hence the exclusion of smaller brands. I hope BPL can figure out their revenue stream so we can read comprehensive reviews without being bombarded with links to REI.
You noticed too?May 29, 2018 at 10:04 pm #3539131Kevin BBPL Member
@newmexikevLocale: Western New Mexico, USA
The title says it all:
(Gear Guide) = products at REI
State of the Market (SOTM) Report = the best gear from large manufacturer down to a sewing machine in a dude’s garage.
BPL’s SOTM reports were the reason many of us used to pony up the full membership fee.
Anyway, back to the salt debate. Too bad they don’t pack half the salt in a tiny paper package where users could add more if they need it, or just skip the 2nd 1000mg of salt in the meal if they desire less.May 30, 2018 at 4:32 am #3539205
Anyway, back to the salt debate. Too bad they don’t pack half the salt in a tiny paper package where users could add more if they need it, or just skip the 2nd 1000mg of salt in the meal if they desire less.
The shelf life of Mountain House meals is 30 years. Salt is important to make that happen. Humans have been using salt to preserve food since before history.May 30, 2018 at 11:09 am #3539222RobBPL Member
Using salt for preservative worked fine when the human life span was 40 years. Now that it is a bit longer salt usage in the body works a bit differently. There are other ways to preserve food. Just not as cheap.May 30, 2018 at 2:12 pm #3539229Gary DunckelBPL Member
The shelf life of Mountain House products is indeed 30 years (or a bit longer) IF is packaged in a #10 tin, which they flush with nitrogen to remove as much of the ambient oxygen as feasible. I believe this type of packaging was devised for the U.S. Government, to vastly increase the shelf life for long-term storage. These foods are stocked in the high tech Cheyenne Mountain complex near Colorado Springs where they would safely house the political heavyweights (President, his/her cabinet, the full Senate, and all the other key people) in the event of a protracted nuclear war. This was the mindset in the 1960s, and Oregon Freeze Dry (parent of Mountain House) obtained one of the first contracts to supply the Government.
Mountain House told me that most of the meals packaged in the foil envelopes have an average shelf life of 10-12 years from the date of production (these are not flushed with nitrogen).
Interestingly, the Government rotates their stock of the #10 tins, and often they send it to TheEpicenter.com to sell at a discount to the public (TheEpicenter is based in Eugene, OR, just down the road from Albany, so maybe they are in cahoots with the mother company somehow). Sometimes I have scored some foods that aren’t generally available to the public, like FD jumbo shrimp, at a 20-30% discount. It’s worth checking out TheEpicenter.com web site from time to time for good deals. These Gov’t returns always have 15-20 years left on their original expiration dates.May 30, 2018 at 5:47 pm #3539267Scott GBPL Member
Who gives a crap about the salt content!! Its a lightweight backpacking meal meant for your typical weekend to week long excusion. It is not meant to be eaten on a daily basis as your normal dietary lifestyle. You guys need to lighten up. A few days of higher sodium in your diet your body will readily piss it out and have no consequences long term to 99.9% of the population. And a long hot day of hiking with excess sweating would likely offset the additional sodium intake. Is it palatable, does it have calories to re fuel my body, is it light and convenient? It’s freeze dried food!! Don’t get your panties in a wad about it. JeezMay 31, 2018 at 8:29 pm #3539461Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Scott, are you a “young whippersnapper” in your 30s?
If so you need need to “listen up” B/C many of us are going out for 5 to 7 days at a time. For me at least, with Menier’s syndrome, a high sodium diet results in not only an increase of the damnably annoying tinitus noise in my right ear but after 2 days of that crap it begins to affect my balance.
Even without that affliction you need to understand that some backpackers have hereditary higher blood pressure and high sodium intake is the “First Sin” for those with that problem.
Backpackers like their healthy pastime and they also like to eat healthy. They are well within their rights to demand much less sodium in their freeze-dried food. Remember, it is the FREEZE DRYING that does the preserving, not the sodium.
It’s far more important to eat low sodium food than it is to eat only non-GMO food (IMHO). The ill health side effects of high sodium food are more detrimental than eating GMO food.
So Scott, we are not whining, instead we are rightfully protesting a stupid and unhealthy practice in the freeze-dried food industry.May 31, 2018 at 8:41 pm #3539467Jeff McWilliamsBPL Member
@Eric, aside from your Menier’s / tinnitus, I’m not convinced that even 5 days of eating high sodium freeze dried meals, when you are hiking each day and drinking a considerable amount of water, is going to make any sort of difference to a person with high blood pressure.
Until you point me to a study or a medical professional that says otherwise, this just sounds like uninformed opinion to me.
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