Review: Four Freeze Dried Dinner Delights from Mountain House

Aside from deciding how many pairs of clean socks I really, truly need on a backpacking trip, I find figuring out meals to be one of the hardest parts of trip planning. 

I like to eat foods similar to what I'd eat at home, that taste amazing after a long day on the trail, and that don't weigh a ton or take up too much space. That means looking for options with high protein content, and making sure I get enough carbs to sustain my activity level.

I have some stand-by favorites, but when Mountain House offered to send me a few complimentary freeze dried meals to try, it seemed like a great opportunity to change things up. Freeze dried meals are my go-to because they're light, and give me a chance to eat things like eggs, chicken, turkey, even steak when I'm in the backcountry for multiple days.

Most meals like the ones I tried for this review come with multiple servings, but I never have an issue polishing off the whole bag. This tends to get me closer to the protein and carb content I need, but also usually means I need to drink more water to offset the sodium content. The meals are listed in order of my preference, but (spoiler alert), I'd buy them all to eat again!

Chicken Fajita Bowl

It's not super photogenic, but man, was this meal good!

Per bag: 560 calories, 20g fat, 60g carbs, 36g protein, 1,380mg sodium.

I adore Mexican food, especially the spicy kind, and couldn't wait to give this one a try. With some meals labeled "bowls," everything often blends together, creating a collection of indistinguishable flavors. Not so with this bowl. I added the requisite 1.5 cups (12 fl oz.) boiling water, stirred the package up, and waited the requisite ten minutes before opening the package to give it a try.

The sweet corn paired perfectly with the fire roasted vegetables, and it was just spicy enough for me. The pieces of chicken were tender, and the fact that I could taste each vegetable really made the dish. I found myself wishing I'd brought some tortillas with me, and polished off the entire bag without any issue.

Turkey Dinner Casserole

You can see the veggies, yum!

Per bag: 480 calories, 14g fat, 54g carbs, 28g protein, 1,580mg sodium.

There's something so comforting about turkey dinners. They always remind me of Thanksgiving and being with family. One of my favorite things to do post-Thanksgiving is to make a giant plate of leftovers piled high with stuffing and turkey, which is exactly what the description of this freeze dried meal sounded like it would be.

I added the requisite 1.25 cups (10 fl oz.) boiling water, stirred everything up, sealed the bag, and waited the requisite five minutes. The instructions detailed the need to open the bag, stir things up again, reseal, and wait another four minutes. When I opened the bag after the first five minutes, it smelled exactly like the stuffing I'd have at home for Thanksgiving. When I dug in, the stuffing was fluffy and flavorful, and each piece of turkey had rehydrated perfectly. It was a bit salty, which was perfect to close out a long day of hiking.

Fusilli Pasta with Italian Sausage

Just look at that sauce and all those peppers!

Per bag: 520 calories, 16g fat, 68g carbs, 22g protein, 1,360mg sodium

Pasta with sauce is such a classic, easy comfort dish. Add some garlic, fire roasted red peppers, and Italian sausage, and you've got a spicy, savory, delicious meal. This one required 1.5 cups (12 fl oz.) water and the same five minute - stir - four minute combination for cook time as the turkey dinner casserole. After the first five minute wait time, I opened the bag to stir and could smell the garlic, see the pasta expanding as it absorbed the water, and the sauce starting to look more like sauce.

Four minutes after the mid-cook time stir, I opened the bag and started chowing down. The meal had a strong tomato flavor, some spice from the sausage, and a delicious garlicky smell. The pasta and sausage were both tender, and I could see the individual pepper pieces. I didn't find it felt as filling and wish it had more sausage, but the flavor was fantastic.
Per bag: 620 calories, 28g fat, 72g carbs, 16g protein, 1,800mg sodium

Though arguably more of a breakfast meal, my husband said he could eat this meal every day for the rest of his life. And I understand why; it's delicious. (That's also why we don't have a photo of this one; it disappeared quickly!) 

Opening the bag, I could see chunks of biscuit among the dry ingredients, and I couldn't wait to see what they tasted like after trehydration. After adding the required 1.75 cups (14 fl oz.) water and waiting the required time, we opened the bag and it smelled just like I'd have expected biscuits and gravy from a diner to smell like. Little chunks of sausage and biscuit floated in a puddle of gravy and the biscuits felt slightly dry. The sausage and gravy were both flavorful, and the dry biscuit texture was perfect.

It won't be one of my go-to meals because of the comparatively low protein and high sodium content, and I'd likely add some dried spinach and TVP if I were to have it for dinner. But man was it yummy!

Overall, I'm impressed with the fact that Mountain House can trick me into feeling like I'm eating a home cooked meal out of a bag in the middle of the woods! What are some of your favorite meals to take backpacking? Tried any of these? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

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