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Best Backpacking Meals To Fuel Your Adventures

a line up of the best backpacking meals

It’s backpacking season and you are wondering what are the best backpacking meals to fuel your next adventure. Jake and I did the research and got to try most of these meals to find out which ones are better than others. While taste is often up to personal preference, there is better nutrition, and calorie density in some meals versus others. So from our first hand experience, and considering the nutritional facts, we will provide our opinion of the best backpacking meals.

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Peak Refuel:

(Our Personal Favorite Backpacking Meal)

Peak Refuel is one of our absolute favorite backpacking meals. Their Chicken Pesto Pasta is absolute fire. Maybe we were just hungry after a long hike up to the top of a mountain, but we both said we would be thrilled at an Italian restaurant if this is the meal that came out. 

Each meal comes with 2 servings, packed with protein and made with clean ingredients. There are some ingredients to help thicken and preserve the meals, but you will find this in just about any backpacking meal on the market. Peak Refuel definitely goes for flavor, and maybe not as much into pure health and nutrition. As some of the meals contain dairy, butter, etc. But I promise it will make you smile when you take a bite of their meals.

Peak Refuel uses 100% real meat and non-GMO ingredients. The packs are lightweight and don’t require much water to rehydrate. The shelf life for Peak Refuel meals is 5 years. They offer a variety of breakfast, lunch/dinner, snack/dessert options, and now even energy drinks. 

Eating Peak Refuel is super easy. No pot or pan is needed to cook the meal, just boil water and add it to the meal. Even in a pinch and your fuel runs out, you can add cold water to the mix, but it will take much longer to absorb.

Jake and I can usually split a meal, if we bring dessert with us! But we are small eaters, compared to the average person. So many adults could probably eat their own for dinner instead of splitting. Plus we usually have plenty of snacks with us in case we are more hungry. 

For The Best Prices on Peak Refuel

Mountain House:

Mountain House Backpacking Meals have been around for 50+ years. Which you can tell by their perfected freeze-dried backpacking meals shelf life reaching up to 30 years. They are also one of the more budget-friendly options. Mountain House offers meals ranging from breakfast, entrees, and desserts. 

While the meals do taste good, when compared to a few other options on the list, they weren’t the tastiest on the list. But factoring in price, Mountain House is still a good value. 

Mountain House uses clean ingredients and is very transparent about what goes into their meals. Plus their self-life and satisfaction guarantee offers that they will still taste good in 30 years. 

They are also part of the terracycle program. So instead of throwing away the packaging, you can recycle them by creating or logging into a terracycle account, printing a label, and sending them out for free. 

Cooking Mountain House backpacking meals is super easy. Simply just boil water, add it to the pouch, zip it up, and wait. After about 10 minutes the meal is rehydrated and ready to eat. 

Their meals do come with 2-servings. But, you will need to look at the calories of each meal to decide if you can split it with another person. For example, their Lasagna with meat sauce is 1-serving (220 calories) or 2-serving is (440 calories). Therefore, I don’t think this would be enough calories to properly fuel 2 people after a long hike. But their Fettuccine with chicken has 820 calories for their 2 servings. Which Jake and I might be able to get away with splitting, or we would maybe both be too full to finish on our own.

For The Best Prices on Mountain House

Backpacker’s Pantry:

Backpacker’s Pantry offers some of the best backpacking meals for dietary restrictions at a competitive price. Although they’ve changed names, they have been around since 1951. I’m personally a big fan of their branding. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but their “covers” are pretty beautiful!

Backpacker’s Pantry offers a combo of both freeze-dried & dehydrated meals for breakfast, entrees, and desserts. If you have any dietary restrictions such as tree nut free, soy free, dairy free, peanut free, or gluten free, they even offer meals for you! As well as vegetarian, vegan or organic.

The shelf life of Backpacker’s Pantry ranges from 3-10 years depending on the product. Plus the quality of their food is ranked “superior” by the AIB (American Institute of Baking). And all their meats are inspected daily by the USDA. Every batch is tasted by their cooks to make sure it is consistent and quality. Plus their products are priced quite competitively to other high-quality best backpacking meals.

Their meals are also very easy to cook. Simply boil water however you like, add it to the meal pouch, let it sit for 10ish minutes and voila. Although, we did notice the seasonings sunk to the bottom, so be sure to shake the meal really well before adding water. Or at least when stirring, make sure you reach deep into the crevices.

Again, you might just want to pay specific attention to the calories in certain meals to decide whether or not you can share with someone else. The meals with meat and pasta tend to be higher in calories, versus the more vegetarian or dietary-restricted meals.

For The Best Prices on Backpacker’s Pantry

Alpine Aire:

Alpine Aire was a bit “meh” for us. Maybe it was the flavor we got, but it just didn’t have the wow factor as some of the other best backpacking meals on our list. Plus they are a little lower in calories per pack. Which does reflect in it being a little bit cheaper than the other brands. But overall, just didn’t feel it was worth the price cut and calorie cut. Because essentially, Jake and I would each need to purchase one, making it more expensive than the others. 

Alpine Aire has been around since 1979. They do provide great options for breakfast, entrees, sides and desserts. They do use natural ingredients that don’t contain additives like coloring, flavoring or preservatives. If you are on a gluten-free diet, then Alpine Aire does offer a great selection of gluten-free options. The shelf life is 5 years for each pouch.

When you are ready to make a meal, it is very fast and easy. Again just boil water, add it to the pouch, let it sit and then it’s ready to eat.

For The Best Prices on Alpine Aire

Good To Go:

Good to-go are some of the best backpacking meals on the market. They are located in Maine and still make their meals in small batches. One of their chefs was on Iron Chef, and well… they won. So I think that speaks to the quality of their recipes pretty well! 

Good to-go offers a variety of breakfasts and entrees. The meals are dehydrated and have a shelf life ranging from 2-5 years. They offer gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.

They also offer 1 or 2 servings for their entrees which I find helpful when you are traveling solo or with a partner. Although I do find their price to be a bit steeper than other best backpacking meals on the list. Therefore, it’s hard to add good to-go meals to the top. Just kind of depends how much you are willing to spend for your backpacking meals.

One unique feature they offer is a bundle package called “the weekender”. These bundles come with 2 entrees and a breakfast. So you should be set for a quick backpacking trip! 

The Chicken Pho is probably one of the best meals options. And it did win the Backpacker Editor’s Choice Award in 2021. 

Just like many of the backpacking meals on the list, it is very easy to rehydrate. Good to-go backpacking meals with just boiling water. 

For The Best Prices on Good To-Go

Heather’s Choice:

Heather’s Choice is one of the best backpacking meals for people with celiac disease. The meals are certified gluten-free. 

There are a few things that knock Heather’s Choice down the list for best backpacking meals. One complaint about Heather’s Choice backpacking meals is that is takes quite a long time for the dehydrated meals to rehydrate. The suggested time is 20 minutes, but you might even have to wait longer.

Also, Heather’s Choice has a 1-year shelf life which is far less than most of the other best backpacking meals on the list.

The meals come in 1 serving size, but is one of the more expensive backpacking meals on the market. So if Jake and I went with this choice out on a backpacking trip, we would pay nearly $30 for dinner, and be eating it out of a bag…. So it just doesn’t do it for us at that price.

But, they do use clean ingredients and the flavor in the meals is rather good. It is also just as easy to rehydrate these meals with simply boiling water and adding it to the bag. 

For The Best Prices on Heather’s Choice

Wild Zora:

Wild Zora Paleo Meal in a bear canister on a backpacking trip which is one of the best backpacking meals

Wild Zora is one of the healthiest backpacking meals on the market. The ingredients in each meal and meat & veggie bar are clean, simple, and delicious. I am kind of obsessed with their meat and veggie bars more so than their meals, but both are tasty. 

I will say their meals do taste healthy and personally, I think they could use a little more salt and pepper or some extra seasoning. But that is easy to fix, if you carry some with you on backpacking trips. The price point is a bit steep because each bagged meal is 1 serving. 

Wild Zora is family run by people who truly care about the quality of ingredients that go into their products. Everything is handmade and has no added preservatives. 

The Paleo meals are freeze-dried and then packaged with an oxypack to reduce the oxygen level in the surrounding atmosphere to 0.01%. Plus their Paleo meals just require 1.5 cups of boiled water, which you then add to the bag, so no extra clean-up is necessary. The shelf life ranges from 1-3 years. 

The biggest downfall to Wild Zora Meals are not only the shorter shelf-life, but the calorie to price point. Each bag only feeds 1 person minimum. As most meal bags range between 300-350 calories. Which is personally a little low for a dinner after a big adventure. So I would say it needs to be supplemented with something else. Luckily they do have their meat & veggie bars which can be the perfect pairing. But again, it does just raise the overall price. 

Also, be sure to use code TwoRoamingSouls for 15% off!

For The Best Prices on Wild Zora

Patagonia Provisions:

Patagonia Provisions took me by surprise when I saw they make food too. Because I can speak highly of their quality of clothing, but didn’t know if their food could live up to the same standard. 

Their meals are USDA organic, vegan and kosher. The biggest negative to these meals are you boil water and then add the contents and let it simmer. For Jake and I, we use a DIY Alcohol Stove which only has 1 level of heat. Which is great for boiling water, but not capable of simmering. Plus when out in the backcountry, we prefer meals that don’t require any cleaning of pots or pans. Especially in bear country where you might leave remnants of food. 

Therefore, I think Patagonia Provisions is good for car camping, and less desirable for backpacking. 

For The Best Prices on Patagonia Provisions


Bag-a-burger made into tacos which is one of the best backacking meals
One of the more unique backpacking meal options is Bag-A-Burger

Bag-a-burger is one of the most interesting of the best backpacking meals we have encountered. It is a veggie burger/meat that is vegan, gluten free, plant based, all natural, and low fat. 

I think it is a great option if you want to switch it up from eating a bagged pasta meal. It leaves the options open for what you can cook for lunch or dinner. From burgers, tacos, chili, etc. But in return this might require a little extra work to make sure you have all the additional ingredients. 

For example, if you want to make tacos, you will want to bring tortillas and taco seasoning at a minimum. You could add instant rice to the mix to complete the meal. 

Making a Bag-a-burger is a bit different from other best backpacking meals on the list. You simply add water (not boiled) to the bag, mix and then cook the “meat”. Therefore, it isn’t as easy and clean to cook bag-a-burger compared to some of these other meals where you just add boiling water. 

Therefore, similarly to Patagonia Provisions, it’s a better option for car camping versus backpacking in my opinion. 

For The Best Prices on Bag-A-Burger

Nomad Nutrition:

The meals are plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, vegan-friendly, non-GMO and contain no preservatives. I think I can honestly say they are the healthiest backpacking meals on the market. All their meals are designed to meet the nutritional needs of high-performance outdoor athletes with no protein from meat.

Nomad Nutrition was born in British Columbia, Canada, and is still produced in the pacific northwest today. 

The shelf life of Nomad Nutrition is 4 years. Rehydrating the meals takes less than 10 minutes and all you do is add water to the pouch.

One of the more unique features of Nomad Nutrition is they use a method called REVdry. The REVdry process uses more efficient low-temperature drying, that is rapid, and removes 98 percent of moisture. This process helps lock in the nutrients, taste, smell, and texture of the food. It also uses no chemicals, no preservatives, and no artificial colors to dehydrate in this process.

The biggest downfall is the serving size. One meal pouch really only feeds 1 person. So comparing Nomad Nutrition to some of the 2-serving meals, the price is much higher per serving. 

For The Best Prices on Nomad Nutrition

Where To Buy Backpacking Meals

Each company sells their own meals on their webpage. Offering many special discounts for bulk purchases. But if you are like us and want to try the meals for yourself or a variety of them, then websites or stores such as REI, Scheels, Dick’s, etc might be your best bet to buy a variety of different meals. But hopefully you now have a good idea of the meals that are worth trying or one’s that fit your requirements the best.

Final Thoughts On The Best Backpacking Meals

When choosing the best backpacking meal, there really is no right or wrong answer. Depending on dietary restrictions, one company might work better for you versus another. From the best flavors coming from Peak Refuel meals, to the amazing 30-year shelf life Mountain House offers, and the level of health and nutrition Wild Zora & Nomad Nutrition promotes; there are simply pros and cons to each meal. We hope this guide helps you find the right meals for you.

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