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If you’re thinking of taking your outdoor adventures to the next level, bikepacking might be just the thing for you. Bikepacking is perfect for anyone who loves the great outdoors, is comfortable on a bike, and would like to cover great distances on their own two wheels.

The concept is simple, but there is some essential bikepacking gear that any first-time bikepacker needs to take to have a great experience. Who knows, this might become your new favorite vacation hobby!

Here is a list of the 15 bikepacking essentials that any first-timer needs to bring on their trip.

1. The Right Bike

When it comes to finding the best bikepacking bike, there is no easy answer. The bike that you choose depends entirely on the terrain, the distance, and your personal preferences.

That being said, the best bike for a bikepacking trip will be lightweight, sturdy enough to take the weight of your packs, and high quality so that you can minimize repairs along the way.

Bikepacking trips generally fall into three different categories, and each requires a different type of bike. The three different styles of bikepacking trips are multi-day mountain biking, ultralight race & gravel, or expedition & dirt touring.

You can read more about each of these bikepacking trip types and the right bike for each. Regardless of how much research you do, there are a few bikes that are consistently recommended by other bikepackers: 

  • Best Multi-day Mountain Bike: Surly Krampus – a lifetime investment and one of the highest quality bikes for bikepacking. If you have the budget, the Surly is the best choice
  • Best All-Rounder: Salsa Fargo – it’s a good all-rounder bikepacking bike for anyone interested in starting bikepacking as a new hobby. You can do an endless amount of research on the size, fittings, and accessories, but the Salsa Fargo seems to suit the needs of most people.
  • Best Gravel Bike: Specialized Diverge gravel bike This bike is well-regarded for its ability to go anywhere and everywhere. It can handle just about any road and even the average person would do well on a bikepacking trip.

The bike you choose also depends on whether you intend to make this a long-term hobby. It may not be worth shelling out thousands of dollars if this is just something you’ll do once or twice. But if you plan to be out on the trails multiple times a year, it’s worth investing in a high-quality bike that will stand the test of time.

2. The Right Packs

Packing for your bikepacking trip

With the increasing popularity of bikepacking, there has been a lot of innovation on how to efficiently transport gear on a bike. You’ll have infinite options for your bikepacking gear setup, but the basic storage locations are side-saddle bags, handlebar bags, under-seat bags, and wedge packs that fit inside the bike frame. You’ll be surprised how much essential bikepacking gear you can bring with you!

The most important thing to keep in mind when determining your bikepacking gear setup is to make sure your bags are appropriate for the specific bike. For example, a typical mountain bike won’t have anywhere to mount side-saddle bags, so you’ll need to focus on under seat and handlebar storage. And of course, if you get a wedge pack, it needs to fit your bike frame perfectly to maximize storage space.

Be careful not to fall into the trap of overpacking! Just because you can load up your bike, doesn’t mean you should. Even though you’re not carrying the gear directly on your back, you’ll still be the one who needs to put in the leg power to transport each ounce up each elevation gain.

The most important factor when it comes to bags is the quality. Don’t skimp by buying cheap bags that are going to rub on tires, need constant adjustment, or have failing zippers and buckles. Just like investing in a quality, reliable bike, you must also invest in quality bags. Bags should be waterproof, lightweight, and durable.

3. Navigation, GPS

Especially when going offroad, a high-quality satellite GPS can be a life-saver. Be sure to get one that has a bright display that can be attached to your handlebars. You don’t want to have to pull over to check your coordinates while you’re trying to make good time on your route.

4. Sun Protection

Bikepacking Gear Essentials

Bikepacking means you’ll be exposed to the elements. You’ll most likely be biking on fire roads or paved surfaces, which usually means there will be little shade. And with the speed and wind chill, you are not likely to notice your sunburn until it’s too late.

A quality pair of polarized sunglasses, a hat, a neck cover, clothing that offers UV protection, and of course, high-grade SPF are essential bikepacking gear to provide sun protection.

5. Extra Jacket for Insulation

Inevitably, you’ll experience a change in the elements, whether you get caught in a rainstorm or climb a high elevation to chillier temperatures. Bring a windproof, lightweight jacket for these times.

You’ll be surprised how often you’ll reach for your jacket, even in warm weather due to the wind chill you’ll experience at high speeds.

6. Illumination

Although it is not advised to cycle at night, a bike light is essential if you are planning to cycle at dusk or dawn. Plus, a light does a lot to increase your visibility which is important for safety, especially if you’ll be sharing the road with cars.

7. First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit is essential for any active trip, but especially for bike packing. You’ll want to be able to treat any blisters, hotspots, and scrapes along the way. In addition to a basic first aid kit, be sure to bring along some magnesium tablets to help avoid cramping after a long uphill day. You’ll need to rely on your legs day in and day out so be sure to keep them in top condition!

8. Food & Cooking Gear

If you plan to camp along your bikepacking trip, you need to bring lightweight cooking gear to prepare meals. Since packing space is limited, be sure to make the right choice for bikepacking recipes.

The most popular bikepacking cooking gear is the Trangia ultralight camping cook set. Or, if you are making meals where you just add hot water, you can get away with bringing a Jetboil camping stove. If you want to skip the bikepacking cooking gear, check out some of our cold soak recipes to help lighten your pack. 

It’s also helpful to have some easy-to-access snacks that you can rely on during the day. Especially if you’re biking on a schedule or trying to time your rides with the weather, it’s helpful to have some nutrition that you can access on the go, like energy gels for quick carbs and electrolytes.

9. Bike Repair Kit

Do not go bikepacking without a basic bike repair kit and the know-how to make minor repairs along the way. A blown tire or loose screw can ruin your trip if you’re unable to repair them yourself. Bikepacking repair kits are very compact, so this small but invaluable item does not have to take up much space among your essential bikepacking gear.

10. Hydration & Water Storage

Bikepacking gear - add water bottle storage to your bike

Add more water storage to your bike before your bikepacking adventure

In addition to the standard location for a water bottle, you may want to add some more storage. Depending on your bike, you can usually add a few reserve water bottle locations. To cut down on the total weight in your bikepacking gear, you can bring a steri pen filter to purify your water along the way.

Since bikepacking goes hand in hand with a love for the outdoors, check out our article about the most sustainable water bottles and water filters so that your choices are kind to mother nature.

11. Care for your Caboose

If you’ve never been bikepacking before, your rear end will be the first thing to scream in pain. Padded shorts are essential bikepacking gear, but don’t forget to bring along wet wipes with soothing aloe and vitamin E, and bottom butter which works wonders. And be sure to do a few long bike trips before your bikepacking adventure to prepare your rear for the long days on the saddle.

12. Cycling Gloves

It’s not until you forget biking gloves that you realize how important they are. Gloves serve multiple purposes. First of all, your hands will be exposed to the elements, and will quickly dry out and become cracked if you don’t protect them.

Without gloves, the constant gripping of the handlebar can lead to sweaty, slippery palms and can result in painful blisters. Lastly, the best gloves have a layer of padding, which adds a very important buffer against the constant vibration of the bike.

When choosing biking gloves, find a pair that fits you like a second skin. They should be snug, but not so tight that they are restrictive.

13. Shelter

If you’re planning to go offroad and sleep in the great outdoors, an ultralight tent will be an essential item in your bikepacking gear. Choose one that can be rolled up into a compact size.

The tent will likely be the largest single item that you have to pack, so be sure to balance it correctly on your bike setup. Most people pack the tent in the handlebar section of their bike since it’s a central storage location that doesn’t cause balancing issues.

14. Good Weather

Bikepacking Gear Essentials

Don’t underestimate the value of a sunny, cool day! Try to choose a location and a time of year that will give you dry conditions with moderate temperatures.

The weather could make or break your experience and significantly affects the amount of bikepacking gear that you’ll need to bring. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in the freezing rain when you are directly exposed to the elements. This could also lead to dangerous conditions like slippery roads & impacted visibility.

15. A Positive Attitude

The right mindset is maybe one of the most essential ingredients for a successful bikepacking trip. Be sure to bring a sense of adventure, self-reliance, and a positive attitude.

Relying on your own physical fitness to get you from point A to point B, being subject to the elements and unforeseen factors, and covering large distances with the raw power of your own legs will bring lots of new challenges. But with big challenges come big rewards, just keep a positive attitude along the way.

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Bikepacking Gear for Beginners

Bikepacking essential gear

It’s been a tumultuous year for everyone. After being held prisoner in our own homes for most of 2020, there seems to be an incipient air of positivity on the horizon. The world is slowly but surely starting to open again. And for many adventurers, wanderlusters, and dreamers, that means one thing: travel.

The travel bug has been dormant against our will for a while, but the time has come to start thinking about our next escapades. If you let your mind wander, you can almost smell the potpourri of exotic dishes at an Asian night market, feel the warm sand between your toes on a Croatian beach, or walk amid exotic flora and fauna on a trek through the Peruvian jungle.

As the moment approaches when we can once again dust off our passports, it’s time to start thinking about how to make the most of the experience and the essential items we need to have in our traveler’s bag.

With so many must-have travel gadgets on the market these days, we need to be judicious with how we pack. But these are five of the ultimate travel gadgets that you don’t want to leave home without.

Universal all in one power adaptor

Any seasoned traveler worth their salt knows that a universal power adaptor is a must-have travel gadget for everyone. It doesn’t matter how many phones, tablets, laptops, or extension cord with a switch you have if you don’t have a way to charge them.

Different countries have different shapes and sizes of power outlets, so you’ll want to make sure you can plug in your favorite travel gadgets even when you’re abroad. Having an all-in-one adaptor in your bag is a game-changer and takes the worry out of having dead electronics, no matter which country in the world you are in.

Portable Wi-Fi

Bring a portable wifi device to stay connected while you travel

Bring a portable wifi device to stay connected while you travel

Those who have traveled to distant countries will know the struggle of having to rely on your budget hostel’s terrible Wi-Fi. Take the worry out of the game by packing a portable Wi-Fi/hot spot device to make sure you stay connected no matter where you are.

The plans on these devices can vary, but there are some affordable options available to you when you know that connecting to the internet will be a struggle. This is one of the best travel gadgets for digital nomads or for anyone that spends time off the beaten path.

Gimbal for your smartphone

A travel gimbal is one of the best travel gadgets to help you capture stable videos of your adventures

A gimbal can help you capture high-quality videos of your adventures

It doesn’t matter if you live for Instagram, are a travel blogger, or a vlogger; a stabilizing gimbal for your smartphone is one of the best travel gadgets to make sure you always get ‘the shot.’ Gimbals are designed to remove the shake while moving or shooting shifting footage.

Nothing is worse than a shaky, choppy video that you try to take while cruising in a Tuk Tuk in Thailand or zipping down the Hai Van pass in Vietnam. Gimbals often include great zoom features, slow motion, and time-lapse. Gimbals are small, portable, and a must-have travel gadget for anyone that uses their phone as the main source for video.

Waterproof case for phone and wallet

This might be the most understated but most important travel gadget out there. Especially for those heading to a beach location. How many times have you been to a beach or a lake but were reluctant to take a dip for fear that your valuables would get stolen if you left them on the shore?

It doesn’t matter how close of an eye you keep on your things from the water; a thief can be out of sight with your things by the time you get to the beach. Having a small waterproof case that you wear around your neck can take all your worries away. These are lifesavers and are designed to hold your phone, wallet, keys, etc.

Travel drone

A drone travel gadget can help you capture incredible shots

A drone can help you capture incredible shots of your travels

This travel gadget might fall into a little more of the expensive category; but, the coolness factor of a travel drone is hard to beat. With everyone taking the same photos for ‘the Gram’ these days, it’s amazing to be able to get shots or footage that not many others can.

The cinematic shots that a drone can provide will no doubt take your vlog or blog to the next level and wow your viewers. Drones have gone down in price as technology improves and can be foldable and compact to make them easier to travel with than they used to be.

Whether you travel professionally or just for leisure, a drone will take your experience to the next level.

Conclusion

Hopefully, reading this has fanned the flames of your travel fire. Crossing borders will soon be a reality again, and equipping yourself with some of these must have travel gadgets is going to make your next trip a memorable one.

With so many options out there for travel accessories, picking the right ones can be dizzying. Think safety and practicality first by getting a waterproof phone case or universal power adaptor, and then move on to some of the fun stuff like drones and gimbals. Depending on how big your suitcase is, the possibilities are endless.

If you’re just starting out with a backpacking hobby, one of the first things you’ll need to purchase is a lightweight tent. Having the right tent can make or break your trip (and break your back in the process!) so this guide will help give you an understanding of all the factors involved when picking a backpacking tent.

The most important factors to consider when wondering how to choose a tent when backpacking on a budget include:

1. The weight of the tent

Consider weight when choosing a budget backpacking tent

Keeping the weight of your pack low is important if you are walking long distances each day or taking the tent camping.  Even though you might think a few ounces might not make a difference, it can add up over the course of a few days or weeks of backpacking. This is why so many ultralight backpackers are picky over every last ounce.

For most backpackers, the tent that you choose will be one of the heaviest items they are carrying, with the others being the backpack itself and a sleeping bag.  If you can shave off a few ounces on the weight of your tent, you will find it easier to walk long distances and you will enjoy your time backpacking much more.

2. The type of materials used

The materials used to make a backpacking tent are important as they will determine how durable, lightweight and waterproof the tent is.  When you are looking at backpacking tents, you will often see the material descriptions like:  20D x 200T ripstop nylon 2000mm Durashield™ polyurethane & silicone.  This is clearly confusing for a person who is wondering how to choose a tent for backpacking for the first time!  Let’s break this down into each component:

  • “20D” is this tent’s Denier rating
    The denier rating is used to describe the thickness and durability of material.  It represents the thickness of each fibre within the fabric.  1 denier is about the thickness of a silk strand, so a 20D fabric has strands that are as thick as 20 strands of silk woven together.  Fabrics that have a higher denier rating will be thicker and more water resistance as water droplets will find it harder to push through.
  • 200T” is the thread count
    The thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch.  The higher the thread count, the softer and more pliable the material is.  The materials used to make tents will have a denier and thread count that provides the most durability, pliability, and water resistance.
  • “2000mm Durashield™ polyurethane & silicone” is the fabric’s coating
    The last component refers to the water-resistant coating that is applied to the tent’s materials.  In this case, it is a 2000mm thick coating that consists of polyurethane and silicone.  In most cases, a thicker coating will result in a more waterproof tent.  Durashield™ is a brand name for the coating that is applied to the tent.

When looking at each tent, remember to compare the denier, thread count, and coating thickness to determine how water-resistant and durable it is.

3. Interior space

Interior Space is a consideration when buying a backpacking tent

Most lightweight backpacking tents are intentionally designed to be on the smaller side.  However, they always should provide enough room for you to comfortably stretch out and to store your backpack inside the tent.

It is common for 1-person backpacking tents to have an unusual shape that provides you with sleeping space and vestibules for placing your backpack.  This is done to minimize the size of the tent when it is folded up. 

One important consideration to keep in mind when comparing the size of tents is the maximum height.  Make sure you choose a backpacking tent that you can sit in cross-legged without your head hitting the ceiling.

4. Season rating’s for backpacking tents

Modern tents often provide a season rating, which refers to how many seasons the tent can be used outdoors.  The most common season rating for a budget backpacking tent is 3, which means the tent can be used in Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

Check the season rating when choosing a backpacking tent

Ultralight or lightweight backpacking tents usually have a 3 season rating because they are designed to be low weight, which often means they are made from thinner materials.  This reduces the amount of protection that you would have in colder climates.  You can find 4 season backpacking tents, but they will usually be on the heavier side.

5. Protection from the elements

Tents will never provide as much protection from the elements as staying indoors, but they should at the very least keep you dry and provide some shade.  Even a typical backpacking tent will be water-resistant, but the level of water resistance they provide can vary.

The best modern backpacking tents will have a polyurethane hydrophobic coating on the tent’s exterior.  However, the thickness of the coating can vary and will usually be between 2000mm and 5000mm. 

If you are concerned about water entering the tent, choose a backpacking tent with a thicker coating.  Also, look for a tent with a “bathtub” floor.  This kind of floor goes above the ground and covers the bottom of the tent, providing protection from water that might penetrate the sides of the tent.

Another important consideration is UV protection.  Some cheap tents use material so thin that UV light can penetrate, causing you to get sunburned even when you are sitting in your tent all day!  High-quality tents usually use thicker materials with a higher thread count, which reduces the amount of light entering the tent.

Finally, think about the creepy crawlies.  Does the tent have fly screens on any windows?  Most high-quality backpacking tents will have two layers, an inner mesh layer, surrounded by a waterproof layer to keep you dry.  If you are visiting a region known for its mosquitos, make sure you choose a backpacking tent that has excellent bug-proofing.

6. Size of the tent when packed

When you are backpacking you will find yourself taking your backpack into many different environments.  You may find yourself hiking for long periods, using public transport, or trying to fit your backpack into a locker for temporary storage.

It is much easier to handle your backpack if it is smaller in size.  This means that having a tent that collapses into a small package when packed can be very advantageous.  Most of the best backpacking tents will indicate the packed size in their description, so keep this factor in mind when comparing tents.

7. Price of backpacking tent

Most people go backpacking for two reasons — they have the freedom to choose where they travel and it is a cheaper way to travel.  If you are backpacking because it is cheaper, then your budget will be a big factor when deciding how to choose a tent.

Fortunately, it is possible to get a budget backpacking tent that is still very high quality.  Saving money on your tent will give you room in the budget to buy a great pair of hiking boots or some high-quality clothes that will survive life on the road.

8. Tent pitching time

If you are often on the move while backpacking, you may find yourself setting up and packing your tent every day.  This can eventually become tiresome if your tent has a complicated pitching process.  Look for a lightweight backpacking tent that only has a small number of components and can be pitched in a matter of minutes.

9. The functionality of the tent

The best backpacking tents will usually have useful functionality like interior pockets, rain flies, and even LED lights.  Compare the additional functionality that each tent offers and have a think about what you would use on a tent.

10. Durability and strength of the tent

The durability of a tent really comes down to the quality of its materials and the construction techniques that are used.  In addition to the fabric used to make the tent, you should consider the types of zippers and fasteners used. 

The quality of the tent pegs and poles can also be an important factor, as low-quality parts will bend or break more easily.  In terms of construction, look for tents that feature double or triple stitching as they will have much stronger seams.

11. Interior capacity

One person backpacking tent

Should you get a one or two-person tent?  Even if you are the only person using the tent, you might enjoy having a little extra room available to move around or store your things. 

Most 2 person backpacking tents are only a pound heavier than a 1 person backpacking tent, so there isn’t much difference in terms of weight.  Additionally, you never know when you might meet someone who wants to share your tent!

12. Wall construction

When exploring how to choose the best budget backpacking tent, be sure to look for one that is double walled.  This kind of tent has an inner mesh shell surrounded by a rainfly.  Having these two layers separated creates a moisture barrier that will keep you dry in wet weather.

13. The number of doors

If you are going for a two-person tent, consider getting one with 2 doors and 2 vestibules.  This will make it easier to get into and out of the tent, and each person will have their own section for storing their backpack.

14. Footprints

The floor must be the most durable part of a backpacking tent as it is constantly stepped on and often sits on sharp objects.  That’s the reason why the best backpacking tents have thicker material on the floor.  The floor also needs to have stronger waterproofing as it is often exposed to water for long periods.

Some backpacking tents will come with a footprint.  It is an additional piece of plastic that covers the bottom of the tent to protect it.  If you think your tent will be used in locations with rough terrain, choose a backpacking tent with a footprint.


We hope this was helpful! The good news is that we’ve done the work to figure out the best backpacking tent, taking all of the above considerations into account. If you’re in the market for backpacking tents, be sure to check out our recommendations for the best backpacking tents.

Whether you’re just getting started with your backpacking hobby or have already explored the great backpacking routes of the world, you may have realized that something is lacking in the world of packaged backpacking food. Either they’re too expensive, too bland, or too artificial. The good news is that making your own DIY dehydrated backpacking meals is not as complicated as it seems!

There are generally 2 approaches to assembling a DIY dehydrated meal. The first option is to simply cook the meal at home, dehydrate it and then rehydrate on the trail. The other option is to assemble a meal made from individual dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients.

Both methods have their pros and cons, so we usually bring a combination of meal types on the trail with us. Read on for tips and tricks on how to make your own DIY backpacking meals

Method #1: Dehydrate a Home-Cooked Recipe

Dehydrating a dish that you can make at home is generally the most fool-proof and inexpensive way to go. It doesn’t require you to buy individually dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients, it just requires your own kitchen equipment plus a good food dehydrator.

With this method, you can control the taste of the recipe before your trip, so you won’t be unpleasantly surprised when you’re ravenous on the trail.

Dehydrating Your own Home-Cooked Meals

Dehydrating Your own Home-Cooked Food for Backpacking

The simplest way to get started with dehydrating your own backpacking meals is to brainstorm a few of your favorite dishes that you can fully cook at home. The best DIY dehydrated meals will be sauce-based and full of hearty ingredients. Stews, pasta, and casseroles work best for this method.

After cooking the meal, you will dehydrate the mixture using a food dehydrator. Once the mixture is fully dehydrated, you will crumble it into uniformly-small pieces, and pack it in a ziplock bag for the trail.

To rehydrate on the trail, all you need is a lightweight camping stove, water, and a cooking vessel!

Cooking your own food at home is the easiest method in terms of simplicity, but it’s by far a more time-consuming option. Not only do you have to cook everything at home first, but dehydrating the final mixture at home can take up to half a day per portion. 

For a week-long trip, you might need to start weeks before you embark on your trip, depending on how many meals you plan to bring with you. If you have the time, we say go for it! 

Pro-Tips for Preparing and Dehydrating Full Meals at Home

The good news for those interested in DIY dehydrated backpacking meals, is that it’s really not rocket science. However, there are a few adjustments you should follow to make sure the DIY dehydrated meal will dehydrate and rehydrate properly.

  1. Don’t use butter or oil when cooking! Doing so will cause problems during the dehydration process. Cook with a little bit of water in the pan only. If you want to add some fat to the recipe, you can bring olive oil packets or powdered butter and add it later to the recipe on the trail when you rehydrate the meal.
  2. Use plenty of seasoning. Dehydration will reduce the flavor, so add more seasoning than you normally would, to give the food a robust flavor on the trail.
  3. If the recipe includes ground meat, combine it first with plenty of breadcrumbs and seasoning before adding it to the overall recipe. This will help with the rehydration and help prevent the dreaded crunchy or grainy rehydrated meat. 
  4. If the recipe includes noodles, chop them into small pieces once they’re cooked. This will help them dehydrate and rehydrate uniformly.
  5. Let your finished recipe sit overnight in the fridge before dehydrating it. This will give it time to let the flavors combine, and will allow ingredients like pasta or rice absorb the sauce and flavors.

At-Home Equipment for DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Meals: A Food Dehydrator

The only extra equipment you’ll need for this method is a food dehydrator. There are plenty of low-cost dehydrators available on amazon which will certainly do the trick.

If you’re going on a longer trip or know that you’ll be using the food dehydrator many times in the future, you might want to invest in a larger, more high-quality machine. We have this food dehydrator from Cosori and consider it essential backpacker equipment.

Method #2: Assembling Meals using Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Ingredients

DIY Backpacking Meals

DIY dehydrated backpacking meals

With this method, you will combine various dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients, and rehydrate them together on the trail to make a complete meal. If you have a variety of freeze-dried or dehydrated ingredients on hand, the combinations are endless!

You can still go the full DIY route by dehydrating individual ingredients using a food dehydrator, or you can purchase the dehydrated ingredients in most grocery stores and camping supply stores.

If you plan to make a variety of backpacking meals, you can even purchase sampler kits full of dehydrated ingredients. This food sampler from Harmony House includes a variety of beans, dehydrated veggies, and meatless options for vegetarian meals.

Another option is this freeze-dried fruit and veggie kit that comes with freeze-dried strawberries, bananas, peas, broccoli, and corn. There are 120 servings in the kit, and you just need to add water to rehydrate. 

At-Home Equipment for DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Meals

1. Food Dehydrator

Most of the dry ingredients required for these dehydrated meals can be found at camping supply stores. However, specialized dehydrated ingredients can be pricey, so you might want to dehydrate the ingredients yourself.

Investing in a low-cost dehydrator will help you save money in the long run and will allow you to get creative with your ingredients and DIY dehydrated backpacking meals. This food dehydrator comes highly recommended by fellow backpackers and can be found on Amazon for around $50.

Or if you know you’ll be relying on dehydrated backpacking food and want to get a more robust machine, this food dehydrator from Cosori comes highly recommended.

2. Freeze-Dried or dehydrated ingredient sampler pack

To get started with a variety of meal options, you can start with this food sampler from Harmony House.  It comes with a variety of beans, dehydrated veggies, and meatless options for vegetarian meals.

For freeze-dried ingredients, start with this freeze-dried fruit and veggie kit. There are 120 servings in the kit, so you’re bound to be able to come up with some exciting backpacking recipes.

Dehydrated or Freeze-Dried Ingredients

The staple of DIY backpacking food is a good sampling of freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients. There are pros and cons to both ingredients. In a nutshell, freeze-dried wins over dehydrated in terms of nutrition, shelf-life, and texture, but it comes at a high cost! If you’re interested, you can learn more in our write-up about the difference between dehydrated vs. freeze-dried ingredients.

After you assemble a good collection of ingredients, you can basically throw things together as you would when cooking your typical dinner at home! Here are some staple ingredients to get you started:

Freeze-Dried or Dehydrated Meat & Meat Alternatives

Dehydrated Beans

Make sure you buy beans that have been cooked and then dehydrated or freeze-dried! If you just buy plain dried beans, they will not have been cooked, and will not hydrate properly in a meal.

Grains

  • Dry couscous (you can use normal dried couscous in recipes that you plan to rehydrate for at least 10 minutes)
  • Dehydrated rice (Knorr Minute Rice sides are a staple for all backpackers)

Dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables

Add Flavor

For creating a variety of flavors, there are a few versatile ingredients that will come in handy for your DIY backpacking food

DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Meal Recipes

Luckily there are gourmet-loving backpackers out there who have come up with lots of delicious options. When preparing the mixture, it’s best if you stick to either dehydrated or freeze-dried components within one recipe. It is technically possible to mix and match, but then you’ll have keep an eye on the rehydration time for each ingredient.

As a general rule of thumb, freeze-dried ingredients take around 5 minutes to rehydrate, while dehydrated ingredients can take between 10-20 minutes.

Chili con Carne

Curry with different types of meat

  • Freeze-dried or dehydrated meat of choice (see above)
  • Freeze-dried or dehydrated veggies of choice (see above)
  • Knorr’s minute rice
  • Curry, Coriander, and Cumin powder

Chicken Fajitas

Thanksgiving-inspired Meal

Pad Thai

How to Cook your DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Meals on the Trail

How to cook DIY Backpacking Meals on the Trail

How to cook DIY Dehydrated Backpacking Meals on the Trail

Regardless of which method you chose, the cooking process is generally the same. Since these are all ‘just add water’ dehydrated backpacking meals, the only cooking equipment you really need is a device to boil water and a cooking vessel. 

Lightweight Camping Stove

The most popular camping stove among backpackers is the Jetboil Stove. We don’t go backpacking without it. It’s lightweight, compact, and simple. It comes with a simple burner and a vessel for preparing boiling water.

Another option is this lightweight backpacking stove is under $20 and is popular among the Ultralight Backpacker community. It’s compact and weighs just .96 ounces (25 grams), but don’t forget to factor in the weight of fuel and a cooking vessel.

A Cooking Vessel

Rehydrating is a lot different from cooking on the trail. Theoretically, you could rehydrate your meals over a campfire in a camping pot, but as rehydration can take up to 20 minutes, this would use a lot of fuel. It’s much more energy efficient to boil the water, add it to your mixture, and then let the mixture soak and rehydrate.

Once you’ve boiled your water, combine it with the dehydrated meal in a heat-tolerant cooking vessel. The vessel should be sealable in order to retain as much heat as possible during the rehydration process. There are a few different cooking vessel option, each with their own pros and cons, so you’ll have to decide based on your preference.

  1. Mylar bags – Heat-tolerant Mylar bags are a great lightweight option. You can use them to transport each meal, and then just add boiling water directly to the ingredients when on the trail. These bags can tolerate boiling water, are resealable, washable, and reusable. Since rehydration usually takes at least 20 minutes, the Mylar bags are great at retaining the heat during this time.
    • Pros: affordable, convenient, and good for ultralight backpacking
    • Cons: Plastic, difficult to wash and reuse
  2. Resealable silicone bags – These are reusable, easy to clean, and durable enough to last multiple backpacking trips. When using the silicone bags to transport the dry food, be sure to add oxygen-absorbing moisture packets to keep the dry ingredients stable.
    • Pros: Reusable, sustainable option
    • Cons: Expensive, not the most lightweight option
  3. Freezer bagsThis is the extreme ultralight backpacker’s method. You can transport the dry mixtures in freezer bags and just add boiling water directly to the freezer bags. If you go the freezer bag route, it’s important that you wrap it in an insulating bag to retain heat during rehydration. Some people even make a DIY coozie out of a car windshield shield!
    • Pros: Cheap and easy to find in the grocery store, ultralight
    • Cons: Not as sturdy, difficult to eat out of. Plus, conflicting opinions about how safe it is to heat plastic for food consumption
  4. Stainless steel camping pot with lid
    • Pros: Environmentally friendly option, healthier than cooking in Ziplock bags, gives the feeling of really cooking on the trail
    • Cons: Added weight

The cook time will vary depending on the type of ingredient. The general rule of thumb is that freeze-dried meals take around 5 minutes to rehydrate, while dehydrated meals will take 10-20 minutes.

Although freeze dried food is the light-weight way to build your hiking menu, any seasoned backpacker will be familiar with the struggle to find a tasty option. To save you the trial and error, we’ve gathered a ranked list of the best freeze dried meals from the backpacking community, plus some expert tips to take your meals to the next level.

1. Chicken & Dumplings by Mountain House

Mountain House makes some of the best freeze dried meals in the backpacking industry. The company was founded in 1969, is readily available in backpacking supply stores, and has a loyal following. The long shelf life of Mountain House (30 years!) also makes their freeze dried meals popular among survivalists looking to stock their emergency kits.

The Chicken and Dumplings meal is one of the best Mountain House meals according to backpackers and even has 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon. I think the flavor is closer to a chicken pot pie than to traditional chicken and dumplings, but either way, it’s delicious comfort food on the trail!

Recipe Tip: Be sure to add enough boiling water, seal the bag while it soaks, and wait a little longer than the recommended time so that the dumplings get nice and soft. To bring this meal to the next level, sprinkle on some French’s Crispy Onions to add crunch and extra flavor.

Mountain House is the most popular brand in freeze dried backpacking meals
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2. Beef Stroganoff with Noodles by Mountain House

It’s difficult to find freeze dried backpacking meals that taste like their original, but the Beef Stroganoff from Mountain House comes close. Even as new freeze dried food comes onto the market, this classic is on solid rotation for many backpacking menus.

Recipe Tip: As is the case with many of the best Mountain House meal recipes, let this one soak for at least 5 minutes more than the recommended time to make sure the noodles can fully rehydrate.

Get it on Amazon

3. Vegetarian Thai Curry by Good to Go

Made by a fellow backpacker out of Maine, Good to Go makes some of the best freeze dried food in the industry because of their commitment to locally-sourced, healthy ingredients. The healthy freeze dried meals are more expensive than other options, but if you’re focused on sustainable backpacking, the extra cost is worth it.

The vegetarian freeze dried Thai Curry meal is the most popular meal from Good to Go, both for its flavor and texture. It rehydrates beautifully and comes very close to what you’d make at home. One packet of Good to Go has less protein compared to the best Mountain House meals, so you can double the portions if you tend to get ravenous at the end of the day, or add a scoop of freeze dried chicken if you’re not a vegetarian.

GoodtoGo - a new freeze-dried backpacking meal company focusing on local ingredients

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4. Louisiana Red Beans & Rice by Backpacker’s Pantry

Backpacker’s Pantry is another industry leader in freeze dried backpacking meals. Their food tends to be less expensive compared to other options. The best Backpacker’s Pantry meal is their Louisiana Red Beans recipe, probably since beans and rice are the easiest base ingredients to rehydrate and make the best freeze dried meals for backpacking. Not only is it a delicious blend, it’s also one of the best freeze dried vegan meals!

Recipe Tip: My pro-tip is to add a little less water than the recipe calls for, check it half-way through, and let it soak for up to 10 minutes longer than the suggested time. Otherwise, you run the risk that the beans won’t fully rehydrate.


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5. Lasagna with Meat Sauce by Mountain House

Lasagna is great comfort food after a day hiking in the great outdoors, and the lasagna recipe from Mountain House is the go-to for many people in the backpacking community. The result is pretty close to the taste and consistency of a deconstructed lasagna. 

Get it on Amazon

6. Vegetarian Mexican Quinoa Bowl by Good to Go

This flavorful vegetarian freeze dried Mexican Quinoa Bowl is packed with plenty of protein thanks to the generous amount of quinoa and black beans. With cumin, chile, and Mexican mole in the mix, it has a more interesting flavor profile compared to typical freeze dried backpacking meals, which are usually on the bland side to appeal to the masses. And the Good to Go company focuses on local and sustainable ingredients, which makes it a winner in our book.

Get it on Amazon

7. Spicy Southwest-Style Skillet by Mountain House

This gluten-free Southwest Skillet Mountain House food packet has potatoes, shredded beef, black beans, green chilies, and veggies. It’s has a wonderful flavor but is the spiciest recipe that Mountain House offers so proceed at your own risk.

Recipe Tip: To make a balanced meal and take the edge off some of the heat, we like topping the Southwest Skillet with shredded cheese and wrapping it in a tortilla.

Get it on Amazon

8. Three Sisters Stew by Backpacker’s Pantry

Packed with rice, black beans, and quinoa, this stew is one of the best freeze dried vegan meals from Backpacker’s Pantry. It’s a hearty, tasty meal after a day in the wilderness–  perfect if you’re looking for something that will appeal to all taste buds.

Get it on the Backpacker’s Pantry Website

9. Creamy Macaroni & Cheese by Mountain House (Vegetarian)

It’s Mac & Cheese, no frills here, just no-fuss comfort food. What makes this one of the best Mountain House meals is the fact that it tastes exactly as you’d expect at home. 

Recipe Tip: In our experience, the recommended serving of water can result in a soupy consistency. Add a bit less than you think and check it half-way. This basic Mac & Cheese is an excellent candidate for adding mix-ins, like bacon cubes, French’s Crispy Onions, dehydrated meat, or dehydrated broccoli.

Get it on Amazon

10. Chicken Pesto Pasta by Peak Refuel

Peak Refuel offers a lot of alternatives to Moutain House if you’re looking to mix up your backpacking menu. This Pesto Pasta is their most popular meal featuring ziti noodles, chicken, and a creamy pesto sauce.

The flavor is amazing and comes close to restaurant taste, actually. Our one gripe with Peak Refuel is that it has a shorter life (4 years) compared with Mountain House’s 30-year shelf life, but if you’re buying for an upcoming trip, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Recipe Tip: Be sure to soak the meal long enough in boiling water so that the chicken and noodles become fully rehydrated.

Get it on Amazon

Runners Up:

Chili Mac with Beef by Mountain House

The taste of this Chili Mac exceeded our expectations. However, some others in the backpacking community have warned that they had some, so to speak, lingering effects after eating this meal, so it’s best enjoyed as a solo backpacker in the summer when you can air out your tent!

Recipe Tip: You should definitely let this one soak for longer than the recommended time, otherwise the meat might end up with a chewy consistency, which means the freeze dried pieces haven’t fully rehydrated yet.

Get it on Amazon

Chicken Teriyaki by Mountain House

A well-rounded mix of green peas, carrots, peppers, and onions, this Chicken Teriyaki has a great flavor.  If you can get the consistency right, it’s nice comfort food on the trail!

Recipe Tip: Be sure that you mix it with boiling water and let it soak for the full time. Otherwise, the rice has a hard time rehydrating, and you might end up with a soupy consistency.

Get it on Amazon

Pasta Primavera by Mountain House

A great vegetarian freeze-dried meal, this Pasta Primavera recipe has spiral macaroni in a parmesan cheese sauce, along with zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, red & yellow peppers, and green peas. We are always pleasantly surprised at the flavor and the consistency of the cheese sauce. Our one complaint is that there is a lot more pasta compared to the ratio of vegetables, but the overall flavor is delicious.

Recipe Tip: If you’re not following a vegetarian diet, you could add a scoop of Auguson’s Farms freeze dried chicken to round out the meal.

Get it on Amazon

Yellow Curry by Mountain House

Yellow curry with vegetables and chicken always hits the spot after a long day on the trail. It’s a good option if you’re after a little more kick. It’s not too spicy but it has a robust flavor. It’s also a gluten-free recipe.

Recipe Tip: Based on our previous experience with Mountain House, we ended up adding more water than the recipe called for, and ended with more of a soup. It was still delicious though! For this recipe, we recommend following the directions for the water amount. This one is also a great contender if you want to add additional dehydrated vegetables to stretch the meal further.

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Breakfast Skillet by Mountain House

Once one of the best Mountain House meals, the Breakfast Skillet recipe has been recently revamped, and the jury is still out on whether it’s an improvement or not. The new recipe has less fat, but also a smaller portion than before.

Loyalists claim that the new one isn’t as good as the former recipe, but most still agree that it’s still one of the best freeze dried meals for backpacking. Good for more than just breakfast, this one contains shredded Potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs, pork sausage, peppers, and onions. 

Get it on Amazon

Recipe Hacks for the Best Freeze Dried Meals

Take your freeze-dried meals to the next level

Take your freeze-dried food to the next level

To bring your packaged dehydrated meals to the next level, we’ve identified some of the best add-ons that make your food feel more special than just eating out of a bag. Add a portion of these mix-ins to your backpack so that you have them on-hand at meal time. Our favorite recipe hack add-ons are:

  1. French’s Crispy Fried Onions – Instant yumminess that can pretty much be added to any savory backpacking meal. The crunchy, salty, caramelized flavor of crispy fried onions can save a mushy meal and makes each bite better.
  2. Crushed, Roasted Nuts – As a high-nutrition add-on, nuts provide a great crunch when sprinkled over a backpacking meal. Peanuts, almonds, pine nuts, or walnuts would work.
  3. Sesame Seeds – Sesame seeds are an easy way to add a nice texture to curries and noodle dishes. A little goes a long way to spice up your backpacking food along the trail.
  4. Shredded Cheese – Sometimes you just need a little real cheese to add extra yumminess to a freeze dried meal. You can add parmesan cheese to pastas or cheddar cheese to stews.
  5. Chili Flakes – if you’re looking to add a little heat, chili flakes can be used in almost any style of dish, whether it’s mac & cheese, chicken & dumplings, or a curry dish. Most of the best freeze dried meals are made to appeal to the average palate, so they are usually mildly flavored. If you want a little more heat in your meal, bring some chili flakes on the trail.
  6. Freeze dried Chicken – If you want to add some protein, most freeze dried meals can be elevated by adding a scoop of freeze dried chicken. Auguson Farms has a bulk pack that you can bring on your trip and add to meals as you like.

The Best Freeze Dried Food Companies

the best freeze dried meals for backpacking

Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry have been the leaders in dehydrated backpacking food, but there are many new companies on the market that offer amazing options. Some of them are focused on Paleo, no-carb, or vegan freeze dried meals. While we haven’t been able to try all of these yet, we are hearing good things in the community and they are definitely worth a shot!

  • Mountain House – Founded in 1969, the company was created to sell military-style freeze dried food to the outdoors community. They can be found in most outdoors-supply shops and thanks to their constant innovation, they’ve remained the industry leader. Famous for the extra-long shelf life, Mountain House is also popular for people stocking emergency food supplies.
  • Backpacker’s Pantry – Another industry leader, Backpacker’s Pantry has a variety of meals that cater to different dietary restrictions like gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and more.
  • Good to Go – The Good to Go backpacking food company prides itself on being homemade and dehydrated in Maine, USA using healthy ingredients for their freeze dried meals and sustainable business practices.
  • Next Mile Meals – Next Mile Meals focuses on Keto-friendly and low-carb backpacking meals. Beyond the typical rice and beans, Next Mile Meals has recipes like Italian Beef Marinara and Beef Tacos.
  • Stowaway Gourmet – Stowaway Gourmet makes backpacking meals featuring gourmet ingredients like wild boar and bison. Their portions are pricier than a typical backpacking meal, but worth the splurge now and then.
  • PackIt Gourmet PackIt Gourmet is another company focused on gourmet backpacking meals. They have a variety of cold soak recipes, hot water recipes, as well as individually-sold ingredients if you want to make your own concoction.
  • Harmony House – Harmony House focuses on non-GMO, high-quality shelf-stable foods. They sell packaged meals as well as individual freeze dried ingredients so that you have a variety to play with.