9 Best Freeze-Dried & MRE For Backpacking

Food is always the best part of any outdoor trip. In this guide, let's browse through the 7 best freeze dried MRE for backpacking based on taste, nutritional value, size, prep time, and cost.

There are tons of options, and more than likely you gonna just go for the ones that taste good anyway.

So let's show you what those options are below:

Best Freeze Dried Meals [All Types]

Mountain House

Beprepared Essential

Mary Janes Farms

Alpine Aire


Harmony House

Backpackers Pantry


Good To Go

Best Places To Buy Surplus Military MRE

In 1997 the government labeled this on all MRE packaging:

govt. resale warning

. While this notice seems to have cut down on high volume selling, but you can still find perfectly good MREs pretty easily.

  • Gun shows
  • eBay
  • Army surplus stores
  • Amazon
  • Commissaries on military bases

Bare Minimum Equipments Needed

Now you have the food, but you still need these bare minimum things to prepare your food and make your life easier either at home or outdoors.

  • Stove system
  • A pot
  • Spoon
  • Cup

Important Food Info

Energy To Weight Ratio

Most freeze dry meals are around 600 - 1000 calories for 5-7 oz. So about 140 ish calories per ounce ratio.

Freeze dry food are lightweight and are made to provide adequate energy just like the MRE without all the strict mission specs required by the Department Of Defense.

Nutrition Value

MRE is pretty good for what it is for military service members in remote locations. It's precooked food for the warfighters to provide protein, fats, and carbs to stay in the fight. You can read more official studies here.

Military MRE is designed to supply adequate energy to meet specific needs of various operational conditions, and some have designed to meet strict religious diets (applicable to field military lifestyle). However, the main goal is to sustain an individual engaged in heavy activities and delay fatigue, and effective in maintaining blood glucose when normal food isn't available.

It also comes with few other things such as caffeinated chewing gum and carbohydrate supplement to keep a warfighter alert and awake.

On average, most MRE doesn't contain much salt content and they are also packed with vitamins and minerals to ensure a warfighter receives sufficient nutrients in the field. If salt is needed, the salt pack is included in the package.

Civilian-rated freeze-dried food is similar to the MRE, but they have way more options for providing a balanced meal, and typically contains more calories for outdoor use such as backpacking through mountains or surviving any type of disaster.


MRE and Freeze-dried food can get expensive for frequent use, but it can be justified for occasionally use for outdoor activities. It's fast, convenient, and enjoyable without fussing over meal prep before the trip.

Pro Tip: Buy 8+ meals from REI, you will save 10%. So stock up for the season or you can save by buying bulk meal kits.

For emergency prep,


Taste is subjective. One meal might be awesome for someone and not for another.

Even though MRE / Freeze dried food aren't close to a perfectly prepared meal at your grandma's kitchen, but it serves its special purpose to fill you up and keeps you going.

Common FAQ

MRE VS Freeze Dried Food - Which One Is Better?

The biggest difference between these two is the shelf life and level of convenience

MRE stands for meals ready to eat, and it has a shelf life of about 5 years based on how they are stored. It's packed with already prepared food that can be immediately eaten by heating it up and utensils. These packages usually contain heaters packs to warm up your food without needing your own heating equipment. These are generally field-grade rations for warfighters and are becoming increasingly popular for emergency preparedness.

The US Department of Defense requires that "U.S. Government Property, Commercial Resale is Unlawful" be printed on each case of MREs. Despite the warning, there are no laws that forbid the resale of MREs, except by military personnel. The easiest place to get them is the commissaries on military bases.

In scenarios where you need food now, the MRE is a better choice because you can open it up and eat with everything provided even when you're empty-handed.


  • Bug out prep
  • Camping
  • Military operations
  • Emergency rations
  • Quick calorie fix


  • Not for daily use
  • Can't easily obtain
  • Not for long term storage

Freeze-dried meals have to be cooked or rehydrated in the container by adding boiling water. This package comes with a larger portion and a better variety of meals than MRE, and they have about 20+ years of shelf life. They taste way better and they won't drive a person crazy for eating it for weeks straight compared to MRE


  • Daily use
  • Convenience meal that tastes good
  • Short & long term survival
  • Power outages
  • Natural disasters
  • Civil unrest
  • Pandemics & economic downturns
  • Camping


  • Can't eat without water
  • Moisture can ruin the food
  • Doesn't come with an emergency food kit