The best freeze-dried meals 2024: lightweight food for backpacking

The best freeze-dried meals make sorting your nutrition needs on a backpacking trip wonderfully straightforward. Lugging a heavy pack around the wilderness burns plenty of calories and it's vital to refuel at the end of a long day, in order to keep powering along the trail the next.

The kind of food most of us prepare at home is perishable and the ingredients usually weigh far too much to work on a long thru hike or even a one night wild camp. The best freeze-dried meals come in featherweight packets and magically spring to life when combined with boiling water.

This means, all you need is your best camping stove, some cutlery and a camping mug or bowl. We've ventured out onto the trails to sample a range of the best freeze-dried meals available in 2024 to bring you this delectable guide. From oatmeal to a full-on cooked breakfast, there's plenty to get your teeth into.

Everyone has different tastes, so it's difficult to say just which is the best. However, for full on flavor, we love the Stowaway Gourmet Los Pollos Hermanas chicken stew, and not just because of the nod to Breaking Bad (which we also love). 

Meet the expert

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

best running backpacks: Brian Metlzer
Brian Metzler

Based in Boulder, Colorado, Brian loves pretty much all forms of outdoor activity. An adventure race veteran, he's had plenty of intense experiences on the trails and knows the value of quality nutrition better than most. One of his happy places is in the mountains, enjoying a wild meal and looking out across the peaks.

The quick list

This is the quick list, a snapshot of the best freeze-dried meals available in 2024. To delve deeper into the features and qualities of each featured packet, see our more detailed reviews further down the page in this guide.

The best freeze-dried meals 2024

Best for hungry adventurers with big appetites

Peak 2 Refuel Homestyle Chicken & Rice on white background

Peak 2 Refuel Homestyle Chicken & Rice give you over 700 calories of hearty casserole in a single sachet (Image credit: Peak 2 Refuel)

1. Peak 2 Refuel Homestyle Chicken & Rice

Best for hungry adventurers with big appetites

Specifications

Weight: 5.15oz / 146g (2 servings)
Calories (per serving): 370

Reasons to buy

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A hearty, calorie and protein-rich meal
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Delicious cream sauce, best with slightly  less water

Reasons to avoid

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A bit pricey for a backcountry meal

Peak Refuel is a new brand centered on great-tasting, high-protein freeze-dried meals with key nutrients like calcium, iron and potassium. The Homestyle Chicken & Rice packet cooks up to a hearty casserole in a creamy sauce with chunky vegetables with a cup of boiling water. Each packet contains 740 total calories, 61g of carbohydrates, 40g of protein, 37g of fat and 1230mg of sodium.

"It’s one of the most robust camping meals I’ve ever cooked, equally tasty as it is filling. There are two servings per pouch, and I am often hungry enough to eat double at night on the trail, but it was so rich and hearty I struggled to finish it." Our expert tester/taster was clearly a fan.

Best full breakfast for meat eaters

Mountain House Breakfast Skillet on white background

The Mountain House Breakfast Skillet is a tasty meal including hash browns, sausages, veggie and eggs (Image credit: Mountain House)

2. Mountain House Breakfast Skillet

Best full breakfast for meat eaters

Specifications

Weight: 3.7oz / 106g (2 servings)
Calories (per serving): 260

Reasons to buy

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Great, zesty flavors and hearty consistency
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Protein-rich, gluten-free meal

Reasons to avoid

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High in sodium compared to other meals

It’s amazing how much hearty breakfast food is jammed into this freeze-dried packet of savory goodness. There are tasty pork sausages, zesty hash browns, flavorful vegetables and scrambled eggs, a protein-packed combination that will give you the energy to start your day out on the trails. What’s more, there are no artificial flavors or colors, and it’s a certified gluten-free meal. It’s easy to prepare and eat right in the bowl-like pouch, and it will be ready in just 10 minutes after adding 300ml of boiling water. 

"I cooked up this skillet in a pinch to get warmed up one morning on a winter camping trip, and it did the trick," says our expert. There are 510 total calories per package with 46g of carbohydrates, 28g of protein, 24g of fat and 1580mg of sodium.

Best veggie breakfast with eggs for protein

Alpine Aire Bandito Scramble on white background

The Alpine Aire Bandito Scramble is a Mexican-inspired meal of spicy eggs with bell peppers, onion, sour cream and cheese (Image credit: Alpine Aire)

3. Alpine Aire Bandito Scramble

Best veggie breakfast with eggs for protein

Specifications

Weight: 3.5oz / 99g (1 serving)
Calories (per serving): 240

Reasons to buy

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Robust flavor, chunky consistency
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High in protein, low in sodium

Reasons to avoid

-
Watery consistency

When you’re hiking and backpacking, breakfast is an especially important meal. This tasty egg scramble includes diced potatoes, carrots, chili peppers, bell peppers and onions with sour cream, cheddar cheese and seasonings. A hearty single serving that will fuel your morning adventures without holding you back. Easy to prepare in the pouch with one cup (237ml) of boiling water, each packet provides 240 calories with 20g of carbohydrates, 14g of protein, 11g of fat and 350mg of sodium. We do suggest using slightly less water than recommended, to avoid it being too watery. "I ate this before an early morning hike up Colorado’s Mt Sherman, a 14,035-foot peak that includes two miles of steep hiking in each direction, and it was ideal," said our adventurous expert.

Best for recreating home-cooked eggs

OvaEasy Egg Crystals on white background

OvaEasy Egg Crystals might sound strange, but add hot water and they transform into something delicious (Image credit: OvaEasy)

4. OvaEasy Egg Crystals

Best for recreating home-cooked eggs

Specifications

Weight: 2oz / 56.7g (5 servings)
Calories (per serving): 70

Reasons to buy

+
Cooks up to same consistency as eggs out of the shell
+
Easy to carry, easy to prepare

Reasons to avoid

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Freeze-dried powder looks, smells a bit awkward

The idea of carrying eggs into the backcountry is a double-edged challenge. Having fresh eggs for breakfast can be a mouth-watering prospect when you’re packing, but keeping those eggs intact in your pack isn’t easy – even with one of those plastic egg caddies. OvaEasy has solved that problem for you with its packets of all-natural, dried whole eggs that just need cold water to come to life. Mix three parts water for 2 parts OvaEggs, whisk until mixed and cook them as you would scrambled eggs or an omelet. The 2.0-ounce (56.7g) pouch is the equivalent of 5.3 eggs or five servings and requires no refrigeration, even after opening. Glucose is removed during the drying process, but otherwise the OvaEasy is nothing but dried egg whites and egg yolks. Each serving size  (about 1/8 cup or 50g) provides 70 calories, 5g of protein and 70mg of sodium. I’ve eaten OvaEggs plain with salt and pepper and with chopped veggies and some grated cheese wrapped in a tortilla.

"They’re scrumptious and tasty like the eggs you’d make in your own kitchen because they’re just like the eggs you’d make in your own kitchen," says our expert.

Best snack or side for hungry ramblers

Trailtopia Curry on white background

A sachet of Trailtopia Curry isn't satisfying enough as a meal on its own, but it makes a great snack or side (Image credit: Trailtopia)

5. Trailtopia Curry

Best snack or side for hungry ramblers

Specifications

Weight: 2.8oz / 79g (1 serving)
Calories (per serving): 276

Reasons to buy

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Vegetable-rich meal high in carbohydrates, low in sodium
+
Affordable, lightweight meal option

Reasons to avoid

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Noodles are a bit bland

Sometimes the best pick-me-up on the trail is a warm cup of ramen noodles. It hits the spot, warms you up and provides a bit of sodium to replace what you’ve lost. This 2.8-ounce package is the ideal portion for a snack or it can be part of a bigger meal. It’s made with traditional Thai Curry noodles, red and green peppers, onions and a moderately spicy curry sauce. "I devoured this on a mid-day break before I set up camp, eating it directly from the bag after boiling water softened the noodles. Yummy!" said our expert. It packs 276 calories with 57g of carbohydrates, 9g protein, 2g of fat and 119mg of sodium.

Best light vegetarian curry

Good to Go Indian Vegetable Korma on white background

Good to Go Indian Vegetable Korma is a tasty meal packed with veggies in a light yogurt-based sauce (Image credit: Good to Go)

6. Good to Go Indian Vegetable Korma

Best light vegetarian curry

Specifications

Weight: 3.4oz / 95g (1 serving)
Calories (per serving): 390

Reasons to buy

+
Great flavor and chunky consistency
+
Smooth, tasty sauce

Reasons to avoid

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Relatively high in sodium

Whether or not you adhere to a vegetarian diet, this scrumptious dish made from creamy tomato and braised vegetables will fill you up. It’s basically a packet of dehydrated vegetable goodness, chock full of carrots, parsnips, green beans, dried chickpeas, onions, peas (and more) in a low-fat yogurt sauce plus a variety of seasonings. Each packet includes 390 calories of tasty goodness with 52g of carbohydrates, 15g of protein, 16g of fat and 690mg of sodium. You can make it right in the pouch with 250ml of boiling water (or just beyond the recommended fill line). "I seasoned it with a splash of hot sauce and ate it with a slice of sourdough bread for a full dinner, but it could suffice on its own as an ideal lunchtime meal," said our trail nosh expert.

Best indulgent freeze-dried dessert

Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mix on white background

Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mix is gooey and delicious, but don't expect a cheesecake texture (Image credit: Backpacker's Pantry)

7. Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mix

Best indulgent freeze dried dessert

Specifications

Weight: 6.1oz / 174g (2 servings)
Calories (per serving): 150

Reasons to buy

+
A truly delectable backcountry dessert
+
Amazing chocolate flavor

Reasons to avoid

-
Consistency is mushy

Who doesn’t like something sweet to finish off their evening meal? Backpacker’s Pantry has developed this scrumptious dessert with fair-trade dark chocolate and a packet of chocolate cookie crumbs to top it off. Yes, this yummy treat is full of sugar and corn syrup and a few artificial additives, but there are also plenty of natural and wholesome ingredients. And no, while scooping your spoon into this pouch of gooey, chocolatey warmth isn’t the same exquisite experience as eating a slice of crisp, precisely formed cheesecake with a fork at a deli in New York City, "it sure tastes good when you’re deep into the trail" according to our expert. There are two servings in each package so you can share with someone or indulge on your own. And with 300 calories per serving and 45g of carbohydrates, 6g of protein, 15g of fat and 410mg of sodium, it can actually add to your body’s recovery after a long day on the trail.

Best dessert to enjoy hot or cold

Mountain House Ice Cream Sandwich on white background

You can eat Mountain House Ice Cream Sandwich dry as a crunchy treat, or add hot water to turn it into a spoonable pudding (Image credit: Mountain House)

8. Mountain House Ice Cream Sandwich

Best dessert to enjoy hot or cold

Specifications

Weight: 1.13oz / 32g (1 serving)
Calories (per serving): 150

Reasons to buy

+
Sweet, sugar-intensive flavors
+
Easy to eat, no preparation required

Reasons to avoid

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Doesn’t resemble ice cream consistency
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Includes artificial flavoring

There’s nothing more satisfying after a long day carrying a big pack than to settle down with a tasty meal, enjoy a quiet moment at a campfire and break out an ice cream sandwich. Sure, it’s not a real ice cream sandwich, but this Mountain House delicacy is "the next best thing" according to our expert. It’s essentially a slab of freeze-dried vanilla ice cream two chocolatey cookie wafers but no drip and no mess. It’s a mere 150 calories with 23g of carbohydrates, 2g of protein, 5g of fat and 105mg of sodium. Served dry, it’s a crunchy, messy mouthful after one bite if you eat it dry, but it’s still a sweet, lip-smacking snack. You can add hot water, but then it becomes a bit of a gooey treat that requires a spoon.

The best freeze-dried meals comparison table

Swipe to scroll horizontally
MealWeightCalories (per serving)
Peak 2 Refuel Homestyle Chicken & Rice5.15oz / 146g (2 servings)370
Mountain House Breakfast Skillet3.7oz / 106g (2 servings)260
Alpine Aire Bandito Scramble3.5oz / 99g (1 serving)240
OvaEasy Egg Crystals2oz / 56.7g (5 servings)70
Trailtopia Curry2.8oz / 79g (1 serving)276
Good to Go Indian Vegetable Korma3.4oz / 95g (1 serving)390
Backpacker’s Pantry Dark Chocolate Cheesecake Mix6.1oz / 174g (2 servings)150
Mountain House Ice Cream Sandwich1.13oz / 32g (1 serving)150

How we test the best freeze-dried meals

Our expert testers (or should that be tasters) have enjoyed sampling each of the best freeze-dried meals in our guide on adventures in the backcountry, taking into account qualities like value for money, flavor, how easy they are to make and nutritional value.

How to choose the best freeze-dried meals

Mealtimes are important when you’re backpacking – it tends to be the evening’s entertainment as well as the major meal of the day, and if you’ve been working hard while walking the trails, you will need a good feed. 

The following are some tips on what to look for before purchasing the best freeze-dried meals:

Plan your meals ahead

Give yourself plenty of variety if possible – even with the best freeze-dried meals, there’s nothing worse than eating the same old mush every evening on a multiday trip. 

Pack meals with a mix of foods and flavors

Bring along dried herbs (which weigh next to nothing), a few sachets of your favorite sauces or even a cheeky bottle of Tabasco – the extra flavors can make all the difference to the best freeze-dried meals.

Read the ingredients before purchasing

However good the best freeze-dried meals taste, you really do not want to be dealing with an allergic reaction when you’re out in the wilds. 

Make a note of the nutritional value of the foods you’re going to be eating

You will be burning calories aplenty on the trail, so make sure you’re refueling properly at the end of the day.  Compare serving size, calories, carbohydrates, protein and sodium content. Too much salt will, of course, dehydrate you. 

Stay hydrated

Some of the best freeze-dried meals are quite salty. Also, dehydrated food can cause constipation – make sure you keep drinking fluids. 

Q&A

How does freeze-drying work?

Food is completely frozen, then exposed to a vacuum that turns the frozen water straight to gas rather than letting it return to a liquid state (a process called sublimation). Dehydrating food this way inhibits growth of bacteria, yeast and mold that would cause the food to spoil.

Are freeze-dried foods nutritious?

Yes, the freeze-drying process retains nutrients and phytochemicals, including important vitamins like vitamin C.