The Best Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Backpacking Meals – Tried & Tested

Welcome to my honest review of freeze-dried/dehydrated backpacking meals. In this article, I share the benefits, types, and top recommendations for dehydrated meals that are perfect for your next outdoor adventure.

As I Mountain Leader I spend a lot of time in the outdoors and need a fuel source that is nutritious, easy to prepare, lightweight and tasty. During my multi-day backpacking trips I have tried and tested various dehydrated camping meals and as a result have put together this guide.

Whether you are an experienced backpacker or a complete beginner, this guide will help you make informed decisions about your meal options and ensure a delicious and hassle-free experience on the trail.

Summit to Eat Pasta Bolognaise Camping Hiking Food, Yellow, One Size Firepot Dal and Rice with Spinach (Regular) - Healthy Vegan Dehydrated Expedition Food Real Turmat Taco Bowl Spaghetti Carbonara | Freeze-Dried Camping & Hiking Food | High Energy Serving | 800kcal Meal

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Benefits of Freeze Dried/Dehydrated Backpacking Meals

When it comes to backpacking, having lightweight and nutritious meals is essential. Dehydrated backpacking meals offer several advantages that make them a popular choice among outdoor enthusiasts:

  1. Weight and Space Efficiency: Dehydrated meals are significantly lighter compared to their non-dehydrated counterparts. By removing the water content, these meals become compact, allowing you to carry more food without adding excessive weight to your backpack.
  2. Long Shelf Life: Dehydrated meals have an extended shelf life, making them ideal for long hiking trips or emergency situations. With proper storage, these meals can last for months or even years without spoiling.
  3. Nutritional Value: Contrary to common belief, dehydrated meals retain a substantial amount of their nutritional value. Advanced dehydration techniques preserve vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients, ensuring you receive the sustenance you need while on the trail.
  4. Convenience: Dehydrated backpacking meals are incredibly convenient. They are pre-packaged and require minimal preparation and even less washing-up! With just a small amount of boiling water, you can enjoy a hot and delicious meal wherever you are.

The Difference Between Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Meals

Wait? They’re not the same thing?

Technically no. Whilst I have used the two terms interchangeably here, I should point out there is a difference between the two terms. Whilst freeze drying and dehydration both produce dried food ie free of water, the methods through which they dry out the food is very different.

Dehydrated foods are dried using air whilst freeze dried foods are subjected to extremely low temperatures before a vacuum if formed around the food. Dehydrated food has between 90-95% of the moisture removed whilst freeze dried food has around 98-99% of the moisture removed.

Freeze-dried food has a shelf life of 20-25 years whereas dehydrated food has a shelf life of around 5-15 years. However, when it comes to nutrition, neither method is superior so you will benefit from nutritional food whichever option you choose.

Types of Dehydrated/Freeze Dried Backpacking Food

There is a wide variety of dehydrated backpacking meals available, catering to different dietary preferences and requirements. Here are some popular types:

1. Plant Based Meals

For those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, there is an abundance of dehydrated meal options available. These meals often feature plant-based proteins like lentils, quinoa, or tofu, combined with a variety of vegetables, herbs, and spices to create flavourful and satisfying dishes.

2. Gluten-Free Meals

Individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease can still enjoy delicious dehydrated meals. As someone who doesn’t tolerate gluten well, I’m pleased to see many manufacturers offering gluten-free options, ensuring you can maintain a well-balanced diet while exploring the outdoors.

3. Paleo and Keto-Friendly Meals

If you follow a paleo or keto diet, you’ll be pleased to know that there are dehydrated meals designed specifically for these eating plans. These meals typically include high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and low-carbohydrate ingredients, providing the necessary fuel for your adventures.

4. International Cuisine

Dehydrated backpacking meals are not limited to traditional camping fare. You can embark on a culinary journey with dehydrated options inspired by various international cuisines. From Thai curry to Italian pasta dishes, there is something to satisfy every palate.

Top Recommendations for Dehydrated/Freeze Dried Camping Meals

To help you make the most informed decision about your backpacking meals, I have curated a list of top recommendations. These meals have been selected based on their taste, nutritional value and ease of preparation.

1. Firepot – Best for Taste

  • Pros: Very tasty meals
  • Cons: Takes 15 minutes to rehydrate

I find Firepot offers the best main meals when it comes to taste. I particularly like the Beef Chilli, of which they also have a vegetarian version. The filling instructions are easy to follow however 15 minutes feels like a long time to wait after a big day on the hills.

Two sizes are available, regular and extra large. I found the regular size to be adequately filling but I’m a 5ft2 female so larger humans may require the bigger size. The packets are tall and thin so a long spoon is required to reach to the bottom of the bags.

The calorie levels do vary from flavour to flavour so if using the regular sized meals be conscious of this to ensure you’re getting enough energy from your meal.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the Dorest-based Firepot brand is that they have a focus on quality ingredients – no artificaial flavourings, preservatives, additives and no palm oil.

Firepot meals are the only dehydrated meals on this list (the others are freeze-dried) and explains why they are the longest to rehydrate. Firepot meals are the best option for wholesome, dehydrated camping food.

Bestseller No. 1
Firepot Barbecued Pulled Pork (Extra-large) – Healthy Dehydrated Expedition Food
  • DOFE Recommended & Made in Dorset using 100% natural ingredients
  • Nutritious and delicious real meals, with no artificial preservatives
  • Quick and easy – ready in only 15 minutes with hot water
  • Dehydrated and lightweight – perfect for carrying on expeditions and out hiking
  • Oak-smoked British pork slow-cooked overnight on the bone. Served with a traditional barbecue sauce, rice, and a zingy red onion relish.
Bestseller No. 2
FIREPOT Orzo Pasta Bolognese (Regular) – Healthy Dehydrated Expedition Food
  • Minced beef in a rich tomato and oregano sauce with orzo, a rice-shaped pasta
  • Made in Dorset with British beef and 100% natural ingredients
  • Quick and easy – ready in only 15 minutes with hot water
  • Dehydrated and lightweight – perfect for carrying on expeditions and out hiking
  • Nutritious and delicious real meals, with no artificial preservatives
Bestseller No. 3
Firepot Chicken Keema Curry (Regular) – Healthy Dehydrated Expedition Food
  • DOFE Recommended & Made in Dorset using 100% natural ingredients
  • An authentic Indian curry made from minced chicken slow-cooked with aromatic spices and curry leaves in a fresh tomato sauce. Served with turmeric rice.
  • Nutritious and delicious real meals, with no artificial preservatives
  • Quick and easy – ready in only 15 minutes with hot water
  • Dehydrated and lightweight – perfect for carrying on expeditions and out hiking

2. Expedition Foods – Best for Variety

  • Pros: Wide variety and quick to rehydrate 
  • Cons: Lacking in taste and high price

Taking only 5 minutes to rehydrate, this was the quickest of all the meals I have tested. I personally found them to be the least tasty but my close hiking colleague disagrees, so perhaps the jury is still out on that one. 

Expedition Foods are the most expensive and if you order directly through them the postage is also very pricey. I also found the rehydration directions a little confusing, without a clear fill line.

Expedition foods have a large selection of meals in 3 different sized packets. This is a good option if you want quick, calorie dense meals but aren’t too concerned about flavour or price.

Bestseller No. 1
EXPEDITION FOODS expeditionfoods.com Beef and Potato Hotpot (Double Serving / 1000KCAL) |…
  • EASY TO MAKE! – Just add water to the pouch and you’re good to go in a few minutes. Eat straight from the pouch and skip the dishes!
  • HIGH CALORIE, LOW WEIGHT – Nutrition designed with the calories in mind to achieve peak performance in any environment, our meals have the highest calorie-to-weight ratio available.
  • LONG SHELF LIFE – Our meals have a shelf life of up to 5 years. We recommend that unopened pouches are stored in cool, dry conditions and are protected from anything that may puncture them.
  • BEST IN CLASS FREEZE-DRIED FOOD – Freeze-drying food locks in important nutrients giving you a meal with a natural taste and texture, just like food cooked at home.
SaleBestseller No. 2
Expedition Foods Chilli con Carne with Rice (1000kcal) – Freeze Dried Meal
  • Emergency Rations; Food for Outdoor Activities
  • Long shelf life of up to 5 years
  • Just add hot (or cold water, if necessary), seal the bag and wait to rehydrate
  • Highest calorie-to-weight ratio
Bestseller No. 3
Expedition Foods Thai Green Chicken Curry with Rice (1000kcal) – Freeze Dried Meal
  • Emergency Rations; Food for Outdoor Activities
  • Long shelf life of up to 5 years
  • Just add hot (or cold water, if necessary), seal the bag and wait to rehydrate
  • Highest calorie-to-weight ratio

3. Summit to Eat – Best for Desserts

  • Pros: Very tasty and calorie dense
  • Cons: Takes 10 minutes to rehydrate

I find the Summit to Eat meals overall provide very tasty meals with a generally good texture. The instructions are easy to follow and the rehydration time of 10 minutes is acceptable. The meals are quite calorie dense and there is a wide variety of flavours to choose from.

Special mention goes to the rice pudding with raspberry which can be eaten as filling dessert but which I opt to use as a gluten-free breakfast meal. 

Meals are available in two sizes dependent on your energy needs. Summit to Eat meals are a great choice for those wanting a flavoursome easy backpacking meal that won’t break the bank.

Bestseller No. 1
Summit to Eat Pasta Bolognaise Camping Hiking Food, Yellow, One Size
  • Quick and simple, just add water to re-hydrate. In less than 10 minutes you can be enjoying a warming, delicious, nutritious meal
  • 10min Prep. Freeze Dried. Long Shelf Life. Light Weight. Compact. Tasty
  • Pasta Bolognese: Juicy and tender minced beef cooked in a delicious, rich Italian tomato and herb sauce and mixed with pasta spirals
  • Requires 300ml of Water
  • Dairy Free. 130g/601kcal

4. Real Turmat – Best for Unusual Meals

  • Pros: Very tasty and the easiest to eat
  • Cons: Cost

Real Turmat are a Norwegian company that offer a range of tasty meals which vary from your bog- standard porridge to more interesting meals such as Reindeer Stew or salmon with pasta. I love that the meals have chunky bits of meat rather than tiny bits that are indiscernible amongst the other ingredients.

What I also like about Real Turmat is that the heating directions are easy to follow and that the second, lower tear-off strip makes them easier to eat. No more fumbling around with your spoon trying to get the last of the food from the bottom of the packet!

The meals come in a standard size or for higher calorie options there are the Field Meals, which are very substantial. Real Turmat can be picked up at a good price on Base Camp Foods or at Decathlon but tend to be a bit pricy on Amazon.

Bestseller No. 1
Real Turmat DryTech Outdoor Meal – Thai red Curry
  • Real Turmat main dishes are delicious and full-fledged warm meals, which are made with a view of a perfect combination of the necessary nutrients.
  • A carefully compiled balance of fat, carbohydrates and strengthening proteins, delivers new energy to maintain strength and concentration.
  • prepared in just a few minutes. 32023. Ideal for camping & expedition, as an emergency ration for bad times, or simply preparing on the construction site or in the office.
  • top quality, excellent taste. Finely spiced and absolutely delicate to eat.
Bestseller No. 3
Drytech Real Turmat, Game Pot, Freeze-Dried Outdoor Food
  • Real Turmat main courses are tasty and fully fledged warm meals, made with a view to a perfect combination of the necessary nutrients.
  • A carefully designed balance of fat, carbohydrates and strengthening proteins, it provides new energy, to maintain strength and concentration.
  • Ready in just a few minutes.
  • Perfect for camping and expeditions, emergency rations for use in bad times, or simply on the building site or the office.
  • Top quality, excellent taste.Finely seasoned and delicious to eat.

The Best Backpacking Meals Summary

When it comes to backpacking, having a lightweight and nutritious meal is essential. Dehydrated or freeze dried backpacking meals provide these qualities. There are several companies that produce this type of backpacking meals.

Firepot provide tasty dehydrated meals that focus on quality, natural ingredients. Real Turmat produce a selection of meals that offer an alternative to the usual spag bol or chili options. Expedition Foods have the biggest selection for dietary requirements whilst Summit to Eat offer good value meals.

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Louise

Louise is a Mountain Leader and Snowboard Instructor from South Wales. As a former Adventure Tour Leader she has spent the last 15 years travelling Asia, Africa and the Americas. Louise is a published photographer and is currently based in the UK.

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