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.
5 Must-Haves For Your Next Camping Trip!
Alex, our pup Maddie, and I LOVE getting outside and having #PlantBasedAdventures, and we've definitely got some favorite tools and products that we bring on every trip. From healthy, hearty snacks to keep you moving on your hike to one of favorite ways to relax while we're camping, this list is designed to make your next camping experience the best it can be. These are our must-have products for our outdoor adventures!
1. EASY, HEALTHY SNACKS + ON-THE-GO FOOD
You need some serious calories and carbs to keep you fueled up while you camp. From protein bars to crackers, vegan jerky and dehydrated backpacking meals - we've tried it all. The best stuff though? Something that packs some protein and that you actually enjoy eating! There's nothing worse than an exhaustive outdoor day followed by a really disappointing meal back at camp. We've got some great campfire meal suggestions here and here, but we also try and bring plenty of granola bars, vegan jerky, chips or crackers, and fresh fruit for snacking. Oh and of course, S'MORE stuff! Of course you could just bring these S'mores brownies, instead. And if you're like us and go camping year round, be sure to check out the monthly snack boxes from Vegan Cuts + Urthbox! They both offer great deals on fun and creative snacks that get shipped to your door monthly. We always end up with leftover snacks in our box that we toss into our camping tote for trips. It's perfect and always snack sized! (Gear pictured: Backpackers Pantry, AlpineAire, Louisville Vegan Jerky, Way Better Snacks)
2. HIGH-QUALITY CAMP KITCHEN EQUIPMENT
The key to successful campfire cooking might just be to avoid the campfire completely! While I love and often use a campfire while we are camping, because we live in super dry and prone-to-forest-fires California, there are times when having a campfire simply isn't feasible. That's when having awesome, high quality gear you can count on is super important. We love our fuel-fed JetBoil cooking system. We've made oatmeal, pasta, pho soup, and even just boiled water for rehydrating meals, making hot drinks and to do dishes with. The setup is easy and boils about 2 cups of water in less than a minute. There are other similar systems on the market, but we've been super happy with this one. We also always keep stainless steel dishes, like the To-Go Ware's reusable layering steel tiffins above (PERFECT for keeping multiple meals separated on a long hike!), wooden utensils, and insulated mugs on hand. We always have our HydroFlask bottles and snack containers for iced and hot drinks and for taking warm breakfasts or lunches on the go, and we carry all of it in our hiking backpacks. We love Maine-made Good To-Go Meals, pictured above as well, and enjoyed their vegan-friendly Smoke 3-Bean Chili on our most recent trip. (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, To-Go Ware, JetBoil, Good To-Go Meals)
3. A HAMMOCK
We LOVE our hammock. Its maybe my favorite piece of camping equipment we own and one I never thought I needed. It takes just minutes to set up and even on a one night excursion, we always end up setting it up. We got ours from ENO (the leading Hammock brand) at a flash REI sale last year, and the straps to extend the length we just ordered on Amazon, along with some string solar lights to hang above it, as well. Its a great investment - for less than $100 you have an extra bed, hang-out spot, lookout, or snuggle spot! We've napped in it or just hung-out, and it easily fits both Alex and I. Maddie hates getting inside, haha, but thats okay. Its made of parachute material so it dries easily if it gets wet and packs up really small when its time to put it away. Plus, since it just needs two trees to get set up, you can set it up over a rad view, often in a spot a tent could never go. You can check out ENO hammocks here - although there are many brands to choose from! (Gear pictured: ENO Hammocks)
4. COMFY ADVENTURE CLOTHING
If you're going to be hiking, camping, or just playing around outdoors, you need to be comfortable. Nothing make a trip more miserable than being wet and soggy, too cold or too hot because you just didn't bring the right gear. A couple of tips: first, do your research! Check weather reports for where you're headed in the days before to be sure there aren't any funky weather patterns moving in that you aren't prepared for.
Second, its all about the layers. Pack an extra outfit more than you think you'll need and plenty of layer to shed or add as the temperature changes. I always bring a warm beanie for chilly mornings but usually end up shedding it by the time the sun has been out for a few hours - always better to be over-prepared than under!
Third, start with the underwear! Seriously, is there anything worse than itching or chafing mid-way through a 10 mile hike? NOPE! Which is why I really recommend having great basics - breathable cotton if you don't plan on getting super wet, wicking materials like polyester if you do. We've been addicted to sustainable, eco-friendly clothing company PACT for all our 'basics' needs. They make everything from underwear to leggings, tops, socks and PJ's for men and women, too. Its nice to feel like you're wearing clothing that is both good for the earth and comfy on your body. Plus, there's nothing better than a clean, fresh pair of underpants after a long day outside! (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, To-Go Ware, PACT, ENO Hammocks)
5. PLANT BASED ADVENTURE GEAR
Okay, so you don't NEED these stickers - but they're a pretty great addition to your favorite adventure gear! We have a few more designs in our shop, as well as a really cute and sturdy lunchbox that'll remind you to 'Pack All The Snacks'! They're affordable, ship out to you quickly, and look great on water bottles, bumpers, bikes, laptops and wherever else you think to stick 'em. Find all the designs here! (Gear pictured: HydroFlask, Plant Based Adventures)