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Any backpacker can tell you that along with planning routes and choosing equipment, one of the hardest aspects of an outdoor trip is arranging its meals. To be lightweight, easy to prepare outdoors and nutritious, the ideal meal needs to tick a lot of boxes. Enter, freeze dried food. But how can you decide which is the best one for you?

The Rise of Freeze Dried Food

Very recently, freeze dried foods have given outdoor enthusiasts a decisive advantage. They are easy to carry, have a very long shelf life and convenience to prepare. Before the discussion of how to choose the best freeze dried food, let’s first learn what they are and how they are made.

Understanding Freeze Drying

Freeze drying, or lyophilisation, is a technology that removes virtually all the water from food while preserving the food’s shape and nutrient content.

The Freeze Drying Process

It starts by freezing the food, then lowering the pressure and adding heat to allow for the frozen water in the food to sublime directly from the solid to the gas state.

The Benefits of Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze dried foods offer several advantages, especially for backpackers.

Lightweight and Easy to Pack

The food is light as a feather after the freeze drying, which is essential when backpacking and every gram seems to count.

Long Shelf Life

Those freeze dried foods have a potential shelf life of 25-30 years, unopened and carefully stored. If you’re into food hoarding for future expeditions, this is your drug of choice.

High Nutritional Value

As opposed to other drying methods, freeze drying food prevents it from losing its most important nutrients, resulting in healthier meals.

How to Choose the Best Freeze Dried Food

To select the best freeze dried food you must bear in mind some criteria. Here are them below.

Consider the Taste

Sure, you should be practical, but don’t sacrifice taste by selecting a dehydrated meal that is recoverable but unappetising. Go only for those foods that are delicious when hydrated.

Evaluate the Ingredients

Make sure to always check the ingredient list. The shorter the better. Avoid foods with artificial preservatives or excessive amounts of sodium.

Check the Nutritional Values

Opt for protein-rich or combinatorial foods to provide sustenance for your outdoor activities.

Look at the Packaging

The outer case packaging should be robust and re-sealable so that food can be kept fresh if only a part of it is consumed.

Price and Brand Reputation

Lastly, consider the price and the brand – it’s wise to spend a bit more on brands which have a reputation for quality and safety.

Best Practices in Storing and Rehydrating Freeze Dried Foods

Make sure that you store your freeze dried foods somewhere cool and dry Dry food for rehydration Only; stem and clean the cactus before rehydrating


There is no perfect answer to what is the best freeze dried food for backpacking – it all depends on your threshold for taste, nutrition, cost and the reputation of the brand, and this guide will help you make the right decision for future trips.


What is the difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated food?

To make dehydrated food, the moisture is heated out, causing damage to both the taste and stucture and the nutrients. In freeze drying, a partial vacuum is used to force the water out, retaining the structure and nutrients.

Do I need to cook freeze-dried foods?

Most freeze-dried foods only need rehydration with hot or cold water.

Are all freeze-dried foods gluten-free?

Not necessarily. Always check the packaging for allergen information.

Can I eat freeze-dried food without rehydrating it?

Although not impossible, this is what I really recommend people do, rehydrate, to increase the moisture content and improve texture and taste.

How long does it take to rehydrate freeze-dried food?

Ten to 20 minutes might be needed, depending on the food and the water temperature.

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