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“Backpackers” – Camp Food, Simplified!

A slow-simmered camp meal with all the fixings, cooked over a smoldering campfire while everybody relaxes with drink in hand, is an ideal way to end a day in the woods. But sometimes we want a simpler, quicker meal (but still delicious!). And, one that can still be enjoyed with a fire ban in place... Enter what we call “backpackers,” or those meal-in-a-bag dehydrated or freeze-dried dinners found at pretty much any outdoor gear shop. Here are a couple popular options we’ve tried (and love!), an option for special diets, and some DIY info!

Backpacker’s Pantry

This is a well-known brand and one of the first we tried (hence we use the term “backpackers” to mean any packable dried meal). With many delicious options, these are available at pretty much any outdoors store. They’ve got breakfasts, desserts, and lunch/dinner choices to cover a variety of taste preferences.

Mountain House

Another popular brand with options for all meals, plus desserts. I like this brand even better because they’ve got kid-friendly meals like spaghetti and mac ‘n cheese (my seven-year-old says they’re "so good!"). Plus, they’ve got pre-packaged meal kits for purchase, for a variety of durations (such as 3-day emergency meal kits, etc.).

Paleo Meals To Go

I stumbled upon this brand recently and absolutely love it! If you eat Paleo/Primal, or have dietary restrictions such as no gluten or dairy, or just want food with ingredients you can pronounce, check them out! Bonus: they’re a Colorado company! And, they have frequent sales (sign up for their newsletter to get dibs on extra discounts). They’ve got several options for lunch/dinner, plus breakfasts and snacks. Every flavor I’ve tried has been delicious!!


Want the ease and simplicity of a packaged, portable meal but want to do it yourself? E stumbled upon this awesome source of bulk size dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients. With all the choices one can create LOTS of personalized meals. And, want to add meat to your DIY meals? Here’s how to safely dehydrate a variety of meats, including canned!

How to Use

Using dehydrated or freeze-dried meals couldn’t get much easier! Just follow the directions on the package! In general: boil water, add to the package, seal and let sit (for approximately 20 minutes – this depends on your altitude, temperature of water, etc.), then enjoy! I always carry a JetBoil in my Jeep storage, plus several portable meals – just in case! (And, remember extra fuel).


If making your own meals, consider investing in a good dehydrator and also a vacuum sealer to save your delicious creations. The USDA recommends storing home dried jerky for no more than two months, though their guidelines don’t specify how the jerky is stored. Ensuring your DIY meals are completely dried, completely vacuum sealing in a high quality bag, and then storing at lower temps will increase their storage ability. And, for much longer storage time consider packaging your meals as beans/grains/veggies (when properly sealed and stored at moderate temps the shelf life is eight-plus years!) and then package your meat separately. Consider freezing your sealed meats for longer life, and you can add them to your meat-less meal packages as desired, when preparing to eat.

Do you have a favorite brand of dehydrated/freeze-dried packaged meals? Or, a favorite DIY combination? Leave comments below and thanks for reading!

Happy Trails!

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