5 Best Freeze-Dried Vegan Backpacking Meals!
Alex and I love spending time outdoors camping, hiking, and backpacking whenever we can. We had actually planned on hiking the JMT this summer but the cookbook sort of threw things off a bit. Maybe next summer, after we get hitched!
When you do decide to commit to a long-term backpacking adventure, there are a lot of creature comforts you could bring with you to make the trip more enjoyable; maybe the most important thing to get excited about when you set up camp each night though is a hot, hearty meal. After you've been hiking and climbing all day, there's no better way to re-group and re-fill your energy stores for the day. But you want to enjoy it! If you're an experienced backpacker, you'll probably have your JetBoil or similar cooking system to help you heat your water quickly and have your meal ready in minutes. If not, you may need to get a fire going to get boiling water, but that's just about all you'll need to make one of these easy freeze-dried meals. They all come in recyclable packaging, most of which are utilized as a containment system for actually cooking inside the bag, which is super convenient and saves you from washing extra dishes.
We've tried a bunch of these meals in prep for our trips and out of sheer curiosity, and we definitely have some favorite brands and meals. All of our approved kits on this list are vegan-friendly and most of the companies offer several, if not many, vegan freeze-dried meal kit options. It's always good to have a variety of food in your pack - so let's get eating!
1. BACKPACKERS PANTRY
We just tried this brand for the first time on our most recent trip to Big Bear and really enjoyed it (pictured above left). I love that they are made by pouring boiling water right into the bag and sealing it, then letting the steam and hot water do it's thing. Each bag makes enough portions for two people, so it's perfect for sharing. We tried the Louisiana Red Beans + Rice and thought it tasted great with a bit of hot sauce mixed in. Backpackers Pantry brand sells a bunch of different camping equipment, but their adventure food is my favorite. They have a whole section for 'vegan' specific meals with 25 different options! And they sell their meals in larger containers, so if you're going on longer hikes you can save space and cut down on waste by using on of their 27-serving meal kits. You can find it all right here.
2. ALPINE AIRE
This was one of the first brands we tried, and we quickly feel in love with both the Santa Fe Black Beans with Rice + the Wild Quinoa Pilaf. Both are a bot spicy and packed with savory flavors, plus are packed with protein from the beans - the perfect post-hike meal! They are made by pouring boiling water right into the bag and sealing it, letting the steam and hot water do its magic. Each bag makes enough portions for two people, and Alex and I often top ours with tortilla chips and a bit of hot sauce to spice it up and make it feel a bit more like a real meal. Also, Alpine Aire makes a bunch of vegan freeze-dried meal options, so you'll definitely want to check them out...which you can do here.
3. MARY JANE'S FARM
We discovered Mary Jane's Farm meals while perusing REI one day and loved the packaging. We later realized that they are from the same makers of Mary's Janes Farm Magazine and make a variety of better-for-you home and food products, which is awesome. What we liked about the MJ meals were that they came in a variety of interesting options that tackled foods not tried by all companies. Also, they had a bunch of 'accidentally' vegan options. We loved the Lentils, Rice + Indian Spice meal (pictured above left) after a long day of hiking all over Big Sur. (With all dehydrated meals we recommend checking the label - some meals are vegan without anyone realizing it and without it ever saying on the package!) You can find more about their meal options here.
4. MADE IN NATURE, ANCIENT GRAIN SUPER SIDES
These bags are everywhere it seems like now - and super convenient! They are microwaveable and can go from bag to table in 1 minute. We have mostly just heated ours in a small pan over the JetBoil or campfire, and they were still delicious. 5 of the 6 flavors they make are vegan, and they can be found at your local REI. These make more of a single-person portion but are a great side with a bigger meal or as a snack between hikes. You can find all the info on the meals here.
5. GOOD TO-GO
We love Maine-made Good To-Go Meals and enjoyed their vegan-friendly Smoke 3-Bean Chili on our most recent trip to Big Bear. It was smoky, hearty, and so so perfect after a long, exhausting day on the trails. All of their food is made in Kittery, Maine and made from whole, recognizable foods - no fillers here! Plus, Good To-Go meals are created by a former NYC chef - so you know you're getting great tasting, high quality meals each time you open a package. Did we mention the packaging yet? SO CUTE! And, almost every meal they make is VEGAN! You can find out more about them here.