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Are Freeze-Dried Meals Good for Backpacking?

Q: Freeze-dried meals might be a good choice for backpacking because they’re lightweight and provide a good amount of nutrients. Which ones would you buy?
— Duc, Sugar Land, Texas

A: As a matter of convenience, freeze-dried meals are great. But you’re paying for that convenience.

If your budget does allow, though, it doesn’t get much easier than one of these meals. Boil a cup of water, pour it into a bag, stir it up and you’re ready to eat. Going this route pays off if you want to quickly make a meal that would normally require a lot of prep work.

Some brands I’ve tried recently include Next Mile Meals ($9.50-$14, nextmilemeals.com), Good To-Go ($6.50-$15, goodto-go.com), RightOnTrek ($4-$11, rightontrek.com) and Proper Good ($3-$7, eatpropergood.com). Next Mile Meals are freeze-dried, Good To-Go and RightOnTrek use air-drying, and Proper Good is premade. There’s a difference in how each is produced.

Freeze-drying, often using a vacuum system, saps almost all the water from food, allowing for longer shelf life and quicker rehydration. Air-drying dehydrates the food using hot air; this method is cheaper, so these meals might be cheaper. Proper Good’s premade soups just needed to be heated up. All can provide nutrients you need, and some are packed with protein, which help fuel you with energy for the trail.

Of the four I tested, it was hit or miss taste-wise. But I found some from each I liked, namely Good To-Go’s Cuban rice bowl, Next Mile Meals’ Italian beef marinara, RightOnTrek’s chicken alfredo pasta and Proper Good’s red pepper and meatball soup.

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