Which backpack meals to use


Well-Known Member
Sep 9, 2011
Over the years I have done a good amount of backpacking for my job and pleasure. I have an Ibex hunt coming in November. Temps wil range from 25-70 degrees. I'm gonna be loaded down pretty good, so I need to plan out my nutrition intake each day. I have used the Mountain meals before on backpacking trips. They are lightweight, easy to prepare, but not very caloric. MREs are very caloric,but they weigh a lot even when stripped down. So I am wondering if you guys have any good recommendations on light weight ways to meet the caloric needs of a hunt in mountainous terrain. My goal is to go 3 days without resupply.
Calorie wise, MRE's make sense as they have more food and a flameless heater. As you pointed out the down side is that they also produce far more trash and you use / have to carry more H2O.
If cost isn’t an option I would go for First Strike Rations (FSR). They provide a mobile source of a variety of foods that are lightweight, calorically dense, familiar, and are easy to consume intermediate moisture foods. FSR reduces the weight and volume of one day’s subsistence by approximately 50% and provides an average of 2,900 calories per day. I think the majority of my Afghan patrols consisted of first strike rations and Gatorade shakes, well that and rip-its...lol!
Another option would be to supplement your MRE’s with dehydrated food . You could theoretically make the same amount of food weight last twice as long, your meals would taste better, you would have more options in terms of what you can make (a bag of flour can make you pasta, bread, tortillas etc. where in an MRE or backpacking meal, you get what is in the package.) and trash that you have to pack out is minimized, especially if you re-package your food before setting out on the trail.
MREs are a bad choice for backpacking. MUCH too heavy. That's exactly why no experienced backpackers use them.

Take Mary Jane Farms freeze-dried meals for the lowest sodium content. Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry are excellent meals at a higher sodium dose. Love the omlettes!

OR... buy a small dehydrator and dehydrate a lot of your food, like a cup of spaghetti sauce into sauce leather. Teat or cut into small pieces for easier rehydration at camp.

AND buy a "Freezer Bag Cooking" book and learn to make up at home the best tasting backpacking meals ever.

If you are in bear country you MUST put all food and toothpaste in a bear can.
Cook your evening meals on the trail before you camp or 100 yards away from camp. Same for breakfast, Break camp then cook and leave right away or make breakfast down the trail if you know others will camp there.
Place bear can at least 50 yards from camp.

And "LNT" (Leave No Trace).
For starches I love couscous (instant type) for its light weight and calorie content. couple this to home made jerky (deer, moose, and/or beef) and the local stores land jaegers and you have pretty good nutrition. You can also dehydrate vegies and fruit and spices for flavour. We carry Nutella for snacks on home made hard tack, its pretty good with a cup of coffee. Coffee is light and can be boiled old school in a pot. We carry other stuff as well but this is just a few things.
Mountain house and the backpackers pantry work well, i have used them as well as sent them up with a buddy to his elk camp and he swears by them now. they have good variety, portions and easy to use. if you have snow or a water source around there isn't any issue for any of these meals. the mre is heavy off the get go and larger in size and you will have more trash compared to the others to hauls out.
I love the Mountain House products and use them as well. They have great breakfasts and their "Chinese food" type sweet and sour pork is outstanding, as well as the dried ice cream. :D
I like the backpack meals but find them a bit to expensive and not as flexible as making our own. Lately prefer cold meals to save on weight and odors with cooking. Flat bread PBJ or PBJ a wrap works well. Nuts also pack the calories. Flat bread sandwich with meat isn't bad either. Just prefer the flat or wrap breads since the sandwich can be jammed into a pack with aggression and come out looking similar to how the sandwich looked when packed. I try to use the zipper lock freezer (thicker) bags to carry the sandwich.

Another good cold meal is cerial with or without powdered milk. Doesn't taste too bad, but definitely tastes better when you're hungry. Many cerials can be quite dense (EX raisin bran), but pack in the sugars which may or may not be desirable.

For hot meals I do like the cous cous as well, olive oil for a bit more flavor and calories. Angel hair pasta is ok, the fine angel hair pasta cooks a bit faster (some whole wheat are slower to cook). Also I find some of the cajun and other box meals are ok, but the scents can be strong, with these box meals (as mentioned previously) the salt content can be a bit high. Craft used to have a series of bagged type meals which are ok and much cheaper than the back packer meals. Though most of these options may require more fuel than the back packer meals.

I don't do much with hot meals anymore while hunting, but usually carry something with a light stove just in case when Elk hunting.
I'm trying to plan for my first elk backpack hunt in October. Has anyone ever used

instant potatoes
Instant oatmeal
Rommen noodles

They seem very light/compact and and should be filling just not 100% on the caloric values of them.

Re: Which backpack meals to use (FREEZER BAG COOKING)


As I mentioned in my other post above, get the two books "Freezer Bag Cooking" and you will have lots of tasty recipies. Plus the per-meal cost is about 1/2 that of freeze-dried meals.
you dont needa use pre made "hunting food" or whatever its called.
we dont have that stuff here in NZ and most guys back pack hunt for 5days minimum. some guys go on month long trips with no supply.
The sad truth to it is RICE haha. lots a rice.
also good is instant mash potatoe with powdered cheese. try and get some dried meat/jerkey. Its light and has good energy and fat.
cheese is good but heavy.
for breakfast make up muslie(or cereal of your choice) with milk powder/protein shake mixed into it. that way you just add water and its ready to eat. takes like 2mins.
instant noodles are OK. they are cheap and light but dont fill you up much.
you dont need to buy expensive fancy pre packed foods.
just use a bit of common sense.
what I like to do is buy a whole heap of stuff you think might be ok and eat it at home before you go on a week long trip and find out you dont like chiken noodles you actually like beef.
I don't pack much as far as food on my trips simply because I haven't done any long excursions, but I know I would pack out my entire fridge before I packed a single MRE in my bag!
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