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3 Things to Look for in Freeze Dried Meals

We all enjoy planning and prepping for a backcountry trip, especially when it comes to the meals. But unless you cook, dehydrate, and package your own custom menu at home, buying freeze-dried meals ready to eat (MRE) is the surest way to get the nutrition you need and the taste you crave out on the trail. Here are a few things to look for when counting ounces on wilderness cuisine.

Calories

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Mountain House Chicken & Dumplings with Vegetables (Mountain House/)

A backcountry hunter can burn more than twice as many calories per day than during their normal routine. The weight of most freeze-dried meals is essentially the same—very light—so what matters is how much energy a recipe packs. If your trip includes a lot of vertical ascent, opt for at least one good high-calorie heat-and-eat meal per day. The general range of MRE dinners is from about 200 to 450 calories per serving.

Sodium

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Wise Company Emergency Food Supply (Wise Company/)

We need sodium in our diet, but salt levels in freeze-dried meals can be excessive because, in addition to adding flavor, salt serves as a preservative. If you are sensitive to high sodium levels, be sure to carefully compare nutrition labels.

Cost and Servings

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Backpacker's Pantry Pad Thai (Backpacker's Pantry/)

MREs are expensive, but cost is partly a function of the number of servings, which usually ranges from 1 to 2.5 per bag. If you are a big eater, look for meals that offer 1.5 servings per bag, and keep in mind that many brands are sold in bulk. If you have a lot of backcountry travel on your calendar, buying in volume can save money.

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