Best Backpacking Meals

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There’s nothing quite like backpacking. Away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, your mind feeling lighter and freer with each passing day as you venture farther and farther into the wilderness. Carrying everything you need for such adventures is rarely an easy task though. Food and water take up half the weight of most people’s packs, so many, myself included, often opt for backpacking meals to help lighten the load, and to leave more time for enjoying the outdoors instead of spending that time with all the tasks associated with cooking and cleaning a meal from scratch!

Click here to discover all the backcountry huts Near Vancouver.

I often bring these lightweight dehydrated or freeze-dried meals on day hikes too, especially on longer hikes and chilly days where a filling, hot meal is ever so appreciated (not to mention the prep time savings from just throwing a bag from your cupboard into your pack!). Thankfully, small, lightweight and fast cooking systems like Jetboil make it really convenient (I have the Jetboil Flash 2.0 that boils 2 cups of water in 100 seconds!).

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

HOW TO CHOOSE

As you may know, there is a pretty big range of backpacking meals. Lots of them are wonderfully delicious and nutritious, but let’s be honest, some of them…not so much (AlpineAire pineapple chicken…🤢🤢🤢). It’s always a little nerve-wracking bringing a new meal out on a trip, and it’s difficult (and expensive!) to do an extensive taste test to figure out which ones you like, so I’ve done some of the work for you in this review of camping meals. While taste is the most important consideration to most people, keep in mind that taste preference is SO subjective. I will certainly tell you what I think and explain my preferences so you can understand where I’m coming from to make your own assessment but I will also discuss more objective factors selected from the feedback you guys gave me on my Instagram and Facebook posts, to help you make decisions based on other priorities you may have when it comes to food.

In an effort to review a wide variety of meals easily accessible to us here in Vancouver, British Columbia, I have selected six companies to compare a wide range including companies large and small, local and international, and menu offerings with different specializations. Companies reviewed are Backcountry Wok, Happy Yak, Good To-Go, PeakEATS, Yamnuska Backcountry Kitchen and Mountain House. Note that some of these meals have been provided to me for free to trial, but all reviews are my very honest opinions.

Skip forward to find out my favourite backpacking meals

THE EVALUATION PROCESS

Before I get into this, you need to know there is a BIG difference between dehydrated food and freeze-dried food. There are significant trade-offs when deciding between the two so you need to know what your priorities are to make an informed choice. While there is a lot of information out there you can read up on, in a nutshell, the pros of dehydrated over freeze-dried are that dehydrated foods take up approximately 10% less space, weigh less, and retain texture better when rehydrated. The benefits of freeze-dried over dehydrated include a quicker rehydration process and longer shelf life. Nutritional value is about the same.

Connoisseurs will tell you that dehydrated meals are best made boiled in a pot, but if you’re like me and opt for convenience over anything else, making it in the bag for all companies reviewed works perfectly fine. My preferred method is to add half the recommended amount of whatever temperature water I have on hand and let the food rehydrate in the bag as long as possible up to 24 hours, and then boil some water to add when I’m ready to eat, to warm it up and finish off the rehydration period (waiting approximately another 10+ minutes). For on-the-go meals, I add the first half of water on my last rest break before the summit (or wherever you’re stopping for lunch), or if I’m staying the night, I add it upon arrival at a hut or campsite before setting everything up.

Shelf life is different for every product. Be sure to read each label.

Rehydration and cooking time increases the higher up in elevation you get. Adjust accordingly.

CRITERIA

My reviews below will evaluate the following factors on a scale of 1-5; 1 being the worst and 5 the best.

  1. Taste – level of yumminess (a very scientific process… ;P)
  2. Health & Nutrition – balanced food groups, nutrient levels, GMOs, organics, whole grains
  3. Accessibility – ease of buying, package shape, dietary/allergy considerations
  4. Convenience – bag shape, fill lines, time to rehydrate/cook, shelf life
  5. Impact – social and environmental impact ie ethics, packaging material, production/shipping process, ingredient sourcing, giving back
  6. Price – how it compares to other brands

While each person’s needs are unique, the season/temperature, as well as the level of activity, determine how many calories you should consume. The colder the weather and the higher the exertion level of the activities you do means more calories are needed for healthy body function, and the more carbohydrates one needs for energy. Yamnuska has a great calorie planning chart to help you understand how much you should be consuming based on your individual needs. See it at https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/food/calorie-planning

To help you gauge whether or not you agree with my evaluations, here is some information about my mindset. I am not a nutritionist or have expert level knowledge about any of this, but I am an avid hiker who eats in the backcountry a lot. I care about my health and think I have a well-rounded understanding about what is needed. I do not have any dietary restrictions or preferences aside from eating a healthyish, balanced diet. I’m well-known in my social circles as a bit of a foodie. I have a diverse palette, loving deep flavours that are full of herbs and spices. I have really high standards when it comes to value. My perfect camping meal is about 600 calories, and would be all of the following:
1) first and foremost, deliciously full of complex flavour and textures (not a fan of bland meals or a single overpowering taste);
2) healthy and nutritious including a good balance of carbs, protein and fat for the high energy we need for the heightened activity level, but created with good nutrients found in whole grains, organic foods, etc (not laden with chemicals, fillers and other yucky stuff we shouldn’t be putting into our bodies);
3) convenience convenience convenience – I want to be able to easily buy it, prepare it, eat it and dispose of it;
4) minimal impact – convenience and environmental harm don’t have to go hand-in-hand. I like to support businesses with an overall eco impact that is as minimal as reasonably possible. Whether it’s created through eco-friendly packaging, production processes, transportation impact, giving back, etc, there are many factors to consider so the best product for me has the best balance.
5) affordable – I’m happy to pay more for superior products based on the above criteria, but there has to be great value to justify a higher than average cost.

MY FAVES

Scroll down to find the full review of all products and companies but here are my favourite camping meals from each company:

  1. Vegan Bibimbap by Backcountry Wok
  2. Herbed Mushroom Risotto from Good To-Go
  3. Shrimp Curry with Rice by Happy Yak
  4. Spicy Thai Green Tofu Curry by PeakEATS
  5. Bison Stew by Yamnuska Backcountry Kitchen
  6. Sweet and Sour Pork by Mountain House

BACKPACKING MEAL REVIEW

Legend based on classifications given by the respective companies to their products:
(NF) Nut-Free, (GF) Gluten-Free, (VG) Vegan, (VT) Vegetarian, (DF) Dairy-Free, (LF) Lactose-Free, (SF) Soy-Free, (P) Paleo

Backcountry Wok

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

ABOUT
Started right here in our very own Vancouver, British Columbia in 2017, this duo now based in Ottawa and Vancity, started with two Asian-inspired dishes to bring multi-cultural flavours to the backcountry in eco-friendly packaging. Their commitment to sustainability includes sourcing ingredients from local suppliers and packaging in compostable material (home compost only – not accepted in the City of Vancouver’s green bins). Learn more at backcountrywok.com including new dishes set to be released this year!

Backcountry Wok meals are all dehydrated.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
Vegan, Vegetarian. Gluten-Free due to be released in 2019.

WHERE TO BUY
Online at backcountrywok.com and in select pop-ups throughout Vancouver. Check their website for more info.

PRICE RANGE
$11.99

IMPACT
Backcountry Wok has the best eco footprint of any backcountry meal company I have researched. Their carbon footprint is minimal for Vancouver buyers especially as they source ingredients from local businesses and make everything in-house. They use only compostable and biodegradable packaging. Note that you can only compost the packaging in a home compost though; the pouches are not acceptable in the City of Vancouver’s green bin program. Their pouches from Tekpak Solutions have a bio-foil lining, which is a petroleum-based product. The City of Vancouver is WAY behind the times in the way it deals with waste collection, with its current organics processor as of 2019 only accepting 100% fibre-based materials.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Compostable packaging.
2. They’re a local Vancouver company.
3. Bringing more varied and authentic Asian flavours the backcountry food game.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Switch to packaging that Vancouver’s green bin program will accept.
2. Switch packaging to a horizontal design with wide mouth for easy access.
3. Add water fill lines (though I hear their new packaging will have this!)

VEGAN BIBIMBAP (VG) (VT) (DF)

Buy it here: https://backcountrywok.com/products/bibimbap-to-go

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 5/5
Price: $11.99 ($0.08/gram)

Pros: Tastes delicious, lots of veg, quick and easy to make, local Vancouver company, no chemicals or preservatives.
Cons: Tall bag makes it hard to reach food without getting hand dirty. Sauce clumps together unless you stir often.

Happy Yak

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

ABOUT
Started in 2013, Christine and Guy created Happy Yak to help outdoor recreationists forget about long preparation time, go out and welcome the freedom to travel the world, seek the adventure, and live free. Master of nutrition with a keen sense of aromas and flavours, Christine has long shared her time between a dynamic career in consumer research and her multiple adventure travels in Greenland, Nepal and New Zealand. Her natural culinary talents, graduate studies in nutrition, professional marketing experience and above all, profound passion for the great outdoors, constitute the four naturally linked pillars of Happy Yak’s solid foundation. Combat sports enthusiast and accomplished hiker, Guy has climbed peaks in the Alps and in the highest mountain ranges of Russia and Argentina. Active go-getter with a jovial demeanor, Guy is fully committed in all aspects of his life and gives his all at all times. This is particularly evident with Happy Yak, as its formidable success is the result of his ambitious vision.They are a Canadian company, with meals prepared in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec – the heart of the Agri-Food capital of Canada. Learn more at happyyak.ca

Happy Yak meals are all freeze-dried.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
Customizable, Vegetarian, Lactose-Free, Gluten-Free

WHERE TO BUY
Online at happyyak.ca, online or in-store at Atmosphere, MEC, Best Buy and many others (see them all here).

PRICE RANGE
$3.99 to $15.49

IMPACT
Happy Yak engages in environmental, economic and social habits and practices by being conscious of how it uses resources and how it contributes to economic development and social improvement of the quality of life of its workforce and their families. This commitment is evidenced in their choice of suppliers, recycled shipping materials, multi-portion packs, and culinary equipment. They offer the work-from-home option to their employees whenever possible as it means no commuting, flexible hours, and better quality of life. Happy Yak donates 1% of its annual sales to Leave No Trace, Scouts Canada and many others.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Flavour and texture combos are some of the best.
2. Partially biodegradable packaging.
3. Wide selection of express meals that cook quickly.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Include more vegetables in each meal.
2. Switch packaging to a horizontal design with wide mouth for easy access.
3. Switch to fully compostable packaging.

SHRIMP CURRY WITH RICE

Buy it here: https://fxo.co/62Ex

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $12.99 ($0.07/gram)

Pros: Tastes delicious, quick and easy, Canadian company, partially biodegradable packaging.
Cons: Lacking vegetables, tall bag makes it hard to reach food without getting hand dirty.

MOROCCAN FEAST (VT) (LF)

Buy it here: https://fxo.co/6iGK

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $10.39 ($0.06/gram)

Pros: Great flavours and textures, nutritious and healthy, quick and easy, Canadian company, partially biodegradable packaging.
Cons: Tall bag makes it hard to reach food without getting hand dirty. Could do with some more vegetables.

VEGETARIAN CHILLI (VT) (GF) (LF)

Buy it here: https://happyyak.ca/en/meals/9-chili-vegetarien.html

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $10.39 ($0.05/gram)

Pros: Well-rounded meal, great balance of macro and micro nutrients, quick and easy, Canadian company, partially biodegradable packaging, low price per gram.
Cons: Not as flavourful as I expect from a chilli, tall bag makes it hard to reach food without getting hand dirty.

SHEPHERD’S PIE (GF)

Buy it here: https://fxo.co/6iGP

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $12.69 ($0.12/gram)

Pros: Great filling meal, quick and easy, Canadian company, partially biodegradable packaging.
Cons: Minimal vegetables, high price per gram, tall bag makes it hard to reach food without getting hand dirty.

Good To-Go

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

ABOUT
Based out of Maine, USA, Good To-Go is on a mission to change how people eat on-the-go. The words “quick” and “healthy” aren’t often used together. You can have one, but don’t expect to have the other—until now. Chef Jennifer’s creations are thoughtfully crafted to provide a meal that not only tastes great but is truly good for you. Whether you’ve hiked all day for that summit view, rose with an alpine start to earn those backcountry turns, or are simply looking for an easy-to-make option at home, all you need is boiling water and in minutes you’ll have a delicious meal. Learn more at goodto-go.com.

Fun fact: Good To-Go’s chef and founder Jennifer Scism beat Mario Batali on TVFN’s first season of Iron Chef America.

Good To-Go meals are all dehydrated.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
All Good To-Go food products are lab tested and certified gluten-free. A selection are Vegan, Vegetarian, or Pescatarian.

WHERE TO BUY
In stores or online from MEC, The Escape Route, Overland Outfitters Inc. and more (see all locations here). Unfortunately, due to government regulations, they are unable to ship web orders for food products outside the United States.

PRICE RANGE
$16.95

IMPACT
While not a certified organic company, most of their ingredients are organic. The company does seem to give back but information on their website about this is limited. I found on their blog they recently sponsored the Granite Backcountry Alliance‘s 2018 Glade Tour. Good To-Go pouches contain a thin metal layer to extend shelf stability by blocking oxygen absorption. Due to this metal layer, their pouches are currently not recyclable.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Consistently delicious. Every meal is wonderful and among my top all-time favourites.
2. Intuitive packaging design with wide, horizontal shape and fill lines.
3. Meals cook quickly.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Switch to compostable or recyclable packaging.
2. Get single serving sizes into MEC and other Canadian retailers.
3. Add information to website about efforts of giving back to the community.

GRANOLA (GF) (VT)

Buy it here: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5057-407/Granola

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 5/5
Convenience: 5/5
Impact: 3/5
Price: $8.95 ($0.07/gram)

Pros: Perfect breakfast to start a hard day with whole grains, lots of protein, fibre, antioxidants and more. Wide mouth packaging for easy access. Includes fill line.
Cons: High in sugar, packaging not recyclable or biodegradable.

KALE AND WHITE BEAN STEW (GF) (VG) (VT)

Buy it here: Not available in Canada yet (hopefully MEC will get it soon!). Available in the USA via https://goodto-go.com/collections/food/products/kale-and-white-bean-stew or at REI.

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 5/5
Impact: 3/5
Price: $16.95 ($0.09/gram)

Pros: Incredibly delicious and healthy. Wide mouth packaging for easy access. Includes fill line.
Cons: High sodium content, packaging not recyclable or biodegradable.

NEW ENGLAND CORN CHOWDAH

Buy it here: Not available in Canada yet (hopefully MEC will get it soon!). Available in the USA via https://goodto-go.com/collections/food/products/new-england-corn-chowdah or at REI.

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 5/5
Impact: 3/5
Price: $16.95 ($0.09/gram)

Pros: Great taste (if you like fishy-tasting foods which I do), Wide mouth packaging for easy access. Includes fill line.
Cons: Packaging not recyclable or biodegradable.

HERBED MUSHROOM RISOTTO (GF) (VG) (VT)

Buy it here: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5054-796/Herbed-Mushroom-Risotto

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 5/5
Convenience: 5/5
Impact: 3/5
Price: $16.95 ($0.09/gram)

Pros: One of my absolutely favourite-tasting camping meals. Wide mouth packaging for easy access. Includes fill line.
Cons: Lacking vegetables, packaging not recyclable or biodegradable.

PAD THAI (GF)

Buy it here: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5054-798/Pad-Thai

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 4/5
Accessibility: 5/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 3/5
Price: $16.95 ($0.09/gram)

Pros: Quite yummy. Use of sustainably-raised wild American shrimp. Wide mouth packaging for easy access. Includes fill line.
Cons: Takes longer than specified to rehydrate. Packaging not recyclable or biodegradable.

PeakEATS

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

ABOUT
Based out of Canmore, Alberta, the PeakEATS team is dedicated to constantly searching out the highest quality products and continually aiming higher to make sure they are bringing their customers not only the absolute best ingredients they can find but doing so in a thoughtful and sustainable manner for food you can feel good about. PeakEATS provides handcrafted whole food for all your adventures. Because their ingredients are individually dried, they are able to accommodate any food preferences or allergies including dairy, soy, and gluten free, as well as your requirements for nutrition, calories, food preferences, weight, and volume.

Note that while it works to rehydrate/cook in the bag, this company’s meals are designed to be made stove-top at a hut or campside, some with ingredients to be added at different times. Meals are created with all ingredients added separately to provide base meals, which you can add to if wanted. As such, flavour is all natural so meals are ideal for those who don’t like strong flavours or spices, or wish to personally customize meals.

PeakEATS meals are all dehydrated.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
Customizable, Dairy-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo

WHERE TO BUY
Direct from the source online at peakeatsfood.com or over the phone at 1 (403) 688-6907. Their website is excellently organized to find and filter for specifically what you want.

PRICE RANGE
$2.50 – $12.50

IMPACT
PeakEATS is one of only two companies tested that have recyclable packaging (in Vancouver as “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging“). They source Canadian quinoa which supports Canadian farmers and reduces their carbon footprint in the process. They buy 100% grass fed, grass finished local Alberta Beef directly from farmers, supporting humane farming practices and resulting in beef of uncompromising quality.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Real food and nothing else (likely the healthiest meals on the market).
2. Recyclable packaging.
3. Made to order and customizable.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Increase shelf stability.
2. Switch packaging to a horizontal design with wide mouth for easy access and add fill line.
3. Include micronutrient info on website and packaging.

ULTIMATE BREAKFAST (DF) (GF) (NF) (SF)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/peakeats-ultimate-breakfast/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $11.25 ($0.11/gram)

Pros: 100% natural ingredients, healthy, delicious way to start the day.
Cons: Multi-step cooking process (vegetables need to be rehydrated before potato).

GARDEN VEGETABLE HASHBROWNS (DF) (GF) (NF) (P) (SF) (VG) (VT)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/hashbrowns-with-garden-vegetables/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $10.00 ($0.19/gram)

Pros: 100% natural ingredients, healthy, delicious way to start the day.
Cons: High price per gram, multi-step cooking process.

GINGER BEEF AND BROCCOLI (DF) (GF) (NF)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/asian-ginger-soy-beef-broccoli-stir-fry-with-rice/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $12.50 ($0.10/gram)

Pros: Healthy, easy to cook.
Cons: A bit bland without added sauce.

TOFU THAI GREEN CURRY (DF) (GF) (NF) (SF) (VG) (VT)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/spicy-thai-green-tofu-curry/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 4/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $12.00 ($0.10/gram)

Pros: So yummy! Authentic curry taste, spice and all! Quick and easy to make. Healthy.
Cons: Light on the carbs (but easy to add more rice or we added some naan bread).

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE (DF) (NF) (SF) (VT)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/strawberry-shortcake/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 1/5 (not meant to be healthy though, it’s dessert!)
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $4.75 ($0.11/gram)

Pros: So yummy!
Cons: Multi-step process.

CLASSIC PEAKBAR (VT)

Buy it here: https://peakeatsfood.com/product/peakbar/

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 5/5
Convenience: 3/5
Ease of Making: n/a
Impact: 4/5
Price: $2.25 ($0.06/gram)

Pros: So healthy and delicious. Long-lasting energy boost.
Cons: Crumbles easily.

Yamnuska Backcountry Kitchen

New photo added to shared album / Google Photos

ABOUT
The oldest mountain school in Canada, Yamnuska Mountain Adventures has been in business since 1977 teaching and guiding throughout the Rockies for civilian and military clients from all over the world. Many years ago, they started including food as part of the full-service package for some trips. With proper food and nutrition that balanced pack weight, they know that food was not just important but CRITICAL to a successful program. In less hospitable environments, mealtime has nothing to do with being social and everything to do with getting nutrition into your body quickly. That is the inspiration for their Speedy Meals and what they call their ‘alpine food system’. All of their products are cooked in small batches in their tiny kitchen in Canmore, on a stovetop then dehydrated as a complete meal. Learn more and buy their food at backcountryfood.ca. For their climbing, mountaineering and avalanche courses check out yamnuska.com and for their hiking and backpacking adventures check out canadianrockieshiking.com

Note that this company’s meals are designed to be made on a stove-top, but I found it tastes just as good to rehydrate/cook in the bag by adding boiled water. Note that the suggested water amount on the package factors in evaporation from simmering, so if cooking in the bag, use a bit less water.

Yamnuska Backcountry Kitchen meals are all dehydrated.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
Customizable for individual requirements. Pre-packaged meal options include Vegan, Vegetarian, Lactose-Free and Gluten-Free.

WHERE TO BUY
Direct from the source online at backcountryfood.ca or over the phone at 1 (866) 678-4164.

PRICE RANGE
$9.75 to $13.95

IMPACT
Yamnuska Backcountry Kitchen is one of only two companies tested that have recyclable packaging (in Vancouver as “Other Flexible Plastic Packaging“). They buy ingredients from local stores and distributors in Canmore, Banff and Calgary. Everything is bought as it is being used which minimizes wastage.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Full of flavour and spices.
2. Recyclable packaging.
3. Use of local and organic ingredients.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Have ziploc on bags for those like me who prefer to avoid dishes.
2. Display nutritional information on website (there is a sticker on the back of packages).
3. Include more vegetables in meals.

BISON STEW (GF) (LF)

Buy it here: https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/S=0/store/product_detail/30

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $13.95 ($0.10/gram)

Pros: This meal is DELICIOUS. Like eat at home delicious, it’s that good. Full of flavour, lots of spice. Organic beef. Real food, no preservatives.
Cons: I feel it’d be better with chunks of potato instead of mash as the consistency is more of a shepherd’s pie than a stew as potatoes aren’t separate. Could do with more vegetables.

LENTIL CURRY (VG) (GF) (LF)

Buy it here: https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/S=0/store/product_detail/31

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $10.95 ($0.07/gram)

Pros: Pretty darn tasty. A vegetarian classic with a nice, flavourful addition of coconut for a bit of creamy (yet vegan) sweetness. Protein-packed.
Cons: Flavour can seem a bit singular so I prefer to share this dish plus one other with a friend for a more varied meal.

VEGETARIAN CHILI (VG) (LF)

Buy it here: https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/S=0/store/product_detail/38

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $10.95 ($0.07/gram)

Pros: Hearty, filling meal with lots of beans and rice. Meat-tasting so great for meat-eaters looking to decrease their meat intake.
Cons: I personally like more spice in my chili as well I’m not a big fan of rice with my chilli. Tastes more like a “beans and rice dish” than a chili. Could use some more vegetables for a balanced meal.

BEEF CHILI (GF) (LF)

Buy it here: https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/S=0/store/product_detail/37

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 3/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $11.95 ($0.08/gram)

Pros: Hearty, filling meal with lots of beef, beans and rice. Use of local and organic ingredients like Alberta beef.
Cons: I personally like more spice in my chili as well I’m not a big fan of rice with my chilli. Tastes more like a “beans and rice dish” than a chili. Could use some more vegetables for a balanced meal.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

Buy it here: https://backcountryfood.ca/index.php/S=0/store/product_detail/27

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 4/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 3/5
Convenience: 3/5
Impact: 4/5
Price: $12.95 ($0.08/gram)

Pros: A classic for a reason, this dish is yum. Warms ya up and fills ya up after a long, hard day. Tastes like homemade.
Cons: Could use some more vegetables for a bit more crunch.

Mountain House

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

ABOUT
Beginning by making meals for the United States Special Forces, Mountain House has grown into one of North America’s most widely spread brands of backcountry meals. As the Vietnam war wound down, they took their surplus rations to military surplus and sporting goods stores, where they rapidly sold out. It was then in 1969 that they realized the great consumer demand for good tasting, easy to prepare freeze dried food and Mountain House was born. Learn more about this Oregon, USA company at mountainhouse.com.

Mountain House meals are all freeze-dried.

AVAILABLE DIETARY OPTIONS
Vegetarian, Gluten-Free

WHERE TO BUY
In stores or online from Atmosphere, Amazon, MEC, and more. Due to government regulations, Mountain House is unable to ship web orders for food products outside the United States.

PRICE RANGE
$9.99 – $13.99

IMPACT*
No information could be found online about their corporate social responsibility efforts.

WHAT I LOVE MOST
1. Super delicious meals.
2. Cooks really quickly.
3. Available in many locations both online and in-store.

HOW I THINK THEY CAN IMPROVE
1. Switch packaging to be compostable or recyclable.
2. Decrease sodium and sugar amounts.
3. Add information online about corporate social responsibility efforts.

SWEET & SOUR PORK WITH RICE

Buy it here: https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5036-527/Sweet-and-Sour-Pork

New photo by Hikes Near Vancouver BC / Google Photos

Taste: 5/5
Health & Nutrition: 3/5
Accessibility: 4/5
Convenience: 5/5
Impact: 1/5*
Price: $14.95 ($0.09/gram)

Pros: Tastes delicious (like Chinese take-out), very quick to make, accessible to purchase in many locations, wide packaging for easy access.
Cons: High in sugar and sodium, packaging is not recyclable or compostable.

Make It Yourself Options

Lots of people prefer to make their own camping meals. While you can dehydrate food in the oven, it’s much easier to do it in a dehydrator. The dehydrator on my wish list is the Excalibur dehydrator.

Regular Prepared Foods

If you’re like me, much too lazy and often in a rush, buying light, dried prepared foods is another great option. Often much cheaper than backpacking meals, you benefit from cost-saving but often at the expense of variety and nutritional value. Some items I often take as my whole or part of a meal include: Kraft Dinner or Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese, Mr. Noodles, oatmeal.

Tips for Making the Most out of Backpacking Meals

  1. Using the right stove can keep down the size and weight of your pack and speed up food prep time. I use the Jetboil Flash 2.0. Weighing only 371 grams, this incredible compact cooking system boils half a litre of water in only 100 seconds!
  2. Instead of carrying all water needed to rehydrate meals, I bring a lightweight water filtration system (as long as water sources like rivers or lakes) are en route. The one I have and love is the Platypus Gravityworks 4L system.
  3. Chilly out? Once you fill the food bag with hot water, put it inside your jacket to keep you warm. Make sure the bag is sealed up tight and don’t place it directly against skin as it can be quite hot to start. Bonus, the bag will stay warmer with the layer against the elements so the food will cook a little faster and stay warmer for longer.
  4. No more annoyingly dirty fingers. Get a long spork to reach into the silly vertical design of so many backpacking meals without getting your hands dirty!
  5. Lots of backpacking meals are rich in flavour, and foodies like me who like variety can get a little overwhelmed. Plan to share two different meals with a friend adventuring with you, or plan to have different snacks to compliment it! My personal go-to is to always have just a little something fresh with each dinner like some raw carrots or few apple slices for dessert.
  6. Instead of carrying around empty ziploc bags, plan to use your empty backpacking meal bags instead. Use them as-is for garbage, or rinse them out after eating and dry to use them to store things you need to keep dry. I like using the PeakEATS bags especially for this as they are clear so you can see what’s inside.
  7. While not really a camping meal per se, I love a glass of wine with meals so I feel I must include this tip! Instead of lugging up a big, heavy glass bottle, buy wine in a tetra pack, or empty a bottle into a soft water bottle or your multi-purpose Nalgene (I use mine for my Nuun-infused water, and then as a hot water bottle at night). It will make it lighter, and also allow your wine to breathe while you hike!

Got any other tips? Let me know at info@hikesnearvancouver.ca and I’ll update this blog to incorporate them!

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