Non-dehydrated meals for desert backpacking

Hi there! I’m backpacking for three nights in Canyonlands Nat’l Park, in early October. This will be my first trip carrying all my water.

Rather than carry freeze-dried meals (and the water required to prepare them), I figure it makes more sense to bring shelf stable foods like MRE entrees.

My question: how do I change my water budgeting to account for this? How much less water can I bring if my food isn’t dehydrated?

Thanks much!

(Also: if you have recommendations for other tasty shelf-stable meals, I’m all ears!)


You’re still carrying the meal water


The water that you'd be carrying in a bottle for your dehydrated meals is just going to be in the non-dehydrated food anyway, so you're not realistically saving anything and just limiting your food options, in my opinion. Are you saying you need to carry 3 days worth of water? That kinda sucks. Is caching water an option?


Actually, you are gaining a lot more food options because you can carry fresh food. There are far more foods you could bring than there are dehydrated meals. I often bring bagels, peanut butter, and similar things even on trips in humid regions.


I do too... they can totally still carry all those things.. What they are suggesting means no pasta, no rice, no oats, no instant potatoes, no couscous, etc. Unless they're already cooked, which again means you're hauling the water anyway.


As a guy whose had to eat MREs for my job…don’t eat MREs.


As a guy who has had to eat MREs for my job... They aren't that bad. I wouldn't want to eat them for a month straight or anything, but I keep a few on hand in case I get a short notice chance to camp and can't prep some real food to take.


My husband was Army for 20 years. Just last night we had (military) friends over and they were all rating MREs. Pork and beans was the crowd favorite with a runner up of chicken tetrazzini. Least favorite, 5 fingers of death.


Ah, those are some of the older ones. I've had a few of them, but they were before my time. I think I had the tetrazini, but I'm not familiar with whatever the five fingers of death means. General consensus of the current menus (among my friends, at least) puts Chili Mac up top, and Creamy Spinach Fettuccini at the bottom. I do know one psycho that actually *likes* the fettuccini though.


Chili Mac was in the running. Apparently, the five fingers of death is five smallish hot dogs. Everyone agreed the only way to eat it was to get all the Tabasco available from other people and burn your tastebuds.


Most MREs don't have tabasco these days, unfortunately. However, I think the current menu items are better on average than the ones I've had that phased out. First strike bars are always the best side item though. If I could just buy those in bulk at Walmart or Costco, I'd do it.


Idk what the temps are like there in October but, the right cheese can keep in cooler temps. A few tortillas, some smoked meats and you got yourself a nice meal. When I hiked a month on the AT, I ate this a lot. As well as tortillas with peanut butter. Add some freeze dried berries, a snickers, pop tart etc. and you also have something good going. Temps in the 40s-55°F should be fine for the cheese.


Does an MRE weigh less than the corresponding freeze dried meal plus the weight of water needed to rehydrate plus the weight of a UL cook system averaged out over x number of meals? I’ve seen the weight of some MREs and they are quite heavy. Outside of that, there are your usual bars and snacks, which are always great but I find myself drinking water with those anyway to get then down. Some are a little better than others I guess. The Kind Wafer bars are pretty easy to eat and pack decent calories per ounce. I’m also finding Emmys Organic cookies (notably the peanut butter flavor) to be moist, easily edible without much water, and also pack a lot of calories per ounce. Hone my stringer waffles paired with a nut butter of some sort are nice as well. One idea you may want to consider, instead of bringing heavier MREs, would be to really hone in on ultra high calorie per ounce foods. Reduce your food weight, and you should come out ahead even bringing water to rehydrate. I’ve put together backpacking meal plans before that manage to hit 150 cal/ounce and let me pack around 3000 calories per day at little over a pound of food per day. That could be an alternate strategy to consider I think.


Military meals.


Just bring fresh fruit and veggies.


Check out meal bars. I really enjoy Greenbelly meal bars, and I recently tried Range meal bars as well. Both are great tasting, somewhat healthy, and my one of my favorite backpacking lunches/meals.