What Types Of Backpacking Food Did We Cover?
Before we dive into the actual review, here’s a quick low-down on the types of backpacking meals that we covered in this article:
- Vegetarian – Vegetarian diets do not include meat but may have other animal products like dairy and eggs.
- Vegan – Unlike the vegetarian diet, the vegan philosophy believes in avoiding all animal products outright. That means no meat, and meat by-products like eggs, dairy, honey, or animal fat. Vegans also do not buy products with leather, suede, wool, or animal skin.
- Pescatarian – Pescatarians can be considered “semi-vegetarians”. They still avoid meat but eat seafood and shellfish.
- Paleo – The Paleolithic diet, also known as the Paleo, hunter-gatherer, or caveman diet, is based on foods that the prehistoric human presumably ate. This diet centers around lean, grass-fed meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries. It does not include food produced through farming and agriculture such as dairy, grains, bread, and the like.
- Gluten-Free – Gluten is a protein often found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. People who are gluten-sensitive or those with celiac disease avoid products with these ingredients.
How Are These Foods Different From Regular Freeze-Dried Backpacking Meals?
What sets these special meals apart from the usual ones you see in big-box stores and mainstream retailers? Here are a few factors to consider:
While most freeze-dried backpacking food brands don’t mind piling on the sodium and artificial preservatives on their products, the items that we reviewed in this article are more health and eco-conscious.
You obviously will not find any meat or meat products on vegetarian or vegan options. For brands that do have meat, they’re most likely organically sourced or are made from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals.
On top of this, you’ll often find that the rest of the ingredients are non-GMO, certified organic, are gluten-free, or do not contain allergens like nuts.
Because of these unique ingredients, these backpacking food options are more expensive. Organic, non-GMO ingredients need specific certifications and are harder to source. Free-range meat is also pricier than their factory-farmed brethren. Plus, most of these products are made by small businesses who operate right out of their kitchens.
A freeze-dried or dehydrated food pouch with these ingredients can fetch for around $10-$15 on average. In contrast, commercial freeze-dried food brands cost only about $4-$8 a pop.
To quote one of the brands featured in this review: “real food cannot and should not endure until the end of time.” Most organic camp food only lasts around 2-5 years on average because they tend to shy away from artificial preservatives.
Some meals also use dehydration. This process doesn’t take away as much moisture as freeze-drying, so the meals have a shorter shelf life.
For comparison, the most popular freeze-dried food companies have products that can last for 20 to 30 years.
The usual prep time takes about 15 minutes, but some can go for as long as 20 or 30. Again, this is because some of the food is dehydrated rather than freeze-dried. Dehydrated food takes longer to reconstitute. Organic food brands also love using rice in their offerings, which takes more time to rehydrate.
These brands are all about sustainability. While a number of them use the standard aluminum pouches, many organic and specialty food brands are adamant on using packaging that you can bury, burn, or compost. This means no aluminum, no plastic, and no cooking and eating in the bag itself.
How We Did Our Review
We begin each product review with research. We first looked into the best selling variants of dozens of brands. We read reviews from customers, checked out other test articles, and watched more than a handful of videos.
In choosing the items, we considered the ingredients, nutritional value, cooking time, ease of preparation, environmental impact, and of course, perceived taste. From there, we created our shortlist of items.
As with all our reviews, the products we’ve tested here were bought out of pocket. Once we got the products, we did a first-impressions test in a controlled environment (aka our test kitchen). We put together an editorial review team to give us feedback on the taste, texture, and overall quality of each product. Then, we embarked on an overnight camping trip to test how easy they are to prepare in the outdoors.
You’ll find the results of our testing and review below.