Dehydrated food used to be unrecognizable mush — you were never really sure what you were eating.
However, that has changed drastically in the last decade.
As one of the all-important 10 essentials, we need fuel on our backpacking and camping adventures. But how do we make food last the whole trip and still be edible (and tasty)?
With the latest in freeze-drying and dehydrating technology, we can have our chili and eat it too. Modern instant meals have real ingredients you can pronounce, are easy to make with just boiling water, and don’t weigh too much.
These relatively healthy dehydrated meals are lightweight, dense with calories, and won’t leave you with gut rot after two days. Just don’t forget your extra long spoon for eating out of the bag.
Omeals have an attractive take on camping meals: no stove required. The food is tucked away in a separate packet within the cooking bag. Just add water — once the liquid touches the included heating pad, a chemical reaction heats up a tasty meal in less than five minutes. Although it is a touch heavier than other bag meals because of the added heating pad and utensils, Omeals makes up for the weight with convenience. Most options last for about two years in the package. And don’t worry about using filtered water to set off the heating pad; coffee, beer, tea, or salt water will do just fine.
Out of all the dehydrated bag meals out there, Good To-Go is one of the most popular brands — which is not really a surprise considering the chef behind the brand comes with a long list of accolades. Co-founder Jennifer Scism owned one of the top restaurants in New York City and led the first team to beat Iron Chef Mario Batali. After moving to Maine with her husband and returning to her love of the outdoors, the couple launched Good To-Go with the goal of changing how people eat on the go. With up to a four-year shelf life and lab-tested, gluten-free ingredients, the flavor and texture of these meals outrank all other bag options. You can cook in the bag and save yourself the dishes. The Thai Curry is one of our favorites.
Paleo Meals To Go
Started by mother-and-son duo Dawn Anderson and Ty Soukup in 2013 as an alternative to the mainstream bag meals, Paleo Meals To Go provides gluten-, grain-, milk-, and soy-free options that meet the requirements of many dietary restrictions. A recent acquisition matches Paleo Meals To Go with Wild Zora Foods and the larger brand’s dehydrated meat and veggie snacks. The collaboration now has the resources to source grass-fed, sustainably raised meat in freeze-dried form for the new cook-in-a-bag offerings.
Packit Gourmet allows you to choose how you prepare your meal. The ingredients are packaged separately, maintaining freshness. You can let your inner chef run wild and add in other freeze-dried ingredients from the company’s General Grocery store, or, if it’s been a long day, just pour in the water and eat. Try the Texas State Fair Chili; it tastes and looks like a fresh batch.
MaryJane Butters fell in love with the outdoors while serving as a forest fire lookout. After winding up on a five-acre farm in Moscow, Idaho, she’s built a substantial business around organic food. Just one MaryJanesFarm product has 1.5 serving pouches of organic goodness we can take into the backcountry. All the ingredients are organic and last for about two years in the package. Cook right in the bag. Pair the Bare Burrito with your own tortilla chips for a good intro to the brand.
Patagonia makes just about everything else we need to go outside, so why not dip a foot into food prep as well? Ready-to-eat meat snacks like jerky and salmon keep you energized for hiking and playing, and the dehydrated meals fill you up at the end of the day. The Black Bean Soup is a wonderful option. Try adding some burrito condiments or pack it all into a wrap to add a few more calories. It’s important to note that Patagonia’s meals are cook-in-a-pot, instead of boil-in-a-bag, so you will need some basic equipment.